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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’


  • Vegard Iversen
  • Richard Palmer-Jones
  • Kunal Sen


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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  • Vegard Iversen & Richard Palmer-Jones & Kunal Sen, 2012. "On the colonial origins of agricultural development in India: a re-examination of Banerjee and Iyer, ‘History, institutions and economic performance’," Global Development Institute Working Paper Series 17412, GDI, The University of Manchester.
  • Handle: RePEc:bwp:bwppap:17412

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    1. Abhijit Banerjee & Lakshmi Iyer, 2005. "History, Institutions, and Economic Performance: The Legacy of Colonial Land Tenure Systems in India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1190-1213, September.
    2. La Porta, Rafael & Lopez-de-Silanes, Florencio & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert, 2000. "Investor protection and corporate governance," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(1-2), pages 3-27.
    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.
    4. repec:hrv:faseco:30747160 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. 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.
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    1. repec:eee:wdevel:v:96:y:2017:i:c:p:52-64 is not listed on IDEAS

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