. The destruction of traditional Indian industries was one of the earliest consequences of colonialism to be noticed and documented in this country. While it was evidently connected with the growth of modem factory industry in England, the beginning of the process of destruction of Indian cottage industries lay further back, in the 18th century, when the products of Indian industries were still prized as valuable items of commerce. In that early stage of mercantile capitalism the source of profit of the East Indian Company was the difference between the cost prices in India and the sale prices in England of the Indian Industrial products like cotton and silk textiles. This price difference, i.e. the profit rates of the English East India Company, could be increased if the Indian cost price at which East Indian Company purchased goods from the Indian artisans, could be lowered. So long as there was a competitive market in India, that is, so long as the English East Indian Company was competing in the Indian market, with other East India Companies of the French or the dutch and with other merchants of Indian and Asian origin, the Indian artisans were in a good bargaining position. But in the last decades of the eighteenth century the British gradually eliminated most of their competitors, in particular the French and the Dutch. Moreover, by virtue of their military power and, in some regions (e.g. Bengal from 1765), their political and administrative position, the British established a hegemony which allowed them to become monopolists in the market.
The English Company’s purchase together with the purchases of the servants of that company in their private capacity accounted for a very large portion of the marketed textiles of superior quality in Bengal. As we all know, a monopolist can influence the market to his own advantage. In the last three decades of the eighteenth century this was the advantage which enabled the English traders to reduce the prices paid to the native artisans in this country and thus to reap high profits from sale in the European market. This excessive exploitation of Indian artisans weakened the very basis of our handicraft industries by reducing the artisan to a low level of income. It also destroyed the possibility of accumulation of resources to invest in the industry and to improve its I technology. As we know, accumulation of capital and a technological revolution occurred in England in the last decades of the eighteenth and early decades of the nineteenth century. This Industrial Revolution first of all wiped out the market for India’s artisans in Europe, because the economies of large scale pfoduction in the new English factories made it impossible for artisanal products to compete with factory products. By the beginning of the 19th century the staple industrial exports, cotton textiles, began to decline and soon they ceased to be exported. Some other items, e.g. indigo and raw silk, continued to be exported – though from 1813 it was no longer the East India Company but private trade which became the agency for exports. Not only was the export market of the Indian artisans taken away by the foreign factories, but the home market began to be invaded by imported factory products.
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