Myths of South Asian Stasis

Trade with India in Late-Eighteenth-Century French Thought

in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
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During the eighteenth century, European trade with Asia was characterized by the importation of sophisticated manufactured goods in exchange for silver. The features of Euro-Asian trade testify to the vitality of the Indian, Chinese, and Japanese economies in the period before the Great Divergence. Many European observers, however, mistook them for symptoms of economic stasis, purportedly caused by Oriental despotism. Investigating French descriptions of the South Asian economy articulated in debates concerning both the export of silver and competition with South Asian textiles, this article reads Orientalist stereotypes about economic dysfunction as responses to the challenges posed by the Subcontinent’s dynamism and as part of the rhetorical strategies by which European divergence from Asia could be imagined, anticipated, and pursued.

Myths of South Asian Stasis

Trade with India in Late-Eighteenth-Century French Thought

in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

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1

A. FrankReorient: Global Economy in the Asian Age (Berkeley: University of California Press1999); K. Pomeranz Great Divergence: China Europe and the Making of the Modern World Economy (Princeton nj: Princeton University Press 1999); P. Parthasarathi Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not: Global Economic Divergence 1600-1850 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2011). For South Asia see also T. Roy An Economic History of Early Modern India (London: Routledge 2013).

6

B. GuyThe French Image of China Before and After Voltaire (Geneva: Institut et Musée Voltaire1963). W. Davis “China the Confucian Ideal and the European Age of Enlightenment.” Journal of the History of Ideas 44 (1983): 523-48. On the Ottoman Empire see T. Kaiser. “The Evil Empire? The Debate on Turkish Despotism in Eighteenth-Century French Political Culture.” The Journal of Modern History 72/1 (March 2000): 6-34.

15

S. Young“Montesquieu’s View of Despotism and His Use of Travel Literature.” The Review of Politics 40/3 (1978): 392-405. F. Whelan “Oriental Despotism: Anquetil-Duperron’s Response to Montesquieu.” History of Political Thought 22 (Winter 2001): 619-47. For Montesquieu as an economic thinker C. Spector Montesquieu et l’émergence de l’économie politique (Paris: Honoré Champion 2006).

24

MontesquieuLois 3:75-6.

36

F. Nussbaum“The Formation of the New East India Company of Calonne.” The American Historical Review 38 (April 1933): 475-97. Indeed the monarchy began tentatively to reenter the field of Indian Ocean trade from which the state had been largely absent since 1769 even before the end of the war. While peace negotiations were still underway in January 1783 the Naval Ministry began to make financial arrangements for an official commercial expedition to the Indian Ocean and the port of Canton.

43

Parthasarathi“Rethinking Wages and Competitiveness in the Eighteenth Century: Britain and South India.” Past and Present 158 (February 1998): 79-109.

56

Claude Louis BertholletElements de l’art de la teinture (Paris: Didot1791): ix-x.

58

G. Riello“Asian Knowledge and the Development of Calico Printing in Europe in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.” Journal of Global History 5 (2010): 1-2825.

60

R. de HesselnDictionnaire universel de la France (Paris: Desaint1771): 2:380.

62

S. ChassagneOberkampf: Un entrepreneur capitaliste au Siècle des Lumières (Paris: Aubier1980); S. Chassagne and S.D. Chapman European Textile Printers in the Eighteenth-Century: A Study of Peel and Oberkampf (London: Heinemann Educational Books 1981). On the Oberkampf-Huet collaboration see A. Gril-Mariotte and P.J. Warner “Topical Themes from the Oberkampf Textile Manufactory Jouy-en-Josas France 1760-1821.” Studies in the Decorative Arts 17/1 (Fall-Winter 2009-2010): 162-97.

64

A. de FlaixEssai historique géographique et politique sur l’Hindoustan: Avec le tableau de notre commerce (Paris: Pougin1807): 332.

65

G. RielloCotton: The Fabric that Made the Modern World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press2013): 235.

66

P. Schwartz“French Documents on Indian Cotton Painting. 1: The Beaulieu ms. c. 1734.” Journal of Indian Textile History 2 (1956): 3-23. See also O. Raveux “ ‘A la façon du Levant et de Perse’: Marseille et la naissance de l’indiennage européen 1648-1689.” Rives méditerranéennes 1/29 (2008): 37-51. L. Perez “Cultures techniques et pratiques de l’échange entre Lyon et le Levant: inventions et réseaux au XVIIIe siècle.” Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine 49/1 (2002): 89-114. K. Fukusawa Toilerie et commerce du Levant d’Alep à Marseille (Paris: Editions de cnrs 1987). On Marseille see J. Horn “Marseille et la question du mercantilisme: Privilège liberté et économique politique en France 1650-1750.” Histoire économie et société 2 (2011): 95-111.

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