In a letter titled “The Future Results of the British Rule in India,” published in the New York Daily Tribune of August 8, 1853, Karl Marx wrote:

The millocracy have discovered that the transformation of India into a reproductive country has become of vital importance to them, and that, to that end, it is necessary, above all, to gift her with means of irrigation and of internal communication. They intend now drawing a net of railroads over India…. I know that the English millocracy intend to endow India with railways with the exclusive view of extracting at diminished expenses the cotton and other raw materials for their manufactures. But when you have once introduced machinery into the locomotion of a country, which possesses iron and coals, you are unable to withhold it from its fabrication…. The railway system will therefore become, in India, truly the forerunner of modern industry.1

Marx’s prophecy of the railways leading to India’s industrial development did not come true, and India remained underdeveloped at the time of its independence in 1947. This underdevelopment which characterized the relation between the metropole and the colony has been studied extensively by dependency and world-systems theorists in their analysis of the impact of colonialism at the global level. The dependency tradition almost exclusively focuses on the exploitative relation between the metropole and the colony. However, I argue that through the institutions of the colonial state, the metropole initiated economic development strategies such as the railways in India in order to efficiently extract resources from it. Thus, unlike in Marx’s prediction, it wasn’t just the British millocracy that ended up benefiting from railway establishment in India, but the British metropole as a whole did.


Forest Conservation Colonial State Fuel Reserve Core Country Economic Development Strategy 
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    Taken from I. J. Kerr, ed., Railways in Modern India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001), 63, 64, 65.Google Scholar
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© Pallavi V. Das 2015

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