Could Industrial Revolution have happened in Mysore and Gujarat?

This looks like a fabulous book by Kaveh Yazdani of University of the Witwatersrand: India, Modernity and the Great Divergence Mysore and Gujarat (17th to 19th C.).  Industrial Revolution studies are mainly Eurocentric and this book looks at two regions from India – Gujarat and Mysore. These were two relatively advanced regions in India and so could they have their own industrial revolution as well?

Yazdani has a blogpost on the Economic Sociology blog:

To fill this gap, I have extensively studied India’s journey towards modernity in my India, Modernity and the Great Divergence: Mysore and Gujarat (17th to 19th C.), published by Brill earlier this year (2017). For the main part, I examined and analyzed the socio-economic, techno-scientific, military, political and institutional developments of the subcontinent. The focus is on two of the historically most dynamic regions of South Asia: Mysore (Southern India) under the Muslim rule of Haidar ‘Ali and Tipu Sultan during the second half of the 18th century and Gujarat (North-Western India) between the 17th and early 19thcenturies. Primary sources from archives in India, England, France and Germany, as well as the latest secondary sources in English, French, German and Persian have been consulted for this purpose.


The upshot of this study is that Gujarat’s and Mysore’s level of capitalist development, the depth of secular philosophical discussion, the level of advancement of science, secular education, circulation of knowledge, secularization of society, institutional efficiency, property rights, the nascent bourgeois class consciousness, inter-communal and proto-national identity formations seem to have been less developed than in advanced parts of 17th and 18th century Western Europe, especially England, France and the Dutch Republic and, except for the missing rise of the North-East Asian bourgeoisie, also less vigorous than in advanced parts of China and Japan.

Furthermore, contingent geo-climatic circumstances were probably more apt in Western Europe, implying lesser degrees of South Asian transport capacities (during the wet season) and market integration, even though its effects should not be exaggerated. More or less like many European cities, however, urban centers of Mughal and post-Mughal India (e.g. Delhi, Lucknow, Surat) witnessed the gradual emergence of a ‘public sphere’.

Moreover, the two regions at hand possessed a substantial level of agricultural growth, living standards, transport (during the dry season) and infrastructure, military capabilities in terms of ground forces (in the case of Mysore), commercial and manufacturing capacities and social mobility of merchants (in the case of Gujarat) that – in spite of less dynamism, inventions and innovations – did not look unfavorable when compared to European core areas.

By and large, I hold that parts of late 16th to late 18th century Mughal India and its successor states were in a transitory phase. I intend to apply a non-teleological notion of transition that allows me to propose a middle ground and leave room for different possible trajectories and scenarios that could have unfolded in the absence of the British Raj. In transition periods, generally no particular mode of production is dominant, but at earlier or later stages of development, one of them might prevail. Pre-capitalist modes of production could either be preserved in spite of increasing commercial capitalist advancements and fall back to feudal or other pre-capitalist forms or capitalist potentialities could grow and lead to industrial capitalism, depending on the given socio-economic context. To this effect, 16th to 18th century India possessed both potentialities as well as obstacles for an industrial breakthrough. At the same time, as David Washbrook points out, it is far less clear why India should have failed to make use of industrial technologies once they had been invented elsewhere and become available. While India never might have become a unified nation state without British rule, the socio-economic and techno-scientific structure of South Asia’s most advanced regions were sophisticated enough to adopt foreign expertise, science and technology as the period under scrutiny has demonstrated.

In short, neither the Eurocentric emphasis on irreconcilable differences between the East and West nor the reverse-Orientalist assumptions of a preponderant congruence of the two poles or a mere Eastern pre-eminence, do justice to the complex historical trajectories of Asia and Europe.

Fascinating. Should look for a copy..


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