Agrarian and Other Histories


Agrarian and Other Histories

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There is no area in the agrarian history of eastern India that Binay Bhushan Chaudhuri has not traversed. His journey began with his 1956 contribution in Bengal Past and Present, on “Some Problems of the Peasantry of Bengal after the Permanent Settlement.” His extensive opus surveys the agrarian economy of eastern India and all its protagonists: peasant households, zamindars and the state, non-peasant rural agents such as moneylenders, affluent landholders, farmers, and agrarian intermediaries (jotedars), all of whom played their decisive role in the rural agrarian structure of eastern India. His later research explored the impact of colonial rule on tribes and forest dwellers, who were in the process of transition to quasi-peasant communities by the middle of the twentieth century. In his pioneering work, The Growth of Commercial Agriculture in Bengal: 1757–1957, which developed out of his doctoral thesis, Chaudhuri discussed the two important phenomena that shaped the contours of the agrarian economy of Bengal—first, the demographic factor, namely population growth, combined with a simultaneous growth of agricultural production; second, the role of external demand that determined peasant production for the market. He placed value, additionally, on factors such as climate change, natural disasters, and political instability arising out of war and invasions, which affected agricultural production in India.

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Edited by Subhra Chakrabarti, Utsa Patnaik

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