India’s Economy and Colonial Rule: 1750-1950

Home/ India’s Economy and Colonial Rule: 1750-1950
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSLS2HS1074

Semester to which offered: Monsoon semester

Course Coordinator and Team: Dhirendra Datt Dangwal and Sanjay Sharma

Email of course coordinator: dhirendra[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: none

Aim:This course examines some key spheres and trends of India’s economy, colonial rule and its historiography. It situates them in the realms of land, labour, capital and state policy as they emerged from the shadows of the Mughal decline and moved into the colonial era. It pays special attention to the world of peasants, artisans, migrants and their changing relationships with state power and the propertied in India. The role of caste, gender and social power in the working out of economic relationships will be explored throughout. This course will revisit some influential debates of Indian economic history: deindustrialisation, the nature of growth under colonial conditions, forced commercialization, the modernity of its industrialisation, working classes and the role of the colonial state.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

  1. Introduction: reflections on ‘economic history’, the relationship between the ‘economic’ and the social, cultural and political context. Historicising India’s economic history: critical perspectives on the writings on the economic history of India, colonial archives and the question of sources.
  2. Reviewing 18th century economy: this module discusses legacy of the Mughals, Regional Formations, European trading companies, continuities and departures.
  3. The Trading world of the East India Company State: This examins trade relations developed by the East India Company and nature of its rule.
  4. Colonial Rule on Indian Soil: (a) land revenue settlements, commercialization of agriculture, changing cropping pattern, land market, rural credit and indebtedness. (b) Agrarian relations: agricultural labour, regional variations, peasant commodity production and debates on the ‘mode of production in Indian agriculture’, the ‘invisible’ women of India’s agrarian history.
  5. Famines, famine relief and public works: food security, trends in long term output and availability of food, living standards and entitlements, the impact of roads, canals, railways and industrial technology.
  6. Modern Industry: the rise and growth of large-scale industries, different stages of industrialization, government industrial policy. Emergence of capitalist and labour classes and labour organizations.
  7. Changing nature of foreign and internal trade in the first half of 20th century: This analyses how nature of trade changed from 18th to 20th century.
  8. Public Finance: Government revenue, expenditure and investment over the years.
  9. Emergence of Modern Banking in India and its role in economy.
  10. Overall assessment of colonial economy: stagnation and decline with regional variations.
  11. India as a Colony and its Impoverishment: assessing overall growth, stagnation and decline with regional variations, India’s position in world economy, the colonial legacy.
  12. Economy in the Early Decades of Independence. The growing importance of themes like poverty, welfare, health, education, gender, environment, and livelihood etc for new perspectives on economic history.


