Conversations: A Future That Could Have Been

At Devayasna, much of our ideas arise out of free-flowing discourse. Distilling this into a long form post is arduous and on occasion unnecessary. Our goal is to instill pride in the Hindu for his ancestors and to spark a new era of thought among the discerning. To this end we introduce Conversations, a series of posts arising from some of our thoughts on various topics of interest.

A Future That Could Have Been:


India in 1795

@_Mauna_ : Question – What kind of conflict management or admin model was favoured amongst the Marathas if they had won or, did they take it one day at a time?

@ColonelGerard: In my opinion, if Madhavrao I had lived longer we may have eventually evolved some sort of modern state.

Some interesting things which happened with the British contact. Even in the 1770s/1780s, men like Ram Shastri Prabhune had mastered English. He was well versed in British law & the Peshwa libraries contained many English books. Sir Charles Malet was a very amiable & popular resident at Pune. He introduced European arts/science/medicine in the time of Peshwa Sawai Madhavrao. A couple of resident surgeons Dr Crusoe & Dr Findlay actually started treating people, and knowledge European medicine caught on in Pune.

This Dr Findlay started giving lessons to the Peshwa in astronomy & geography as well. His library was stocked with European books on science. Sir Charles Malet also gifted him several telescopes & globes. The Peshwa was very charged by them, and spent quite a bit of time star-gazing.

So, long story short, the Peshwas had got exposure to European science & had ppl who were capable of reading those books easily (unlike say the struggles of Sugita Genpaku etc).

The effects of the Industrial Revolution too would have undoubtedly hit us in due course, but whether we could have innovated, grabbed and adapted best practices, and how it wud have changed our society had it remained independent is hard to say.

@SkandaVeera: One can make a fair guess – each kula would have honed its skill and technology with the state and vaiSya-s setting up scale production, and a model of economy organically evolved which neither having capitalist nor communist problems.

@ColonelGerard: It would have evolved organically if there was no external pressure. But the scenario we are talking about is as follows:

1. The Marathas are not defeated & are in control over most of India after a victory at Panipat (let’s assume).

2. The British & French have not gone away. The British have a strong foothold in Bengal & the French have their possessions in the South.

3. The British expansion proceeds from the South after crushing Tipu. Now, assume there is a strong ruler to halt this expansion.

How long would such a ruler have been able to hold out?

@_Mauna_ : Possibly not without foreign allies.

@ColonelGerard: England would have kept on trying. England would never give up, unless the power which stood in their way (Marathas) was so strong that they were forced to abandon any thoughts of taking them on.

The presence of England might have forced the Marathas to industrialize, even if say Madhavrao-I lived to say 65-70 years & ruled very strongly

@_Mauna_ : Yes. Something like Japan after Perry.

@ColonelGerard: England was just beginning to get that edge of thru industrial revolution (however terrible its social effects were). How would the Marathas have caught up that level of artillery production without trying to do something similar, I wonder.

@_Mauna_ : But my original point was of Polity. The Marathas were not leading a homogenous nation of the likes of Japan. So what kind of Polity could have provided them room to industrialize?

@SkandaVeera: As long as self-rule continued, I do not think European pressure would have worked in feudalizing our society – adopting industry does not necessarily mean society would have embraced it in a labor model.

@HoldsASharpPen: I think I can add my two cents about the British story of industrialization.

One has to remember that science did not move forward in the same way as technology during the industrial revolution.For example,he steam engine had been actually invented much earlier than the famous James Watt engine (by at least 50-60 years).

The real story was that there were financial mechanisms and bodies that could help this development in the first place. In contrast, money in India flowed only one way – and that will one day be a paper from my side.

@ColonelGerard: To be frank, the contest was over even before England had felt benefits of the Industrial Revolution in any big way. They were on the verge of it by the time they won India, but not fully there yet. So, had the contest raged on for say another 50 years before another big showdown, the Marathas would have actually ended up facing a much stronger England.

Which would mean, the Hindus too would have had to quickly acquire the steam engine, railroad etc in place to hold out in such a contest. Not impossible with an enlightened ruler.

