ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Economic Legacy of Colonial Rule Revisited

Continuing the debate on the economic legacy of colonial rule, the author responds to Banerjee et al's critique of his essay, also published in EPW.

I thank the three authors (“Historiography sans History: A Response to Tirthankar Roy”, Banerjee et al) of a review of my paper (“The Economic Legacies of Colonial Rule in India: Another Look,” Roy 2015) for writing a wide-ranging essay on how economic change in colonial India may be rethought. There are insightful reflections in the article, pointing out areas of enduring debate on the long-term pattern of economic change in India. The particular theme on which the intervention is at its best is the link between ideology and historiography. The essay can be seen as a stand-alone piece in that respect, and acknowledges as much by stating that it uses my article only as “a point of entry.”

Fair enough. Yet, much of the essay is in fact a criticism, and not only of the article to which this is a response, but also my views on other topics in Indian economic history published earlier. These views are presented in the review without a serious discussion of the evidence that I had used. Thus dismembered, my research may appear to the reader as a bundle of assertions. I will let this pass, and restrict myself to a brief rejoinder on the two main questions in Roy (2015). First, what did I say about economic legacy and on what grounds did I say it? Second, how should that thesis change the mode of writing economic history? I will suggest that Banerjee et al misread both the thesis and the analytical narrative in my paper.

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