The Economic History of South Asia, 1600-2000

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Tirthankar Roy SAR 6.16


This course is available on the BSc in Economic History, BSc in Economic History with Economics and BSc in Economics and Economic History. This course is not available as an outside option nor to General Course students.

Course content

South Asia is one of the fastest growing economies of the world. The region is also home to nearly one-third of the world's poorest people. How did this paradoxical mix between the creation of wealth and persistence of poverty come into being? Does economic history suggest an answer? The course introduces the stylized facts and major debates in the economic history of modern South Asia. It considers the legacies of empires and developmental states, globalizations of the past and the present times, and the role of indigenous institutions and resource endowments. The course begins with a discussion of empires and markets before European colonial rule began, with special reference to maritime trade and craft production, in which the European East India companies were interested in. For the colonial period, the major theme is the transformation engendered by colonialism and international economic integration. In the sixty years since the end of colonial rule, developmental states tried to overcome the obstacles to growth as the economists interpreted them. The course considers how successful they were in meeting the aim, and why they were limitedly successful.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 40 hours across Michaelmas Term and Lent Term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of virtual classes and flipped-lectures delivered as short online videos. This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of Michaelmas and Lent Term.

Formative coursework

Students are expected to write three essays or equivalent pieces of written work.

Indicative reading

1. Dietmar Rothermund, An Economic History of India (1993)

2. B.R. Tomlinson, The Economy of Modern India (2013)

3. Tirthankar Roy, The Economic History of India 1757-2010 (2011)

4. G. Balachandran, ed., India and the World Economy 1850-1950 (2003)

5. Latika Chaudhary and others, eds., A New Economic History of Colonial India (2016)

6. P.J. Marshall, ed., The Eighteenth Century in Indian History (2004)


Exam (90%, duration: 3 hours) in the summer exam period.
Class participation (10%) in the MT and LT.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Economic History

Total students 2019/20: 24

Average class size 2019/20: 12

Capped 2019/20: Yes (30)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information