Low Level Of Economic Development Under The Colonial Rule


The structure of India’s present day economy is not just of current making; it has its roots steeped in history, particularly in the period when India was under British rule which lasted for almost two centuries before India finally won its independence on 15 August 1947.

The sole purpose of the British colonial rule in India was to reduce the country to being a feeder economy for Great Britain’s own rapidly expanding modern industrial base.

“India is the pivot of our Empire… If the Empire loses any other part of its Dominion we can survive, but if we lose India, the sun of our Empire will have set.”

Victor Alexander Vruce, The Viceroy Of British India In 1894

India had an independent economy before the advent of the British rule. Though agriculture was the main source of livelihood for most people, yet, the country’s economy was characterised by various kinds of manufacturing activities. India was particularly well-known for its handicraft industries in the fields of cotton and silk textiles, metal and precious stone works etc. These products enjoyed a worldwide market based on the reputation of the fine quality of material used and the high standards of craftsmanship seen in all imports from India.

Textile Industry In Bengal

Muslin is a type of cotton textile which had its origin in Bengal, particularly, places in and around Dhaka (spelled during the pre-independence period as Dacca), now the capital city of Bangladesh. ‘Daccai Muslin’ had gained worldwide fame as an exquisite type of cotton textile. The finest variety of muslin was called malmal. Sometimes, foreign travelers also used to refer to it as malmal shahi or malmal khas implying that it was worn by, or fit for, the royalty.

The economic policies pursued by the colonial government in India were concerned more with the protection and promotion of the economic interests of their home country than with the development of the Indian economy. Such policies brought about a fundamental change in the structure of the Indian economy — transforming the country into a net supplier of raw materials and consumer of finished industrial products from Britain.

Obviously, the colonial government never made any sincere attempt to estimate India’s national and per capita income. Some individual attempts which were made to measure such incomes yielded conflicting and inconsistent results. Among the notable estimators — Dadabhai Naoroji, William Digby, Findlay Shirras, V.K.R.V. Rao and R.C. Desai — it was Rao whose estimates of the national and per capita incomes during the colonial period were considered very significant. However, most studies did find that the country’s growth of aggregate real output during the first half of the twentieth century was less than two per cent coupled with a meagre half per cent growth in per capita output per year.

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Bibliography : NCERT – Indian Economic Development

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