In old Guntur District, as in other districts of South India, several different elite groups, arranged within a highly complex and segmented social order, were interlocked with corresponding elements of the political hierarchy. Each group was associated in one way or another with its own stratum in district government and, at times, with seeral different strata, from die Collector's Office at the top to the village at the bottom. Operating at its own level or in its own area of the district, each group was linked vertically with allied superior and subordinate groups and was often in conflict with another group of comparable and therefore competitive rank and function. Such a pattern of group relationships was further complicated by die fact that it was constantly changing. My purpose here is to look at the positions of diese elite groups in relation to each other and in relation to the administrative structure of one district, and to show how these groups behaved within a changing political system and how traditional processes of power continued under die “rule” of die East India Company.

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