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Many have told of the East India Company's extraordinary excesses in eighteenth-century India, of the plunder that made its directors fabulously wealthy. But this is only a fraction of the story. When Warren Hastings was put on trial by Edmund Burke, it brought the Company's exploits to the attention of the public. Through the trial and after, the British government transformed public understanding of the Company's corrupt actions by creating an image of a vulnerable India that needed British assistance. Intrusive behavior was recast as a civilizing mission.
In this fascinating, devastating account of the scandal that laid the foundation of the British Empire, Nicholas Dirks explains how this substitution of imperial authority for Company rule helped erase the dirty origins of empire and justify the British presence in India.
The Scandal of Empire reveals that the conquests and exploitations of the East India Company were critical to England's development. It shows how mercantile trade was inextricably linked with imperial venture and scandalous excess, and how these three things provided the ideological basis for far-flung British expansion. In this brilliantly readable and powerful critique, Dirks shows how the empire projected its own scandalous behavior onto India itself. By returning us to the moment when the scandal of empire became acceptable he gives us a new understanding of the modern culture of the colonizer and the colonized.