During the nineteenth and the early twentieth century, a series of violent outbreaks erupted in the rural areas of Malabar District in northern Kerala. The outbreaks were conducted by small groups of Mappillas, the indigenous Muslims of Kerala. At the time they occurred, these “Moplah Outrages”—as the outbreaks were gothically labeled by British administrators—were the subject of extensive debate and wildly divergent interpretations. However, apart from unpublished official correspondence, little has been written about these incidents; and the few discussions that have appeared, rather than analyzing the outbreaks, have instead cited them as evidence to support a simplistic Marxist interpretation of South Indian history. This ideological approach is characteristic of the various works written by the former Prime Chief Minister of Kerala State, E. M. S. Nambudiripad. It is also clearly evident and conveniently epitomized in the most recent article dealing with the outbreaks, Kathleen Gough's “Peasant Resistance and Revolt in South India.” Professor Gough argues that the outbreaks were essentially an economic phenomenon, that they were directly and solely a response to radical changes induced in the agricultural economy of Malabar District by British administration. In fact, there is no doubt that British rule substantially altered the agricultural economy of Malabar District. Land became a marketable commodity, and landholders became land-owners with new rights which they could and did invoke in British courts to coerce their tenants. Yet while these changes helped to trigger some Mappilla outbreaks and influenced the course of others, these incidents were an extremely complicated phenomenon; and none of them was solely the result of economic pressures.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.