Journal of Economic History


India and the Great Divergence: Assessing the Efficiency of Grain Markets in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century India


a1 Ph.D. student, Nuffield College, Oxford University. Nuffield College, New Road, Oxford OX1 1NF, United Kingdom. E-mail:


By analyzing a newly compiled data base of grain prices, this article finds that prior to the nineteenth century the grain trade in India was essentially local, while more distant markets remained fragmented. It was only in the second half of the nineteenth century that these premodern structures were transformed, and a national grain market had emerged. In the Great Divergence debate, the California School's claim that early modern “Asia” reached a similar stage of economic development as early modern Europe is therefore rejected for India.


Special thanks for encouragement and advice are due to Bob Allen. For many helpful comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this article I thank Tommy Murphy, Natalia Mora-Sitja, Debin Ma, Mark Berman, Mathias Jungen, Bishnupriya Gupta, Knick Harley, Avner Offer, Cormac O'Grada, Jean-Pascal Bassino, Bent Nielsen, three anonymous referees, and the editor of this Journal. I also acknowledge with gratitude the many helpful comments from participants at the CHORUS workshop in Nice, the TARGET conference at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, the quantitative history seminar at Cambridge University, and the graduate workshop at Oxford University.