Agriculture, Labour, and the Standard of Living in Eighteenth-Century India

Parthasarathi Prasannan

in Living Standards in the Past

Published in print March 2005 | ISBN: 9780199280681
Published online July 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191602467 | DOI:
 Agriculture, Labour, and the Standard of Living in Eighteenth-Century India

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The high standard of living of weavers as well as other labouring groups in the Indian subcontinent was rooted in the traditions and practices of the labour market, which gave labouring groups enormous bargaining power in their relations with merchants, ‘employers’, and even political authorities. Perhaps, the most critical of these traditions was the freedom that weavers, peasants, and other producers possessed to pick up and move. As the use of coercion to limit this mobility was not a legitimate exercise of state power, rulers were forced to undertake agricultural improvements in order to compete for peasants and agricultural labour. This meant that there was a high rate of investment in agriculture: high quality lands were cleared, water control systems were erected, and the cultivation of more valuable crops supported. This investment, in turn, supported high standards of living.

Keywords: agriculture; India; investment; irrigation; labour market; labour mobility; state; wages

Chapter.  5331 words. 

Subjects: Economic History

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