Rural Moneylending, Credit Legislation and Peasant Protest

  • David Hall-Matthews


In previous chapters it has been seen that indebtedness was widespread among Ahmednagar’s peasantry and that the agrarian structure of the district was such that rural moneylenders commanded almost all local capital. Though village sowcars were mostly small operators, dependent on their urban kinsmen for their own resources, the extent of peasants’ thrall allowed monopolistic Marwari lenders to control production and extract its surplus value without having a direct interest in cultivation or its improvement. Indeed the moneylenders opposed the state’s optimistic hopes for development, which would make their own role less profitable.1 For centuries, indebtedness has been seen as one of the most serious brakes on rural development in many parts of India and has been associated with peasant poverty and food insecurity. This link was especially strongly made in the case of the 1876–78 famine in the Deccan, with the Famine Commission Report and almost all colonial officers blaming Marwari exploitation above other factors for ryots’ inability to cope with the monsoon failure. The importance attached to this in the report undermines the assumption, particularly by Temple, that peasants — as opposed to landless labourers — suffered relatively little during the famine. Indebtedness was a focus of attention in part because its extent, nature, causes and effects had already been raked over extensively by the state before the famine, as a result of major protests against moneylenders in Ahmednagar and neighbouring Poona district in 1875.


Credit Market Civil Court Land Improvement Land Transfer Land Sale 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 33.
    Andre Wink, Land and Sovereignty in India: Agrarian Society and Politics under the Eighteenth-century Maratha Svarajya (Cambridge, 1986), pp. 334–5 andGoogle Scholar
  2. Frank Perlin, `Of White Whale and Countrymen in the Eighteenth Century Maratha Deccan: Extended Class Relations, Rights and the Problem of Rural Autonomy under the Old Regime’, Journal ofPeasant Studies, 5 (2) (1978), 190.Google Scholar
  3. 41.
    Cited in K. G. Sivaswamy, Legislative Protection and Relief of Agriculturist Debtors in India (Poona, 1939), p. 33.Google Scholar
  4. 51.
    Charlesworth, ‘The Myth’, pp. 209–14; Morris D. Morris, ‘Economic Change and Agriculture in Nineteenth Century India’, IESHR, 3 (2) (1966), 191;Google Scholar
  5. Dharma Kumar, Land and Caste in South India: Agricultural Labour in the Madras Presidency in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, 1965), p. 179;Google Scholar
  6. Bernard Cohn, ‘Recruitment of Elites in India under British rule’, Conference Paper, 1968. All cited in Catanach, Rural Credit, pp. 12–13.Google Scholar
  7. 86.
    Hardiman, Feeding the Baniya, pp. 254–5, in which he cites, inter alia, James C. Scott, The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia (New Haven, 1976);Google Scholar
  8. E. P. Thompson, ‘The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century’, Past and Present, 50 (1971), 76–136 andCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. David Arnold, ‘Looting, Grain Riots and Government Policy in South India 1918’, Past and Present, 84 (1979), 111–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 103.
    Douglas Haynes, ‘Market Formation in Khandesh, c.1820–1920’, IESHR, 36 (3) (1999), 298.Google Scholar
  11. 199.
    Rosalind O’Hanlon, Caste, Conflict and Ideology: Mahatma Jotirao Phule and Low Caste Protest in Nineteenth-Century Western India (Cambridge, 1985), p. 260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© David Hall-Matthews 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Hall-Matthews

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations