• This chapter tells story of crafts and industries of India during British rule by focusing on two industries, namely, textiles & iron & steel.
• Both these industries were crucial for industrial revolution in modern world. mechanised production of cotton textiles made Britain foremost industrial nation in 19th century.
• And when its iron and steel industry started growing from 1850s, Britain came to be called ‘workshop of world’.
• industrialisation of Britain had a close connection with conquest and colonisation of India.
Indian Textiles and World Market
• India was world’s largest manufacturer of cotton textiles around 1750, famous for their superb quality and beautiful craftsmanship. Southeast Asia [Java, Sumatra & Penang] as well as West and Central Asia traded them. Indian textiles were purchased by European trading companies and sold in Europe.
Words tell us histories
• Fine cotton cloth from India was first discovered by European traders in Mosul, present-day Iraq, carried by Arab merchants. Portuguese travelled to India in pursuit of spices and cotton fabrics, which they dubbed ‘calico’ in Europe [derived from Calicut]. Other such phrases that alluded to Indian textiles’ appeal in Western markets.
• Printed cotton fabrics were termed chintz, cossaes [or khassa] and bandanna, among other names. word chintz comes from Hindi word chhint, which refers to a textile with little colourful floral motifs. magnificent floral motifs, delicate texture and relative cheapness of Indian cotton fabrics sparked a trend in England and Europe.
• Bandanna, derived from word ‘bandhna’, refers to any brightly coloured and printed scarf for neck or head produced through a method of tying and dying.
• Other cloths in order book that were noted by their place of origin: Kasimbazar, Patna, Calcutta, Orissa, Charpoore. widespread use of such words shows how popular Indian textiles had become in different parts of world.
Indian textiles in European markets
• Indian textiles became widely popular by early 18th century, which worried wool and silk makers in England. They began protesting against import of Indian cotton textiles. In 1720, British Government enacted legislation banning use of printed cotton textiles – chintz – in England, known as Calico Act.
• textile businesses in England had only recently begun to flourish and they desired a secure market within kingdom by prohibiting Indian textiles from entering. Calico printing industry was established with government support. In England, Indian motifs were copied and printed on white muslin or unbleached Indian cloth.
• John Kaye invented spinning jenny in 1764. steam engine, created by Richard Arkwright in 1786, revolutionised cotton textile weaving. Until end of 18th century, Indian textiles dominated world trade. By importing silver, European trading companies were able to acquire cotton and silk fabrics in India.
Who were weavers?
• Weavers often belonged to communities that specialised in weaving. Their skills were passed on from one generation to next. tanti weavers of Bengal, julahas or momin weavers of north India, sale & kaikollar and devangs of south India are some of communities famous for weaving.
• charkha and takli were employed in initial stage of manufacture, spinning. charkha spun thread, which was then rolled on takli. weaver knitted thread into cloth once it was spun.
• dyer, called rangrez, dyed thread for coloured fabrics. Weavers needed expertise of chhipigars, or specialist block printers, to create printed cloth.
decline of Indian textiles
• In Britain, cotton industries were developed which affected textile producers in India.
• Indian textiles had to compete with British textiles in European and American markets.
• Exporting textiles to England became increasingly difficult since very high duties were imposed on Indian textiles imported to Britain.
• traditional market for Indian commodities in Africa, America & Europe has been displaced by English-made cotton textiles. Distressed weavers petitioned government for assistance after English and European corporations stopped buying Indian textiles.
• By 1830s, Indian markets had been swamped by British cotton material, which harmed specially weavers and spinners. Handloom weaving survived in India because some types of cloth could not be produced by machines.
• In late 1800s, Sholapur in western India and Madura in southern India emerged as key new weaving centres. During national movement, Mahatma Gandhi pushed people to boycott imported textiles in favour of hand-spun and handwoven material.
• charkha became a symbol of India, whereas khadi became a symbol of nationalism. charkha was placed in centre of Indian National Congress’s tricolour flag, which was adopted in 1931.
Cotton mills come up
• first cotton mill in India was set up as a spinning mill in Bombay in 1854. From early 19th century, Bombay had grown as an important port for export of raw cotton from India to England and China. It was close to vast black soil tract of western India where cotton was grown. When cotton textile mills came up they could get supplies of raw material with ease.
• By 1900, Parsi & Gujarati industrialists had established over 84 mills in Bombay. Cities began to create mills and first mill in Ahmedabad was established in 1861. Cotton mill expansion necessitated more workers. mills employed poor peasants, artisans & agricultural labourers.
• textile factory industry in India had challenges, such as, competing with low-cost textiles imported from United Kingdom. In most countries, government-aided industrialization by levying high import tariffs, which eliminated competition and protected fledgling companies.
• As a result, first big spurt in development of cotton factory production in India occurred during first World War, when British textile imports fell and Indian factories were known as upon to create cloth for military supplies.
sword of Tipu Sultan and Wootz steel
• Tipu Sultan’s sword was unique in that it possessed an extremely strong and sharp edge that could readily rip through an opponent’s armour.
• sword’s exceptional quality stemmed from a specific form of high carbon steel called Wootz, which was produced throughout south India. Wootz steel generated a razor-sharp edge with a flowing water pattern due to presence of very minute carbon crystals imbedded in iron.
• Wootz steel was made in Mysore in hundreds of smelting furnaces. Smelting is process of getting a metal from rock or soil by heating it at a very high temperature or melting metal objects to make something new. In these furnaces, iron was mixed with charcoal and put in small clay pots. By carefully controlling temperatures, smelters made steel ingots that were used to make swords.
• Wootz is an anglicised version of Kannada word ukku, Telugu hukku and Tamil and Malayalam urukku – meaning steel. South India knew a lot about how Wootz steel was made, but by middle of 19th century, it was no longer made there. When British took over India, people who made swords and armour lost their jobs, and iron and steel from England replaced iron and steel made by craftspeople in India.
Abandoned furnaces in villages
• Wootz steel manufacturing necessitated a highly specialised iron refining procedure. Iron smelting was common in India until late 18th century.
• Every district in Bihar and Central India had a smelter. Clay and sun-dried bricks were used to construct furnaces. art of iron smelting had fallen out of favour by late 19th century. reason for this was that government forbade individuals from entering protected areas.
• In other locations, government provided access to forest, but iron smelters were required to pay a substantial tax to forest department for each furnace they used.
• Iron and steel were imported from Britain by late 19th century. By early twentieth century, iron & steel artisans were up against new competition.
Iron and steel factories come up in India
• In 1904, an American geologist named Charles Weld and Jamsetji Tata’s eldest son, Dorabji Tata, travelled to Chhattisgarh in quest of iron ore resources.
• In India, they intended to build a sophisticated iron and steel plant. After months of searching, Weld & Dorabji discovered Rajhara Hills, which contained some of world’s finest ores.
• However, area was dry and there was no water around. As a result, search continued and Agarias assisted in finding of an iron ore supply.
• To build factory and an industrial township – Jamshedpur – a significant amount of forest was cut along banks of river Subarnarekha. In 1912, Tata Iron & Steel Company [TISCO] began manufacturing steel.
• Prior to TISCO, India was importing steel from United Kingdom. By time TISCO was established, situation had altered. When First World War broke out in 1914, steel manufactured in United Kingdom had to fulfil demands of European conflict.
• Because conflict lasted several years, TISCO was forced to make shells and carriage wheels. Within British empire, TISCO grew to be largest steel producer.
• Industrial expansion occurred in case of iron and steel when British imports into India decreased and market for Indian industrial goods grew. As nationalist movement and industrial class grew in strength, call for government protection grew louder.