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Law and the Economy in Colonial India$
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Tirthankar Roy and Anand V. Swamy

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226387642

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226387789.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 21 May 2022

Landed Property and Credit

Landed Property and Credit

(p.54) Four Landed Property and Credit
Law and the Economy in Colonial India

Tirthankar Roy

Anand V. Swamy

University of Chicago Press

The institutional changes introduced under British rule in the 19th century made it easier to transfer land. Peasants could now borrow against land, and it could be seized when they failed to repay. It was inevitable that some peasants, faced with disasters such as crop failures or falling prices for their produce, would lose their land to lenders. This was not politically problematic when the lender was a local resident, probably a rich peasant. This was usually the case in relatively prosperous regions. But in poor and dry areas the lender was often an immigrant. Peasants who lost land to immigrants rioted in some areas. Fearing widespread political unrest, the Raj introduced legislation to reduce land transfer. In some instances land transfer was directly restricted, but more common measures involved regulating the moneylender-borrower relationship via usury laws, limits on interest accumulation, and debt-relief, which allowed the borrower to pay less than was owed. A slew of such legislation was passed after the Depression, when many peasants were hard-pressed to repay loans. Thus, whatever its commitment to laissez-faire, the Raj heavily regulated transactions in land and credit.

Keywords:   usury, Depression, credit, immigrant, crop failure, land transfer law

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