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MECHANICS OF HISTORY  -  laws to understand the histtory

The World History Rewritten

History of India

1. Harappa & Mohenjo Daro civilization
9. Some notes on medieval India
2. Geography of India 10. Peninsula schema in India
3. Short chronological summary 11. Europeans
4. Feudal system of India 12. Expansion of Maratha
5. Religions of India 13. British Rule
6. Indian Machiavelli 14. British administration - clash of civilizations
7. Sexual freedom and population growth 15. Negatives and positives of British rule
8. Economic and political cycles in feudal states 16. South-East Asia history links 

The same as China, India has extremely large share of the World population. For the whole history (except XVIIIth and XIXth centuries, when here was a demographic explosion in Europe) 1/4 of the World population lived in India subcontinent - i.e. on the territory of today’s India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka (Ceylon).

Speaking about the history of India (the same as about history of China before) I will try to show you that it is not so different form European history, and historical processes and laws are basically the same.

Links about the history of India
Here is a short introduction to the India history.
Plus as usual, systematic article from Wikipedia.
And a set of maps for India history.
See also Frank E. Smitha maps and his lectures on the history of India.

Opposite to the history of China where generally there was one state (which sometimes had a periods of feudal fragmentation), history of India before the British conquest is a history of thousands smaller or larger feudal states fighting with each other (where some times one country conquered a large part of subcontinent). It is impossible to describe here the history of even the most important of them, so this page will be rather a presentation of some tools from my theory than a guide to the history of India (Jambudvipa).

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Harappa & Mohenjo-Daro Civilization

Indus Valley Civilization (also called Harappa & Mohenjo Daro Civilization after the contemporary names of two biggest cities discovered by archeologists) was the oldest civilization of India subcontinent. The script used in Indus Valley is still not deciphered, so all knowledge we have about Harappa & Mohenjo Daro civilization comes from archeological digging. The start of Indus Valley culture is dated on more or less 2800 BC (so it is almost as old as the Egyptian Civilization) and the end came in XVIIIth century BC, when Indus Valley was conquered by Aryan tribes.

Indus Valley Civilization links
The best and user-friendly site about Harappa & Mohenjo Daro Civilization is probably The Ancient Indus Valley.
Here you can find maps, notes on Indus Script, and even 3-D simulation of the city of Harappa.
And here is another Web site with a nice review of archeological discoveries in Indus Valley.

Mesopotamian artifacts found in ruins of cities prove that Indus Valley civilization had intensive trade contacts (probably also by the sea) with Sumerian city-states, and Mesopotamia. Although in times of natural trade (when one good is exchanged for another without using any kind of money) is very hard to say which one of the trading countries is richer, we can assume that Indus Valley was less developed, and was a kind of ancient “emerging-market” exporting goods to Mesopotamia. Archeological discoveries prove that overall technology level of Indus Valley civilization was lower than technology level of Sumer city-states. For example bronze tools and weapons were rare and poorer quality than in Mesopotamia. One of important Harappa & Mohenjo Daro exportables was probably a cotton (India discovery).

I have said that cities of Harappa & Mohenjo Daro civilization were probably populistic merchant republics or oligarchies (or at least two or three biggest cities: Harappa, Mohenjo Daro, Lothal). But because we can’t read the Indus Script, and there was almost no information about Indus Valley civilization from other sources, it is only a hypothesis based on very weak premises:

  • Archeologist discovered a very advanced canalization systems in major Indus Valley cities. Usually it is a signal that a city is ruled by some kind of populistic government (like in Sumeria, Ancient Greece or Roman Empire), which needs a popularity among citizens (opposite to the feudal states, where monarchs usually have a little or no interested in comfort of people living in cities).
  • There were many quite rich houses in cities, which suggest that there was a strong class of merchants here.
  • Crisis after the fall of Indus Valley civilization was very deep, as after the fall of populistic civilization, and the Indus Valley civilization was almost completely destroyed by Aryans. In case of populistic civilization economic expansion last longer but the fall is deeper and barbarians invaders are too numerous to be absorbed by invaded country (as usually happens when the feudal country is invaded).

There are also several “low-weight” evidences, for example a popularity of seals among Indus Valley people may suggest a very strong trade exchange typical for populistic civilizations. But these evidences are weak.

Besides the trade with Mesopotamia, merchants of Indus Valley traded with the tribes of Ganges Valley and probably with the west coast of India peninsula. Expansion of Indus Valley Civilization, I have marked with a brown arrow on my first map on Maps page was probably a trade expansion and a diffusion of Indus Valley technology (like Sumerian expansion in Mesopotamia or Phoenician colonization), not the military expansion.

The reason for fall of the Harappa & Mohenjo Daro civilization were probably combined crises in Mesopotamia (the fall of the Sumer city-states and thus the shrinking demand for India export) and the local crisis in India, when the trade of Indus civilization spread over too large territory, and the diffusion powers outweighed the profits from expansion. Trade contacts with Mesopotamia was broken after the fall of Hammurabi’s Empire (called Old-Babylonian Empire).

Decomposed civilization of Indus Valley was Invaded by barbarian Indo-European tribes of Aryans, who probably (around 2000 BC) first wandered from the north Black Sea coast to the territory of today’s Iran (which was named from Aryans), Northern Mesopotamia (see ancient state of Mitanni formed by Indo-Europeans here) and Afghanistan, and then at the beginning of the second Millennium BC invaded Indus Valley thorough the Khyber Pass. Aryans although barbaric had an advantage of better bronze weapons and the technology of chariot. Aryan's conquest was rather a process than an immediate event (similarly as with Germanic invasion of Roman Empire).

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Geography of India subcontinent

The most important observation about India subcontinent is its relative geographic isolation. From the east and west sides India peninsula is surrounded by Indian Ocean. From the North a Himalayan Mountains and Tibetan Plateau give India a natural “Great Wall”, much better than Chinese, because almost impassable. Even Afghanistan and Burma borders are protected with mountains and deserts and with mountains and jungles respectively. Almost only one land gate into India is a Khyber Pass between Indus Valley and Afghanistan. Therefore is not strange that (before the European colonization) India was successfully invaded only three times in a 4500 years long history (of course external empires conquered Indus Valley several times, but the rest of the India stayed independent.)

Here is a schematic map of India subcontinent
Geography, trage routes and historical regions of India subcontinent. map

Red lines show the main trade routes.
Yellow dots marks the most important historical capitals of India Empires.
Orange dots marks Portugal colonies in India (Ceylon island was for some time a Portuguese colony too).
Light green names are names of lands, countries and regions, which I will mention later in this lecture.

