Before the British came, India was one of the richest countries in the world. Towards the end of 18th century, India was economically more developed than Britain. Indeed the British had nothing for sale that could interest India. However, when the British left in 1947, India was poor and industrially backward. How did that happen and how did British Rule affect India’s economy ? Let’s come totoday’s topic: The Economic Effects of British Rule in India.
First of all, I will make a brief presentation on how India’s economy was during the pre-colonial period in 3 aspects: agriculture, trade and handicraft. Then we pass on the main part of the subject on how the british rule affected India’s economy and the impacts?
India’s economy prior to British Rule
Before the British came, agricultural operations were carried on in India by subsistence farmers, organised in small village communities. Villages were more or less self-sufficient economic units and business contacts with the outside world were limited to payment of land revenue and the purchase of a few necessities from the towns nearby. The farmer raised only those crops needed for hisown use and shared the same with the village artisans who supplied him with simple products needed for domestic comsumption.
The farmer usually grew enough produce to feed himself and the non-agricultural members of the village community. If his crop yielded was more than needed, due to favourable weather, the surplus was stored for use in the lean years. Storage of grains was a common practiceand also the only safeguard against famines.
2. flourishing trade
in spite of the fact that the Indian villages were largely self-sufficient units and the means of communication were quite primitive, India enjoyed extensive trade both within the country and with Asia and Europe. A balance of imports and exports was maintained. The items imported into India were pearls, wool, dates, driedfruits and rosewater from the Persian gulf; coffee, gold, drugs and honey from Arabia; tea, sugar and silk from China; gold, musk and woolen cloth; metals like copper, iron and lead, and paper from Europe. The main items exported from India were cotton textiles. Besides cotton textiles which were famous the world over, India also exported raw silk, indigo, opium and other drugs, rice, wheat, sugar,pepper and other spices, precious stones.
The main features of Indian trade in pre-colonial times were (1) a favourable balance of trade and (ii) a foreign trade most suitable to the level of manufacturing in India. A favourable balance of trade means an excess of exports over imports. Since the economy was on the whole self-sufficient in handicrafts and agricultural products, India did not needforeign imports on a large scale and continued to enjoy a healthy trade.India’s foreign trade suited its requirements very well. In other words, the commodity pattern, so important to any country’s foreign trade, was in India’s favour. India exported the items it specialised in; and imported the ones it needed.
3. Handicraft Industries
As outlined above, India was a land of extensivemanufacturing. Indian artisans were famous for their skills. In fact the reason for India’s favourable foreign trade balance was its excellence in indigenous production. India indulged in a large scale manufacture of cotton and silk fabrics, sugar, jute, dyestuffs, mineral and metallic products like arms, metalwares and oil. Numerous towns like Dacca and Bangalore were flourishing centres of textileindustry. Kashmir specialized in woollen products. Maharashatra, Andhra and Bengal were prominent centres of ship building industry. India’s ships were used by many european companies.
India, towards the end of the 18th century was, undoubtedly one of centres of world trade and industry.
According to those three main aspects of India’s economy prior to British rule, it is not an exaggeration...
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