DP15431 Measuring Colonial Extraction: The East India Company’s Rule and the Drain of Wealth (1757-1858)
This paper revisits the relationship between capitalism and colonialism by examining the case of British India under East India Company rule (1757-1858). The Marxist-nationalist historiography claims that colonialism generated a steady drain of wealth and that this drain was responsible for Indian famines, poverty, inequality, and economic retardation. I use the East India Company budgets to measure the extent of the wealth that was drained through three direct channels: oppressive land taxes, unproductive expenditures on the imperial army and civil administration, and the unrequited export of commodities from India to Britain. I conclude that available figures lend empirical support to the Marxist interpretation. There was a drain of wealth, and its effect on the underdevelopment of former European colonies deserves further research.