Author: Rajat Datta
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8173043418
The overarching theme of this book is to analyse the dynamics of commercial relations in Bengal’s countryside in the late eighteenth century. To this end, the structure of rural society, the nature of agricultural production and marketing and vicissitudes of subsistence in Bengal’s villages in this period have been examined in detail.
The conventional understanding that treats commercialization of agriculture exclusively as the growth of certain high-value, or cash crops is questioned, and it is argued instead that commercial agriculture should include event eh primary sector, which in this historical case study is rice and a whole range of other food-items. Production in the primary sector thus was a full-time commercial venture, often under the direct control of extraneous financers.
The market determined people’s access to food, and a famine or a dearth only served o intensify this dependence. This nexus shaped the nature of social domination in the countryside. Rice trading dictated the nature of local commercial transactions as well as the social relations of domination and subordination in the countryside. Trade was facilitated by the existence of an integrated network of markets. A honeycomb of mercantile intermediaries existed in rural society who operated on behalf of large, town based, gain traders. The latter controlled markets and credit, and without these, peasant production was impossible o sustain.
Therefore, this period witnessed an extremely significant development. The province’s rice producing economy was subsumed under indigenous merchant-capital thereby bringing about a silent transformation of petty production in agriculture.