By Neil Charlesworth

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Such groups, clearly, should have been capable of playing a dynamic role in an expanding industrial economy. However, in the nineteenth century, indigenous merchant activity, with the conspicuous exception of that in Bombay City, was relatively little converted into industrial enterprise. Indian capital remained largely engaged, in Ray's phrase, in 'comprador activities' [83: 4], peripheral mercantile pursuits. Timberg's great Marwari firms, for example -among the wealthiest of all Indian commercial interests seemed highly hesitant about breaking into industry.

For the first half of the nineteenth century- perhaps down to 1870when capital and business expertise especially required mobilisation, it may have performed a necessary and viable function. Yet the managing agency was born of the early nineteenth-century system of commerce and exchange and its competence in handling the modern high technology industry which was starting to emerge by 1914 is more questionable: the Tata Iron and Steel Company, as Simmons reveals, were to face constant problems with the managing agencies they employed [88].

Nevertheless, the conclusions of the Thomers and Krishnamurty do delineate the scope of the problem. Even after 1880, when the growth of the modem sector accelerated, industry was no more than maintaining its share of the labour force. We can safely guess, then, that before 1880 the proportion was not growing; indeed, some slight process of' de-industrialisation', in employment terms, may well then have been in train. Can we, however, be more precise about the fate of handicraft industry? Clearly the textile export industry, which Raychaudhuri describes supplying South-east Asia, the Arab countries and East Africa in the eighteenth century [13: 85], collapsed (though there were some specialist exceptions like the shawl trade of Kashmir), but this was the usual fate of handicraft export in the nineteenth century and would have happened without formal British rule.

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