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Indigo Plantations and Science in Colonial India
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Book description

Prakash Kumar documents the history of agricultural indigo, exploring the effects of nineteenth-century globalisation on this colonial industry. Charting the indigo culture from the early modern period to the twentieth century, Kumar discusses how knowledge of indigo culture thrived among peasant traditions on the Indian subcontinent in the early modern period and was then developed by Caribbean planters and French naturalists who codified this knowledge into widely disseminated texts. European planters who settled in Bengal with the establishment of British rule in the late eighteenth century drew on this information. From the nineteenth century, indigo culture became more modern, science-based and expert driven, and with the advent of a cheaper, purer synthetic indigo in 1897, indigo science crossed paths with the colonial state's effort to develop a science for agricultural development. Only at the end of the First World War, when the industrial use of synthetic indigo for textile dyeing and printing became almost universal, did the indigo industry's optimism fade away.

Reviews

‘In examining the history of indigo cultivation and agricultural science in India, Kumar lucidly explores the intersection between imperial systems, technological modernity, and global knowledge diasporas. The book combines exemplary research with insightful and challenging theorization about the application and understanding of science in a colonial setting.’

David Arnold - Emeritus Professor of Asian and Global History, University of Warwick

‘In his insightful history of modern indigo, Prakash Kumar nicely demonstrates that knowledge of the blue dye was fluid and fugitive, mobile and global.’

Joyce Chaplin - Harvard University

‘Professor Kumar has brought an entirely fresh perspective to the subject of indigo in India by examining the science and the patronage of science involved in the ‘improvement’ of indigo over several hundred years and by placing his study in a truly global framework. This book is a major contribution both to the history of modern South Asia and to the history of science.’

Douglas E. Haynes - Dartmouth College

‘Professor Kumar’s book is a scholarly work of profound erudition. It is a masterful analysis of the complex and shifting interactions between agricultural practices, relations between European planters and Indian farmers, scientific research in Britain and India, and the role of the colonial state in Indian agriculture. Scholars interested in agriculture and science in colonial India will consult this work for years to come.’

Daniel Headrick - Professor Emeritus of Social Science and History, Roosevelt University

‘Prakash Kumar writes a new kind of history of indigo cultivation in British India, focusing on the vast mobility of productive scientific knowledge and its localization at the agrarian foundations of India’s modern development regime in Bengal.’

David Ludden - New York University

‘This book is the first full-scale study of the odyssey of natural indigo manufacturing by European entrepreneurs and planters in South Asia across three centuries, as seen from the point of view of technical knowledge and efforts at ‘improvement'. Its particular merit is that it analyzes the complex interplay between metropolitan science and local practice in the colony within a wider context of transnational market connections and cosmopolitan knowledge circulation at the global scale. This is a landmark study, based on wide-ranging and diversified sources, and written with impeccable clarity.’

Jacques Pouchepadass - Emeritus Research Director, CNRS, Paris

'A meticulously researched work based on a wide variety of sources skilfully used in the narrative. It presents an engaging story of the indigo industry in India, in its global expanse and immensity, with its links to the international market, imperialism, and ultimately to the global system of capitalism … Well written, and impressively readable, the book is sure to stimulate interest in the subject and prove a reference work for future research on indigo in India.'

Source: Reviews in History (history.ac.uk/reviews)

'Prakash’s greatest achievement lies in recovering from the seams of history the course, context, and commercial benefits of indigo science, doing so in a way that contributes to the broader social history of colonial South Asia. Indigo Plantations and Science, therefore, deserves to be read as one of the finest studies on 'colonial knowledge' that has been published in recent years.'

Madhumita Saha Source: Technology and Culture

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Contents

Bibliography

Primary Sources

1. Archival Documents

National Archives of India, New Delhi

  • Government of India, Revenue and Agriculture, Civil Veterinary Administration, 1899, A

  • Government of India, Revenue and Agriculture, Agriculture, 1900–3, Part B

Bihar State Archives, Patna (India)

  • Government of Bengal, Proceedings of the Revenue Department

  • Agriculture Branch, 1896–1911

  • Government of Bihar and Orissa, Proceedings of the Revenue Department

  • Agriculture Branch, 1912–22

Oriental and India Office Collections, The British Library, London

  • Despatches Addressed to the Several Governments in India by the Secretary of State in Council, 1890–1919

