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Merchants, institutions and the market: changes in the salt trade in early colonial Bengal


  • Sayako Kanda

    () (Graduate School of Economics, Osaka University)


This paper explores the transformation of the economy and society in early colonial Bengal, roughly between c.1780 and c.1840, through a case study of the salt trade and its changes. It argues that several private trade institutions, particularly various types of intermediaries at different stages of transactions and multi-caste elite organisations, enabled a large flow of commodities, cash, credit and information despite regional and functional divisions in the market as well as social divisions among merchants. The coming of the British led to an expansion of the market and opened up various commercial opportunities to the socially inferior eamateur f merchants, and this led to a confusion in mercantile communities and necessitated a new order among them. By strengthening the functions of those private trade institutions and utilising the new British legal system, mercantile communities managed to accommodate these new merchants and respond to the increased volume of trade.

Suggested Citation

  • Sayako Kanda, 2008. "Merchants, institutions and the market: changes in the salt trade in early colonial Bengal," Discussion Papers in Economics and Business 08-02, Osaka University, Graduate School of Economics and Osaka School of International Public Policy (OSIPP).
  • Handle: RePEc:osk:wpaper:0802

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hayashi, Fumio & Inoue, Tohru, 1991. "The Relation between Firm Growth and Q with Multiple Capital Goods: Theory and Evidence from Panel Data on Japanese Firms," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(3), pages 731-753, May.
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    More about this item


    Colonial Transition; Economic History of India; Private Trade Institutions; Intermediaries; English East India Company;

    JEL classification:

    • N45 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Asia including Middle East
    • N75 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - Asia including Middle East
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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