ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Estimating Agricultural Productivity in Mysore and South Canara from Buchanan's Journey (1800-01)

Positioning India in the Great Divergence Debate

In 1800 and 1801 Francis Buchanan conducted one of the first agricultural surveys in the erstwhile Mysore state and its adjoining regions. By subjecting data contained in his survey to rigorous analytical study, estimates of agricultural productivity in terms of per capita grain output for two regions in Southern India; the erstwhile Mysore state and South Canara district can be obtained. Given that reliable estimates of agricultural productivity for the pre-1800 period outside of North-West Europe are relatively sparse, the present study adds to the archive of known estimates of agricultural productivity so as to enable comparative studies of economic performance. Moreover, since agricultural productivity had a direct bearing on the standard of living in medieval and early modern economies, the findings of this paper have important implications for India's position in the Great Divergence debate.

I thank the Foundation to Aid Industrial Recovery, New Delhi/Bengaluru, for supporting this research. A preliminary version of this paper was presented at the Seminar on Scientific Knowledge, Cultural Technologies and Colonial Explorations of Peninsular India held at the Department of History, Pondicherry University in February 2011. The comments of and discussion with participants were invaluable in compiling the fi nal version of this paper. I remain, of course, solely responsible for the contents of the paper.

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