Q) “During the first half of 18th Century, Bengal was the only mine of silver left in the Mughal Empire. Highlight the important factors for such development.” (150 words)
Bengal including the present West Bengal in India and almost the whole of Bangladesh was their chest province of Mughal India. In the somber picture of decadence, prostration and bankruptcy which India presented in the first half of the 18th century. Bengal was the only bright spot where prosperity prevailed and which “was the only mine of silver left in the Mughal Empire.”
The important factors responsible for Bengal being a bright spot during 18th century:
- Bengal had been lucky during the period in its rulers. MurshidQuli Khan, who was appointed the Diwan of Bengal in 1700, remained at the helm of affairs till his death in 1727. Then his son-in-law Shuja governed the province for fourteen years. Later, Alivardi Khan seized the reins of office and ruled till 1756. All the three were strong and competent administrators and under them Bengal greatly prospered.
Besides good government, Bengal also enjoyed certain other advantages.
Tranquility in Bengal:
- While the rest of India was distracted by fratricidal wars, Maratha invasions and Jat uprisings and northern India was devastated by the invasions of Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali, Bengal on the whole, remained tranquil. As a result, trade, commerce, industries and agriculture- all prospered.
Growth of foreign trade
- During this period there was phenomenal growth of foreign trade. During the first half of 18th century from 1706 to 1756, Bengal received in return for its exports nearly six and a half crore rupees worth of bullion and about Rs. 2.3 crores of merchandise. Decca alone exported nearly thirty lakh rupees worth of cloth to Asian countries. Qasim Bazar produced two and a half million pound of silk. The Murshidabad customs office registered an output of silk worth seventy lakh of rupees. Fifty thousand maunds of sugar and also considerable amount of jute were exported. There were a number of other commodities which were exported from Bengal viz., saltpetre, opium, indigo etc
- Foreign trade stimulated industry and added to the prosperity of the country.
Growth of Urbanism
- Bengal goods were in great demand in East and West Asian countries, in Africa and in Europe. The Dutch, the English and the French had a number of settlements and factories in different parts of Bengal. Progress in trade, industry and agriculture stimulated the growth of urban centers and banking, which is illustrated by the rise of the Jagath se the i.e., world bankers.
- Hughli, which was the most important port of Bengal, grew into a great center of culture
- The population of Calcutta rose from 15000 in 1704 to a lakh in 1750 and Decca and Murshidabad became populous cities.
But behind the face of facade of glittering affluence there lay a dilapidated structure. The wealth of the nawab and of his oppressive oligarchs was extracted out of the toil and misery of the impoverished peasants and wretched artisans. The upstart rulers and their long suffering subjects were bound together by mere ropes of sand.