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An Indian Trading Ecumene? On the Global Ecology of South Asian Commerce  

Claude Markovits

The circulation of merchants between South Asia and the rest of the world combines a unique temporal depth, as a continuous presence of South Asian merchants outside the subcontinent is attested since at least the 9th century ce, and an impressive spatial range, as by the late 19th century Indian merchants, mostly Gujaratis and Sindhis, were to be found practically across the entire globe. Ecological factors, including the contrast between, on the one hand, the vast “dry zone” of northwestern South Asia and, on the other hand, riverine areas of permanent moisture in the rest of the subcontinent, played an important part in its genesis; they remained important as the movements of South Asian traders were extended beyond the subcontinent before the colonial era. In the colonial period, while political factors also became significant, the role of ecological factors was somewhat residual but still visible.


The Emergence of Marketing in 20th-Century India  

Douglas E. Haynes and Tirthankar Roy

Business historians of colonial and postcolonial South Asia have not sufficiently studied internal trade and commercial institutions, a glaring omission considering that trade was one of the fastest-growing economic activities during the 20th century. While the historiography of the merchant has grown steadily, it remains focused on international trade or on non-economic issues like the relationship between ethnicity and commerce. One area that clearly requires more research is marketing. The involvement of producing firms in marketing activities, like sales and advertising, became much more extensive during the late 19th and the 20th centuries. Significant changes in the costs of transportation and communications made these tasks easier. Producers of goods, however, possessed imperfect information and needed to rely on intermediate figures—either various kinds of local actors or marketing “experts” who claimed local knowledge—to reach consumers. Sales and advertising in postcolonial India built on the legacy of this transformation in colonial India, rather than breaking sharply from it, even as technological change enabled more direct communication between the producer and the consumer.


The Indian Princely States and Their Rulers  

Angma D. Jhala

Colonial South Asian history has focused on British India and the nationalists who later resisted and supplanted it. However, long before India’s independence from Britain, there were regions where neither the British nor the nationalists were primarily positioned. These were the approximately six hundred semi-autonomous kingdoms, or “princely states” (often referred to as “Indian India”), which spanned the breadth and length of the subcontinent. They comprised two-fifths of the landmass and one-third of the population, excluding Burma. Though their rulers were long marginalized in modern South Asian and imperial history as antiquated relics of the medieval era, oriental despots, or puppet princes, they were real forces in the governing of the subcontinent, not only during the precolonial era but also at the heyday of the British Empire and continue to play a part in modern South Asia. Native rulers introduced new systems of administration, taxation, law, religious and social reform, trade, education, public health, and technology, including railways, ginning factories, and telegraphs, to their states; served as patrons of architecture, the arts, culinary innovation, and sport; encouraged the introduction of representative forms of government; and, in certain cases, supported popular anticolonial movements. In some principalities, where ruling families practiced different faiths from the majority of their citizens, their policies would influence the political trajectories of their erstwhile states long after the end of colonialism. With India’s independence and Partition in 1947, the princely states merged with the new nations of South Asia, and in the 1970s former princes lost their economic entitlement of the Privy Purse. However, they continued to play a part in postcolonial South Asia, serving as diplomats, governors, patrons of educational and charitable institutions, local magnates, company directors, cabinet ministers and, perhaps most prominently, as elected politicians and leaders of heritage tourism.


India’s Merchant Communities  

Medha Kudaisya

Merchant communities have dominated the Indian commercial landscape for centuries. These groups span different religions and regions across the country, and even beyond. They include the Marwaris, Banias, and Khatris in the north, the Chettiars and Komatis in south India; the Jains, Sindhis, Parsis, and the Bohras, Memons, and Khojas in the western parts of the subcontinent. While business activity was not restricted to these groups, they dominated it until at least the mid-20th century. These mercantile communities underwent a constant process of evolution in response to changing political and economic developments. They were not homogenous groups either and were divided internally by subcaste, region, religious affiliation, and language. Yet, they found it advantageous to function collectively and formed community organizations, which facilitated their economic interests. These communities played an important role in the 16th century in integrating India in the new trading networks, thereby helping in the making of a world economy. By the mid-19th century, many among them made the transition to industrial activity. These communities dominated commerce and industry till the late 1960s and 1970s, when new groups began to emerge.


