Agricultural Production and Indian History

Editor: David Ludden

Oxford University Press, 1994

Introduction: Agriculture and Indian History

Dynamics of Growth

Eric Stokes, "Dynamism and enervation in North Indian agriculture: the historical dimension." In The Peasant and the Raj: Studies in Agrarian Society and Peasant Rebellion in Colonial India, Cambridge, 1978, pp.228-42.

Vasant Kaiwar, "Property Structures, Demography and the Crisis of

the Agrarian Economy of Colonial Bombay Presidency," Journal of Peasant Studies, 19, 2, 1992.

Ian Stone, "Canal Irrigation and Agrarian Change: The Experience of the Ganges Canal Tract, Muzaffarnagar District (U.P.)." In Economy and Society: Essays in Indian Economic and Social History. Ed.K.N.Chaudhuri and Dewey. Delhi,1979. pp.86-112.

Processes of Commercialization

Binay Bhushan Chaudhuri, "Growth of Commercial Agriculture in Bengal-- 1859-1885," Indian Economic and Social History Review 7, 1, 1970, (Part 1), 25-60.

A.Satyanarayana, Andhra Peasants Under British Rule: Agrarian Relations and Rural Economy, Delhi, 1990, pp.16-53, "Expansion of Commodity Production and Agrarian Market."

Shahid Amin, Sugarcane and Sugar in Gorakhpur: An Inquiry into Peasant Production for Capitalist Enterprise in Colonial India. Delhi, 1984. "Dimensions of Dependency," pp.182-206.


Formations of Social Power

Sugata Bose, Agrarian Bengal: Economy, Social Structure, and Politics. Cambridge, 1986. pp.3-33. "A typology of agrarian social structure in early twentieth century Bengal."

T.C.A. Raghavan, "Malguzar and Peasant: The Narmada Valley, 1860-1920." Studies in History 1, 2, 1985, 169-200.

Crispin N. Bates, "Regional Dependence and Rural Development in

Central India: The Pivotal Role of Migrant Labour." Modern Asian Studies 3, 19, 1985, 573-592.


1. Amin, Shahid. Sugarcane and Sugar in Gorakhpur: An Inquiry into Peasant Production for Capitalist Enterprise in Colonial India. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1984.

The only monograph on sugar production as a social process in north India. Focuses on of power in social relations in commodity production. Essential for studies of commercialization in colonial India.

2. Baden Powell, Henry. Land Systems of British India. New York: Johnson Reprint Corp., 1972.

An monumental codification of land tenure systems as legal forms institutionalized in British India and explained in evolutionary terms.Basic for studies of land tenure and a perfect example of colonial discourse producing scientific justifications for its own political and legal products.

3. Baker, Christopher John. An Indian Rural Economy: 1880 - 1955 The Tamilnad Countryside. Oxford and Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1984.

The fullest monograph on the agricultural, manufacturing, commercial, credit, central place, transportation, and political components of a regional economy in South Asia during the late colonial and early national period. Generates as full an understanding of what "rural" means historically in India as we have; this necessarily includes towns and cities in the rural landscape.

4. Baker, Christopher J. and David Washbrook. South India: Political Institutions and Political Change 1880-1940. Delhi: 1975.

Essays on politics in late colonial Madras Presidency. Formative contributions to what became called "The Cambridge School" of Indian political historiography. Concentrates on the local bases of nationalist politics in agrarian power relations.

5. Bose, Sugata. Agrarian Bengal: Economy, Social Structure, and Politics, 1919-1947. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

The most sophisticated attempt to understand a regional political economy in relation to its economic context in the British Empire. It considers regions of greater Bengal comparatively and property to argue the basis of political power shifted from property to debt relations, generating regional divergences that help to account for diverging political trends.

6. Catanach, I. J. Rural Credit in Western India: rural credit and the cooperative movement in the Bombay presidency, 1875-1930. Berkeley: U Cal Press, 1970.

Classic account of credit problems and laws in Bombay Presidency and the rise of cooperative credit policies and societies in the part of India where they have had the greatest influence. Centers on official documents and policy formulations.

