Social Scientist. v 11, no. 125 (Oct 1983) p. 27.


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FRANK PERLIN*

Growth of Money Economy and Some Questions of Transitions in Late Pre'Colonial India

ONE OF the more remarkable but neglected features of the growth of commercial capitalism on an international scale iiom the 16th century, consists of widespread processes of monetisation affecting a number of Asian societies, and especially India. This was in turn connected with commercialisation of both agrarian and urban economy, and the development of markets and manufactures. By the middle of the 18th century, this development had become distorted through increasing European intervention in both trade and manufacture, in this respect colonial occupation was both a culmination of earlier processes, and the means (through political monopoly, use of violence, control over the taxation system) for the East India Company to destroy competition and drive prices downwards in an increasingly competitive world. The corollary was that till the mid-19th century at least India's integration into a colonial empire was marked by a broad-based process of underdevelopment of which deindustrialisation was merely part, and including a process of relative de-monetisation.1

In the following pages, I shall begin by presenting the pioblem in terms of the unprecedented international flow and sub-continental use of monetary media which took place between the 16th and early 19th centuries. Then I shall consider the implications of these phenomena for an understanding of the development of commercial capitalism during this crucial period, firstly within India itself, and secondly within a broader international context. Finally, I end with some statements concerning the implications of this hypothesis for an understanding of the early colonial period. The result is to place India firmly on the map of developments affecting the world more generally, long before colonialism.

The Trade in Coinage Media

This paper begins with two problems. The first concerns the remarkable international trade in coinage media, both precious and of a

* Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.



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