Peasants and Monks in British India

Front Cover
University of California Press, Jun 18, 1996 - History - 242 pages
In this compelling social history, William R. Pinch tackles one of the most important but most neglected fields of the colonial history of India: the relation between monasticism and caste. The highly original inquiry yields rich insights into the central structure and dynamics of Hindu society—insights that are not only of scholarly but also of great political significance.

Perhaps no two images are more associated with rural India than the peasant who labors in an oppressive, inflexible social structure and the ascetic monk who denounces worldly concerns. Pinch argues that, contrary to these stereotypes, North India's monks and peasants have not been passive observers of history; they have often been engaged with questions of identity, status, and hierarchy—particularly during the British period. Pinch's work is especially concerned with the ways each group manipulated the rhetoric of religious devotion and caste to further its own agenda for social reform. Although their aims may have been quite different—Ramanandi monastics worked for social equity, while peasants agitated for higher social status—the strategies employed by these two communities shaped the popular political culture of Gangetic north India during and after the struggle for independence from the British.

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


Sadhus and Shudras in North India ca 17oo190o 2 3
Ramanand and Ramanandis ca 19001940
Being Vaishnava Becoming Kshatriya 8 I
Culture Conflict and Violence in Gangetic India II 5

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (1996)

William R. Pinch is Assistant Professor of History at Wesleyan University.

Bibliographic information