7. Charlesworth, Neil. British Rule and the Indian Economy, 1800-1914. London: Macmillan, 1982.

A small monographic summary of debates about the impact of the British empire on the Indian economy. Excellent for teaching, as an introduction to the field, and for situating India in comparative context.

8. ---. Peasants and Imperial Rule: Agriculture and Agrarian Society in the Bombay Presidency, 1850-1935. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

The last monograph by a scholar who was seminal in formulating debates about the effects of imperial policies and influence on rural economy and society in Western India. Presents clear summation of the debates and evidence.

9. Chatterjee, Partha. Bengal 1920-1947: The Land Question. Calcutta: K. P. Bagchi and Co., 1984.

The most important work on land reform politics in Bengal, showing its entanglement with imperial and national disputations. Connections between land and other political issues are established meticulously.

10. Chaudhuri, Binay Bhushan. "Rural Power Structure and Agricultural Productivity in Eastern India, 1757-1947." in Agrarian Power and Agricultural Productivity in South Asia, pp.100-171. editors S. H. Rudolph, and Ashok Rudra Meghnad Desai. Berkeley and New Delhi: University of California Press and Oxford University Press, 1984.

A good essay through which to enter the corpus of the most important historian of agrarian Bengal. Considers trends in production across the colonial period and variables that explain them, situating agrarian relations carefully in the complexities of explanation.

11. Chaudhuri, K. N. Economic Development of India Under the East India Company, 1814-1858: a selection of contemporary writings in Cambridge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971.

A collection of documents showing disputes over policy options and their intellectual bases in Britain, conflicts pertaining to the Company and its Charter renewals, and the link between policy debates and empirical evidence concerning Indian economic development. Demonstrates the foundation of development discourse in India and indicates its role in development debates concerning the modern Third World.

12. Chaudhuri, K. N. and Clive J. Dewey (eds ). Economy and Society: Essays in Indian Economic and Social History, editors Delhi: 1979.

The most useful collection of articles produced in the 1970s on the agrarian history of colonial India. Contains many classics that have been reprinted repeatedly.

13. Cooper, Adrienne. Sharecropping and Sharecroppers' Struggles in Bengal 1930-1950. Calcutta: K. P. Bagchi & Company, 1988.

A descriptive account of sharecropping and struggles involving tenants, most importantly the Tebhaga movement. Proceeds from premise that revolts are resistance to dependency.

14. Divekar, V. D. Annotated bibliography on the economic history of India (1500 A.D. to 1947 A.D.). 1977.

The annotations are skimpy, but this bibliography is valuable for gathering citations on a great many subjects, including economic aspects of agrarian history. Its inclusion of pre- colonial material is useful. But it is very out of date, as work has accumulated quickly in the last two decades. Useful for older research and official documents.

15. Epstein, S. J. M. The Earthy Soil: Bombay Peasants and the Indian Nationalist Movement, 1919-1947. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1988.

A clearly argued, small monograph that presents a new view of agrarian politics at work in the nationalist movement. Demonstrates that rural interests were mobilized against colonialism in direct proportion to their involvement with the commercial economy and the economic benefits of commercialization. Shows the extent to which opposition to taxes rather than opposition to British rule motivated politicized farmers who rallied behind Gandhi and the Indian National Congress.

16. Frankel, Francine. India's Political Economy, 1947-1977: The Gradual Revolution. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978.

The best place to begin studying the politics of economic development in independent India, a work to which scholars return repeatedly for information and insight. Most useful on political struggles surrounding Jawaharlal Nehru that laid the basis for India's development regime.

17. Frykenberg, Robert Eric ,. ed. Land Control and Social Structure in Indian History. Madison: University of Wisconsin, 1969.

Excellent collection of formative work in agrarian history from the medieval to British periods. Virtually every essay in this collection, which spans the subcontinent, is critical in the historiography of each region covered by the volume. .

18. Gough, Kathleen. Rural Society in Southeast India. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

A reconstruction of the agrarian history of Tanjavur District, Tamil Nadu, from medieval times to the present, organized as a sequence of modes.

19. Greenough, Paul R. Prosperity and Misery in Modern Bengal: The Bengal Famine of 1943-1944. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.

The best monographic history of deadliest famine of this century. Situates famine causation and mortality in the history of agrarian society across the colonial period. Pays special attention to a cultural explanation of mortality.