On the map I have marked the most important trade routes in India. Please note that the Indus Valley and Ganges Valley are the natural backbone for a great state, so most of the Indian empires were founded here. But opposite than in China where in the valleys of rivers Huang He and Yangtzee were the home for approximate 2/3 of Chinese population, in the valleys of rivers Indus and Ganges in India lived about 1/2 of subcontinent population, and both rivers were not joined with a canal like in China – so there was no stable foundation for a great country in India, and the history of peninsula was for the most time a history of feudal fragmentation.
Note also that:

  • Indus and Ganges Valley are separated by Thar Desert (created by prehistoric farmers who overexploited the land).
  • Deccan peninsula was relatively isolated from the valleys of two great rivers with jungles and mountain ranges (ex. with Vindhya Range). The easiest way into Deccan Plateau is from the east coast of subcontinent.
  • Trade backbone of Indus Valley and Ganges Valley, although not so strong to be a base for stable empire, had very strong influence on the economy of the other parts of subcontinent and hampered the emergence of stable local trade centers (and thus stable countries) in the South India. So borders of Southern India states were very mutable.

Because of this relative isolation, internal economic cycles were usually more important for India states than external economic cycles.

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Short Chronology of India

Here is a very schematic chronology of India history. Ages of feudal fragmentation are marked with green background color. Periods of great empires have orange backgrounds. History of India is very complicated – there were also a small many smaller empires (some of them listed).

Schematic India Chronology

XVth – VIIth centuries BC
Aryans Expansion
After conquering Indus Valley, Aryans formed own states and slowly conquered or colonized Ganges Valley. Because Aryan states were feudal, whole process was very slow and took about 1000 years.
VIth - IVth centuries BC
Age of Buddha
Aryan kingdoms controlled most of the Northern India. New religion of Buddhism, philosophic doctrine of Jainism and Ajivikas doctrine were founded these times. Some parts of Indus Valley were conquered by Persian Empire and then by Alexander the Great.
322 BC – 188 BC
Mauryan Empire
First great Empire in India, ruled by Mauryan dynasty. Started with Chandragupta Maurya, reached the peak of its power under the rule of emperor Ashoka (he was for India somebody like Charlemagne for France), who conquered almost the whole peninsula. And similiary like the Empire of Charlemagne in very short time after his death Mauryan empire decomposed.
since 188 BC till IIIth century AD
From Mauryans to Guptas
Feudal fragmentation period with smaller empires like Sunga Empire. Indus Valley under the rule of external powers: Greco-Bactrian state, Kushan empire.
IVth and Vth centuries AD
Gupta Dynasty
Founded by Chandragupta I, Gupta Empire controlled most of the Northern India. Golden Age of India.
VIth – XIIth  centuries AD
Medieval India
Feudal fragmentation period. Chalukya Empire, Cola Empire. At the beginning of XIth century India was raided by Muslim ruler Mahmud of Ghazni.
since late XIIth century till early XIVth century
Turkish conquest, Delhi Sultanate
At the end of XIIth century India was invaded by Turkish (Muslim) rulers from Afghanistan, who formed Delhi Sultanate and till the beginning of XIVth century (Muhammad bin Tughluq) conquered most of India.
XIVth and XVth centuries AD
feudal fragmentation again
Feudal fragmentation again. Many small kingdoms often ruled by Muslim rulers, even where Hindus were majority in India. Delhi Sultanate still existed but was only one of many feudal states.
XVIth and XVIIth centuries AD
Mughal Empire, first European colonies
Babur of Farghana invaded India from Central Asia and conquered Delhi Sultanate about 1526 AD, starting this way Mughal Empire (or Mogul Empire). His successors step-by-step subordinated most of India subcontinent.
First half of XVIIIth century
European Colonization,  expansion of Maratha
When Mughal Empire collapsed after the death of  emperor Aurangzeb, Marathans took control over Central India forming Hindu state called Maratha Confederacy. European powers that had colonies in South India were fighting for monopoly to trade with India.
British Conquest
After defeating other European powers (France), British conquered, bought or allied the whole India. Three Anglo-Maratha wars with declining Maratha Confederacy.
British India
British rule over India until 1947 when states of India subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka - 1948) gained independence.

The capital of Mauryans and Guptas was the city of Pataliputra in Magadha. The capital of Delhi Sulatanate and Mughal (Mogul) Empire was the city of Delhi.

For chronology of India history see also:    

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Interesting historical processes in the History of India
1. Feudal system of India
 7. Peninsula schema in India
2. Religions of India
 8. Europeans
3. Indian Machiavelli  9. Expansion of Maratha
4. Sexual freedom and population growth
10. British Rule
5. Economic and political cycles in feudal states 11. British administration - clash of civilizations
6. Some notes on medieval India 12. Negatives and positives of British rule

After the fall of Indus Valley civilization, Aryan states armed with higher technology step-by-step conquered the local tribes of Ganges Valley and colonized neighbouring lands burning jungles and starting the agriculture. We have very little data about this period and our knowledge comes mainly from religious texts and eposes like Rig Veda, Mahabharata or Ramayana. Probably the whole process (at least since 1000 BC) resembled German colonization and expansion in Central and Northern Europe in Xth-XIVth centuries AD – serious wars with local states when economic conditions were worse, and quite peaceful colonization carried out by people with higher technology when economic conditions were better.

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Feudal system of India
One of the important consequences of conquest was a complicated feudal structure that evolved in India. There was essentially four social classes:
  • Brahmins – class of priests, one of two ruling classes.
  • Kshatriyas — class of warriors, second of the two ruling classes
  • Vaishyas — class of plebeians: farmers, peasants, merchants, craftsmen
  • Shudras — the lowest social class of dependent people
Members of first three classes were considered as a members of Aryan community, and the members of fourth class were excluded from that community. Shudras originally were probably the members of conquered tribes or nations. But after some time Aryans melted with conquered natives, who on the other hand were “aryanised”. This feudal model is not very different from European feudal hierarchy where there were nobles (kings and priests) on the top and great mass of subordinate plebeians: merchants, peasants, craftsmen. Using the same analogy again: Slavians or Balts conquered by Germans were usually treated as a the worse category of plebeians (like Shudras in India), while Slavian princes, nobles or merchants often accepted German culture, the same way as Non-Aryan rulers and warriors in India accepted Aryan culture.

The second element of feudal structure was a system of Castes. Every social class divided into many castes which represents specializations or a professions (like: bard, scribe, chariot driver, etc.). There was a thousands of castes. In many ways castes resembled craft unions or guilds from medieval Europe. Below of cast system were Untouchable – people who had the most disliked professions.

