Zamindars, Jotedars and Peasants in Bengal
Amalendu Guha
CHANGE IN BENGAL AGRARIAN SOCIETY: C. 1760-1850 by Ratnalekha Ray Manohar Publication, New Delhi, 1981, 339 pp., 80.00
Jan-Feb 1981, volume 5, No 1/2

Colonial land management forms as such did not usher in a new mode of production or fundamental changes in India’s Socio-economic structures. Nor was our differentiated peasant society solely a colonial phenomenon. People of untouchable and servile castes, who were denied by custom the right to hold land, constituted a body of landless labour throughout the pre-colonial times. The monetization of rent collection on a wide scale in Mughal India in a period of ex­panding commodity exports against bul­lion imports surely led to a growing role of money and credit in the agrarian eco­nomy. This resulted in a degree of com­mercialization of agriculture and peasant differentiation even in the 17th century, by way of resource transfers from the indebted ryots to their creditors.The exis­tence of a privileged tenatry all over Bengal during 1760-1793 is also a noted phenomenon. Besides, it has been recently shown by M.S. Islam that it was people traditionally connected with land—and not the urban capitalists (as was once widely believed) —who were predomi­nant amongst the purchasers of auctioned zamindari rights during the year 1793­-1819.

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