Indigo in Precolonial South Asia  

Ghulam A. Nadri

South Asia is the home of natural blue dye extracted from the indigo plant species indigofera tinctoria. Its production for commercial purposes began very early and peaked during the early modern period. Growing Asian and European demand for indigo in the 16th and early 17th centuries raised its status as a major commodity in Asian and Eurasian trade. Indigo production in South Asia increased, and Indian and other Asian merchants exported large quantities of it to West Asia from where some of it was re-exported to Europe via the Levantine trade of the eastern Mediterranean. From the mid-16th century, the Portuguese Estado da India exported large quantities of indigo to Lisbon. By the early 1600s, when the English and Dutch East India companies began trading with India, indigo had become a highly sought-after commodity in the markets of England and the Dutch Republic. Consequently, the English East India Company (EIC) and Verenigde Oost-indische Compagnie (Dutch East India Company or VOC) exported large quantities of it to Europe in the first half of the 17th century. With the rise of new indigo commodity chains in Europe’s transatlantic colonies, such as Guatemala, Jamaica, South Carolina, and Saint-Domingue, exports from South Asia declined. However, there was a substantial local demand, which kept the industry going well up to the end of the 18th century when indigo production would expand on an unprecedented scale in Bengal and some other parts of colonial India.


Land Acquisition and Dispossession in India  

Debjani Bhattacharyya

Contemporary India is among the top seven countries in the world witnessing the rise of mega urban regions, infrastructural expansion by government and private entities, and acceleration of special economic zones; the fallout of these trends has been the loss of cropland, and massive resistance coupled with political destabilization. Since the 1990s India’s political economy has increasingly been defined by land dispossession. Indeed, some politicians and big industrialists argue that the developmental agenda of India remains an unfulfilled dream because of land scarcity. On the other hand, strong grass-roots protest movements against land grab have toppled reigning governments and, in some cases, managed to thwart the outward march of land capitalization, dispossession, and ecological degradation. Land ownership remains a protean issue for Indian politics and its social matrix. Yet, it is not a recent phenomenon. Land acquisition and dispossession have a long genealogy in India and have gone through successive stages, engendering new political modalities within different economic regimes. Although not a settler colony, the East India Company grabbed land from the 18th century onward, dispossessing and uprooting people in the process, while alienating and disembedding land from its social matrix. Beginning with the Permanent Settlement of agricultural lands in eastern India in 1793, the Company sought legal authority to justify taking land, thus initiating a regime of quasi-eminent domain claims upon land for a wide range of practices, among them salt manufacturing, urbanization, infrastructure, and railways. The political authority and dubious legitimacy of the joint-stock company acting as a trustee of land was written into the various laws on land acquisition, ultimately culminating in the colonial Land Acquisition Act (LAA) of 1894. While independent India envisioned distributive justice through land redistribution, land acquisition and dispossession continued unabated, and postcolonial India’s land acquisition law merely offered procedural legitimacy to the act of taking land from people against their will for the greater “public,” and thereafter for public–private partnership. From 1947 state-led development resulted in the expropriation of land for industrialization, dams, and mega-infrastructural projects resulting in massive development-induced displacement across the country. India’s economic liberalization from the 1990s began a transnational movement of capital on an unprecedented scale, which manifested itself as an emerging configuration of real-estate-as-development. The government of India created new legal entitlements for private companies by enacting the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act in 2005 for export industries, IT companies, mining companies, and supporting real-estate development, resulting in dispossession, resistance, land speculation, and the emergence of land mafias.


The Line of Control in Kashmir  

Mato Bouzas

The ceasefire line that has divided the disputed formerly princely state of Jammu and Kashmir (1846–1947) since 1949, following the involvement of the United Nations (UN) to end the first India–Pakistan war for the control of that state, was renamed in 1972 the Line of Control (LoC). The LoC is the result of the Simla Agreement that ended the 1971 war between India and Pakistan and marked the diminishing role of the UN in the conflict. Although the LoC is formally referred to as a border, it is very much contested, not only by the states of India, Pakistan, and the wide spectrum of Kashmiri nationalism but also, more broadly, by those living in the nearby areas on both sides who have been affected by this construct in multiple ways. As an ambivalent border, the LoC not only divides people, land, and resources—separates several political-administrative spatial units—but is also on its own a producer of a space, the symbolic and material meaning of which varies over time. From an initial (thin) line formed to delineate an end of hostilities as part of the Karachi Agreement of 1949, and, presumably, invite further negotiation, the LoC has turned in the two first decades of the 21st century into a (thick) fortress due to technological and military advances that allow a more effective control of territory. India’s fencing of the side it controls after the 2000s, initially to stop cross-border terrorism, re-creates an illusion of state spatiality that also justifies further compartmentalization and incorporation of the space under its control, as has been exemplified in the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019. The limited cross-LoC mobility for people and goods established after 2005, following the India–Pakistan dialogue, is a highly bureaucratized process. As a result of this monitoring of mobility, the LoC is becoming more border-like.


