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Legacies of the Colonial Era Richard Palmer-Jones, School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia, South Asian Development, Spring 2007.

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Presentation on theme: "Legacies of the Colonial Era Richard Palmer-Jones, School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia, South Asian Development, Spring 2007."— Presentation transcript:

1 Legacies of the Colonial Era Richard Palmer-Jones, School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia, South Asian Development, Spring 2007

2 Framing Malawi –Tea industry in Africa Irrigation Smallholder tea scheme Nigeria –Large scale irrigation Kano River Project, Wheat, Dependency and River Basin Authorities –World Bank Agricultural Development Projects –Colonial irrigation in Nigeria Kwarre, Edwardes Others –Colonial origins of indirect rule –Assessment reports Bangladesh small scale irrigation 1982-… –Landless irrigation and water service markets West Bengal minor irrigation and India groundwater development …. Real Wages of Agricultural Labourers Agrarian Impasse in Bengal? 1995 –Irrigation discourses –The lasting impact of Fabian socialism Poverty and liberalisation in India and Bangladesh in 1990s (2000 -….)


4 rainfall

5 Agro-ecology

6 Rise and Fall of the British Empire in India 1600: East India Company receives royal charter from Elizabeth 1 st with exclusive rights to trade with the East Indies (Mercantilist period) – competition with Portugese 17 th c: expansion in Bengal, Madras and Bombay 1707: Death of Aurangzeb separates greater from lesser Mughals 18 th c: competition with France in Europe, North America and India 1757: Battle of Plassey and East India Company becomes Zamindar of 24 parganas 1770: famine fills millions in regions under Company Control 1773: Warren Hastings becomes first governor general of British India 1778: Hastings impeached for corruption 1793: Cornwallis declares Permanent Settlement : expansion in Madras, Bombay, Central and North-Western Provinces 1820s: Orissa and Assam conquered : Sikh Wars and conquest of Punjab 1856: Annexation of Oudh (Awad – United Provinces) 1857: Indian Sepoy Mutiny 1858: British Crown takes over administration; no further conquests 1871: First Indian Census 1880: Famine Report and Famine Codes 1896: plague and famine to : Irrigation Report 1905: partition of Bengal 1909: Minto-Morely Reforms 1914: Ghandi Returns from South Africa 1919: Montague-Morely Reforms and massacre at Jallianwallah Bagh 1929: great depression 1933: Pakistan coined 1935: Government of India Act : Bengal Famine 1947: End of British rule; Indian empire partitioned into India and Pakistan.

7 Political Economy and India Particularly in the earlier decades, India provided that element of scale and expansiveness to the new middle-class mind, so essential for the deployment of its political and moral ideas. Indeed, considering the general public indifference to Indian affairs, it is remarkable how many of the movements of English life tested their strength and fought their early battles upon the Indian question. (Stokes, 1957:xii) Physiocratic thought, the precursor to Political Economy, was an implacable critique of feudalism in its native habitat and proved to be a real force undermining the ancien regime. Ironically, however, while being grafted on to India by the most advanced capitalist power of that age, it became instrumental in building a neo-feudal organisation of landed property and in the absorption and reproduction of pre-capitalist elements in a colonial regime. In other words, a typically bourgeois form of knowledge was bent backwards to adjust itself to the relations of power in a semi-feudal society. … Political Economy was of course not the only body of knowledge to have suffered a sea change under conditions of colonialism … (Guha, 1962:preface to second edition)


9 Lasting Impact of Colonial Rule Agrarian structure and rural poverty –The Eastern India problem Direct rule and Princely States –Public goods and human development Classical Political Economy and Imperial Policy –British liberalism and Zamindari system –Famine policy –Infrastructure investments (canals, railways) –Education Indian bureaucracy and local politics – building on existing (Mughal) patterns of tax collection and local administration Tax farming Role of academic (political) economy –Debates about governance, globalisation (trade), taxation, agriculture, forestry, irrigation, railways, disease, etc. in the colonial period have remarkable similarities with those in the era off development –Extensive documentation of debates and archival resources with which to discuss development interventions

10 Neale (Land is to Rule) The zamindari system created by the permanent settlement has been regarded as a failure. It was. Roy, re Amit Bhaduri (Forced commercialisation and Agricultural Backwardness): debt led misery [due to] the Permanent Settlement in Bengal introduced layers of merchants and moneylenders between the zamindars on the one hand and the peasants on with generally inferior rights on the other. … moneylenders were reluctant to invest in land improvement.. Hartman and Boyce (A Quiet Violence. View from a Bangladesh Village) The British not only promoted commercial agriculture, they also introduced a new system of land ownership to Bengal. …. Little of the wealth extracted from the peasant producers by way of commercial agriculture, rent and land taxation was ever productively invested in Bengal Banerjee & Iyer: Areas in which proprietary rights in land were historically given to landlords have lower agricultural investments and lower productivity in the post-Independence period than areas in which these rights were given to the cultivators.

