ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Moral Economy and the Indigo Movement

During 1859-61, a large portion of colonial Bengal became a site of contest between the indigo peasants and English planters, with the Bengali bhadralok and British officialdom as important stakeholders. On the face of it, the Indigo movement was against the oppressive and unremunerative system of indigo cultivation. It was perceived by the ryot as a threat to his security of subsistence, but there was much more to it than that. It was an affront to the use of customary rights held by the peasant and was a constriction or denial of choice where earlier there was complete freedom to choose the crop for cultivation. For an adequate understanding of the Indigo movement and perhaps for the historiography of the Indian peasant movements in general, both political and moral economy approaches need to be taken into consideration.

SPECIAL ARTICLE

Moral Economy and the Indigo Movement

Sanjay Ghildiyal

During 1859-61, a large portion of colonial Bengal became a site of contest between the indigo peasants and English planters, with the Bengali bhadralok and British officialdom as important stakeholders. On the face of it, the Indigo movement was against the oppressive and unremunerative system of indigo cultivation. It was perceived by the ryot as a threat to his security of subsistence, but there was much more to it than that. It was an affront to the use of customary rights held by the peasant and was a constriction or denial of choice where earlier there was complete freedom to choose the crop for cultivation. For an adequate understanding of the Indigo movement and perhaps for the historiography of the Indian peasant movements in general, both political and moral economy approaches need to be taken into consideration.

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