This system was very flexible. In periods of rather free-market oriented feudal economy allows easier social mobility: people could change cast easier than social class, and casts could advance (or go down) in social hierarchy of classes. On the other hand in periods of protectionism, system could limit social mobility: people had problems to change class or cast, and stable system of castes helped to protects monopolies in different crafts or professions.

Because of India isolation, there were no periods of fast economic expansion followed with deep crises, which periodically destroyed (or decomposed) the social structures of feudal states in Europe. Therefore, feudal social system of India could remain stable (only little relaxed in times of economic expansion, and more restricted in times when economy shrank) for about 3000 years.    

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Religions of India
Hinduism, the natural religion of India subcontinent is probably the most complicated religion of the World with the richest mythology (see short summary). When Aryans conquered northern India they were a minority among conquered nations, so had to incorporate many elements of local cults into original Aryan religion. Moreover, because of permanent political disunity, there was no reason for centralistic monotheistic religion that usually emerges when there is a need for an ideology supporting and explaining the central role of feudal monarch and centralized government.

Note that religion played much more important role in India, than for example in China. When there is no central government, religion ideology and institutions take some social functions that are usually monopolized by government, for example promote honesty and moral codex, this way lowering transaction cost in economic activities and politics. Great benefit when there is no government or central administration that has a power to enforce laws, or protect social structures and hierarchies. 

At the end of expansion, Aryans finally conquered Bengal (region in the delta of river Ganges), opening this way trade route to East Coast of Deccan peninsula and Deccan plateau (also to Indochina and islands of Indonesia) for Aryan traders. Technology in Aryan North was these times much higher than in Non-Aryan (Dravidian) South. This created a very profitable trade exchange and increased the importance of trade route from Indus Valley thorough Ganges Valley, and Bengal to the South. The focal point of this trade route was controlled by Aryan kingdom of Magadha with the capital in the city of Pataliputra. We can say that a new trade route was as a kind of waterfall joining two water reservoirs, and Magadha state — like a power plant — could use energy of this waterfall to grow in power.

Economic changes launched changes in ideologies. Traditional religion of Hinduism (adequate for times of colonization and expansion) appeared to be not enough for a society where cities and trade became more important. So at the turn of VIth and Vth century BC many mystic and philosophic doctrines emerged. Three most important of them were Buddhism, Jainism and Ajivikas doctrine. All started as a philosophies — explaining how a man should live — rather than religions. Buddhism finally evolved into institutionalized religion, two others not (because are atheistic), but very stable and ritualized doctrines also make them similar to religions rather than philosophies.

The moral is: Doctrine created by the Teacher is always deformed by his followers according to economic, historic and political conditions that influence them. 

Buddhism  with one common moral canon was better suited for centrally governed states than politeistic Hinduism with numerous gods and deities, so it was promoted by the rulers of India empires: Maurya empire (by emperor Ashoka) Gupta empire and others. After the Muslim conquest Buddhism disappeared from India displaced by monotheistic religion of conquerors — Islam. Hiduism survived as a religion of Hindu subordinates and evolved into more hierarchical religion with the trinity of highest gods: Brahman, Vishnu and Shiva (similar evolution we can observe for example in Ancient Mesopotamia when many independent countries and cities were united into one state).

One final element of all India religious doctrines I want to mention here is an idea of Reincarnation (also present in some other cultures). After the death, the “soul” of living being is reborn again in another living being. When a human is honest, obedient and lives according to its role in a social hierarchy, will be reborn as a person of higher caste or social class. On the other hand human who make crimes, is insubordinate (or outright acts against the social hierarchy), will be reborn in lower caste, social class or even as an animal. This way the idea of reincarnation had the same social, and political impact as the idea of heaven, purgatory and hell in Christian tradition — helped to preserve the feudal hierarchy.

When analyzing an ideology from the historic point of view, you should try to find its economic and political impact. When we eliminate decorations that come from cultural tradition of a country, it usually appears that ideologies of different nations have the same functions when economic and historic environment is similiar.     

The idea of reincarnation and cyclical nature of World, Universe and everything is probably the consequence of high stability of India economy (no deep crises, no periods of fast economic expansion), and the cyclical nature of India history.

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Indian Machiavelli
India subcontinent was the first time united by rulers of Mauryan dynasty. Founder of the dynasty Chandragupta started to build the empire short after the death of Alexander the Great and after dividing his empire by Alexander’s generals (diadochs). Maybe economic changes launched by the fall of Persian Empire and expansion of Greek technology were one of the causes of rapid growth of power kingdom of Magadha — shrinking demand for goods imported from India in Middle East weakened Western India sates, making this way Ganges-Deccan trade route relative more profitable — feudal empires need some source of stable income to have resources to grow.

Chandragupta had an advisor, wise man known as a Kautilya (or Chanakya). We can say that Kautilya was a kind of Cardinal Richelieu for Chandragupta. And the same as Richelieu, he wrote a book explaining secret methods o making politics, called Arthashastra. Book promotes Machiavellian methods of making politics, so Kautilya (Chanakya) is sometimes called an “Indian Machiavelli”.

Here is a link to English translation of Arthashastra.

This book is very important historical source about the life in Ancient India. But some historians believe that Arthashastra was rewritten (or outright written by author, who want to gain popularity using the name of famous Kautilya) a few centuries later. Historians should have great wariness when analyzing historic sources. Authors could lie, confabulate, exaggerate or simply be mistaken.   

Mauryan Empire reached the peek of its power under the emperor Ashoka (273 BC - 232 BC), who united almost the whole India subcontinent. After his death Mauryan empire start to decompose, and India returned to the state of feudal fragmentation. Although for a few centuries India was not united, it were generally the times of great economic prosperity because of export to Hellenistic kingdoms of Middle East and then to Roman Empire (large deposits of Roman coins were discovered in Western India), and the times of cultural and scientific bloom. For example the decimal counting system was invented these times, which then launched the revolution in algebra when adopted by Muslim mathematicians, and the revolution in accounting (bookkeeping) when imported to Europe.

Political disunity also stimulated knowledge about the mechanisms of politics (as an anecdote: the game of chess was invented these times as strategical-political game for 4 players). India thinkers also formulated the basic rule of alliance in war: a country on the opposite side of our enemy is our natural ally and next country in this chain is our enemy natural ally. So when we have a layer-cake of states: A-B-C-D-E-F. States A, C and E form one alliance and states B, D plus F form another alliance.

