India's share of world GDP in the 17th century was around 25%. Why didn't the Industrial Revolution start in India?
Really nice question. I don't know really I have not gotten to study that particular area of study in India. But I could give a guess for fun. So you said it's 17 century. So that would be the 1600s and where was America well nowhere yet. So with the surpassing of hundreds of years if America had not become a nation I guess it would have fallen on India to industrialize...
On one hand the Indian rulers didn’t care about it.
Our colonizers wanted india to be raw material exporter rather than an industrial country.
Hence we were never part of the industrial revolution.
While India had a significant share of world GDP in the 17th century, several factors contributed to the Industrial Revolution not starting there. Geopolitical changes, technological advancements in other regions, colonial rule, and economic dynamics played roles in sha the course of history.
There are a number of reasons why the Industrial Revolution did not start in India. Some of the most important reasons include:
Lack of capital. The Industrial Revolution required a large amount of capital to invest in new technologies and infrastructure. India did not have the same level of capital accumulation as Europe, which made it difficult to finance the Industrial Revolution.
Lack of technological innovation. India did not have the same level of technological innovation as Europe. This was due to a number of factors, including the lack of a strong scientific tradition, the caste system, and the British colonial government's policies.
Lack of political stability. India was a politically fragmented country in the 17th century. This made it difficult to implement the kind of economic reforms that were necessary for the Industrial Revolution.
Lack of demand for manufactured goods. The Indian economy was largely based on agriculture in the 17th century. There was not a large demand for manufactured goods, which made it difficult to justify the investment in new factories.
In addition to these factors, the British colonial government also played a role in preventing the Industrial Revolution from taking hold in India. The British government imposed high taxes on Indian industries, which made it difficult for them to compete with European industries. The British government also discriminated against Indian businesses, which made it difficult for them to get loans and other forms of financial support.
As a result of these factors, the Industrial Revolution did not start in India. Instead, it started in Europe, and then spread to other parts of the world. However, India is now one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and it is possible that it will eventually experience its own Industrial Revolution.
There is a much simpler explanation to answer. India did not need a revolution as it had people power and a highly stratified society that worked against social mobility and the ability to acquire capital.
In the 17Cent the height of Indian GDP power the income was derived from trade with the British and French through two companies a French Govt company and a British joint stock charter company.
Huge wealth was accumulated in India but the British East India Company and other British traders took Indian cotton and fabric products to the world at much higher mark ups, they got even more wealthy, so cheap was British supplied fabric (from India) to Mexco that it caused the collapse of the domestic Mexcan industry, just like charity clothes collections auctioned off in West Africa and Kenya have in the 2000s, supplied cheap clothes but destroyed the African Garment and fabric industries.
The capital amassed was invested in new ventures across a broader stratum of activity and people.
Trade, the Mughals were a land based people and did not go in for or prioritise trade by sea and ship building. All international Indian ship was coastal and did not go as far as it had before the arrival of the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean. The Portuguese with their cannons and fast ships taxed all Indian Ocean ships and every Capitan had to have paid vessel passport.
Political instability in India occured when a new Muslim Mugal leader reintroduced Jhizera a tax on non Muslims. This was very very unpopular and upset the multi religious balance in India ( bit like Modi and the BJP in 2023) Hindu and Zastorost bankers paid a foreigner Clive of India and the British East India company to over throw him, which they did.
How ever within a few decades the Brits began moving the fabric industry to NW England, Northern Ireland and the Clyde. With less people they increased production to meet demand with machinery and innovation. They also taxed and restricted Indian businesses bit by bit from being competitive with British companies based in UK. So they de industrialised semi industrial India.
Scientific inquiry began to stagnate in medieval India.
This was pointed out as early as -11th century by Al-biruni:
He pointed out several factors, one of them being - the Islamic invasions which proved to be a set back to the Indian sciences.
In addition, he pointed out the haughtiness of Indians in general and their insular nature.
He pointed out how Indians took great care to withheld knowledge from other castes.
He also pointed out Indians thought that any knowledge of science was exclusive to them and failed to acknowledge the development of science elsewhere.
He also pointed out that Indian science was mixed with dogma.
Stagnation of scientific inquiry isn’t exclusive to India, Alberuni was from the time - when the Islamic golden age was in peak. But, what happened after the Islamic golden age ended ? Dogma ruled the roost in Islamic world as well.
Why was scientific inquiry important?
Scientific inquiry led to inventions and discoveries and helped revolutionize various fields.
Take the invention of Printing press for example, it revolutionized the field of education.
Emperor Akbar, who was actually a great patron of art and literature, refused to accept a printing press brought by the Portuguese in the 16th century.
Printing press was one major invention which proved to be a game changer for Europe. It aided scientific inquiry.
Johann Gutenberg's invention of movable-type printing quickened the spread of knowledge, discoveries, and literacy in Renaissance Europe.
Price of books fell after printing press came into use.
Before the printing press, books belonged primarily to the upper classes. But with books cheaper and more readily available, the middle classes could access them as well. This led to an increase in the literacy and education of the public.
It is said that, rejection of printing press alone kept the Indian subcontinent backwards by at least two hundred years.
This is just one example.
By the time the colonials arrived on the shores and started ruling large swathes of Indian subcontinent, they noticed that the education system severely lacked scientific inquiry and still lacked the scientific perfection- which Alberuni pointed out way back in the 11th century.
The traditional Indian schools were teaching outdated scientific models. Which hardly helped anyone innovate. Which is why when the western education was introduced, the upper castes didn’t think twice before switching to the new education system.
Macaulay pointed out how a ‘learned scholar’ in Indian subcontinent meant a scholar of religion rather than sciences
The British were initially reluctant to introduce western education. They feared hurting native sentiments. And they didn’t aim to educate the masses as - it was none of their concern. They introduced the downward filtration theory, which proved to be a failure, as knowledge didn’t trickle to the lowest layers of the society.
Even the oriental colleges they started taught outdated scientific models. And a majority of the so called scholars were either scholars of Sanskrit or Arabic literature.
The British occupation also destroyed the native industries, which were not modernized yet. Technological superiority gave them the upper hand.
While Britain was able to manufacture cheap textiles in larger quantities using power looms, Indian textile industry was largely - based on handlooms.
The hand loom industry of Indian subcontinent was no match for this :
Lack of scientific inquiry led to lack of modernization of industries in Indian subcontinent, to top it off, rulers didn’t adopt new technologies, this gave an upper hand to foreign colonizers who were able to control trade, especially industries like textile industry, this directly resulted in - impoverishment of an average Indian.