Modern Asian Studies


‘De-industrialization’, Industrialization and the Indian Economy, c. 1850–1947

Colin Simmonsa1

a1 University of Salford

The purpose of this short discussion paper is to raise some general questions concerning the current state of the historiography on the industrialization of pre-Independent India. Although triggered off by a close reading of Professor Morris's contribution to the recent Cambridge Economic History of India, volume 2, it is not my intention to review the essay in a detailed and systematic manner; rather I seek to place it in the wider context of what is, in my view, the unsatisfactory state of our accumulated knowledge. The paper is organized in the following way. Section II contends that all too little is known about a seemingly crucial sector—a vacuity that is not confined to India alone among the Third World economies—and that this tends to distort accounts of the general functioning of the international economy. In Section III I try to pinpoint the major areas of weakness, and then go on to suggest the main reasons for this somewhat surprising situation. Finally, in Section IV, I argue that Morris's study reflects the problems I identify but does not take us further down the road towards their resolution.