Social Scientist. v 12, no. 139 (Dec 1984) p. 28.


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AMIYA KUMAR BAGCHI*

The Cambridge Enonomic History of India Vol2:

A Brief Review^

THE MATERIALS for writing the economic history of the Indian subcontinent since the British conquest, despite certain vital gaps, present the researcher with an embarrass de choix. Anybody setting out to write or edit a volume on the subject is likely to be overwhelmed, unless certain strong principles of selection and organization are followed.

It would appear that this all-too-predictable fate has overtaken Dharma Kumar and Meghnad De-sai, editors of the second volume of the Cambridge- Economic History of India. The volume is divided into three parts, "The Land and the People", ('The Beginnings of Modern Economy" (dated 1858 onward), and "Post-Independence Developments". But we are treated, for example, to separate sections on the regional economies of northern, eastern, western, and southern India for the period 1757-1857 in the first part but not in the second, whereas the fiscal system is treated separately in the second but not in the first part. Did regional differences somehow vanish or become insignificant once the modern economy had begun (miraculously with the assumption of direct rule by the British Parliament in 1858), or was there no fiscal system in British India before 1858 ?

Apart from the haziness regarding the principles of organization, the volume also- suffers from the editors' lack of control over the length of individual contributions. Several chapters look bloated with methodological digressions. Yet the editors cut footnotes and allowed only brief bibliographies to be appended to individual sections or chapters. Some of the more glaring omissions from the bibliographies arc H H Wilson on the external commerce of Bengal, John Malcolm on Central India, W H Sleeman on Oudh, RJenkins on the territories of the Raja of Nagpur, A C Lyall on the Berars, M L Darling on the Punjab, A K Banerji on the balance of payments, N S R Sastry on the growth of

* Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta.

** This brief review minus the post script was written in April 1984 and has been published in the June 1984 issue of the American Historical Reivew. The post-script was added in July 1984. We thank the editors of AHR for permission to republish the review.



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