The Maratha Empire  

Sumit Guha

The Marathas, now sometimes called “Maharashtrians,” are an Indic people, speakers of the Marathi language. The boundaries of the modern Indian state of Maharashtra were drawn so as to include all majority Marathi-speaking areas. The Marathi language emerged a thousand years ago, but the Maratha Empire took shape only after 1674. Its leaders contended with the Mughal Empire and contributed to its downfall. They created a loosely knit but dynamic political system that grew within the frame of Mughal imperial power while reducing it to a shadow of its former self. Maratha governors ruled the great cities of Agra and Delhi, and it was from them that the British wrested control of north India in 1803–1806. The residual Maratha states still put up a fierce resistance before succumbing to the new British Empire in 1818. British historians wrote the first draft of Indian history. The English public was uninterested in the Marathas. The Mughal dynasty and the older states of Rajasthan received far more favorable attention. The historical narrative that the British rescued India from chaos also required a depiction of the Marathas as predatory sources of disorder. This representation has resulted in minimizing the commercial dynamism and flexibility of Maratha administration. Maratha taxation was far from destructive. It operated within a dynamic political economy. While periodically affected (as Indian governments had long been) by climatic catastrophe or political breakdown, this economy could recuperate quickly in better times. The Maratha Empire also represented a unique identification between a people and an empire. Ordinary Maharashtrian farmers served in its armies, were proud of its political achievements, and identified with the Maratha patria. The empire was also marked by a continuity with the symmetrical patterns of kinship and marriage customary in Maharashtra. While sons of secondary wives could rise to high positions in the lineage, primary marriages continued to be with women of status. Affinal relatives were recognized and played a large role in governance. Also, unlike the Mughal Empire, the Marathas used their own language wherever they ruled, enriching and elaborating it all the while. This prefigured the rise of linguistic nationalisms more generally in India under British rule.


Indian Merchant Migration within the British Empire  

Alexander Persaud

Millions of Indians migrated internally within the British Empire during the 19th and 20th centuries. While some migrated as labor migrants, many others did so as merchants and other businesspeople. By the start of World War II, more than 200,000 Indians worked in trade outside of India. These merchants played key roles in the British Empire within India and the larger Indian Ocean economy. Several conditions facilitated and perhaps caused Indian merchant migration within the British Empire. First, precolonial Indian commerce continued and adapted to imperial trade patterns. Second, within India, British rule lowered transaction costs and opened markets. Third, British rule brought preferential access to British colonies outside India, access that was denied to merchants from outside the British Empire. Internal merchant migration within India shows the importance of distinct religious, caste, and linguistic groups, many of which were active before British control. Gujarati-speaking merchant migrants and Parsis were bulwarks of Bombay’s commercial class. Specific merchant communities migrated within trading networks across India as railroads connected the subcontinent. Outside India, merchants—often from these same groups—accompanied British expansion in Asia and Africa. In Burma and Malaya, Chettiars from the south formed banking and trading networks that tied these colonies closer to the Indian economy. Chettiar finance was crucial in the development of industry in both Burma and Malaya. Indian businesspeople dominated commerce in East Africa and played key roles in commerce. Indian businesses in Uganda developed local commercial agriculture and industry, and Indians in South Africa played a large role in commerce before legal restrictions reduced their involvement. Distant colonies in which indentureship was the dominant form of migration experienced a transition from labor to trade, with merchant migration playing a smaller role. These colonies do not fit the pattern of merchant migration seen in India and the larger Indian Ocean economy, but they illustrate the role of Indian tradespeople outside India.


