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A history of trade with a wealth of details

Recording the history of business of a country where trade was a defining component of the structure of society itself is heroic.

india Updated: Nov 27, 2006 18:42 IST

The Concise Oxford History of Indian Business
Authors:
Dwijendra Tripathi and Jyoti Jumani
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Pages: 265
Price: Rs 275
Format: Paperback
 
It is no coincidence that some of the world’s oldest enduring civilisations have also had an almost equally long history of trade and business. Indeed, it could be justifiably argued that trade is one of the distinguishing traits of a developed society. It is much more civilised to exchange goods and services with strangers for mutual profit than to bash them on the head with a club and simply take away their possessions. Therefore, to even attempt to record the history of business of a country where trade was a defining component of the structure of society itself — ‘vaisya’ or the merchant caste, formed one of the four principal pillars of the Hindu caste system — is heroic.

Dwijendra Tripathi, a former professor of business history, filled a much-needed gap with his account of the development of what he terms the “modern period” of Indian business, from the time the economy started transforming into a typical industrial economy. The current release is an abridged version.

As narrative history, it is somewhat disappointing with unexplained gaps. The principal addition, a quick summary of the aftermath of liberalisation, is too sketchy to provide fresh insights into the impact of reforms. It is interesting if you randomly dip into it. From Dwarkanath Tagore and his contribution to the rise and fall of agency houses, or India’s first stock market boom and crash in the 1860s, to the rise of the new business class, this volume packs interesting detail.