Labour, Land, Capital and State: The Experiences of Working People and Development in the Indian Subcontinent, 1600s-201

Home/ Labour, Land, Capital and State: The Experiences of Working People and Development in the Indian Subcontinent, 1600s-201
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Discipline ElectiveSLS2HS3108

Semester and Year Offered: Semester Winter and since 2013

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr Dhiraj Kumar Nite

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

Pre-requisites: the student ought to have cleared three core courses of MA history programme and completed 24 credits.

Aim: It deals with relationships between the experiences of working people, on one side, and the pattern of value formation and accumulation, on the other. It studies the life condition of productive classes, that is, the vast segment of Indian society and their place in the development discourses from circa 1600s to the contemporary time. It focuses on wage relations, work-time relations, workplace risk, safety efforts, the gendering of labour relation, familial life and leisure culture amongst the working people. Additionally, it considers that the relation of production and relation in production are the crucial variable for analysis of wellbeing and experiences of productive classes. Such analysis assumes that land, labour, capital and state-force are the principal components as not merely the factors of production but the latter three are also as social forces. They shape the course of development and bear its consequences. The course comments upon various approaches, such as behaviourist, liberal, structuralist, Marxian, postmodernist, post-structuralist and feminist applied to the study of productive classes, development and wellbeing.

Course Outcomes: Upon successful completion of the course, it is expected that:

  1. The budding researcher gain a lesson in learning to use the primary and secondary sources, with respect to the examination of labour practices, development patterns, and the condition of wellbeing.
  2. Students acquire the tools of analysis of everyday life, society and economy in terms of social identity, labour, land, capital, development, and wellbeing.
  3. Students become familiar with a discussion on the significance of connected and comparative historical perspectives.
  4. Students get across concepts and analytical design, as indicated under the subhead of aim of the course, useful for comprehending changes and continuities of our world in a comparative context.
  5. Students attain a modicum of control on the reference materials in a critical and comparative manner in order to grasp the sources of divergent viewpoints on historical episodes.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

  1. The categories of abstract labour, real labour, wellbeing and human life, forms of Labour/ work and Relations in Production (Work Relations)
  2. Wages, Income, and Efficiency, Of Wage Funds, Relative Surplus-value, and reproduction relations
  3. Work Time,
  4. Work Hazards and Safety, Sexual Oppression and Security
  5. Family, Community, Gender and Children
  6. Alienation/Estrangement, and de-alienation
  7. Wellbeing: its Contours and Foundations?
  8. Ideas, Religion, Theatre and Leisure
  9. Labour Migration and Recruitment,
  10. Expression of Social Forces
  11. Labour Laws and the State-power

Assessment Details with weights:

  • Written submission to be assessed by Supervisor: 75%
  • Oral Presentation to be assessed by History Faculty: 25%

Reading List:

