Why Industrial Revolution did not happen in India

There is a lot of shame and resentment amongst Indians against the British Raj. The fact that a hundred thousand British could take over a nation of 200 million embarrasses us. In addition to being angry to the British exploiters who reduced out nation to poverty, we also curse our ancestors for being idiots who lost to the clever British. But is it really their fault? Well, lets learn why industrial revolution happened in Britain and not in India and how it has nothing to do with the stupidity of our ancestors.

Looking at history from this vantage point where all the events have happened, it is so easy to point finger at our forefathers and claim that they lacked the vision and intelligence that our British overlords had. Things are not that simple.

Let us do a thought experiment. Assume that you are good ruler in the 18th century India before the Industrial revolution. Your only intention is the welfare of your subjects. Your nation has a very high population when compared to other nations and the major employment to the people of your nation is in the handloom industry, shipbuilding, metal works and processed food where people build these things by hand. A person comes to your court with a machine with which you can make these things without putting in much labor. What will you do? Remember you are a good king and all you want is the welfare for all and this is before the industrial revolution, where the concept of productivity improvement is not well understood. Will you keep that machine or will you destroy it.

I can totally see a good ruler destroying the machines. Think about the scare we feel towards Artificial Intelligence. Even after realizing the productivity gains we attain from mechanization a lot of people feel threatened by Artificial Intelligence. In the 18th century it would have been very hard for anybody to realize the full implication of mechanization. A good king would have seen such machine as something, which will lead to wide-scale unemployment. The ruler would have therefore destroyed that machine as early as he could so that it does not create civil unrest and widespread unemployment.

It is the most logical thing to do and especially considering the fact that India has always had a large population and therefore cheap labor, it is even more likely that India was not the place where industrial revolution was to happen. Does this mean Indians are inferior, no, does this mean British where it actually happened are superior, again no. It is just that the situations were more suitable in Britain for Industrial revolution to happen as opposed to India.

Why did Industrial Revolution Happen in Britain

After the spread of black-death in Eurasia in the 1300s, the population in the western Europe fell sharply by 50%. With so much land and so few people to till it, the full social structure changed significantly in Western Europe. It was no longer possible for the lords and barons to arrange for large hoards of serfs to work on the land. This is to a certain extent the reason for the fall of serfdom in Western Europe. After the emancipation of the serfs, in 1688 Glorious revolution happened in Britain and the powers of the Monarch were reduced while the parliament became more powerful in Britain. This freed up the British Market from king backed monopolies and the time was ripe for free market economy. It is this free market economy coupled with low population that resulted in the Industrial revolution in Britain.

Why Industrial Revolution did not Happen in India

Fortunately historical evidence indicates that black-death did not affect India as much as it affected the Europe, therefore no such social change happen in India. With its high population Indian merchants could still make a lot of profit without all the machinery, so the things kept going the way they used to. Europeans came to India at the time of emperor Akbar and at that time their only goal was to buy stuff from Indian markets and sell it in European markets. India was a major exporter of goods in the international markets. In the beginning Europeans had little to no interest in ruling over India, however after industrial revolution when they realized the superiority of their technology, they made good use of it. By the time we realized what was going on, it was too late.

As you can see these were major events playing on the global scale where all the parties were acting rationally based on their own self-interest. Therefore we should not think that our ancestors were stupid people who were fooled by British. The social, economic and environmental conditions in India were not ideal for an Industrial Revolution.

Now that India has become a free nation and realizes the importance of free market economy and technological innovation just see the results over past 30 years. Living standards have improved, more and more people are coming out of poverty. If we can keep up this momentum and don’t do anything stupid, we will soon return to our glorious days of the past.

So never feel that by being an Indian you are inferior to other nationalities. Indians are one of the most hard working people with great work ethics. Moreover, we must realize that the past is in the past, now we need to look forward and should not hold any grudge against the British, if we would have invaded the British, in all probability, we would have done the same to them.

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Rahul Yadav

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