What is a tribe?
A new form of colonialism was born in the second half of the 19th century, largely in response to the Indian Mutiny of 1857. Of its many theorists by far the most influential was Henry Maine, a brilliant historian of jurisprudence, barrister, journalist, colonial civil servant and eventually master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Maine made an eloquent case for the historicity and agency of the colonised, as part of an attempt to reconstitute the colonial project on a more durable basis. In doing so, he distinguished the West from the non-West, universal civilisation from local custom and, crucially, the settler from the native, thereby laying the groundwork for a theory of nativism. If the settler was modern, the native was not; if the settler was defined by history, the native was defined by geography; if modern polities were defined by legislation and sanction, those of the native were defined by habitual observance.