Ghulam A. Nadri's picture
Affiliated Fellow, Sponsored by NWO
Ghulam A. Nadri

A History of the Indigo Industry and Trade in Pre-Colonial and Colonial India

This study attempts to illuminate various dimensions of indigo production and trade in India in the last five hundred years. As a source of natural blue dye, indigo was produced in India since the ancient period. From the sixteenth to the early twentieth century, its production had been substantial because of a large European demand for this commodity so also because of its huge consumption in the flourishing local textile industry. What was the nature and scale of production, how this was organized in terms of labor, technology and capital, and in what way the relationship between growers/producers and entrepreneurs/companies changed in the colonial period, are some crucial issues that will be taken up in this study. In a broader framework, this is an enquiry into the implications of indigo industry and trade for the political economy of India in general and for the groups of people involved in the various stages of production and their mutual relationship in particular.

The records of the English and the Dutch East India Companies and the documents of the British colonial government in India constitute the basic source of information. Crucial evidence on the organization of indigo production and trade will also be culled from the memoirs, travel diaries and some local indigenous sources.

A comprehensive study, like this, is essential for understanding the changing dynamics of the agrarian economy and commerce of India from the pre-colonial to colonial times. This will also help us develop a global framework for the study of the Indian economy. Looking at indigo from this perspective will help us evaluate the role and position of South Asia in the emerging world economy since the early sixteenth century.
The Newsletter articles

Revisiting Sugarlandia


  • Economic History

Country of origin


Period of stay at IIAS

25/04/2012 to 25/06/2012

Home institute

Research topic

Political Economy of Eighteenth-century Gujarat; History of Indigo in Colonial India

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