A Rule of Law for Zomia: The transition from custom to formal legal, revenue, and administrative practice in early colonial Kumaon. 1815–1843.
In 1815 the East India Company extended its Empire in the Himalayan region of Kumaon. Kumaon was a Zomian space that was politically, economically, and culturally distant and distinct from the empires and civilizations of India’s heartlands, the North-Indian Plains. Aware that their ‘Regulations’ — the formal legal, revenue, and administrative practices with which the Company maintained its Empire — were written on the palimpsest of the conditions of those heartlands, the British chose not to apply the Regulations in Kumaon. Rather, the Company put the affairs of Kumaon into the hands of a young man barely 20 years old and granted him a remarkable level of freedom to develop an alternative form of colonial rule concordant with Kumaon’s Zomian conditions. His name was George William Traill and, over the next 20 years, he would go on to develop a distant and distinct package of formal legal, revenue, and administrative practices known as the Extra-Regulation Order.
The transition from custom to formal legal, revenue, and administrative practice has been a central subject of Indian historiography. This corpus has been overwhelming based on and contextualized by the experience of India’s heartlands. My thesis takes this study out of the heartlands and into the Zomian space of Kumaon.