Empire, Industry and Class
The Imperial Nexus of Jute, 1840-1940
By Anthony Cox
Routledge – 2012 – 272 pages
Presenting a new approach towards the social history of working classes in the imperial context, this book looks at the formation of working classes in Scotland and Bengal. It analyses the trajectory of labour market formation, labour supervision, cultures of labour and class formation between two regional economies – one in an imperial country and the other in a colonial one.
The book examines the everyday lives of the jute workers of the imperial nexus, and the impact of the ‘Dundee School’ of Scottish mechanics, engineers and managers who ran the Calcutta jute industry. It goes on to challenge existing theories of imperialism, class formation and class struggle – particularly those that underline the exceptional nature of the Indian experience of industrialization - and demonstrates how and why Empire was able to provide an opportunity to test and perfect ways of controlling the lower classes of Dundee. These historical debates have a continued relevance as we observe the impact of globalization and rapid industrialization in the so-called developing world and the accompanying changes in many areas of the developed world marked by de-industrialization. The book is of use to scholars of imperial history, labour history, British history and South Asian history.
'A valuable contribution to scholars of Imperial, labour, British and East Asian history… [and] above all else a significant addition to the histories of Dundee, Calcutta, the jute industry and, uniquely, to the relationship between them.' - Mike Arnott, Secretary, Dundee Trades Union Council, DL Scotland.
"The book provides a vivid challenge to the 'remarkable' story of the jute school of history, with a telling remonder of its toxic legacy for the peoples of Calcutta and Dundee" - W.W.J Knox, The University of St. Andrews
"The book is an important contribution to the history of labor in Britain, India, and the British Empire. It uses the "twin cities" of jute, Dundee and Calcutta, to examine the working-class experience in an imperial context.[…] Labor historians will likely be the main audience for this book, but scholars interested in imperial history will be rewarded with a good example of comparative history that recovers the experiences of everyday people living in, and traveling across, imperial spaces." - Jonathan E. Robins, Michigan Technological University, Published on H-Empire (December, 2013)
Introduction 1. The making and re-making of the imperial nexus of jute, 1840-1940 2. The coming of the up-countrymen: labour conditions and classformation in the Bengal jute industry, 1875-1910 3. The making of Juteopolis and the imperial nexus of jute, 1875-1910 4. Working class militancy and labor politics in Juteopolis, 1885-1923 5. Challenging the jute wallahs: Non-Co-operation, communism and the Marwaris, 1918-30 6. The imperial nexus and labor politics in Dundee during the 1920s 7. The breaking of the Dundee-Calcutta nexus, 1930-40 8. Conclusion
Anthony Cox is currently involved in teaching at the Centre of Continuing Education at Dundee University, UK. His research interests include comparative labour history and eighteenth century Scottish radicalism.