India became a British colony following the 1857 uprising.British East India Company was set up to dominate India through its clever use of political strategy, military force. In 1858 India became a colony of the British Empire. Under the British rule, India suffered poverty, famine and lack of freedom which ultimately led to the Indian struggle for independence. The first Module therefore gives an overview of the Indian economy prior during British rule.


British period & Indian economy:

The Economy of India during the colonial era describes the economy of India during the years of the ‘British Raj’ from 1750- 1947. During this period, the Indian economy’s share of the world economy declined from 22% to 1-3%.

India in the pre colonial time had a stable ,efficient economy. There was adequate agricultural, trade – vast handicraft industries. The landowners were not landlords they only had the right to collect the taxes from the workers. India had large trade both within countries of Asian and Europe. There was a balance in imports and exports, the items imported in India were dried fruits, wool, dates , rosewater from Persian gulf; gold, coffee, honey from Arabia; silk, tea, sugar from China; paper, iron, copper, from Europe.

Structure of villages and town

Indian Economy in the pre – British period consisted of two divisions, namely a) Isolated & self-sustaining villages b) Towns which took care of Administration, Commerce , Handicrafts. The means of transport & communication were highly underdeveloped as the size of market was small.

  • Cobblers
  • Weavers
  • Goldsmiths
  • Carpenters
  • Potters
  • Oil Pressers
  • Washer men
  • Barber
  • Surgeons

The structure of Villages 

Three distinct classes existed in villages that were;Agriculturist; Hand–owning and Tenants.

Labor & capital needed was supplied by producer themselves out of their saving or village landlord or village money lenders. Credit agencies gave credit at exorbitant rates of interest. Only source of credit for peasants & artisans were money lenders and the peasants were forced to depend on the money lenders. Artisans & menials were mere servants of the village

Economic Consequences of British Conquest :

The British  rule can be divided into particular period of time; first the rule of East India Company ranging from 1757 to 1858.Second was the rule of the British government in India from 1858 to 1947. British conquest started in 1757 with the battle of Plassey and completed in 1858, during this period the British changed the techniques of production. The industrial revolution helped the British to sell machine made goods give great competition to Indian handicrafts. The British conquests led to break down of the village community partly by introduction of new land revenue system by the process of commercialization of agriculture

Impact of colonial rule of British on India agriculture

Agriculture was the one of essential and main stay of Indian economy. About 80% people were used to cultivate either as principal or secondary occupation. About 70% of the national income used to came from this agriculture side. Agriculture productions were mainly food grain and other crops such as oil seed, sugar cane used for domestic consumption, fiber crops and many more.

Process of Industrial Transition, Colonialism and Modernization

Tariff protection to Indian industries–  In 1923 the government  accepted the recommendations of the first fiscal commission  to gave protection to selected Indian industries against foreign competition. Between 1924 and 1939 several major industries were given protection  the government prominent among them being iron and steel industry , cotton mills , jute , sugar , paper ,pulp industry , matches etc . Indian industrialists took advantage of the policy of protection extended  the government ,developed the protected industries rapidly. They were able to capture the entire Indian market and eliminate foreign competition altogether in important fields.