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Four Centuries Of Decline? Understanding The Changing Structure Of The South Indian Textile Industry

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Chapter Summary

This chapter begins by outlining the modern transitions in the textile industry across South Asia, noting the major themes of historical analysis and debate about its decline. It examines recurring themes in the historiography of decline in the specific region of South India. The chapter also examines the structure of the South Indian textile industry, from commercial agriculture, to spinning, weaving, finishing, and commerce. It analyses the nineteenth-century structural changes of the textile industry brought about by industrialization. The historiography of the South Indian textile industry demonstrates the power of the predominant 'declensionist' argument in South Asian history. The historiography of the South Indian textile industry, focusing on hand-loom weavers, identifies and analyzes various kinds of negative changes in modern textile production and commerce. Weavers and textile merchants were challenged by lowering demand and wages, increasing competition and taxes, limitations on their mobility and professional choices, and increased state power.

Keywords: commercial agriculture; declensionist; South Indian textile industry; weavers



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