Of course this is simplified schema.
Natural barriers like mountains, jungles or seas could modify alliance pattern.

The same as profitable trade or resources.
Also when a country in such chain is much weaker than its neigbours (c), it will become a vassal state dominated by one of its neighbours, and this will change the alliance pattern:
Moreover, democratic-system countries never become members of opposite war alliances, so this rule also deforms the basic alliance pattern.

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Sexual freedom and population growth
These times population of North India reached its limits (maximum possible population at medieval technology level), so ideologies promoting sexual freedom gained great popularity. As you recall (from page about Ancient Greece): sexual freedom slows the population growth, and sexual-oppressive ideologies increase the rate of population growth. The reason for this is very simple: expansion (proliferation) of knowledge about contraception (how to not have children) is not possible without knowledge about sex. (Warning: there is only correlation here, not necessary the cause-effect relationship.)

One of the effect of this sexual freedom was the Kamasutra, probably the most famous treaty about sex and art of love in history. Kamasutra (book devoted to the god of love, Kama) was very popular among merchants, nobles, and city-dwellers of India these times. It is useful to mention here that there is a similar treaty about sex in Chinese culture, but opposite than Kamasutra in India it was written only for the Chinese Emperor and his court — as most of the Chinese knowledge it was not popularized among people outside the court. Of course, sexual freedom in India these times was not so great as today (when discoveries in medicine created demand for ideologies that slow population growth), and generally was limited to city-dwellers (the same as sexual freedom in Renaissance).

Another important factor that slows the population growth is education of people, especially education of woman. And third brake slowing the population growth is some economic pressure promoting smaller families (but not too strong, see point 2. below). Now is a good moment to say a word of two about demographic mechanisms and reasons for demographic explosions.

Reasons for demographic explosions
There are generally three cases when we a rapid population growth happens:

  1. When there is a high demand for new people, because of new lands to colonize. XIXth century (Victorian Age) or Greek Colonization are good examples here.
  2. When labour workers are over-exploited by regime. Fast population growth increases the “supply” of labour-workers and thus lowers the economic strength of labour-workers. Again there is no conspiracy here, regimes (usually) do not plan to multiply the number of poor people to have cheaper labour force. It is rather an consequence of simple political-economic mechanism: at first people from upper classes have better chance to become state officials, judges, priests (get a job at the social institution responsible for propaganda), to get into schools or universities. After some time all propaganda and administration jobs are dominated by upper classes, and lower classes turn into undereducated crowd, with no chance to accumulate wealth, to have any influence on ideologies or to get any education. In consequence population of undereducated low-income people start to increase rapidly and can be contained only by natural disasters, wars or brute military force when poor ones start to rebel. This effect could be observed for example in Ireland before the Great Hunger (1845-1849), and was described by Thomas Robert Malthus.
  3. When there is some latency between the implementation of new technology and implementation of new social ideology. When some new technologies which decrease the death rate (like discoveries in medicine) are implemented in economy, but there are no liberal sexual ideologies and liberal sexual habits that could slow the birth rate, the Natural Growth Rate of Population also increases (this is basics of demographics, see picture below). Basic schema od demographic explosion, when death rate goes down.
    Generally, this happens when a country (Importer) imports only technologies but not ideologies from another high-developed country (Exporter). Importer has lower political system than exporter (ex. is populistic when Exporter is democratic), so ruling elites - government, GPI (group of political interests) or class - try to import from high-developed countries only these discoveries, which are perceived as beneficial, and filter out other discoveries (sex habits, or liberal ideologies, or mechanism of economic pressure) perceived as destructive for local society and political system. Good example here is India in the second half of XXth century with its sexual-oppressive culture and import of European discoveries in medicine. Maybe demographic explosions of populations of barbarian tribes are also the same case (but we can not be sure here).

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Economic and political cycles in feudal states
When export to the West shrank because of collapse of the Roman Empire (IVth-Vth centuries AD) North India was united again by Gupta dynasty. Because of economic prosperity and cultural bloom this period is called the Golden Age of India. But technology and income gap between Aryan North and Dravidian South shrank, so the relative profitability of Ganges-Deccan trade route decreased, and Gupta Empire collapsed, dispatched by Hun invasions (other branch of Hun tribes that invaded Europe). Another period of feudal fragmentation in a rise-and-fall cycle of feudal state started.

Well, rise and fall cycle of feudal state is little more complicated than I stated before - this theory has levels. But before I say more, a few definitions:

1. How to say, when feudal state has free-market oriented economy, and when government-regulated economy?

  • When feudal state has government-regulated economy and resembles a great corporation, taxes are collected in goods (bushels of rice, grain, craftsmen products) rather than in money, land is a property of monarch and feudals are no more than officials, who gains their land from monarch and monarch could remove them from his land any time.
  • When feudal state has free-market oriented economy, taxes are collected in money, land is a property of feudals and they cannot be removed from their property without an appropriate legal procedure.

Actually, most of the time economy of feudal state is some mix of both models. Taxes are collected concurrently in money and in goods, monarch has only a fraction of whole land, many land manors are allodiums (land the property of feudal is inherited by sons). Monarchs could behave as a boss of a mob (mafia) and steal the land of his political opponents, or as a leader of a nation who generally respects traditions and laws of the country.

Moreover, economy of feudal states can drift from government-regulated to more liberal. Good example here is Japan which had strongly government-regulated economy - with extended bureaucracy, land owned be Emperor and taxes collected in rice (system adopted from China) in early medieval. Then more “liberal” economy when land become the property of great feudals in late medieval, after the conquest of the north Honshu and Hokkaido islands (when diffusion powers weakened Emperor’s rule). Also we should remember that feudal state economy bases on land and income from military conquests, so liberal economy usually means that one big “corporation” of united country breaks into many “small corporations” of small feudal domains fighting with each other.

2. When writing about crisis of feudal state, we have to remember that there are a few types of crises:

  • economic crisis - when income shrinks
  • political crisis - when feudal faction fights with each other
  • institutional crisis - when institution of the country decompose (army and officials are underpaid, courts and administrations become more and more corrupted)
  • ideology crisis - when old ideology decompose and new ideologies emerge
  • diffusion crisis - when resources leak from higher developed to less developed regions (although the economy of state as a whole may still grow).
  • polarization crisis - when the economic and political power of middle-income feudals (and cities) decrease. Again, the whole economy of a country may still grow, but the political institutions start to decompose.

Some of this crises will be independent of each other, other crises will start with some latency one after another (ex. polarization crisis as an effect of the diffusion crisis). Moreover, until XVIIIth century we have very little data to analyze economic processes. So please forgive me when I sometimes speak about crisis not saying what kind of crisis (of mentioned above) I have on mind.