  • European Manuscripts

  • H. T. Prinsep, “Four Generations in India,” C 97

  • Curzon: F111/181; F11/182/F111/183

  • Government of Bengal, Proceedings of the Judicial Department, 1861–2

  • Government of Bengal, Proceedings of the Political Department

  • Police Branch, 1900–10

  • Government of Bengal, Proceedings of the Revenue Department

  • Land Revenue Branch, 1896–1911

  • Government of Bengal, Proceedings of the Revenue Department

  • Agriculture Branch, 1896–1911

  • Government of Bengal, Proceedings of the Home Department

  • Education Branch, 1890–1900

  • Government of India, Proceedings of the Revenue and Agriculture Department, 1896–1922

  • Government of India, Proceedings of the Department of Commerce and Industry, 1907, 1918

  • Papers Relating to Indigo Cultivation in Bengal

  • Report of the Indigo Commission, 1862

  • Report on the Administration of Bengal, 1892–3

  • Scientific Report of the ARI, Pusa, 1914–22

Public Record Office, Kew

  • Ministry of Overseas Development and predecessors: Tropical Products Institute and predecessors: Registered Files, 1895–1905

  • Board of Trade: Companies Registration Office: Files of Dissolved Companies, 1890–1910

Royal Society, London

  • Proceedings of the Indian Government Advisory Committee of the Royal Society, 1903–20

University of Leeds, Leeds

  • Papers of Clothworkers Laboratory

Manchester Archives and Local Studies, Manchester

  • Papers of Calico Printers’ Association

  • Papers of British Cotton and Wool Dyers’ Association

Gloucestershire Archives, Gloucestershire

  • Papers of William Playne’s Company

National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, Maryland

  • Indian Planters’ Gazette and Sporting News (1902–24)

2. Personal Memoir

  • Cyril Berkeley, My Autobiography

3. Journals and Newspapers

  • Agricultural Journal of India

  • Annals of Botany

  • Asiatic Researches

  • Calcutta Gazette

  • The Chemical Trade Journal

  • Journal of the Agricultural and Horticultural Society of India

  • Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal

  • Journal of the Chemical Society

  • Journal of the East India Association

  • Journal of the Society of Arts

  • Journal of the Society of Chemical Industry

  • Journal of the Society of Dyers and Colourists

  • Native Newspaper Reports, Bengal, 1890–1905

  • Textile Colourist

  • The Textile Manufacturer

4. Published Primary Texts and Reports

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Lambert, Claude Francois. A Collection of Curious Observations on the Manners, Customs, Usages, Different Languages, Government, Mythology, Chronology, Ancient and Modern Geography, Ceremonies, Religion, Mechanics, Astronomy, Medicine, Physics, Natural History, Commerce, Arts, and Sciences, of the Several Nations of Asia, Africa, and America. Translated by John Dunn, London, 1750.
Long, Edward. The History of Jamaica, or a General Survey of the Antient and Modern State of the Island with Reflections on its Situation, Settlements, Inhabitants, Climate, Products, Commerce, Laws, and Government, Vol. III. London: T Lowndes, 1774.
Pelsaert, Francisco., W. H. Moreland, and P. Geyl (trans. and ed.). Jahangir’s India: The Remonstrantie of Francisco Pelsaert. Delhi: Idarah-i-Adabiyat-i-Delli, 2009.
Proceedings of the Meetings of the British Indian Association of Oudh, 1861–1865. Calcutta: Thacker, Spink, & Co., 1865. Publications of the British Indian Association, 1863.
Report of the Indian Famine Commission, Part II, Measures for Protection and Prevention. London: George Edward Eyre and William Spottiswoode, 1880.
Report of the Proceedings at a General Meeting of the Inhabitants of Calcutta, on the 15th of December, 1829. Extracted from the Bengal Hurkaru, etc. London: T Bretell, 1830.
Roy, Dipak. A Hundred and Twenty-Five Years: The Story of J. Thomas & Company. Calcutta: J Thomas & Company, not dated.
Schrottky, Eugene C.The Principles of Rational Agriculture Applied to India and Its Staple Products. Bombay: Times of India Office, 1876.
Tavernier, Jean Baptiste. Travels in India by Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, Baron of Aubonne. translated from the original French edition of 1676 by V. Ball, 2nd edition, edited by William Crooke, 2 volumes. London: Oxford University Press, 1925.
Voelcker, John Augustus. Report on the Improvement of Indian Agriculture. Delhi: Agricole Publishers, 1986, first published in 1893.

