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The Transition to a Colonial Economy: Weavers, Merchants and Kings in South India, 1720-1800 (Cambridge Studies in Indian History and Society) 1st Edition

4 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0521570428
ISBN-10: 0521570425
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Parthasaranthi's study of cotton textile weavers of South India during the eighteenth century comprises an important addition to the extensive historical literature on early modern South Asia--particularly the period that witnessed the transition to the early colonial state of the English East India Company. Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"...crisply written, deeply researched, and analytically powerful study of South India....An important contribution of Parthasarathi's book is that it makes politics and political norms central to our understanding of social and economic change..."

--Robert Travers, Cornell University

Book Description

In a challenge to the widespread belief that poverty and poor living standards have been characteristic of India for centuries, Prasannan Parthasarathi demonstrates that, until the late eighteenth century, labouring groups in South India were in a powerful position, receiving incomes well above subsistence. It was with the rise of colonial rule, the author maintains, that the decline in their economic fortunes was initiated. This is a powerful revisionist statement on the role of Britain in India which will interest students of the region, and economic and colonial historians.
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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Studies in Indian History and Society (Book 7)
  • Hardcover: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (April 23, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521570425
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521570428
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,389,426 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
This book is about the fate of weavers in Southern Indian during the eighteenth century and their relationship with local merchants and the East India Company. Gee, sounds fascinating. Why would anyone want to read about such a dull and technical topic? The very good reason actually is that Parthasarathi has an important new thesis which is directly relevant not only to the history of India, but also to the relationship of India to the rest of the world, and to the moral costs of Empire. Parthasarathi's thesis is that while for centuries people have assumed that the laborers were desperately poor, in fact their circumstances dramatically worsened after the establishment of Colonial Rule. Is this not similar to the old nationalist allegations? And haven't those allegations long been refuted. Not quite. In one region of India the real wages of one group of agricultural laborers in 1976 was only a third of those in 1795. And Parthasarathi argues that real wages compared very well with those in Britain at the time.
How could this be so? Parthasarathi argues that weavers were able to maintain a strong position against weavers. They could use (and abuse) advances of their goods, while merchants had trouble enforcing their debts. One might think this was odd, since usury would appear to be something that merchants would tend to be very good at. Even more important weavers and peasant society was often very mobile, and they went from princely state to princely state, using competition from kings to their own advantage. They also possessed strong village and caste organization which increased their solidarity. As for wages, although their levels were lower than Britain's, their real wages were comparable because the price of grain was so much lower in India.
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The Transition to a Colonial Economy: Weavers, Merchants and Kings in South India, 1720-1800 (Cambridge Studies in Indian History and Society)
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