Armed with these definitions lets look how the rise-and-fall cycle of feudal state really works:
Political and economic cycles in feudal states.
Black waves represents the cycles of effectiveness of government’s economic enterprises (large scale enterprises, government income).
Blue waves represents the cycles of effectiveness of  private economic enterprises (small scale enterprises, private income)
Green waves represents the cycles in country’s economy (sum of government and private income, i.e. sum of black and blue waves).

Again this model is very simplified, but we can use it to explain the basic cycles in feudal states. In Reunity Phase country (Northern India in our example) is united by the ruler of the strongest feudal domain, in Wars Phase strong and united country conquers weaker neighbours (Deccan states in our example), In Decomposition Phase power of central government (ruler court) weakens, finally in Fragmentation Phase country breaks into many small feudal domains. As you can see, this cycle is not exactly coherent (or concurrent) with main economic cycle (green waves).

When profitability of large-scale economic activities (first long range trade, then wars and external expansion) exceeds profitability of small-scale enterprises, feudal country unites. And opposite, when small-scale economic activities (local protectionism) becomes more profitable than large enterprises (external wars appears to be too costly, profitability of long-range trade decrease), the country disunites. But as you can easily see from the picture above, economic processes responsible for these political changes usually started many years before (and changes in ideologies shortly thereafter) - when marginal profitability of large scale enterprises exceeded the marginal profitability of small-scale enterprises (reunity) and vice versa (decomposition).

Marginal profitability is a term from economics (it is a derivative of profitability function). When marginal profitability is positive, we know that the whole profitability increases, and opposite when marginal profitability is negative, we know that the whole profitability decrease. We can also compare the marginal profitability of two kinds of economic activities to say (for example), what of sectors of economy grow faster. And in consequence: which groups of political interests (GPIs) will gain more political weight, and which ones lose their power.  

Of course we should analyze the average profitability and marginal profitability for ruling and privileged classes of feudal country - i.e. for nobles, priests, state officials. Great mass of ruled plebeians with no political rights have almost no influence on the politics of feudal state.

What are the reasons for cycles (waves above)? Generally, it is a very simple mechanism:
  1. When a feudal country is fragmented, competition is stronger and technology development is faster. F
  2. New technologies stimulate the economic growth that increases the volume of trade. F
  3. And after some time, it appears that only way to explore the benefits of scale that new technologies brought (and to consume all fruits of trade) is to unite the country - because this lowers the negative effect that wars, road robberies, different taxes, monetary and measures systems, etc. have on economy. F/R
  4. So country is united by the strongest feudal domain. R
  5. United country have greater military power, so relative profitability of expansive wars (comparing with other kinds of economic activities) increase. R/W
  6. Country conquers weaker neighbouring states. Technology development slows. W
  7. Diffusion powers and logistic problems connected with expansion (as described by Paul Kennedy) starts to decompose the country. W/D
  8. Large scale enterprises (wars, long range trade) become less profitable, and local feudals protecting economic interests of local communities in their domains (for example against high taxes and tributes collected by monarch) grow in power, gaining more and more political clients. Monarch's authority declines. D
  9. Finally country is divided between the sons of monarch or maybe an alliance of big feudals defeats the monarch (or overpowers him, limiting his authority). D/F
  10. And another period of feudal fragmentation starts. F
Remember that - because of very slow rate of technology development and very weak control over government decisions - only a narrow group people (nobles) have some political rights and could influence monarch’s decisions - feudal country have great inertia, so economic and political cycles are extremely long (even a few hundred years long).

Of course this schema is very simple, and actually could be modified by some external factors (like external economic cycles, expansion of external states, etc.). Also shift/latency between cycles of private sector (blue waves) and cycles of government sector (black waves) may vary. But generally we can say that there are only two basic reasons for economic cycles here:

  1. Political decisions of governments (our monarch and monarchs of external countries) - wars, economic policy.
  2. Shifts of trade routes launched by geographic discoveries - like Vasco da Gama’s journey.
Final note: schema presented here explains the economic-political cycles of feudal states, but the model is quite universal. Similar mechanism is responsible for life cycle of great corporations (like for example IBM) - which first buy smaller firms, and then divide or sells some divisions. And is also responsible for political cycles in modern countries - for example helps to understand the  political cycle of late USSR and modern Russia (although in modern populistic states cycles are shorter). I will also revoke this model later when speaking about Kondratiev cycles.

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Some other notes on medieval India
In many ways feudal medieval India (I mean from Mauryans till Muslim Invasion) resembled medieval Europe. We can find here guilds, craft unions, even merchant associations (like ex. Hanseatic League in medieval Germany), cities with extended autonomy (like German or Italian cities), etc.

After the decline of Gupta Empire feudal states of Southern India grew in power. There was several local empires these times on Dravidian South. Probably the most important one was the Chola Empire (IXth - XIIIth century), which span over whole Eastern Coast of Deccan peninsula and controlled the trade along the coast and with interior of Deccan. It was the normal process: when the power of core countries (high developed) declines, former “emerging-markets” (middle-income countries) come into the scene.

At the beginning of XIIIth century Northern India was invaded by Muslims (Turko-Afgan rulers). Who founded the Delhi Sultanate with the capital in city of Delhi where the most important trade routes of North crossed (to Indus Valley, to Ganges Valley and trade route to China, Middle East and Europe thorough Khyber Pass). Controlling the most important city of India (Delhi) Muslim sultans could start to conquer the weaker neigbouring states, step-by-step reuniting most of India.

Capital at the crossroads of trade routes. Feudal country is usually reunited by a dynasty or domain, which controls the city that is located at the crossroads of the most important trade routes in that country. There are hundreds examples: Paris for France, Moscow for Russia, Cracow for Poland, Constantinople for Byzantine Empire, Berlin for Germany, Xi’an for China, etc. And of course Delhi for India. As I said before: to unite the country monarch need some material resources, and the most prominent city in the country with its revenues from trade is a very good source of income to royal treasury.    

Muslim conquerors were relatively small elite in India - some historians estimate that they were only about 10% of India population. Well, elites that rule feudal countries (i.e. have political rights) are relatively small - usually about 5% (maximum 10%) of whole population. So, relatively small number of invaders can easily dominate a large country. They must only defeat old elites (native nobles) and take their place. Subordinate people with no political rights, even if they do not like new rulers, usually have not enough economic strength and resources (weaponry, leaders, organization) to fight against invaders. Especially when invaders do not exploit them so intensive as old elites (as it is usually the case).