5. Tracts on Indigo

Anonymous. Methods for Improving the Manufacture of Indigo: Originally Submitted to the Consideration of the Carolina Planters; and Now Published for the Benefit of all the British Colonies, Whose Situation is Favorable to the Culture of Indigo. To Which Are Added Several Public and Private Letters, Relating to the Same Subject, by an Experienced Dyer. Devizes: T. Burrough, 1776.
Crokatt, James. Further Observations Intended for Improving the Culture and Curing of Indigo in South Carolina. London, 1747.
De Beauvais-Raseau. L’Art de L’Indigotier, Paris: L. F.Delatour, 1770, translated by Richard Nowland, A Treatise on Indigo. Calcutta: James White, 1794.
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Inglis, James. Sport and Work on the Nepaul Frontier or Twenty Years Sporting Reminiscences of an Indigo Planter. London: Macmillan & Co., 1878.
Lee, J. Bridges. Indigo Manufacture. Lahore, January 1892.
Miller, Philip. The Gardener’s Dictionary in Two Volumes. London: printed by the author, 1743.
Minden, Wilson. History of Behar Indigo Factories. Calcutta: Calcutta General Printing, 2nd edition, 1908.
Minden, WilsonReminiscences of Behar. Calcutta: Calcutta General Printing, 2nd edition, 1908.
Minden, WilsonTirhoot and Its Inhabitants of the Past. Calcutta:Calcutta General Printing, 2nd edition, 1908.
Monnereau, Elias. The Complete Indigo Maker. Containing an Account of the Indigo Plant; its Description, Culture, Preparation, and Manufacture, to Which is Added a Treatise on the Culture of Coffee, translated from the French of Elias Monnereau, a planter in Saint Domingue. London: P. Elmsly, 1769.
Paul-Darrac, Pierre and Willem van Schendel. Global Blue: Indigo and Espionage in Colonial Bengal. Dhaka: University Press Limited, 2006.
Phipps, John. A Series of Treatises on the Principal Products of Bengal: No. 1, Indigo. Calcutta: Baptist Mission Press, 1832.
Reid, W. M.The Culture and Manufacture of Indigo with Description of a Planter’s Life and Resources. Calcutta: Thacker, Spink and Co., 1887.
Watt, George. Pamphlet on Indigo. Calcutta: 1890.

6. Scientific Reports

Bloxam, W. Popplewell and H. M. Leake. with the assistance of R. S. Finlow. An Account of the Research Work in Indigo, Carried Out at the Dalsingh Serai Research Station from 1903 to March 1904. Calcutta: Bengal Secretariat Book Depot, 1905.
Bloxam, William P.Report to the Government of India Containing an Account of the Research Work on Indigo Performed in the University of Leeds, 1905–1907. London: His Majesty’s Secretary of State, 1908.
Davis, W. A.A Study of the Indigo Soils of Bihar: The Urgent Necessity of Immediate Phosphate Manuring If Crops Are to Be Maintained. Calcutta: Agricultural Research Institute, 1918.
Howard, Albert and Gabrielle L. C. Howard. First Report on the Improvement of Indigo in Bihar, Bulletin No. 51. Calcutta: Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa, 1915.
Howard, Albert and Gabrielle L. C. HowardSecond Report on the Improvement of Indigo in Bihar, Bulletin No. 54. Calcutta: Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa, 1915.
Howard, Albert and Gabrielle L. C. HowardThird Report on the Improvement of Indigo in Bihar, Bulletin No. 67. Calcutta: Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa, 1916.
Rawson, Christopher. Report on the Cultivation and Manufacture of Indigo in Bengal. Bradford: WilliamByles and Sons, 1899.
Rawson, ChristopherReport of the Indigo Research Station, Sirsiah, for the Year 1905–1906. British Library, ST 1882.
Rawson, ChristopherFor the Year 1906–1907. British Library, ST 1882.
Rawson, ChristopherFor the Year 1907–1908. British Library, ST 1882.
Rawson, ChristopherFor the Year 1908–1909. British Library, ST 1882.
Rawson, ChristopherFor the Year 1910–1911. British Library, ST 1882.
Rawson, ChristopherFor the Year 1911–1912. British Library, ST 1882.
Rawson, ChristopherFor the Year 1912–1913. British Library, ST 1882.
Rawson, ChristopherReport of the Indigo Research Station, Sirsiah, for the Year 1909–1910. Calcutta: Bihar Planters’ Association, 1910. By C. Bergtheil, British Library, 07076.f.71.

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