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

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The Politics of Coinage in the Early

Colonial Brahmaputra Valley

Several gaps exist in the study of the colonial economic history of India’s North East. A comprehensive analysis of the archival material reveals the politics of coinage in the early colonial Brahmaputra Valley, and how it worked to strengthen the rule of the East India Company.


The author is thankful to the reviewer of the Economic & Political Weekly for their comments and suggestions to improve this article.

The economic history of colonial North East India is understudied. Coinage and monetary policies in the region are further neglected in the existing historiography. The study of the policies and politics of coinage can help us to understand how monetary policies influence the lives of the people who use the currency. With the Treaty of Yandabo of 1826, almost entire North East India became a part of the British empire. An Ahom king was reinstated in upper Assam till the mid-1830s. Subsequently, upper Assam too was brought under British rule. The direct British rule bro­ught policy changes. The developments that had happened in the decades of the 1820s to the 1830s had their impact on the political economic history of colonial as well as postcolonial Assam. The East ­India Company (EIC) asserted their political authority by regulating currencies. This article is an attempt to see the possible reasons that had motivated the company to follow a monetisation policy, and how the findings are relevant to the present day.

The available works of literature on monetary circulations and the polity asso­ciated with it suggest that money/currency is an important instrument to control the people who use/need it. John Locke’s (1689) theory of property can be studied to understand the usefulness of the invention of money. Specifically, the invention of money solves the problem of over-accumulation of land by man. Money can be used in exchange for extra land cleared by a man, thereby maintaining the wealth of the man while not hurting fellowmen’s interest in using land (Locke 1689).

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Updated On : 30th May, 2021
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