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4 - The Political Economy of Opium Smuggling in Early Nineteenth Century India: Leakage or Resistance?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2014

Claude Markovits
Affiliation:
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)
Richard M. Eaton
Affiliation:
University of Arizona
Munis D. Faruqui
Affiliation:
University of California, Berkeley
David Gilmartin
Affiliation:
North Carolina State University
Sunil Kumar
Affiliation:
University of Delhi
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Summary

INTRODUCTION

The link between narcotics, imperialism and capitalism has long attracted the attention of scholars. Recently, Carl Trocki has reiterated the classical Marxist position, dating back to Karl Marx himself, on the incestuous relationship between drugs and empire, while recognizing that the opium trade also nurtured certain forms of indigenous capitalism in Asia. While he has focused on the global Asian opium scene, including India, China and Southeast Asia, other scholars have given more attention to the Indian context of the trade. Amar Farooqi, in a book which is probably the most detailed history of the opium trade as seen from India, has stressed the contribution of the ‘illegal’ trade in Malwa opium to capital accumulation in Western India in the first three decades of the nineteenth century. John Richards, more than twenty years after his pathbreaking essay on peasant production of opium has returned to the topic with a wide-ranging survey of the contribution of the drug to the finances of British India. In this essay, I propose to revisit the history of the Malwa opium trade with a view to discussing both its general impact on capital accumulation in early nineteenth century western India and its link with imperial expansion. I shall focus more specifically on the case of Sindh, a largely neglected region of the subcontinent, whose transformation into the main smuggling route for the drug after 1819 was one of the factors that led to its integration into the British Indian Empire.

Type
Chapter
Information
Expanding Frontiers in South Asian and World History
Essays in Honour of John F. Richards
, pp. 81 - 103
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2013

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