As a rule of thumb: When invaders are about 5% of the population of conquered country, they will be assimilated by the local culture (like for example Normans in Anglo-Saxon England or Mongols in China). When invaders are about 10% of whole population, both cultures could exist independently for long time (like Muslims and Hindu in India). When percentage of invaders is higher (maybe 20% of population) like in case of Aryan invasion, the culture of invaders will dominate the conquered country. India is a good example here, because percentage of Muslims was different in different regions: highest in Indus Valley and intensively colonized Bengal, average in Ganges Valley and Northern Deccan, and lowest in Southern Deccan and in Rajputana region (east from Thar Desert - which was for long the center of resistance against Muslim rulers).

Since IXth century the maritime trade in the Arabian Sea (and India Ocean generally) was dominated by Muslim sailors from middle East, who have trade outposts even in Southern China.

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Peninsula schema in India
When the income and technology level of Southern India increased to be comparable with Aryan North, the competition between southern states became stronger, and accelerated modernization started (the same as in Europe or Ancient Greece, see peninsula schema). Southern India was periodically conquered by northern Muslim empires (Delhi Sultanate and Mogul Empire), even some southern states have Muslim rulers (Ahmadnagar, Bijapur, Golconda, Berar, etc.). But generally south of India for the most of time was a collection of independent states fighting with each other.

Good example here are long wars between Hindu Vijayanagara empire (located more or less in central and southern regions of Deccan plateau) and Muslim Bahmani Sultanate (east regions of Deccan) at the turn of XIV and XV centuries. Strong competition caused Deccan states to develop new technologies and to adopt technologies from Europeans — who were present in India since Vasco da Gama journey (1498). For Example India armies were using canons comparable with these used in Europe in XVth century. Generally technology gap between India and Europe was smaller than technology gap between Europe and China.

Especially intensive modernization (capital-organized production of craftsmen, rulers supporting local traders, etc.) we can observe in XVIIIth century in Travancore, a small Kingdom in Kerala. Sooner or later Travancore could probably evolved into a populistic state - a kind of “India Netherlands”, but European colonization stopped this process. Travancore was incorporated into the British Empire.

Short history of Kerala, unfortunately without economic history.

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First Europeans in India (since Vasco da Gama journey) were Portuguese sailors. Europe has these times much higher technology level than India and also much higher income per capita. Therefore demand for Indian goods (mainly spices, but also indigo, cotton, gems, etc.) in Europe was very high, but the demand for European goods in India was very low (see substantiation at my page devoted to the polarization effect), so European traders had to pay for India goods with precious metals and Europe has negative trade balance with India (it may be boring, but again: rich countries have comparative advantage at money).

But Europeans have an important military advantage - ships with canons on board. Portuguese defeated Arabians and monopolized the maritime trade in Indian Ocean. Additional money they got as intermediaries in maritime trade in India Ocean were used to finance import to Europe (extremely profitable because of very high prices of Indian goods in Europe). It is the classic strategy of rich countries in international trade exchange: to monopolize trade and financial services (as you recall Arabians did the same a few centuries earlier). Another tactics to avoid the negative trade balance was to bribe local India feudals with gifts to get privileged (monopolistic) trade position in their domains. According to the theory of monopoly: a market player with monopolistic position could dictate prices and therefore buy and sell goods at better prices (comparing with the prices of these goods in competitive, free market).

After some time other European nations arrived to India: Dutch, British, French. European powers started to fight with each other for monopolistic position in India trade. These wars were waged for more or less 200 years (from the middle of XVIth century till the middle of XVIIIth century). At the beginning other European nations tried to break Portuguese monopoly, at the end two strongest nations: French and British fought to get domination. Finally Great Britain as a democratic (and thus much more effective) country won this struggle.

In meanwhile - i.e. in XVIth and XVIIth century - North of India (and periodically the South) was united by emperors of the Mughal (or Mogul) Empire.

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Expansion of Maratha
After the collapse of Mughal Empire at the end of XVIIth century, the new power called Maratha Confederacy took control over the central India. Marathas represented the national Hindu uprising against the Mughal rule. Rise of the Marathas was the consequence of the shift of trade routes - in XVIIth century maritime trade with Europe become much important for India than older trade routes (thorough Indus and Ganges valleys and Khyber Pass). The Marathas grew in power at the background of Portuguese colonies in India - thanks to trade contacts with Europeans they were better equipped (in gunpowder weapons), and had better organization than Mogul armies or other feudal powers in India.

Maratha expansion was the example of very simple (but important) economic mechanism: The end of XVIIth and the beginning of XVIIIth centuries was the age of economic protectionism for most of the European countries (especially for these powers which were in decline as Portugal). When the core countries introduce the protectionist economic policy - price manipulation taking advantage monopolistic position, higher tools, lower demand for import, etc. - the trade with core countries (vertical trade) become less profitable for middle-income “emerging markets”. In consequence a trade with other middle-income countries (horizontal trade) become relative more profitable than the vertical trade (exchanging labour-intensive goods for capital-intensive goods).

This change of trade schema usually launches a consolidation of middle-income countries neighbouring with the core (i.e. Portuguese colonies in India) - simply because groups of political interests (GPIs) that are interested in federation grow in power and dominate the local politics. Classical example of such consolidation was the Habsburg Empire in Central Europe in the neigbourhood of Venetia (and Italy in general), but we can easy point out many other examples: gathering of Russia lands by principality of Muscovy in the beighbourhood of  the Republic of Great Nowogorod, expansion of Chola Empire in medieval India, Arabic conquests in the neighbourhod of collapsing Byzantine Empire, etc., etc.  

Middle-income countries could federate peacefully or be conquered by the strongest of them - and then conqueror may bank on support of local GPIs interested in horizontal trade. United middle-income countries has also the better negotiation position when negotiating with diplomats or traders from core countries (traders from core countries could no longer use conflicts and competition between middle-income countries to win trade privileges). Such united political organism may continue expansion on territories of low and high-income countries if the wars appear more profitable for its elites than trade. This mechanism is quite universal, so also explains barbarian expansions or formation of G20 alliance in WTO negotiations for example (early XXIth century).

In late XVIIIth century Maratha Confederacy start to decompose and after three, sometimes very serious was conquered by British. The last remnants of Maratha Empire were incorporated to British India in 1818.

