Critically examine the impact of the commercialization of agriculture on the peasant classes during 18th and 19th century India.

Model Answer:
The British Era is also known as a period of commercial revolution in the agricultural sector. Industrial revolution during the early 17th century in Britain and in other European countries during 18th and 19th century brought about a change from substantial to commercial agriculture. Cash transactions become the basis of exchange and largely replaced the barter system. The major reason of commercialization of agriculture was that India was now reduced to the supplier of raw materials and food grains to Britain and importer of British manufactured goods. This era saw the introduction and proliferation of many crops as cash crops such as indigo, cotton, jute, tea, tobacco. The Land revenue payments were also monetized and India saw emergence of grain merchants. The increasing demand for some of the commercial crops in other foreign countries gave impetus to commercialization of agriculture. However, the extent to which commercialization of agriculture should have increased productivity did not happen because of poor agricultural organization, obsolete technology, and lack of resources among most peasants. Rich farmers benefited and this accelerated the inequalities of income in the rural society. The substitution of food grains by commercial cash crops had a devastating effect on the rural economy and showed its impact in famines. Other more outcome of the commercialization of agriculture was the crop production got regional specialization based upon the climatic conditions. The peasants of Bombay presidency grew cotton, Bengal grew jute and Indigo, Bihar grew opium, Assam grew tea, Punjab grew wheat. This was the outcome of the commercial revolution in agriculture.

Question for UPSC Mains:
Critically examine the impact of the commercialization of agriculture on the peasant classes during 18th and 19th century India.

Published: February 7, 2016 | Modified:June 27, 2019

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