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Why Did Indian Big Business Pursue a Policy of Economic Nationalism1 in the Interwar Years? A New Window to an Old Debate

  • MANALI CHAKRABARTI (a1)
Abstract

Indian big business campaigned for economically nationalistic policies during the interwar period. Existing scholarship is sharply divided as to the reason for the same. One group of scholars claim that Indian big business as a class rose above its economic interests and actively joined and even led the anti-imperial nationalist movement during the period. The other group contests the above view and proposes that Indian big business was guided by business interests while rallying for economic nationalism. Significantly the interwar period is also marked by a growing antagonism between Indian big business and European commercial class apparently on racial lines, and they held diametrically opposite positions on most issues of commercial relevance. This development is cited as evidence in support of the former view. In this paper I present data of the European business collective of Kanpur, that exhibited almost identical positions as Indian big business, on several significant economic and political issues during the interwar period. From a detailed analysis of the nature of this collective (that had interests in cotton textiles, leather and sugar, amongst others) I have tried to re-configure the debate on the character of Indian big business during the interwar period.

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Modern Asian Studies
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