@KrishnaKerala: Gregory Clark spends some time in his book “A Farewell to Alms” discussing why Japan, China and India didn’t industrialize as fast as England during the 19th and early 20th centuries – the time period in which “capital returns (the interest rate earned on capital), though not fully equalized, were similar enough that we can regard capital as flowing freely around the world”. The primary reason given for all three is that “They were inefficient in the use of labor, not in the use of capital. Even though they were using the same machines as the high-wage economies, they employed many more workers per machine, without obtaining any additional output from the machines.” And also “In a world of free-flowing capital, differences in the efficiencies of economies are translated into much bigger differences in income through the concentration of capital in the high-efficiency areas. Thus Britain is estimated to have five times the efficiency of the Indian economy in 1913, but nearly eight times the income per person.”

@SkandaVeera: The concept of labor commoditizes humans, and the “rights” of the labor got elevated with time, from slave to serf to labor to employee. And so did the concept of “efficiency of use” evolve.
But again, all this is seeing at it from the western prism – the view of manpower capital, the notions of productivity and excellence etc all have very different Indian counterparts.
@KrishnaKerala: Clark says that workers in low-wage countries worked much more hours (2-3 times even) than those in England, but still couldn’t make up for efficiency of the English.
Clark: “The low-wage countries actually had a further major advantage over British producers. The struggles of social reformers and labor unions in England in the nineteenth century had led to a series of Factory Acts that sought to tame what was perceived as the savage mastery of machine over worker. These laws limited adult workers to fifty-five-hour weeks and children to half these hours. Women and children were prohibited from doing night work. Since women represented over 60 percent of the labor force in English mills, and an even higher proportion in some occupations such as weaving, the mills chose not to run at night. English mills ran only 2,775 hours per year. Low-wage countries either had no such restrictions or else did not enforce the ones they did have. Most chose to run long hours using night workers.”

@SkandaVeera: Also consider another question – how critical is individual productivity of labor in a large demography compared to Brits? Does this not tell us that the parameters that are being looked at are all from a western perspective?

We need to create analyses from OUR civilizational perspective, taking what framework and parameters makes sense from that perspective.

@KrishnaKerala: “Even though they were using the same machines as the high-wage economies, they employed many more workers per machine, without obtaining any additional output from the machines. Thus in ring spinning one worker in the northern United States tended 900 spindles, while one worker in China tended only 170. On plain looms a worker in the northern United States managed eight looms at a time, in China only one or two. The numbers of workers per machine varied by about 6:1 across countries.”

The one lesson I took away from Clark and also from “Late Victorian Holocausts” by Mike Davis is that the free flow of capital is catastrophic in a world that is unequally endowed (in any aspect).

@i_contemplate_: Catastrophic for whom? 🙂

@KrishnaKerala: 🙂


2 thoughts on “Conversations: A Future That Could Have Been

  1. In the present situation, with a declining demographic & a state which refuses to recognize our core civilizational needs (ie education & media) what are our options?

    With a lemoa & possibly cismoa tied, leading to a reduced ability for coup or samson option & an increasingly brutal (toward Hindus) & modernized police machinery, guerrilla war or vigilante operation also becomes untenable.

    With increasing melech (USA) control over army promotions, infiltration of the top ranks becomes an impossibility & we’re left with a situation similar to ww1. Ie bloody guerrilla wars by ex-vets & the like & eventual loss of more territory ie NE, Assam, W Bengal & Kerala.

    With Kashmir & West UP a possibility but unlikely due to presence of Dogras, Sikhs & Jats.


  2. Does this analysis ignore that Hindu temples the traditional lenders & intellectual centres were continuously attacked. We have one society on offensive & another in defensive.

    Sanjeev Sanyal book on Indian Ocean History goes through this.

    Hindus especially coastal ones with a long maritime tradition, started making Jaati rules for not crossing borders or seas. Ie we turned Inward due to Turkic/Mongol invasions which also sank Baghdad Caliphate & China.

    Ie Barbarians the same type of Barbarians that Anglo Saxon are as

    Maharaja Ranjit Singh was able to acquire enough cannons to take on the British but, it was a stalemate with the decentralized militia nature of the Army & in fighting after his death ultimately destroying the empire.

    Have read at the time 50% of India GDP was in Punjab, so why the Maratha focus?

    Also that map in 1795 is not accurate at Sikh Misl controlled from Yamuna to Sindhu.


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