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Did British colonial powers invent the Indian caste system? Show more Show less
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The four-tiered caste system gives Hindu society a strict hierarchical structure, with teachers and religious leaders at the top, and the fifth "undesirable" category performing "unclean" work. Where did it come from? Was it a colonial invention? Or are its roots embedded in ancient Indian culture?

British colonial powers reshaped the caste system Show more Show less

British colonial powers did not invent the caste system, but manipulated it to serve their purposes.
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The caste system blends British and Indian thinking

The caste system is an amalgamation of traditional Indian culture and colonial thinking.
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The Argument

The institution of caste existed long before the British arrived in India. However, it was the British colonial powers that introduced the notion of a hierarchy. The caste system that existed in India prior to British colonization focused on social differences rather than social hierarchy. Pre-colonial caste categorized social differences but did not rank the castes or attribute a hierarchy.[1] The British introduced the hierarchy as part of their “divide and conquer” strategy. The colonial powers knew that their small military contingent could not ensure stability of the Indian colony without the assistance of a subset of the Indian population. By making Brahmins superior and awarding them lucrative and prestigious jobs in the colonial administration, they knew that they could ensure the Brahmin caste would work tirelessly to uphold the colonial system and suppress the lower castes.

Counter arguments

Premises

[P1] The caste system existed prior to the British colonization. [P2] This system did not have a hierarchy. [P3] The British introduced a hierarchy. [P4] Therefore, the British reshaped, but did not invent the caste system.

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1012&context=phr
This page was last edited on Monday, 27 Apr 2020 at 11:58 UTC

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