Boatmen formed an important group of workers within the commercial geography of eighteenth century Bengal. This paper charts boatmen’s changing experience of work in Bengal in the period between 1650 and 1819, with special emphasis on the transformations in their practices of mobility. The time frame of the paper captures the transition from the period of trade in Mughal/Nawabi Bengal– when the EIC, alongside other European companies and Asian merchants, successfully conducted trade with little political sway over the region – to the period of early colonial conquest under the EIC culminating in the Regulation VII of 1819, which made breach of contract a criminal offense for workers. The paper illustrates first how boatmen utilized their mobility in resisting and negotiating with mercantile capital and the imperial (Mughal/Nawabi/EIC) state, and second, it investigates how the early-colonial EIC state increasingly criminalized workers’ autonomous mobility.
Titas Chakraborty completed her Ph.D. at University of Pittsburgh in 2016. She is working on her book project,"Mobile Workers of the Companies: Labor, Migration and Resistance in Bengal, 1650-1837." She is also currently co-editing a book titled, "Runaways: Desertion and Mobility in Global labor History, 1650-1850." She is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Historical Studies at the University of Texas at Austin in 2017-2018.
Professor of History
The University of Texas at Austin
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Sponsored by: Asian Studies; South Asia Institute; Institute for Historical Studies in the Department of History
Monday, November 20, 2017 at 12:00pm
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