This book offers a systematic analysis of the violent clashes between the South Indian 'right' and 'left' hand caste divisions that repeatedly rocked the European settlements on the Coromandel Coast in the early colonial period. Whereas the Indian population expected the colonial authorities to intervene in the disputes, the Europeans were reluctant to get involved in conflicts which they barely understood. In the nineteenth century the significance of the divisions diminished, a development that has long puzzled historians and anthropologists. In addition, this study addresses the larger issue of the nature of colonial encounters. The rich material relating to these disputes convincingly demonstrates how Europeans and Indians, as they sought to incorporate each other into their own social structure and conceptual universe, participated in a dialogue on the nature of South Indian society.