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The role of history in shaping India's economic development

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The role of history in shaping India's economic development

Part of the 141 series of podcasts produced by Ideas for India

As India is now completing 75 years of Independence, two big questions loom over the conversation around India’s economic development: How successful was the Indian economy before and during colonial rule, as compared to the postcolonial period? What is the role of history – historical events, actors, and institutions – in shaping India’s development trajectory?

Cage Research Director, Bishnupriya Gupta and CAGE Associate, Professor Lakshmi Iyer deliberate on how applying a historical lens may change our conclusions about India’s progress –particularly how demand-side estimates of GDP (gross domestic product) per capita date the beginning of India’s economic decline to a century before British colonial rule. Professor Gupta also discusses the misperception that Indian industrialisation was stifled during colonial rule, how we should evaluate 20th century economic progress in light of the historical evidence, and the long-run effects of historical land-tenure institutions and education policies. She then highlights new areas of research in India’s economic history, including the availability of detailed migration records of indentured workers, and the historical roots of India’s low female labour force participation.

Listen to the podcast here