Modern Science and Technology in India  

John Lourdusamy

Modern science and technology (S&T) has been present in India almost as long as it has anywhere else in the world. But the nature of its blossoming in India was substantially different, due to the huge (if not sole) role played by India’s colonial experience—especially the British colonial rule. The colonial state used modern S&T in practical and ideological ways to control the territory and its resources, and to keep colonial subjects in awe and submission. Correspondingly, the local intelligentsia’s interest in science was marked by ideological and instrumental concerns. The compulsions of colonialism did not allow for an easy flow of knowledge and expertise. Yet, with limited openings in education and scientific professions, Indians were able to acquire a measure of proficiency that could even lead to a Nobel Prize. The engagement, however, was not marked by one-way diffusion and passive acceptance, but by active appropriation and redefinition according to local imperatives. There was also an active critique of modern S&T—especially in its “big” forms and violent faces. After independence, the new nation state opted for a path of massive development of industry and agriculture through deployment of modern S&T, whereby world-class institutions, infrastructure industries, and research laboratories were opened in different parts of the country. While these have produced remarkable results, the meeting of science and state has led to stark ironies and difficulties. Also, continuing critiques of the authority of modern S&T, the undesirable economic, social, and ecological effects produced by it, and the renewed interest in “traditional alternatives” pose serious challenges to any uncontested or triumphalist march of modern S&T in India.


Muslim Literary Culture in Late Colonial India  

Neilesh Bose

Muslim literary production in the late colonial period of South Asia’s modern history converged with a number of layers of South Asian Muslim cultural, political, and social histories. The “late colonial” period is conventionally understood to begin in the era of British rule in India when imperial power became questioned, threatened, or challenged in various ways through mass movements, such as the Swadeshi movement of 1905–1908, the Khilafat Noncooperation movement of 1919–1921, or various political organizations and gatherings that challenged the foundations of British colonial rule in the subcontinent. The late colonial lasted until the end of the British Empire in 1947 and the creation of India and Pakistan. Decolonization as a political process did not simply start on August 14–15, 1947, but rather entailed a range of negotiations and wars (such as in Kashmir and Hyderabad) in the immediate postcolonial era as well as a process by which new constitutional states were born in India in 1950 and in Pakistan in 1956. Furthermore, the state of Pakistan transformed into two states in 1971, with what had been West Pakistan becoming Pakistan and what had been East Pakistan turning into Bangladesh after an intense civil war throughout 1971. Highlights of Muslim literary production in this time period and across the expanse of India figure in this survey of individuals active in late colonial India, such as Muhammad Iqbal and Kazi Nazrul Islam, as well as important institutions central to the creation of Muslim literary production, such as the Progressive Writers Association. Literary production featured not only widely read literary texts of enduring quality but also of social institutions as well as political speeches or articles, important reference points generated by Muslim writers in this time period. What was at stake in all writings by Muslims was an engagement with the Muslim qaum (community). Not only visible in the politics of the All-India Muslim League, concern for the qaum was seen in newspapers, speeches, books, pamphlets, and reportage of the Khilafat and Noncoperation movements.


Origins of a Modern Indian Capitalist Class in Bombay  

Kate Boehme

In India, as in much of the world, the 19th century witnessed the emergence of urban capitalist classes, effected by the rapid growth of global mercantile capitalism and, later, industrial manufacturing. As a colonial city, Bombay—like its eastern counterpart, Calcutta—developed two connected, but distinct business communities: one, a European community with foreign, imperial connections, and the other, an Indian community with roots in long-standing regional networks. In Bombay, the latter took the form of a class known as the “Merchant Princes,” who capitalized on long-standing commercial traditions in western India and their ability to command both Indian and colonial networks to establish themselves as commercial powerhouses. These commercial networks and patterns of behavior, established before the arrival of the British, had an indelible impact on the character of Indian business in colonial Bombay. The business community brought such traditions with them when they migrated to Bombay at the end of the 18th century and used them to build the famous mercantile firms of the early 19th century. The Indian business elite likewise built collaborative links within their own community to expand their business interests; when barriers erected by the colonial establishment sought to limit their expansion, Indian businessmen used the resources at their disposal (both in the Indian hinterland and within the city itself) to circumvent them. Class identity similarly began to emerge as they cooperatively campaigned for particular agendas, intended to improve the fortunes of the entire community. They fought for greater influence in the Bombay government—in line with the wealth they then commanded—and used their financial resources to mold the physical and intellectual landscape of the city in their favor.


