Grass in their Mouths: the Upper Doab of India under the Company's Magna Charta, 1793-1830


Scholarship on the pre-Bentinck period of Indian history has taken little notice of the inevitable dilemmas of colonial rule as they became visible in the districts. This book argues that the disdain the eighteenth-century Westminster parliaments expressed both for Indians and the East India Company induced the Bengal civil service to formulate for itself a corporate identity that, because of its distant and self-centered character, prevented it to acquire an executive hold on most levels of the Indian administration. The core of the book consists of superbly-detailed studies of the ways in which, in the Ganges-Jumna doab, villagers, revenue farmers, Indian policemen and revenue officials, bankers and judges struggled to overcome or profit from this feature of the colonial administration.
Restricted Access


EUR €203.00USD $272.00

Biographical Note

Dirk H.A. Kolff, Ph.D. (1983) in History, Leiden University, is Emeritus Professor of South Asian History, Leiden University. His publications mainly deal with the early modern history of India.

Review Quotes

'If one accepts this limitation (this being a work of administrative history), one can praise Kolff’s work as a unique contribution to modern Indian historiography. Hardly any other work has provided such deep insights into the interaction of British and Indian agency in the early period of colonial rule.'
Dietmar Rothermund, Orientalische Literaturzeitung

' Grass in Their Mouths is an important and neglected study of an important and neglected subject: the East India Company's struggle to establish an effective administration in the vast north Indian plains in the early nineteenth century.(...) a book like this is a definitive work: the achievement of a lifetime: an expression of the highest-possible methodological standards.'
Clive Dewey, Journal of Asian Studies Vol. 74, No. 4 (November) 2015


All those interested in Indian social and administrative history, colonialism and its ideologies, peasant studies, and Indian legal studies.


Collection Information