20. Guha, Ramachandra. The Unquiet Woods: Ecological Change and Peasant Resistance in the Himalaya. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Breakthrough study of ecological politics during the colonial and national period, focused on forest policy, resource exploitation, state-sponsored development projects and resistance to them by the people who live in the forests. A formative text for the ecological history of South Asia in the modern period. .

21. Guha, Sumit. The Agrarian Economy of the Bombay Deccan, 1818- 1941. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1985.

Statistically rich account of agricultural growth trends and its limiting forces in western India. Compares sub-regions. Critical text in debates about the dynamics of growth in a commercializing, cotton growing region that remained susceptible to famine and characterized by low rates of growth and high rural poverty. .

22. Harnetty, Peter. Imperialism and Free Trade: India and Lancashire in the Mid-19th Century. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1972.

Classic study of how British trade policy, having crushed Indian textile export production, fostered the growth of commercial cotton production to supply British textile mills. Basic source on imperial economic policy. .

23. Hjejle, Benedict. "Slavery and Agricultural Bondage in South India in the 19th Century." The Scandinavian Economic History Review 15, no. 1 & 2 (1967): 71-126.

One of the first publications to consider in detail the history of bonded labor in South India, and colonial efforts to abolish it in favor of a labor market system organized around legally free workers. Now superseded but critical as a historiographic baseline for later work.

24. Kolff, Dirk H. A. Naukar, Rajput, and Sepoy: The Ethnohistory of the Military Labour Market of Hindustan, 1450-1850. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Breakthrough study of military recruitment and migration of peasants in precolonial North India, which argues for the importance of seasonal employment in armies for peasants, for their wide spatial mobility in pursuit of army wages, and for the critical role of service to military commanders in the process of social mobility. Critical for revisionist understandings of precolonial rural society.

25. Kumar, Dharma, editor. "The Cambridge Economic History of India, Volume 2: c.1750-c.1970." New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

A massive accumulation of data on trade, manufacture, demography, policies, prices, money, technological change, and development issues in colonial India. A basic text for any study of modern Indian economic history. .

26. ---. Land and Caste in South India: agricultural labour in Madras presidency in the nineteenth century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965.

Reprinted by Manohar Books, Delhi, 1992, with an introduction that considers relevant literature since 1965, this is the first major work on the agrarian history of Madras Presidency. It argues that no major proportional increase in the size of the landless laborer population or decline in its living conditions can be statistically demonstrated in the nineteenth century. .

27. Kumar, Ravinder. Western India in the Nineteenth Century: A Study of the Social History of Maharashtra. London: 1968.

The classic study of the impact of colonial policy on rural society in Bombay presidency. Argues for the break-up of village society and shifts in rural power toward moneylenders that account for the ruptures revealed in the Deccan Riots of 1875.

28. Ludden, David. Peasant History in South India. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985.

A history of agrarian society in the Tirunelveli District of Tamil Nadu from the ninth through the nineteenth century, focusing on regions defined by agro-technological variables and on long-term dynamics in society generated internally and externally. Stops short of considering modern politics or the origins of nationalism. .

29. ---. "Productive Power in Agriculture: A Survey of Work on the Local History of British India." In Agrarian Power and Agricultural Productivity in South Asia, 51-100. Editors et al Meghnad Desai. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1984.

A sixteen page bibliography with a long essay surveying historical work on the local political economy of agricultural production. Does not consider local politics attached to the nationalist movement, but does include work on agricultural geography and some anthropology.

30. Mines, Mattison. The Warrior Merchants: Textiles and Caste Organization Among the Kaikkolar Weavers of South India. 1983.

A stunning history by an anthropologist of the most important professional weaving caste in Tamil Nadu, tracing its origins as an organized commercial group combining production, marketing, and territorial power to its central role in precolonial states. One of the exemplary efforts to connect historical research and ethnography.

31. Neale, Walter C. Economic Change in Rural India: Land Tenure and Reform in the United Provinces, 1800-1955. New Haven: 1962.

Focusing on land tenure and development policies, Neale argues that their limited effectiveness in spurring economic progress derives from the non-market character of agrarian social organization in India. A classic work in debates about economic development under British rule and during the Green Revolution.