Parsi Traders in Western India, 1600–1900  

Lakshmi Subramanian

The Parsi community enjoyed a special status in western India as enterprising traders, who were quick to appreciate the advantages of the British connection especially in driving a huge trade in the Indian Ocean and specifically with China from roughly the latter half of the 18th century. Arriving in India as asylum seekers, the community quickly adapted to the host society by adopting the local language (Gujarati) and by deploying their commercial and manufacturing skills in consolidating their social location in the region. They were mindful of the ruling powers and developed over time important strategies of working closely with local interests, so much so that they acquired a foothold in landed and commercial society. It was in the late 17th and 18th centuries that they forged important links with European traders and trading companies, working as brokers for procurement of textiles and in the process acquiring a very close understanding of foreign markets. This was an important resource that enabled the community to play a major role on the emerging proto-colonial trade of western India, largely channeled through Bombay. The late 18th and 19th centuries saw the community produce major players and merchants of renown who amassed considerable wealth from the trade in raw cotton and opium with China and invested that wealth in philanthropy and subsequently in entrepreneurship. The community was primarily located in Bombay and western India, although their ventures took them as far as Calcutta and Canton. More recently there has been a considerable volume of scholarship on the community, emphasizing its origins, its histories and self-representation, and its use of the English colonial law in defining its own status and streamlining its customs.


Railroads and Trade in 19th-Century India  

Michael Kuehlwein

In the latter half of the 19th century, India built the fifth-largest railway system in the world. At the same time, domestic and foreign trade grew rapidly. By the turn of the century, India was the largest exporter in Asia and the ninth largest in the world. The growth in railways played a critical role in that expansion of trade. This growth is highly correlated with several trade-related phenomena, including lower temporal price variability, increased market integration, and falling spatial price dispersion. Measuring the rail’s precise impact though is challenging, because many other relevant factors were changing too, at home and abroad. Trying to control for some of them seems to bring estimates of the contribution of railways to trade down to more modest levels. Additional research is needed to better understand this relationship. Fortunately, there is extensive data on railways, trade, prices, and production. More data are being discovered and assembled. Some of the estimation has become quite sophisticated. Endogeneity issues are being addressed. There has been a greater focus on controlling for other variables to demonstrate causality. Many hypotheses have yet to be tested. This is a rich area for future work.


Social and Religious Reform in 19th-Century India  

William Gould

The 19th century in India, and especially the last quarter, was a period in the development of what were to become India’s major new religious movements, with lasting significance into the century that followed, within India and beyond. Essential to these movements was the notion of social “reform” and its associated idea of religious revival. These twin concepts involved a range of debates about existing religious traditions for Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs, the need to adapt them to social and political transformations, ideas about the “modern,” and institution building around education and social work. The very concept of community identity also underwent change, with the establishment, for example, of the idea of “Hinduism” as a world religion. The three main contexts to these debates were the formalization of the colonial state, the development of the socio-religious institution, and the impact of anti-colonial nationalism. The nature of colonial power in India shifted from trade expansion and conquest, to formal crown colony control over the course of the 19th century, and this had a profound impact on the nature of religious movements, ideas about reform, and social change. India’s main religious traditions confronted an array of challenges: direct, in the form of missionaries, and indirect, in the shape of new social and political ideas. Partly in response to these changes, an array of ideologues built new organizations that reshaped the institutional landscape of India. Finally many of the leaders and intellectual influences of these organizations became pivotal to debates about national belonging and political representation as the century came to a close.


The State-Subject Question in Kashmir  

Shahla Hussain

The state subject category is a critical part of Kashmir’s history. It gained global traction in August 2019 after India’s far-right Bhartiya Janta party unilaterally abolished the state subject laws embedded in Article 35A of the Indian constitution that permitted only the longtime inhabitants of Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir to purchase land and seek employment in the state. This category’s history stems from the Kashmiri Pandit community’s tireless agitation in the early 20th century in response to outsiders’ encroachment on their jobs. Consequently, the Dogra princely state formed the Jammu and Kashmir State Subject Definition Committee in 1927, differentiating mulki “people of the land” from gairmulki “people not of the land” and privileging mulkis in land ownership and employment. This legal category remained operative after the first India–Pakistan war of 1948, which led to the division of the princely state into India- and Pakistan-administered territories. Local governments on both sides of the ceasefire line, later called the line of control, retained the state subject category and made it a part of their state constitutions. In India-administered Kashmir, the state subject category has polarized public opinion. The Kashmiri nationalist leadership negotiated a special status for Kashmir within the Indian Union. Article 370 granted Kashmir full autonomy, and Article 35A constitutionalized the state subject category and provided the residents of Jammu and Kashmir special citizenship rights. In the early 1950s, India’s centralization policy eroded Kashmir’s autonomous status, while the Hindu nationalists demanded complete integration and an end to special citizenship privileges. Non-Muslim minorities, most, if not all, aligned with Hindu-majority India and supported the abrogation of the state subject category, as it was a hindrance to Kashmir’s complete integration. Ironically, this posture of Kashmiri Hindus stood in stark contrast to the state-subject agitation led by their early 20th-century predecessors for protecting their communitarian interests. Conversely, Kashmiri Muslims insecure about their fate in Hindu majority India made the State Subject category the essence of their political identity and firmly believed that the discontinuation of this legal category would alter Kashmir’s demography and minoritize their community. The historicization of the state subject question reveals how the categories of majority and minority constructed by the British colonial powers continue to define power dynamics in Kashmir and shape and reshape political postures and relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims.


