This book looks at agriculture, development, poverty and British rule in India, especially in the Patna Division in Bihar between c.1870–1920. It traces the economic influence of British policies and maps the impact of legal, administrative and scientific interventions to rural conditions and norms in the state.
The book discusses British theories and policies of ‘improvement’, comparing them with Bihar’s agricultural practice and socio-economic conditions to draw conclusions about rural impoverishment. Following on from his earlier book, Ancient Rights and Future Comfort on the Bengal Tenancy Act of 1885, the author also presents case studies on famines, debts, canal and village irrigation, flood-protection and the cultivation and production of indigo, opium and sugar. He analyses extensive archival material to reflect on property law, scientific interventions, cropping patterns, trade and intermediaries. He examines the economic role of governments, Eurocentric development theories and the complex impact of development policy on agriculture and society in Bihar.
The book will be of interest to academics and students of colonial history, modern Indian history, agrarian studies, economic history, sociology, and development studies. It will also be useful to development practitioners and researchers working on the history of agrarian conditions and public policy.
Table of Contents
List of Tables. Abbreviations used in the notes. Preface. Introduction: 1. States in development 2. Agenda and context Part I. States and societies 3. State matters 4. Property through law 5. The land in question Part II. Science and agriculture 6. Science and superiority 7. Benefit and loss Part III. Agrarian Bihar: aspects and examples 8. Active Government? Chaukidars and commerce 9. Famine, borrowing and debt 10. The Son canals and Nasriganj estate 11. Village irrigation and embankments 12. Interpreting agricultural production 13. Sugaring the pill? 14. Production, privilege, prejudice and poverty. Sources and References. Index.
Peter Robb is Professor Emeritus (formerly Professor of the History of India and Pro-Director) at SOAS University of London, and Fellow of the Royal Asiatic and Royal Historical Societies. His book, Ancient Rights and Future Comfort (1997) is a precursor of this book. Also on Bihar are Evolution of British Policy towards Indian Politics (1992), Liberalism, Modernity and the Nation (2007), Peasants, Political Economy and Law (2007), and Ideas Matter (2020). His other books include, Government of India and Reform (1976), History of India (2002; 2011), and, on early Calcutta, Sex and Sensibility (2011), Sentiment and Self (2011), and Useful Friendship (2014). He has also edited or co-edited ten collections concerning Indo-British relations, protest, identity, ideologies, race, Dalit movements, labour, rural South Asia, agriculture and development.