  • Breman, Jan, 1993. Beyond Patronage and Exploitation: Changing Agrarian Relations in South Gujarat, Delhi: OUP.
  • Prakash, Gyan (ed), 1991. The World of the Rural Labourers, Delhi: OUP.
  • Chaudhary, Latika et al, 2016. A New Economic History of Colonial India, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Bagchi, Amiya, 2002, Capital and Labour Redefined: Indian and the Third World, pp. 176-240, New Delhi: Tulika Press.
  • Balachandran, G. 2012. Globalising Labour?: Indian Seafarers and World Shipping, 1870-1945, Delhi: OUP.
  • Behal, Rana P. 2007. ‘Power Structure, Discipline and Labour in Assam Tea Plantations during Colonial Rule’, in Behal et al. (eds), India’s Labouring Poor, pp. 143-172,.
  • Behal, Rana P. 2010. ‘Coolie Drivers Or Benevolent Paternalists?: British Tea Planters in Assam and the Indenture Labour System’, Modern Asian Studies, 44 (1), pp. 29-51.
  • Bhattacharya, Sabyasachi, 2016. Vernacularisation of the Labour Politics, Delhi: Tulika Press.
  • Bhattacharya, S. and Jan Lucassen (ed.), 2005, Workers in the Informal Sector: Studies in Labour History 1800-2000, Delhi: Macmillan.
  • Chakrabarty, D. 1989. Rethinking Working Class History: Bengal 1890-1940, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Chakrabarty, Dipesh, 2001/07, Provincialising Europe: postcolonial thought and historical difference (Chapters: Two Histories of Capital; Translating Life-worlds into Labour and History).
  • Chandavarkar, R. 1994/2002. The origins of Industrial Capitalism in India: Business strategies and the working classes in Bombay, 1900-1940, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Chibber, V. 2005. ‘From Class Compromise to Class Accommodation: Labor’s Incorporation into the Indian Political Economy’, in Mary Katzenstein and Raka Ray (eds), Social Movements and Poverty in India, Rowman and Littlefield.
  • Das, AN. 1986. Worker and the Working-class, Delhi: Manohar.
  • Dasgupta, R. 1990. Labour and the Working Class in Eastern India, Calcutta: K&P Bagchi.
  • Joshi, C. 2004. Lost Worlds: Workers in the Kanpur Jute Mills, Delhi: Permanent Black.
  • Ker, Ian J, Building The Railways of The Raj 1850-1900, Delhi: OUP, 1997.
  • Mohapatra, P. Immobilising Labour: Recruitment under the the Indentured Labour System in Assam and West Indies, A NLI paper series.
  • Prabhu. 2007/2006. ‘“Following Customs”? Representations of Community among Indian Immigrant Labour in the West Indies, 1880-1920’, in Behal, RP and Marcel van der Linden (eds), India’s Labouring Poor: Historical Studies 1600-2000, pp. 173-202, Delhi: Cambridge University Press (IRSH 51 supplement 14).
  • Nair, Janaki. 1998. Miners and Millhands: Work, Culture and Politics in Princely Mysore, Delhi: OUP.
  • Gooptu, N. 2002. The Politics of Labouring Poor, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Nite, DK. ‘Family, Work and the Reproduction of Life: The Phase of Early Industrialisation in the (Indian) Jharia Coalfields, 1890s-1940’, in van der Linden, Marcel and Prabhu Mohapatra (eds.), Labour Matters: Towards Global Histories, pp. 82-105, Delhi: Tulika, 2009.
  • Nite, DK. ‘Reproduction Preferences and the Politics of Wage: Jharia Coalfield 1895-1970’, Studies in History, vol. 30, no. 1, 2014.
  • Nite, DK. ‘Negotiating the Mines: The Safety Culture on the Indian Mines, 1895-1970’, Studies in History, February 2019.
  • Prakash, G. 1991. The World of Rural Labour, Delhi: OUP.
  • Santosh Kr. 2012. ‘Weaving Hierarchies: Production Networks of the Handloom Industry in Colonial Eastern Uttar Pradesh’, Studies in History, vol. 28 (2), pp. 203-230.
  • Ramaswami, Shankar. 2007. ‘Masculinity, Respect, and the Tragic: Themes of Proletarian Humor in Contemporary Industrial Delhi’, in Behal et al. (eds), India’s Labouring Poor, pp. 203-228.
  • Roy, Trithankar. 2005. Rethinking Economic Change in India: Labour and Livelihood, Oxon: Routledge.
  • Sen, Samita. 1999. Women and Labour in Late Colonial India: The Bengal Jute Industry, Cambridge: CUP.
  • Simeon, D. 1995. The Politics of Labour under Late Colonialism: Workers, Union and the State in Chotanagpur, 1928-39, Delhi: Manohar.
  • Joshi, C. 2005. ‘Women Labour in Kanpur’, in S. Bhattacharya and Marcel van den Linden (eds), Workers in the Informal Sector, Delhi: Tulika Press.
  • Upadhyay, SB. 2004. Existence, Identity and Mobilisation: The Cotton Millworkers of Bombay, 1890―1919. New Delhi: Manohar.
  • Upadhyay, SB. 2011. ‘Work and Untouchability: Experiences of Work in Dalit Autobiographies’, in Behal, Rana P et al. (eds.), Rethinking Work: Global Historical and Sociological Perspectives, pp. 23-39, Delhi: Tulika.


  • Primary source sample:
  • Census Reports
  • NSS Reports
  • Gazetteers
  • Departmental files of different ministries
  • Newspapers, magazines, pamphlets and leaflets
  • Memoirs, autobiographies and travelogue
  • Wage and Price Reports
  • Labour Yearbooks
  • Capital Yearbooks
  • Oral historical accounts