Sufi Orders in 18th–19th-Century South Asia  

Moin Ahmad Nizami

For Muslims of South Asia the 18th–19th century was a period of consequential developments. With increasing colonial interventions and economic disruptions, it was also marked by movements of tajdīd (revival) in the socio-religious sphere that has influenced modernist understandings of Islam. These attempts to revive and restore a new vigor in Muslim communities were at once local and global—something that religious leaders in South Asia shared with their counterparts in other parts of the Muslim world. Among the overarching religious trends of this period may be included multiple affiliations within different Sufi orders, and a Sufi-ʿālim (Sufi-scholar) rapprochement. This enabled the coalescing of different Sufi orders and provided a religious leadership that could cater to both the educational and spiritual needs of the Muslim communities. Among the different Sufi orders of the period, the Naqshbandīs remained at the forefront of such revival efforts, with the lead provided in north India by Shāh Walīullāh (d. 1762). His attempts at an unprecedented tatbīq (reconciliation) provided the ideological underpinning for many later developments. The Naqshbandīs in Delhi produced some of the key religious thinkers and poets during the two centuries—Mīr Dard (d. 1785), Mirzā Maẓhar (d. 1781), Shāh Ghulām ʿAlī (d. 1825), and Shāh Abū Saʿīd Mujaddidī (d. 1835), among others. Their teachings and influence were not restricted to Delhi but spread quickly and made an impact in the Hijaz and elsewhere. Simultaneously, there was a revival of the two major branches of the Chishtī order—the Chishtī-Niẓāmī and the Chishtī-Ṣābrī—in different parts of the subcontinent. Over the 18th century, the revived Chishti order, with its distinctive approach toward tajdīd, spread across South Asia and contributed to the establishment of Islamic seminaries. The Chishtī-Niẓāmī branch moved from Delhi to Punjab and Deccan, while the Chishtī-Ṣābrī networks spread in the Gangetic basin and the Awadh region. Other Sufi lineages that remained popular, albeit to a lesser degree, were the Qādirī and the Shaṭṭārī, which were particularly active in the Deccan, Gujarat, and Sindh. With the Ṭarīqa-i Muḥammadia of Saiyid Aḥmad Rāe-Barelwī (d. 1830), developments in South Asia also mirrored the larger international picture of emerging activist Sufi movements of anticolonial nature (sometimes termed as “neo-Sufi”).


Unfree Labor in Colonial South Asia  

Andrea Major

Various forms of labor obligation, coercion, and oppression existed in colonial India, but the supposed dichotomy between “free” and “unfree” labor was rarely absolute. European slave-trafficking, internal trades in women and children, domestic slavery, caste-based obligations for agricultural and other labor, and capitalist systems such as indenture represented distinct but overlapping forms of “unfree” labor in the South Asian context. Enslaved Indians were exported to various European colonial possessions in the 17th and 18th century or provided domestic services within the homes of both the European and Indian elites. Meanwhile, various preexisting local labor relationships such as begar, caste-based obligation, and debt bondage involved elements of coercion, control, and ownership that mirrored some of the characteristics of slavery. These underwent significant changes in the colonial period, as the colonial state both tapped into and sought to reshape the Indian labor market to suit the needs of the imperial capitalist economy.


The Women’s Movement in Bangladesh  

Firdous Azim

The women’s movement in Bangladesh can be traced to the moment of its birth and can be aligned with nation-building efforts. These early feminist campaigns and interventions influenced the ways in which feminist campaigns were launched or how feminist standpoints were conceptualized during the last decades of the 20th century. Three main movements or campaigns marked this moment, leading to new forms of activism and new issues that have emerged in present times. Thus the main contours of women’s activism in the country can be traced to the concepts and campaigns that animated the social movement arena from the 1970’s to the 90’s. Any account of the women’s movement in Bangladesh has to keep in mind the complexities of the ‘woman question’, and the evolution of strategies and tactics for advocating for women’s greater rights and freedoms.