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British Rule
There are two important dates that enclose like brackets the period when British conquered and dominated most of India:
  • 1763 - End of Seven Years’ War - BBritish finally defeated French in India and get the control over Bengal (and thus over the Ganges Valley export) - serious colonization started.
  • 1857 - Indian Mutiny (Sepoy Mutiny)
Until 1857 India was ruled by British East India Company (do not mistake with West India company, which traded with America) - a kind of great corporation but much more influential than any great corporation today. East India Company was generally a private enterprise, but these times great colonial trade companies were strongly supported by governments (most of European powers: ex. Netherlands, France, had such trade companies) and were a kind of “national monopolies”. East India Company had its own military forces: troops, strongholds and ships to protect and promote British trade.

Why the British conquered India?
There was basically two reasons:
  1. Feudal fragmentation of India - there wasn’t one centralized state in India but a hundreds of independent states and domains. Other large feudal countries, which were underdeveloped but united (like China, Japan, Turkey or Persia), were not conquered by European powers.
  2. England was a democratic country - so it was highly effective, and used some classical tactics of democratic country: extensive use of diplomacy, extensive use of alliances, step by step expansion, use of divide et impera tactics, waging only these wars which were really profitable or unavoidable, financing feudal opposition in domains of troublesome rulers, bribing local courts with easy credit, etc.
This web of alliances and political clients made the map of British colonies in India was a “piebald pattern” very similar to the mosaic of colonies and allies we remember from the map of Italy ruled by Ancient Rome:

Map of British India
Map of British India, political structure and British expansion.
As you can see, regions with direct British administration (red, pink and orange) were mixed with half-dependent autonomic provinces (yellow) and allied domains of local rulers (brown).

This mosaic organization of British colonies in India is responsible for federal structure of modern India, and therefore for the very short duration of populistic system (1947-1997, only 50 years!). Moreover populistic system in India had the form of quasi-democracy - in federal country politicians have to negotiate and accept local autonomies, which always promote the democratic or democratic-like forms of polity (political system). In many ways India of the second half of XXth century resembled the USA of the first half of XIXth century: in both countries states with higher political systems (like Kerala or Rhode Island) and less developed populistic states coexist together.

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British administration - clash of civilizations
India was very large country with population about 20 times (rough estimate) greater than population of England. Even with superior technological and military advantage the British were able to hold India only because of two basic reasons:
  • Trade exchange between India and England was very profitable also for India elites, and import of British technologies accelerated the economic growth in India.
  • The British (the same as the Romans) respected local beliefs, local customs, traditions, hierarchies. Often kept local administrations, local rulers, and elites. Also respected some local autonomies.

Of course British tolerance had its limits, and sometimes serious conflicts arose. Good example here could be conflict around the custom of sati. In some regions of India, according to this custom, widows should burn themselves on their husbands funeral pyre. In 1829 William Bentinck, Governor-General of East India Company delegalized sati.

More about that see Modern History Sourcebook.
For protests that sati is an old India custom, Betenick replied: “And the British custom is to hang people who murder widows.”    

It was a very cruel custom, but as you remember, there was periods in the history of India (early medieval times for example when Buddhism dominated) when Indians were much more civilized and more humanistic and freedom-oriented than Europeans - there is nothing like “stable nature of civilizations” or cultures. Cultures and civilizations are changing continuously. Moreover, originally sati was rather an option for women who really did not want to live after the death of his beloved husband and was very rare. Then in British times custom of sati warped, and women were forced to burn themselves, often by relatives who simply want to get their husband’s property.

When the crisis affects a community, competition between members of this community increases. These times the weakest of them (women, poor people) are usually eliminated from economic game by stronger players. Again, it is universal process, which can be observed many times in history, even today. Very often law, custom or solution that works quite fine in times of economic prosperity, warps and become abused in the times of crisis. So good solution is the one which has built-in protections against abuses.

The reason for crisis was trade with England and rules of economic game introduced by the British - much more liberal and free-market oriented than before. Therefore many traditional enterprises (ex. some traditional crafts, some small feudal real estates) started to decline and some groups of people start to pauperize. Other groups while still rich (ex. priests) lost some of their economic power. So ironically, British Governor-General fought with the side-effect of economic process that was started by the British themselves (but his solution was correct: economic process was unstoppable, only thing British administration could do, was to introduce the law protecting weaker ones from some negative effects of the process and from being abused by stronger ones).

How works the economic mechanisms that is responsible for clash of civilizations, as described by Samuel P. Huntington? Generally, when a country modernize, some branches of its economy expands but other traditional branches decline. Therefore some group of people get rich, while other pauperize (or become relatively poorer and less important than before). The most important are two streams:

  • Stream of people with low income who get rich because of modernization and join the elites (upward stream).
  • Stream of people with middle income who pauperize and thus are afraid that they will be excluded from elites (downward stream).

When the upward stream is stronger than downward stream, people will support the modernization — advocates of modernizations overrule defenders of tradition, and dominate elites that are responsible for creating and promoting ideologies.

And opposite, when downward stream is stronger than upward stream, people will be against the modernization — defenders of tradition (like fanatic priests) will get more followers, and the ideologies postponing the modernization will be stronger. And thus we can observe the “clash of civilizations”.

So, Samuel P. Huntington prophecy about the inevitable clash of civilizations fulfilled only because of long polarization crisis (1997-2001) that weakened pro-modernization elites in many countries. If the crisis had been shorter, conflict might not arise. Note: my remarks about contemporary politics are included only to show that some historical problems are universal (not to start political rants).

Best way to prevent such conflicts is to support upward stream. For example by promoting economic and social advance of poor people strengthen this way pro-modernization elites. We should remember that the strongest base for opposition against modernization are not the poor people but members of traditional elites (ex. middle-income feudals, priests) who are losing their status. The true reason for conflict is not the poverty, although “the fight with poverty” could make any of the sides of the conflict stronger, because increases the number of its political clients. Opposite than in democratic system, in feudal system (and most times in populistic system) poor people do not represent their interests but are political clients of other GPIs.

