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Autobiography of an ArchiveA Scholar's Passage to India$
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Nicholas Dirks

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231169677

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231169677.001.0001

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Imperial Sovereignty

Imperial Sovereignty

(p.171) 7 Imperial Sovereignty
Autobiography of an Archive

Nicholas B. Dirks

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines some of the tensions produced by empire in the developing eighteenth-century consensus about sovereignty by focusing on Britain's relationship with India. The chapter first considers British sovereignty and the notion of empire in relation to colonial nationalism and the European nation-state. It then discusses the East India Company's attempt to develop an imperial foothold—albeit without success—in India and Edmund Burke's concern that the company was undermining British sovereignty itself. The chapter also looks at the East India Company's continued existence as a rogue state in its relations both to the Mughal empire and the British Crown, along with the notion that the fiction of empire would potentially undermine the fiction of the ancient constitution in Britain itself. Finally, it comments on Burke's role in the trial of British Governor Warren Hastings, highlighting the contradictions that were part of late eighteenth-century ideas of sovereignty.

Keywords:   empire, sovereignty, Britain, India, nationalism, East India Company, Edmund Burke, constitution, trial, Warren Hastings

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