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Living Standards in the PastNew Perspectives on Well-Being in Asia and Europe$
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Robert C. Allen, Tommy Bengtsson, and Martin Dribe

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199280681

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2005

DOI: 10.1093/0199280681.001.0001

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

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

(p.99) 4 Agriculture, Labour, and the Standard of Living in Eighteenth-Century India
Living Standards in the Past

Parthasarathi Prasannan

Oxford University Press

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

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