DP7522 Economic Conditions in Early Modern Bengal: A Contribution to the Divergence Debate

Author(s): Tirthankar Roy
Publication Date: October 2009
Keyword(s): Colonial India, Comparative development, National income
JEL(s): N10, N15
Programme Areas: International Macroeconomics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=7522

The paper contributes to the debate on relative levels of living in the early modern world by estimating the income of and probable range of income growth in Bengal before European colonization. The exercise yields two conclusions, (a) average income in Bengal was significantly smaller than that in contemporary Western Europe, and (b) there is insufficient basis to infer either growth or decline in average income in the 50 years before colonization and the century after. The former conclusion is relevant to the discussion on the origins of international economic inequality, or ?divergence?, and the latter is relevant to the scholarship that considers the economic effects of colonialism.