The Economic History of India (1857-1947)

Item Code: NAG502
Publisher: Oxford University Press, New Delhi
Author: Tirthankar Roy
Language: English
Edition: 2013
ISBN: 9780198074175
Pages: 366 (16 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 9 inch x 7 inch
Weight 520 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

One of the most widely-read accounts of Indian economy under colonial rule, The Economic History of India documents and examines multilayered structural shifts in India's economy initiated by the Raj Strongly differing from linear perspectives, this book situates colonial India's transition to a stable democratic state in the rubric of global and South Asian economic history. This new edition interconnects Independent India's development issues to the country's economic history.

Significantly revised and updated, it undertakes a nuanced analysis of India's transition under colonia1ism, in terms of the impact on education, law, business organization, and land rights trends in macroeconomic aggregates, such as national income, population, labour, savings, and investmentmajor sectors of development, namely agriculture, mining, industry, infrastructure, banking, and trade the Interconnection of colonial economic history to the economic change In post- Independence IndiaLucid and accessible, this edition presents a fresh reader-friendly format, additional illustrations, detailed suggested readings, and a new glossary. In line with cutting-edge research, it will be an indispensable text for students and teachers of economic history at the undergraduate level.


About the Author

Tirthankar Roy is Reader In Economic History, London School of Economics and Political Science. A leading scholar on the economic history of modem and early modem India, he is the author of Company of Kinsmen: Enterprise and Community in South Asian History 7700-7940 (2010) and Artisans and Industrialization: Indian Weaving in the Twentieth Century (1993).



To be of value a textbook must be state- of-the-art. Economic history is changing rapidly, thanks to the partnership that it has formed with comparative economic growth. Much of applied work today addresses the origins of international economic inequality in the modern world or, to borrow words from David Lands, answers the question: 'Why are we so rich and they so poor?' Questions like these invite researchers working on the non-Western world to show how their regions of expertise can contribute to discussions on world inequality. The current revision of this textbook is partly motivated by the desire to integrate Indian history into this global history project.

But there is also a cautionary intent. There is a danger in reading Indian history through the lenses of global history. Application of any general model claiming to explain the origins of international inequality could turn the study of the non-Western world into an enquiry into its presumed economic failures, merely a story telling us 'why they are so poor', or 'why nations fail, to cite the title of a well-known article on India. The rhetoric of 'success' and 'failure' defeats the purpose of economic history. Whole nations do not become rich or poor; individuals, groups, livelihoods, and regions do. Dealing with averages and representative agents could lead to a flattening of the huge variations across individuals, groups, livelihoods, and regions that lie behind them. Using a large country like India to illustrate the failure of the non-West requires suppressing the diversity that characterizes Indian economy and society. Such a point of entry does not help us understand a region that has experienced robust industrialization, flourishing entrepreneurial culture, high scientific and technological attainments, and a stable democratic state for more than half a century. Amidst such achievements, the region remains home to the world's largest pool of poor and illiterate people, and has seen violent social conflicts, huge gender inequalities, environmental stress, land and water shortages, and inefficient institutions. If history is to be useful, it should show how such paradoxes emerged, and why they persist into the present.

In this revision, the dual project connecting with global history, and connecting with the present-is taken further than before. The former aim is served in several ways. Chapter 1 is revised to reflect new evelopments in global history. More space is devoted to institutional transitions, touching on education, law, business organization, land rights, and contracts, among other themes. Throughout the text, the boxes introduce specialist literature in global and comparative history with relevance for India. More attention falls upon subjects like international trade, migration, investment, and transactions in scientific and technological knowledge. And since global historians show particular interest in the eighteenth century, from when world inequality began to widen rapidly, the political and economic transition in eighteenth century India is discussed more fully than before (Chapter 2). The second aim is served by the newly added Chapter 12, which carries out an overview of post-colonial developments in the Indian Union from a historian's perspective. The rest of the book retains the same structure as in the second edition, with tighter editing, optimal use of space, and updated discussion of the literature.

The additional material that was necessary to cite required a change in the citation style. Keeping the students' interest in mind, the book now contains a section on 'Further Readings' added at the end of the book. Notes within chapters only cite works that have a direct bearing on the relevant text. These two sets are not exclusive, and may need to be combined for a reasonably comprehensive listing of available research on any theme. A glossary of Indian and British-Indian terms has been added in this edition.

In preparing this revised edition, I have received valuable suggestions from Ravi Raman and Supratim Das. Rosanne Das Gupta deserves a special word of gratitude for carefully editing an earlier draft. Anjan Gupta has supplied both intellectual input and logistical help. Mina Moshkeri has completely redrawn the maps.




  Preface to the third edition xi
  List of tables, figures, boxes, and maps xiii
  List of abbreviations xvii
  Exchange rate, 1800-1947 xviii
1 Intoduction 1
  South Asia, 1857-1947: Colonialism and globalization  
  Theories of economic history  
  Competing Narratives on india  
  Beyond competing narratives  
2 Transition to colonialism: 1707-1857 20
  The passage of empires  
  Economic coons c. 1750  
  New property rights in lande  
  Foreign trade  
  domestic trade  
  Business history: Merchants and bankers  
  Business history: Industry  
  The state and public goods  
3 Growth and Structural change: 1857-1947 79
  Measuring change  
  Emplaining change  
  Globalization and patterns of trade  
  Savings and investment  
  Public finance  
  Balance of payments  
  The great depression  
4 Agriculture 104
  Trends in production and incom e  
  Resources and techniques  
  Agriculture in major regions  
  Land labour, and credit markets  
  Effects of market expansion  
  Explaining stagnation  
5 The Commons 149
  Types of common land  
  Forests and forest dependent people  
  Village commons and pastures  
  Land use patterns  
6 Small Scale Industry 158
  Types of industry  
  Lond term pattern of industrialization  
  Two models of transition in handicrafts  
  Handloom weaving  
  Other industries  
  Labour and capital  
  Modern small scale industry  
7 Large Scale Industry 183
  Statistical Outline  
  Stages of industrialization  
  Major industries  
  Labour and capital  
  Finance of industry  
  Business organization  
  Technology and colonialism  
  Princely states  
8 Plantations, Mines, Banking 215
  Tea and coffee plantation  
9 Infrastructure 234
  The impetus  
  Roads and Inland waterways  
  Posts and telegraph  
  The legal system  
10 Fiscal and Monetary Systems 252
  Trade policy  
  The fiscal system  
  The monetary system  
11 Population and Labour 267
  Population and Labour  
  Labour force  
12 Economic Change in India: 1950-2010 287
  Three phases  
  Birth of regime 1950-64  
  Crises, contradiction, ande critique: 1965-85  
  Transition: 1986-2010  
  Looking forward and looking back  
  Further readings 320
  Glossary 331
  Index 339

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