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Fishing Rights and Colonial Government: Institutional Development in the Bengal Presidency

Author

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  • Shourya Sen
  • Richard Adelstein

    () (Department of Economics, Wesleyan University)

Abstract

We examine the evolution of fishing rights in colonial Bengal through a series of cases heard at the Calcutta High Court in the 1880s and culminating in the passage of legislation in 1889. We posit an implicit relational contract between the colonizing British and the landowning class in colonial Bengal as a way to understand the concurrent evolution of fishing rights and institutions of governance in the region. The system of incentives created by this contract determined the development of fishing rights at a crucial moment in the history of colonial Bengal and, more broadly, became a primary mechanism of institutional change in the region. The analysis also shows the Calcutta High Court to have acted, albeit in vain, as a truly independent judiciary.

Suggested Citation

  • Shourya Sen & Richard Adelstein, 2019. "Fishing Rights and Colonial Government: Institutional Development in the Bengal Presidency," Wesleyan Economics Working Papers 2019-001, Wesleyan University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:wes:weswpa:2019-001
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    File URL: http://repec.wesleyan.edu/pdf/radelstein/2019001_adelstein.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    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. North, Douglass C. & Weingast, Barry R., 1989. "Constitutions and Commitment: The Evolution of Institutions Governing Public Choice in Seventeenth-Century England," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(04), pages 803-832, December.
    3. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    fishing rights; state formation; relational contracts; colonialism; credible commitments;

    JEL classification:

    • N55 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - Asia including Middle East
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • P48 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems - - - Political Economy; Legal Institutions; Property Rights; Natural Resources; Energy; Environment; Regional Studies

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