Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, University of Pennsylvania

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2015
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
South Asia Studies; History, University of Pennsylvania
Elite Business Households and State Formation in Western India: The Haribhakti Family and the Social World of Gujarati Bankers, c. 1750-1908

My research investigates connections between elite banking households, financial capital, and regional state formation in western India from c. 1750-1908. I have chosen this periodization based on my research materials and my desire to connect scholarship on the Mughal Empire (1526-1857) and regional successor states (1721-1949) with scholarship on British colonial rule (1757-1947). During this period, sovereign geographies in India resembled a patchwork quilt. For example, even at the pinnacle of its powers after annexing India as a Crown colony in 1858, only three-fifths of India's territory and three-quarters of its population fell under British jurisdiction. The remaining area belonged to hundreds of native rulers about whom we know far less than we do about Mughal and colonial rulers. The Gaekwad family at Baroda in Gujarat headed one of the largest of these Mughal successor states. I believe that these warlords consolidated political power by maneuvering capital advanced to them by an increasingly powerful class of indigenous financiers. In addition to reading Mughal, colonial, and Gaekwad sources, I plan on conducting research in the private archive of the most influential of these financier firms. Established in 1762 by two brothers Hari and Bhakti, the Haribhakti family became the top moneylender to the fledgling state. The Gaekwads borrowed large sums to pay their armies, finance civic projects, and patronize the arts. The complete papers of the Haribhakti firm were recently acquired by the University of Baroda and remain unexplored. The collection contains several thousand documents including bills of exchange, loan contracts, dowry stipulations, and private correspondence exchanged between various rulers, financiers, and residents of the Gaekwad State. It is on the basis of these hitherto unexamined documents that I will investigate relationships between the social organization of family firms, Indian business culture, and early modern state formation.