  1. Seema Alavi (ed), The Eighteenth Century in India (Delhi, OUP, 2002)
  2. P.J. Marshall (ed), The Eighteenth Century in Indian History: Evolution or Revolution? (New Delhi, OUP, 2003)
  3. Tirthankar Roy, The Economic History of India, 1857-1947 (New Delhi, OUP, 2000)
  4. Dharma Kumar (ed), The Cambridge Economic History of India, c. 1757- c.1970, Vol. II (Delhi, Orient Longman, 1984), selected chapters.
  5. Om Prakash, European Commercial Enterprise in Pre-Colonial India (Cambridge, CUP, Indian edition, 1998)
  6. Asiya Siddiqi (ed), Trade and Finance in Colonial India 1750-1860, (New Delhi, OUP, 1995)
  7. Dharma Kumar, Land and Caste in South India (Cambridge, CUP, 1965)
  8. Burton Stein (ed), The Making of Agrarian Policy in British India, 1770–1900 (Delhi, OUP, 1992).
  9. Ranajit Guha, A Rule of Property for Bengal: An Essay on the Idea of Permanent Settlement (Orient Longman, New Delhi, 1981)
  10. Asiya Siddiqi, Agrarian Change in a Northern Indian State, Uttar Pradesh, 1819-33 (Oxford, OUP, 1973)
  11. Elizabeth Whitcombe, Agrarian Conditions in Northern India: The United Provinces under British Rule, 1860-1900 (California University Press, 1971)
  12. Sanjay Sharma, Famine, Philanthropy and the Colonial State: North India in the Early Nineteenth Century (Delhi, OUP, 2001)
  13. A.K. Sen, Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation (New Delhi, OUP, 1981)
  14. David Ludden (ed), Agricultural Production in Indian History (Delhi, OUP, 1994)
  15. Sumit Guha (ed) Growth. Stagnation or Decline?: Agricultural Productivity in British India (Delhi., OUP, 1992)
  16. Bhatia, B.M., Famines in India: A Study in Some Aspects of the Economic History of India with Special Reference to Food Problem 1860-1990, 3rd. revised edition (Delhi, 1991)
  17. Davis, Mike, Late Victorian Holocausts: El NiÑo Famines and the Making of the Third World (London, New York, Verso, 2002)
  18. Drèze, Jean “Famine Prevention in India” in Jean Drèze, Amartya Sen and Athar Hussain (ed) The Political Economy of Hunger (Delhi, OUP, 2009)
  19. Greenough, Paul R., Prosperity and Misery in Modern Bengal: The Famine of 1943-44 (New Delhi, OUP, 1982).
  20. Ian Stone, Canal Irrigation in British India: Perspectives on Technological Change in a Peasant Economy (Cambridge, 1984)
  21. Prasannan Parthasarathy, The Transition to a Colonial Economy: Weavers, Merchants and Kings in South India, 1720-1800 (Cambridge, 2001)
  22. B.B Chaudhury, Peasant History of Late Pre-Colonial and Colonial India, Volume VIII, Part 2 of History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization, General Editor, D.P. Chattopadhyaya (New Delhi, CSC, Pearson Longman, 2008)
  23. B.B Chaudhury, “Growth of Commercial Agriculture in Bengal 1859-1885” in David Ludden (ed), Agricultural Production in Indian History (Delhi, OUP, 1994), pp. 145-181; also published in Indian Economic and Social History Review, 7.1 (1970)
  24. Jan Breman, Labour Bondage in West India from Past to Present (New Delhi, OUP, 2008)
  25. K.N. Raj et al (eds.), Commercialisation of Indian Agriculture (Delhi, OUP, 1985)
  26. Gyan Prakash (ed.), The World of the Rural Labourer in Colonial India (Delhi, OUP, 1992)
  27. Sugata Bose (ed), Credit, Markets, and the Agrarian Economy of Colonial India (Delhi, OUP, 1994)
  28. Prem Chowdhury, “Peasant Economy: Interaction of Culture, Patriarchy and the Colonial State”, in Prem Chowdhury, The Veiled Woman: Shifting Gender Equations in Rural Haryana 1880-1990 (Delhi,OUP, 1994), pp. 245-88.
  29. Samita Sen , “‘Will the Land not be Tilled?’: Women’s Work in the Rural Economy”, ch. 2 in Samita Sen, Women And Labour in Late Colonial India: the Bengal Jute Industry (Cambridge, CUP, 1999), pp. 54-88
  30. A.K. Bagchi, Private Investment in India, 1900-1939 (Cambridge University Press, 1972)
  31. Dipesh Chakrabarty, Rethinking Working Class History. Bengal, 1890-1940 (Princeton, 1989)
  32. Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, The Financial Foundations of the British Raj (New Delhi, Orient Blackswan, 2005)
  33. B.R. Tomlinson, The Economy of Modern India, 1860-1970 (CUP, 1993)
  34. Ian J. Kerr (ed.), Railways in Modern India (Delhi, OUP, 2001)
  35. Pranab Bardhan, The Political Economy of Development in India (Delhi, OUP, 1989)
  36. Sumit Guha, Health and Population in South Asia (Delhi, Permanent Black, paperback, 2010)

Tentative Assessment schedule with details of weightage:



Date/period in which Assessment will take place



Take home assignment

Early September



Take home assignment

early October



End Semester Exam

As per AUD Academic Calendar