Ethics, Distance and Accountability: The Political Thought of Rammohun Roy, c. 1803-32.

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


In my thesis I will argue that the most important context of the writings of Rammohun Roy (1772/3(?)-1833) was making the political power of the East India Company accountable to an ethical Bengali public.
Rammohun’s political thought was concerned with three distinct but related themes: 1) the restructuring of the Company’s administration from a distant and invisible government at London to Calcutta; 2) the importance of ethical practice in Bengali society; and 3) the legal and ethical obligation of the Company to be accountable to its subjects. Contrary to current scholarship, I argue that a unity of thought can be identified in Rammohun’s writings. The thesis will show that, throughout his career as a native intellectual (1803-32), Rammohun consistently stressed the importance of societal ethics and highlighted the consequences of the distance between London and Bengal on governmental accountability. The title, ‘Ethics, Distance and Accountability’ articulates this argument by focusing on the core concerns of his political thought. Rammohun’s political thought was influenced by philosophy of ak̲h̲lāq, the Dharmaśāstras, as well as by his association with the Company’s district administration (1804-14). Rammohun intended his work to be widely read by the Bengali public (sarvvasadharan lok), Company officials and the native elite and referred to a diversity of traditions (the Purāṇas, Liberal philosophy, British history, Persian poetry and the Upaniṣads) to explain his ideas to his intended audience.
Date of Award2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorJon Wilson (Supervisor) & David Todd (Supervisor)

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