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Smuggling India: Deconstructing Western India's Illicit Export Trade, 1818–1870

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jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:pIn the 1800s it was not only merchants from British India who participated in the expanding trade with China, but also those from the princely states who sought to profit from the increased demand for cash crops. Smuggling—just as most commercial activities unsanctioned by the Bombay Government were labelled—was a source of great anxiety for the colonial authorities in India, especially in the western territories. This article looks at smuggling activity in and around the Bombay Presidency during the first half of the nineteenth century. It will assert that local ‘smuggling’ was, in many cases, the continuation of pre-colonial trade relations, labelled as illegal as a result of ill-defined boundaries and ambiguous legal restrictions. In fact, the success of these activities was less a reflection of widespread criminality than structural weaknesses in the colonial administration. Evidence suggests that British anxieties over smuggling had a greater effect on the political economy of western India than the actual financial damage caused by the illicit trade. The coordinated subversive smuggling network, ultimately, did not exist, and held power largely as a figment of the imperial imagination.</jats:p>


This is the accepted manuscript of a paper which will be published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society.


4303 Historical Studies, 43 History, Heritage and Archaeology, 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

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Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society

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Cambridge University Press (CUP)