Impact of Industrial
Revolution in India
Until the middle of eighteenth century, England was an
agricultural country and India was known for its excellence in manufactures as
well as in agriculture. In the first quarter of eighteenth century, in the
context of Indian cotton manufactures flooding in England, a law was enacted
prohibiting the use of Indian calicoes and silks. The invention of flying
shuttle by John Kay and the inventions of Hargreaves, Arkwright and Crompton
within thirty years accelerated the process of spinning and weaving. When the
British established their foothold in Bengal as a territorial power, the loot
from Bengal and the Carnatic provided the required capital and helped
accomplish Industrial Revolution in England. The weavers of Bengal suffered at
the hands of the Company’s officials and their agents, who first insisted on
payment of a transit duty for the commodities they carried from one place to
another and later for cultivation of commercial crops required for British
industries in England. The English deliberately destroyed Indian industry by
dumping the Indian markets with their machine-made cheap cotton piece goods.
Because of loss of market for hand-woven cotton goods, India lost her old
industrial position and became an exporter of raw material.
By the first quarter of nineteenth century the export of
Dacca muslin to England stopped. Even
the export of raw cotton from India had steadily dwindled owing to the
competition from USA. Weavers who were eking out an independent livelihood were
thrown out of employment because of flooding of British factory-made cheap
cotton fabrics in Indian markets.
The Collector of Madurai reported that families of about 5000
weavers did not have the means to take more than one meal of rice a day. The
Collector of Tirunelveli observed that the weaving population has ‘outrun its
means of subsistence and trammels of caste prevent them from taking to other
work.’ Millions died of starvation in famines. To escape starvation deaths,
peasants and artisans had to move out of the country opting to working on
plantations in British Empire colonies as indentured (penal contract) labourers
under wretched service and living conditions.