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Ancient India in Historical Outline by D.N. Jha

By D.N. Jha


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Both the narrow and broad inferences, however, are deeply controversial for three reasons. First, the decline was apparently restricted to cotton textiles. Second, the decline of the textile industry did not continue through the rest of the nineteenth century and on into the twentieth century as British colonial rule strengthened, which calls into question any connection drawn between politics and the potentials to industrialize. Third, a decline in cotton textiles was not capable of causing economy-wide distress.

If the monsoon rains failed even slightly, starvation was widespread and sudden. In the short run, famines affected all parts of the economy via violent shifts in consumption and labour force. For example, in Madras Presidency the great famine of 1876–78 took three and a half million lives, or 10 per cent of the population, and a larger percentage of workers. Economic history and modern India 29 The work by Amartya Sen and others have changed historians’ approach to famines considerably. Famines are now seen more as processes rather than as accidents of nature.

The other would involve observing differential capability of producers to participate in market exchange, and explains the ease of entry and barriers to entry in cultural terms. The former approach is associated with Max Weber, who proposed that the cultural disposition of merchants and artisans in India made them deficient as entrepreneurs. The idea was expounded in scholarship that developed around the ‘modernization theory’ of the 1950s and 1960s, and Indian cases played an important role in this enterprise.

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