INDIA WAS NOT POOR-1 (Post No.8263)

WRITTEN BY R. NANJAPPA                        

Post No. 8263

Date uploaded in London – – – 30 June 2020   

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R. Nanjappa

Tales of Our Economic woes

Most Indians, including the so called educated ones, have no idea how wealthy India was historically. They tend to dismiss claims of our ancient prosperity as mere tales. The colonial-oriented history that they have studied in the modern period has created the picture of a poor, illiterate, backward society based on primitive agriculture. And the Independent government of Nehru and his coterie followed exactly the same line. This was the common belief spread in the country by both the historians and economists of the establishment, reinforced through the schooling system.

During the freedom struggle, some Indian leaders explained that Indian poverty was due to the wrong policies of the colonial govt. Gandhiji wrote much on the subject. But they were not taken seriously. Nehru, and the leftists who dominated the scene after Independence completely sidelined the old leaders and their views, to promote a Marxist view of the matter.

If we turn to Adam Smith, we will get some great information and pleasant surprise. 

In his masterpiece ‘The Wealth of Nations’, (1776) he wrote in some detail about the state of Bengal, because that was where it all began, and that was where the English had their headquarters, the seat of their Governor-General.  Let us remember that Smith was writing within 20 years of the battle of Plassey in 1757 which finally established English supremacy in  India, and within 3 years of the Regulating Act of 1773, which noted the misdeeds of the Company regime in India, and which was meant to regulate its affairs, as its very title shows! Considering this, Smith seems to be accurately informed!

India’s legendary prosperity

After noting the early systems of some other ancient people, and Egypt, Smith said:

The improvements in agriculture and manufactures seem likewise to have been of very great antiquity in the provinces of Bengal in the East Indies..

In Bengal the Ganges and several other great rivers form a great number of navigable canals  in the same manner as the Nile does in Egypt. ..

It is remarkable that neither the ancient Egyptians, nor the Indians, nor the Chinese encouraged foreign commerce, but seem to have derived their great opulence from this inland navigation.

Book I, chap iii

Referring to the inland navigation facilities provided by the Egyptians, Smith says:  

Those of the same kind  which were constructed by the ancient sovereigns of

Indostan for the proper distribution of the waters of the Ganges as well as of

many other rivers, though they have been less celebrated, seem to have been equally great.

In both ancient Egypt and Indostan, indeed, the confinement of the foreign market was in some measure compensated by the conveniency of many inland navigations, which opened, in the most advantageous manner, the whole extent of the home market, to every part of the produce of every different district of those countries. The great extent of Indostan, too, rendered the home market of that country very great, and sufficient to support a great variety of manufactures…..Bengal, accordingly, the province of Indostan, which commonly exports the greatest quantity of rice, has always been more remarkable for the exportation of a great variety of manufactures than for that of its grain.

Part IV, chap ix. Penguin edition, 1999, pages 268-269.

Thus, India was not a poor, wretched, primitive agricultural country, as the many Indian idiots, calling themselves economists, or historians, long maintained.                 

To be concluded

Adam Smith in London 
Adam Smith Statue In Edinburgh

tags –India not poor-1, Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations