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Lecture and Seminar by Prof Tirthankar Roy

As part of the Lecture Series scheduled for the year 2018-19 by Visiting Research Fellows at the Centre, Professor Tirthankar Roy, Professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science, delivered a lecture on, “ What do Economic Historians do?” at the CDS on 11 April 2018.

The lecture introduced economic history as a subject of study and discussed the different ways that specialists do economic history, and the debates that they participate in. The central debate in our times concerns the origins of world economic inequality from around the 1820s, when modern economic growth began. Why did some countries forge ahead and others fall behind? The question is an old one, but the 2000s saw major revival in debates and discussions on the question. The lecture covered the main theories, discussed a few influential books written in the last decade that use Indian evidence, and offered critical comments on both sets.

Professor Roy also gave a seminar on “ India and the New Economic History of Colonialism” on 12 April, 2018 at the Joan Robinson Hall at CDS.

The talk was based on a research paper that re-examines the role of the state in economic change in colonial India (1757-1947), by paying attention to fiscal capacity. This capacity was larger than that of the pre-colonial states, and based on different foundations, such as centralization of finance and securitization of public debt. Nevertheless, the effort to raise finance hit a barrier, which had owed to the separation of debt from revenue operations. Did the barrier matter? By keeping markets open, the Empire in India served private enterprise, but its failure to sustain growth in fiscal capacity compromised social welfare.

Professor Tirthankar Roy is presently Professor in the Economic History Department of the London School of Economics and Political Science. He works on economic history, business history, history of development policy and the classical music of India. He teaches South Asia and Global History at the LSE. His most recent publications include A Business History of India: Enterprise and the Emergence of Capitalism from 1700, Cambridge University Press, 2018 and The Economy of South Asia- From 1950 to the Present, Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.