The Imperial Court and the Province: A Social and Administrative History of Pre-British Awadh (1775-1856)

Fisher, Michael Herbert

     The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries stand forth in India as a period of transition. The fragmentation of the Mughal Empire left islands of imperial service elite isolated, surrounded by indigenous regional societies. Thus isolated, the Persian and Urdu culture of this elite evolved with increasing rapidity, reaching levels of refinement unsupported by social growth. The march of the English East India Company across the subcontinent effected a revolution in political expression and organization. Premier among the states undergoing these social, cultural and political transformations was Awadh (Oudh)."
     Utilizing Persian, Urdu and English records, accounts and histories, I have examined the social and cultural history of Awadh up to annexation. The daily Persian newsletter issued by the Awadh court -- hitherto an unstudied source -- provides the extensive data for my quantitative analysis of the composition of the various levels in the society and administration. Close reading of these and other indigenous texts permits me to make significant statements concerning the attitudes, values and orientations of this changing society. Comparisons between Awadh and other historical contexts reveals major patterns not previously discussed.
     The complexity and diversity of the society of Awadh adds richness to and forms the center of my analysis. The variety of source materials demands a range of skills and methodologies even as it reflects the several influences of the society that produced them. Once assembled, however, the information derived from these sources has enabled me to make far reaching statements about Awadh as a transitional society.