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Peasants' Choices? Indian Agriculture and the Limits of Commercialization in Nineteenth-Century Bihar

Peter Robb
The Economic History Review
New Series, Vol. 45, No. 1 (Feb., 1992), pp. 97-119
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Economic History Society
DOI: 10.2307/2598330
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2598330
Page Count: 23
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Peasants' Choices? Indian Agriculture and the Limits of Commercialization in Nineteenth-Century Bihar
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Abstract

The article attempts to distinguish and locate choices in agricultural production, with special reference to Bihar, India, during the nineteenth century. On the one hand, it considers closely managed and extensively irrigated areas, long involved in trade under the overall control of 'landlords', and, on the other hand, the expanding production of opium, and also of indigo and sugar (so-called 'forced' commercialization), identifying common features and continuities of production and marketing. Particular the importance of advance payments and local intermediaries is stressed. Thus, in contrast with the more usual evolutionary models, based on unitary categories and modes, the essay illustrates ecological, customary, collective, and local political constraints upon agricultural decisions; and this leads to the identification in turn of their different kinds and levels.

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