Professor Tirthankar Roy

Professor of Economic History


Research interests

  • Economic history of modern and early-modern South Asia; particular interests include industrialization, labour and employment, and historiography.

A current writing project is a book (with Anand Swamy) on the origins of property and contract law in India. The pluralist legal tradition that emerged in colonial India makes any one received model of institutional evolution (focusing either on colonial ideas or Indian tradition) hard to apply to this region. The book explores the interplay of a variety of factors, including the use of law in commodity and factor markets to explain legal evolution. Another research theme is regional inequality in colonial India. Was nineteenth century India catching up with the industrial world or falling behind? The answer should depend on which region within India is considered. An ongoing work asks, what is a good strategy to study the historical pattern of regional inequality.


Current Teaching


  • India in the World Economy from Antiquity to the Present, Cambridge University Press, May 2012
  • Natural Disasters in Indian History, Oxford India Short Introductions series, August 2012
  • Economic History of Early Modern India, London: Routledge (under contract, expected publication 2013)
  • India under Colonial Rule: An Economic Analysis, edited with Latika Chaudhary, Bishnupriya Gupta, and Anand Swamy. (manuscript submission in May 2012 with Cambridge University Press)
  • East India Company: The World’s Most Powerful Corporation, New Delhi: Allen Lane, 2012
  • The Economic History of India 1857-1947, revised third edition, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2011 (previous editions 2000, 2006)
  • Company of Kinsmen: Community and Enterprise in South Asian History 1700-1950, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2010
  • How India Clothed the World: The World of South Asian Textiles 1500-1850.Edited with Giorgio Riello, Leiden: Brill, 2010
  • Towards a History of Consumption in South Asia. Edited with Douglas Haynes, Abigail McGowan, Haruka Yanagisawa, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2010
  • Rethinking Economic Change in India: Labour and Livelihood, London: Routledge, 2005
  • Traditional Industry in the Economy of Colonial India, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999, Paperback 2007
  • Economic Reforms: The Next Step (edited with Ashok Desai), Delhi: Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, 1998
  • Cloth and Commerce: Textiles in Indian History. Editor. Delhi: Sage Publications, 1996
  • Artisans and Industrialization: Indian Weaving in the Twentieth Century

Other Publications

  • 'Indigo and Law in Colonial India', Economic History Review, forthcoming.
  • 'The Law of Storms': European and Indigenous Response to Natural Disasters in Colonial India, c. 1800-1850, Australian Economic History Review 2010
  • 'Economic Conditions in Early Modern Bengal: A contribution to the Divergence Debate,' Journal of Economic History, 2010
  • 'Company of Kinsmen: Enterprise and Community in South Asian History,' Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2010.
  • 'Colonialism and Industrialization in India 1870-1940', International Journal of South Asian Studies, 2010.
  • 'Did Globalization Aid Industrial Development in Colonial India? A Study of Knowledge Transfer in the Iron Industry,' Indian Economic and Social History Review, 2009.
  • 'Factor Markets and the Narrative of Economic Change in South Asia,' Continuity and Change, 2009.
  • 'The Guild in Modern South Asia,' International Review of Social History, 2009.
  • 'Knowledge and Divergence from the Perspective of Early Modern India,' Journal of Global History, 2008
  • 'State, Society, and Market in the Aftermath of Natural Disasters in Colonial India: A Preliminary Exploration,' Indian Economic and Social History Review, 2008.
  • 'Out of Tradition: Master Artisans and Economic Change in Colonial India,'Journal of Asian Studies, 2007.
  • 'A Delayed Revolution: Environment and Agrarian Change in India,' Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 2007.
  • 'Globalization, Factor Prices, and Poverty in Colonial India,' Australian Economic History Review, 2007.