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Histories of Everyday Violence In British India

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Historians of British India and colonial rule more generally have inevitably had to approach the difficult subject of colonial violence. Often, however, historians have explored colonial violence by focusing on exceptional and spectacular moments. Recently two books have been published that shift the terms of the historiography by examining colonial violence as an aspect of everyday life in British India: Taylor Sherman’s State Violence and Punishment in India and Elizabeth Kolsky’s Colonial Justice in British India. This article examines the limitations of the established literature’s characterisation of colonial violence, before comparing the work of Kolsky and Sherman. Both of their studies demonstrate that physical violence was an intrinsic and everyday aspect of the colonial encounter in India, and they lay the groundwork for further studies of everyday colonial violence.

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The Animal, the Madman, and Death Having Slaughtered My Mother, My Sister, and My Brother…: A Case of Parricide in the 19th Century
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14 For a thorough, indeed almost comprehensive review of this historiography, seeTensions of Colonial Punishment: Perspectives on Recent Developments in the Study of Coercive Networks in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean
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Colonial Justice in British India: White Violence and the Rule of Law
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