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image of Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

In Ramnad, bandits could be king. The open-ended political culture of this South Indian kingdom presented even people on the margins of society with opportunities to attain political power. Likewise, the VOC (Dutch East India Company), operating from the coastal frontier of the kingdom, played a significant role in the political arena of Ramnad. Given this similarity, it may be asked whether the Dutch were regarded as neutral outsiders (as they themselves thought they were) or rather as an indigenous marginal power. By comparing the internal and regional relations of Ramnad with its contacts with the VOC, this article attempts to determine the kingdom's perception of the Company. In Ramnad, could the Dutch be bandits?

En Ramnad, un royaume dans l'Inde méridional, il arrive que le bandit se fait roi. La culture politique, ainsi que les avenues du pouvoir y furent en principe ouvertes à tous; aux marginaux indigènes, vivants dans les terres sèches périphériques, autant qu'aux fonctionnaires de la compagnie néerlandaise des Indes Orientales, la VOC, qui avait un comptoir sur le littoral. Elle se considerait neutre. Toutefois elle allait jouer un rôle important dans l'arène politique de Ramnad. Or, au niveau conceptuel la question se pose si la perspective indigène différenciait entre le roturier indigène d'au-delà de la terre de grande culture, et l'aventurier étranger, ou par contre les confondait l'un l'autre. Cet article se propose d'y voir plus clair par l'étude des liens internes et régionals entretenus par le centre politique de Ramnad, en comparant ceux-ci avec les relations vis-à-vis la VOC pour en déduire le statut social des Hollandais dans la société indigène.


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