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Languages: English
Types: Doctoral thesis
Subjects: DA
Bengal raw silk was never renowned for its high quality, yet it attracted the interest of the European trading companies from the seventeenth century. This thesis explores the English East India Company’s silk manufacturing activities in Bengal and the Company’s trade in Bengal raw silk in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. The Company’s interest in Bengal raw silk was driven both by economic and political factors – profit maximization and mercantilist ideas about governance. The English East India Company considered Bengal raw silk to be an item with potential high returns as the British silk weaving industry required supplies of raw material unavailable domestically. However, the quality of the Bengal raw silk was low and it could not be easily used in British weaving. Britain thus relied on the importation of raw silk from Italy, Turkey and the Mediterranean region. The English East India Company saw an opportunity to replace these supplies with silk imported from Bengal. In order to improve the quality of the raw silk produced in Bengal, the Company decided to adopt the Piedmontese system of silk reeling – the most advanced reeling system in Europe. The thesis shows that this new system of reeling was profitable. Yet, the quality of the Bengal raw silk did not improve as much as expected: a large part of the silk produced was of substandard quality. My thesis argues that the primary reason why substandard raw silk was produced was the inadequate institutional framework of production which facilitated principal-agent problems.
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