32. Ray, Ratnalekha. Change in Bengal Agrarian Society, c. 1760- 1850. New Delhi: Manohar, 1979.

A critical revisionist work, which first demonstrated the limits of the agrarian transformation caused by the Permanent Settlement of Bengal, in 1793, and the rise within the colonial system of intermediary agrarian powers between small-holding peasants and elite zamindars. .

33. Regmi, M. C. A study in Nepali economic history, 1768-1846. New Delhi: Manjushri Publishing, 1971.

An economic description of the region and during the period as a whole, including chapters on forced labor, agrarian laws, policies, and the aftermath of the Nepal-British war. Rich source of archival references and basic data on economic conditions. .

34. Regmi, Mahesh C. Landownership in Nepal. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.

A revised, more readable and updated version of his LAND TENURE AND TAXATION, with clear descriptions and excellent references. The best lace to begin agrarian studies of Nepal.

35. Rothermund, Dietmar. An Economic History of India: From Pre- Colonial Times to 1986. New Delhi: Manohar, 1988.

An extremely useful and sound survey of economic history touching most major themes and updating debates in many specialized fields. Especially valuable for its handling of the transition to national economic development in the context of long-term economic history. .

36. ---. Government, Landlord and Peasant in India: Agrarian Relations under British Rule, 1865-1935. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlas, 1978.

The best overview of land law and agrarian legislation and their official cognition of peasant conditions in colonial India. Rich in references.

37. Schwartzberg, Joseph E. Historical Atlas of South Asia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978.

The single most important reference work for the study of South Asian history. Contains plates that plot data from prehistoric times to the present. Covers all of South Asia in lavish detail, but is weak on the specifics of regional histories. Simply plotting data from this atlas provides hypotheses about agrarian history that will keep historians busy for decades.

38. Stokes, Eric. The Peasant and the Raj: Studies in Agrarian Society and Peasant Rebellion in Colonial India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978.

A collection of critically important essays in the history of agrarian North and Central India, which also includes the first critical summary of debates on "the first century of British colonial rule," and the first effort to record and stimulate "the return of the peasant to South Asian history." Demonstrates connections among political, economic, social, and intellectual history that represent agrarian history at its best.

39. Stone, Ian. Canal Irrigation in British India: perspectives on technological change in a peasant society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

A detailed study of canal irrigation policies and their impact in Uttar Pradesh, North India. Argues against Elizabeth Whitcombe that the benefits of canal irrigation outweighed the damage they did. A solid contribution to continuing debates on the ecological and economic impact of large irrigation projects.

40. Washbrook, David A. The Emergence of Provincial Politics: The Madras Presidency, 1870-1920. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976.

The first book to link the political economy of agriculture to the politics of nationalism systematically in any region of colonial India. Washbrook traces the movement of rural power from the hinterland to the capital city of Madras through political channels provided by the elaboration of the colonial state.

41. Washbrook, David. "Law, State and Agrarian Society in Colonial India." Modern Asian Studies 15, no. 3 (1981): 649-721.

A critical article that repositions the study of legal history as a means to investigate dynamics of power in the countryside. Perhaps the most recently cited article in studies of colonial law in the last decade.

42. Washbrook, David A. "Progress and Problems: South Asian Economic and Social History, c.1720-1860." Modern Asian Studies 22, no. 1 (1988): 57-96.

A survey of the field of South Asian economic and social history during the eighteenth century and the colonial transition. Argues forcefully for the need to reinterpret colonial history in light of new research on the precolonial period.

43. Whitcombe, Elizabeth. Agrarian Conditions in Northern India: the United Provinces Under British Rule, 1860-1900 (v. 1). Berkeley: UCAL, 1972.

A monograph that established ground for subsequent debates on the impact of colonial policy in rural North India, which argues for the negative impact not only of land law but also of irrigation development on economic conditions in the countryside.

44. Yang, Anand A. The Limited Raj: Agrarian Relations in Colonial India, Saran District, 1793-1920. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.

A detailed study of a single zamindari landlord estate in Bihar, which traces its development as an arena for the organization of rural power, economic stagnation, and social relations. Excellent as an account of the limited role of the colonial state formulating the conditions for agrarian life in zamindar estates.