11 The Permanent Settlement Set the land revenue (source of government revenue) in perpetuity –Attempt to apply the Whig philosophy of government Anti-feudal – disperse power to land holding gentry Reaction to famine of 1770 –Seen as due to exploitive corrupt tax collection by intermediaries under Company rule –Fix the rent to provide incentives for improving landlords –Mughal system of tax farmers (zamindars) Right to collect taxes Did not own the land –not the same as English landlords – eventually becoming in many cases absentee landlords Gave rise to system of intermediaries, leading to sub-infeudation and widely seen to account for the backwardness of eastern India Not applied outside (greater) Bengal –Deal directly with the cultivators – not intermediaries –Individual-based (raiyatwari): Property rights given to cultivators; detailed survey and record of rights maintained - Madras –Village-based (mahalwari & bhaichara): Property rights given to village bodies with joint ownership. Depending on size of village body, could resemble landlord- based or individual-based systems. – Punjab and Maharashtra


13 Slow rate of growth and persistence of mass poverty in India Broadly divides into two schools –Political economy and economic narratives –Imperialist and nationalist; mixed a number of arguments Malthusian –Resource scarcity, harsh climate and high population density and growth Inappropriate state policies and actions –over all land tenure economic surplus and power fell into hands of those with little interest in investing in production (as opposed to luxurious consumption and commerce) –Repatriation of surplus to metropole Underinvestment and under consumption –Social stratification in agriculture and enforced commercialisation (high rate of land tax) –Favouring feudal land controllers and office holders in rural society and expatriate entrepreneurs (plantation and commerce) After 1914 import substituting local industrial and commercial industries Three party alliance of autonomous state apparatus, landlords/controlers, and big business –Fear of genuine capitalist development leading to local revolt caused colonial state to ally with local elites Some periods and locations of growth depending on (international, national & local circumstances) could lead to periods of growth in some places at some times but not extensive (compare Japan) –Deindustrialisation associated with re-allocation of labour (migration, services, urban industries) –Lack of an agrarian revolution – until the GR? Importance of irrigation

14 The raw appeal of this discourse was tremendous. Shifting the blame on the British had a reassuring message to politicians on both the right and the left. Historiography, in other words, supported the political establishment. The ruling historiography, furthermore, was singularly compatible with the ruling economic sentiment that upheld an insular and state-dominated development strategy. It easily bridged the past with the present, and the past with the philosophy of self-reliance. Historians and economists could communicate in the public sphere mentioned before. Economic history of modern India, in other words, became largely a discourse of impairment, inflicted in the past by colonial policies of free trade, and redressed in the present by a strategy that was emphatically isolationist and interventionist. The old school, moreover, epitomised the way the nation felt about its past. That colonialism ruined a prosperous India was not merely a textbook idea, it pervaded popular discourse and imagery about the past. It found expression in fiction and films. Bollywood introduced variety in its routine by occasionally substituting the despotic landlord with the characteristically evil white officer. It found expression in the zealous drive to change colonial names of British-built landmarks into names of obscure Indian heroes and other ideological icons. Dissenting with the political economy paradigm was not easy precisely because dissent amounted to being politically incorrect or to pitting reason against sentiment. The nation learnt from its politicians that British rule was a bad dream to be forgotten. Economic historians nourished that amnesia with their models and methods. … [explaining].. political unfreedom and …… mass poverty. Roy, 2004

15 Left-Nationalist Analysis of and prescription for economic stagnation As long as economic nationalism was the dominant paradigm of policy-making in India, until the early-1980s, this set of beliefs went without a serious challenge and remained the organising framework for historiography Prescription: Central planning, state involvement in manufacture, and economic autarchy India and Bangladesh especially - dominant policy model up to the early 1980s The difficulty here is that the stagnation in productivity in south Asia extended beyond colonialism. we do not need stories of economic change centred around colonialism. Nature and society can influence economic growth with equal, sometimes greater, force. In principle, it is possible that there were structural limits on growth in south Asia, with or without colonialism. the precise mechanism linking colonial politics with agricultural productivity has not been clear or convincing to all practitioners Ishikawa - irrigation as a leading sector Different patterns of rainfall and irrigation with East (and S-E) Asia failure to solve collective action problems around irrigation Caste and gender discrimination leading to low labour productivity and hig collective action transaction costs


17 Growth rates of agriculture and manufacturing and GDP (NP) in India 1860s to 2000 Sources: Heston, 1982, and EPW National Accounts (see also Siasubramonian, Authors calculations


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