By K. Wagner

Dependent principally on new fabric, this e-book examines thuggee as one of those banditry, rising in a particular socio-economic and geographic context. The British often defined the thugs as enthusiast assassins and Kali-worshippers, but Wagner argues that the heritage of thuggee want not be constrained to the research of its illustration.

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Extra info for Thuggee: Banditry and the British in Early Nineteenth-Century India

Sample text

From here the chronological narrative is picked up again, from 1812 till the 1830s. Part III: Chapter 10 takes a second look at the attack in 1812, this time with the knowledge of the preceding four chapters in mind. Underlying what was perceived as an act of rebellion was a whole range of local conflicts and strategies of which the British officials seem to have been ignorant. Chapter 11 describes the aftermath of the attack, and how the imposition of British notions of law and order had pervasive consequences for all involved.

During the 1830s, therefore, the approver had to conform to a fixed model in order to be granted a pardon: he had to verify the official perception of thuggee in order to be believed. Unlike Sleeman, the handful of officials engaged in combating thuggee during the early period was not trying to build a coherent argument concerning a pan-Indian murderous society. Accordingly, the primary sources of the early period do not exhibit the same prejudice and bias regarding thuggee as the later material.

In his work on early modern witch-trials, Ginzburg has argued that the gap between the defendants’ confessions and testimonies and the official account of the interrogators enables him to write an alternative story without being fully dependant on the representation of the latter: The voices of the accused reach us strangled, altered, distorted; in many cases, they haven’t reached us at all. 20 This approach is not limited to the study of banditry, but to all subjects where the existent sources are primarily the product of judicial procedures and police inquiries, that is the study of any marginal group or phenomena that has left little or no independent material for the scholar to examine.

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