Breaching the Nadu: Lordship and economic development in pre-colonial South India

Vivek Chibber

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    In this article I present a new framework for the analysis of the South Indian economy over the medieval and early modern epochs, centred on the effects of social property relations. I argue that the overall pattern was one of steady economic development, but with a marked increase in trade and commodity development in the early modern era. This is explained through a transformation of intra-class relations that followed the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire. Whereas in the medieval period, economic growth had been subject to the constraints imposed by effective lordly cohesion, which squeezed peasant income and limited trade, this cohesiveness gave way under the hammer blows dealt to it by Vijayanagara rulers. As the South entered the early modern era, lords found themselves without the traditional mechanisms of class organisation, and producers were able to capitalise on their weakness for economic gain. Nevertheless, production still remained peasant based, and, pace some of the more ambitious claims of recent historiography, was oriented toward the minimisation of risk, and not the maximisation of profit. Hence, though there was an increase in the circulation of commodities, this was an artifact of a change within a pre-capitalist regime, and not a harbinger of a transition to capitalism.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1-42
    Number of pages42
    JournalJournal of Peasant Studies
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Oct 1998

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Cultural Studies
    • Anthropology
    • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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