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On the colonial origins of agricultural development in India: a re-examination of Banerjee and Iyer, ‘History, institutions and economic performance’

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  • Vegard Iversen
  • Richard Palmer-Jones
  • Kunal Sen

Abstract

Abstract Banerjee and Iyer (henceforth, BI) (American Economic Review, 2005) find that districts which the British assigned to landlord revenue systems systematically underperform districts with non-landlord based revenue systems, especially in agricultural investment and productivity and mainly after the onset of the Green Revolution in the mid-1960s. On this basis, BI claim there were long-lasting effects of the institutions established in British India on a variety of development outcomes after independence. We correct a miscoding of the land revenue system in Central Provinces, which BI characterise as mostly landlord based, when reliable historical evidence suggest that this region should have been attributed to a mixed landlord/non-landlord based revenue system. Using a more appropriate classification of the land revenue system of the Central Provinces constructed from documented archival research, we find no evidence that agricultural performance of Indian districts in the post-independence period was adversely affected by the colonial landlord land revenue system. Our results demonstrate that the key BI argument that the more ‘oppressive’ landlord-based colonial land revenue systems mattered for post-independent agricultural development in India rests on fragile historical and statistical foundations.

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Paper provided by BWPI, The University of Manchester in its series Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series with number 17412.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:bwp:bwppap:17412

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  1. H. M. Collins, 1991. "The Meaning of Replication and the Science of Economics," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 23(1), pages 123-142, Spring.
  2. Abhijit Banerjee & Lakshmi Iyer, 2010. "History Institutions and Economic Performance: The Legacy of Colonial Land Tenure Systems in India," Working Papers id:2811, eSocialSciences.
  3. Abhijit Banerjee & Lakshmi Iyer & Rohini Somanathan, 2005. "History, Social Divisions, and Public Goods in Rural India," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 639-647, 04/05.
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