Banking experienced large growth in colonial India along with a process of commercialization of agriculture. Yet, the rate of aggregate saving or investment remained low. This article is an attempt to resolve this paradox. It suggests that traditional forms of banking were helped by the formalization of indigenous negotiable instruments, but that transactions between bankers, merchants, and peasants were characterized by a limited use of legal instruments. The limited circulation of bills in this sphere is attributed, among other factors, to high seasonality in the demand for money. Seasonality-induced distortions in the organization of the money market made indigenous banking an unsuitable agent to promote saving and finance industrialization.
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