Zamindars of Bengal

Hereditary landlords in Bengal / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The Zamindars of Bengal were zamindars (hereditary landlords) of the Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent (now divided between Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal). They governed an ancient system of land ownership.

Members of the Dhaka Nawab Family pictured in Vogue magazine in 1947

The Bengali zamindars managed a plantation economy in the Bengal Presidency which produced cotton, jute, indigo, rice, wheat, tea, spices and other commodities. Like the British landed gentry, they were bestowed with titles; their plantation economy has been studied by many scholars and can be compared with historic plantation complexes in the Southern United States. The land was cultivated by tenant farmers who paid rent to the zamindars. A big portion of the rent was in turn paid to the imperial government as taxes. The zamindars were the principal revenue collectors for the imperial administration under Mughal and British rule. The system was abolished by 1951. The Zamindars of Bengal were generally less powerful and had less autonomy than the Zamindars of Bihar who were able to maintain standing armies of their own.[1]

The British entrenched the precolonial zamindari system through the Permanent Settlement. The zamindars dominated most of the villages in Bengal by collecting rent from tenant cultivators.[2] The zamindari system mirrored the European system of serfdom.[3] Bengali zamindars were often recognised with titles like Maharaja, Nawab and Khan Bahadur but they never ruled over princely states. With Bengal being the most populous and politically influential province in British India, Bengali zamindars were the most politically influential landed gentry in British India.