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South Asia and the global economy (Giorgio Riello)

At this point the module moves to a series of brief case studies, linking a specific region of the world to wider global perspectives. This week the focus is on the South Asian region and the Indian Ocean during the early modern period and the early colonial era. We will consider in particular the role played by South Asia in the global economy: India was at the core of a thriving Asian economy and the subcontinent accounted for a quarter of the world economy in c. 1700. Why was this the case? What was the role of trade and manufacturing? The following decline of india’s economic position in world history has attracted a great deal of debate: was it caused by the negative policies of the Mughal empire? Was it the result of European competition and later colonial rule? Did it happen in the 17th, 18th or 19th centuries?


- What was the role of South Asia in the world economy before 1700? And what part did cotton textile play?

- Why has India recently become so important in discussions over divergence?

- Are endogenous more important than exogenous variables in explaining the economic decline of India? And is decline the right word?

Key Reading

Prasannan Parthathasathi, Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia did Not (Cambridge: cUP 2011), introduction. (Ebook)

Parthasarathi, Prasannan, “Review Article: The Great Divergence,” Past & Present 167 (2002): 275-293. (online)

Parthasarathi, Prasannan, “Historical Issues of Deindustrialisation in Nineteenth-Century South India,” in Giorgio Riello and Tirthankar Roy, eds., How India Clothed the World: The World of South Asian Textiles, 1500-1850 (Leiden: Brill, 2009), pp. 415-436.

Riello, Giorgio and Tirthankar Roy, “Introduction: The World of South Asian Textiles, 1500-1850,” in Giorgio Riello and Tirthankar Roy, eds., How Indian Clothed the World: The World of South Asian Textiles, 1500-1850 (Leiden: Brill, 2009), pp. 1-27.

Roy, Tirthankar, “Knowledge and Divergence from the Perspective of Early Modern India,” Journal of Global History 3/3 (2008): 361-387. (online)

Further Reading

Abu-Lughod, Janet L., Before European Hegemony: The World System, A.D. 1250-1350 (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1989).

Broadberry, Stephen and Bishnupriya Gupta, “Lancashire, India, and Shifting Competitive Advantage in Cotton Textiles, 1700-1850: The Neglected Role of Factor Prices,” Economic History Review 62/2 (2009), pp. 279-305.

Chaudhuri, K.N., The English East India Company: The Study of an Early Joint-Stock Company, 1600-1640 (London: Frank Cass, 1965).

Chaudhuri, K.N., The Trading World of Asia and the English East India Company 1660-1760 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978).

Chaudhuri, K.N., “Some Reflections on the World Trade of the XVIIth and XVIIIth Century: A Reply,” Journal of European Economic History 7/1 (1978): 223-231.

Parthasarathi, Prasannan, Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia did Not: Global Economic Divergence, 1600-1850 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

Parthasarathi, Prasannan, and Ian Wendt, “Decline in Three Keys: Indian Cotton Manufacturing from the Later Eighteenth Century,” in Giorgio Riello and Prasannan Parthasarathi, eds., The Spinning World: A Global History of Cotton Textiles, 1200-1850 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 397-407.

Pearson, Michael N., The Indian Ocean (London and New York: Routledge, 2003).

Prakash, Om, The New Cambridge History of India; Vol. II.5. European Commercial Enterprise in Pre-Colonial India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

Prakash, Om, “The Indian Maritime Merchant, 1500-1800,” Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient 47/3 (2004): 435-457.

Riello, Giorgio and Tirthankar Roy, eds., How Indian Clothed the World: The World of South Asian Textiles, 1500-1850 (Leiden: Brill, 2009),

Roy, Tirthankar, Traditional Industry in the Economy of Colonial India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).

Roy, Tirthankar, “Out of Tradition: Master Artisans and Economic Change in Colonial India,” Journal of Asian Studies 66/4 (2007), pp. 963-991.

Roy, Tirthankar, “Did Globalisation Aid Industrial Development in Colonial India? A Study of Knowledge Transfer in the Iron Industry,” Indian Economic and Social History Review 46/4 (2009): 570-613.

Roy, Tirthankar, India in the World Economy: From the Pre-modern to the Modern Times (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012).