Conquest of India by East India Company also has some negative aspects:

  • Taxes from conquered India states were used to finance British import from India (protecting this way England from negative trade balance), not for local needs. Some percentage of this money were appropriated (i.e. stolen)  by East India Company officials.
  • Officials of the Company quickly got very rich and use their wealth to buy their political power in England (the same way as it happened in Ancient Rome in IInd century BC), but fortunately British democracy did not decompose, maybe because British colonies were smaller (comparing their population with the population of the empire core) than Roman colonies.
  • When India was fragmented, the British could win conflicts between different feudal domains to rule India at relatively low cost. When subcontinent was united, India nation began to form (and national opposition against British rule), so divide et impera tactics became less effective.
  • East India Company was a private firm oriented to maximize its profits, so officials of the company often forgot that you cannot rule people using only military force and administration, and that the economic effectiveness cannot be the only criteria of government (especially when government represented British economic interest rather than India’s  interests). They tend to forget about other ways to support government: promotion of ideologies and elites that might support British rule.
The consequence was the Sepoy Mutiny (1847). Sepoys were the native soldiers armed and trained by the British and used as the army of East India company. Sepoy forces were the first India organization that spanned over the whole subcontinent, and thus the first organization which has a chance to resist against British rule. Mutiny that affected mainly northern regions of India, started from a gossip which might seem crazy (see article about Sepoy Mutiny), but this could be explained using tools I am presenting here:
  • Many Sepoys and supporters of the rebellion, especially in the North, were the former Muslim nobles, who were losing their privileged political position and economic status under the East India Company rule.
  • British officers and officials treated them as “primitive natives” (or like low-skill labour workers) not as soldiers, who are a kind of elite in feudal nation, and are used to be treated with some respect. Soldiers were even tortured to introduce military discipline. They have no chance to get a promotion, and were enlisted without care.
  • Company officials forgot to educate Sepoys - so gossip can span very quickly. Company officials also did not understand local customs.
  • The British also forgot to support pro-British elites that could be some counterbalance for opposition among Sepoys (so there was nobody to promote pro-British ideologies among Indians).
As you can see these mistakes were not so different from mistakes of USA administration in Iraq today (i.e. after 2002). Of course similar business and public relations mistakes as mistakes of East India Company, nowadays are a case studies in any basic course of business administration (you just have to translate unqualified soldiers to “blue-collars” workers).

These mistakes cost lives of many British civilians in India. Shock of mutiny was the main reason for introducing British Empire administration in place of East India Company administration. In other words company administration (profit-oriented) was exchanged for government administration (oriented on political solutions). That probably slowed down India modernization, but made the modernization process more acceptable for Indians (or to be precise for Indian elites), and thus much safer for the British, who no longer had to fear of a rebellion.

And the final note: in spite of mistakes mentioned above, you had to remember that some conflicts are unavoidable because of economic factors that direct the history. Probably it was in the case of Sepoy Mutiny too.

In 1840 British military expedition
tried to conquer Afghanistan. But the British had a bad luck - just a moment before Afghanistan political system changed to populistic and British expedition was completely destroyed (only one man returned to India). Afghanistan was the first populistic country in Asia in modern times - it is nothing strange Afghanistan is just a bunch of trade routes between mountain ranges. But British conquest of India shifted the traditional trade routes (so the importance of Afghanistan trade routes declined), and thus the economic and political development of Afghanistan slowed down. Better political system not always guarantee fast development.

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Negatives and positives of British rule
British Rule had some negative effects on India:
  • India was exploited, income from taxes was taken by British administration.
  • Many traditional enterprises bankrupted - their production appeared to be obsolete, and cannot stand the competition of manufactured goods from England.
  • India had to accept rules of trade that were beneficent for Britain. Every country is like a great corporation and always promotes its own production and its own trade (or its own capital). India had no chance to do that: had to accept prices for exported and imported goods enforced by the British.

Benefits from trade when one of the countries has monopolistic position
I am not going to introduce trade exchange models yet, but present only conclusions:
When two countries trade with each other and one of them has privileged position (like Britain when trading with India), country with monopolistic privileges gains larger part of surplus that is an effect of bilateral trade. But trade is still beneficial for both countries.
Of course:

  • Independent and unified India with wise government might have a chance to negotiate better conditions of bilateral trade (and thus get the larger portion of surplus).
  • And free trade exchange is beneficial for both countries only when the economy grows. When the economy shrinks, weaker of two players will lose the game of bilateral trade. Of course years 1750-1929 were generally the period of economic prosperity for British Empire, so trade was beneficial for both sides.

But also many positives:

  • India imported British technologies, which accelerated India’s modernization.
  • British administration invested in infrastructure (like railroads).
  • Volume of trade, both internal and external, increased (and thus extra wealth that come from trade).
  • India had been united, and thus avoided wars and chaos that will be the unavoidable effect of feudal fragmentation and then the expansion of local populistic states.

Generally, net effect of British rule for India was positive. Of course India was exploited by England and united India with national, wise government might develop faster and get better prices in international trade. But key words here are “wise” and “united”.

Administration and ruling elites of feudal state are interested in exploitation of common people, so feudal government cannot be “wise”, and will never represent interests of the whole nation but only interest of a narrow feudal elite. So, without British rule common people would be exploited too but by the local feudals. Foreign occupation by democratic country is always more beneficial for feudal country than the rule of local (national) feudals. Comparison of foreign democratic occupation and local populistic government gives more ambiguous results.

Using Mechanics of History we can made a reasonable guesses, how the history of India without British rule might look like:
  • Indians were about 200 behind the Europeans in technology, so If there was no Europe at all, industrial revolution in India probably would start at the end of XXth century.
  • If India was united feudal country (optimistic but unreal scenario), still would develop slower. Simple example: first railroad was built in India in 1850, first railroad in China was built in 1876 (remember please that, because of terrain, it is easier to built railroad in China than in India). Moreover, populistic system of India would be more brute and expansionistic than, quasi-democratic populistic system that was introduced when the British retreated from India in 1947.
The main reason for India underdevelopment in XXth century was not the British colonial rule, but the very fast development of Europe and USA in 1830-1930 because of higher political systems there (especially because of the democratic system in England and in USA). India was not stopped - European nations started to go faster.

And last but not least: colonial administration introduced by democratic country is always controlled in some degree (but sometimes may be brute when this control is weak), and had to obey some legal rules that are constraints limiting abuses of colonial government, and therefore the oppositional activity is easier and safer. Simply speaking: If Gandhi lived in (for example) Soviet Union, he would had no chance to organize peaceful protests against government — he would be shoot or send to the deadly work camp. And all his followers too. Please remember about that, if you spent whole your life in a democratic country (or at least country with quasi-democratic variant of populistic system).

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Some links to the history of other states

History of Iran (and Afghanistan)
Compact but easy to grasp History of Iran (Persia)
History of Afghanistan at Wikipedia
And short summary of the first Anglo-Afghan war (if you do not afraid to read Engels) and Afghanistan in Victorian Age.

Khmer Empire in Indochina
History of Khmer Empire plus map


Other Indochina countries
History of Thailand and Southeast Asia
History of Southeast Asia (with menu of the countries at the bottom of page)
Short summary of History of Indonesia

Warsaw 31 January 2005
Last revision: October-November 2006
Slawomir Dzieniszewski

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