NCERT / CBSE NOTES | Class 8th (VIII) : Chapter Summary

Weavers, Iron Smelters and Factory Owners

Indian Textiles in the World Market
Around 1750, prior to the British conquest over Bengal, India was the largest producer of textiles in the world. From the 16th century, European companies started purchasing Indian textiles for selling them in Europe.  These exquisitely crafted fabrics had been imported from India in the eighteenth century.
From the 1680s, Indian textiles were a craze in England and Europe due to its exquisite designs, superior textures and relative cheapness.

Muslin, chintz, bandanna and cossaes were exported in bulk to Europe. There were many other clothes that were known by the place of their origin like clothes from Patna, Orissa, Kasimbazar and Calcutta.

Handloom weaving and related occupations became a source of livelihood for millions of Indians. During the 18th century, the textile industry in England was beginning to grow, but faced competition from Indian textiles.

Inspired, England started setting up its own textile industries in the eighteenth century. However, the popularity of Indian textiles worried English producers and they protested against the import of cotton textiles from India. In 1720, a law known as the Calico Act was passed to ban the use of chintz in England.

Indian designs were copied and printed within England on plain Indian cloth. The competition with the relatively inexpensive Indian textile market also led to technological innovations in the English textile industry. The invention of the spinning jenny and the steam engine helped to weave very large quantities of cloth, at significantly cheaper rates.

The Indian textile industry ruled the world market till the end of the 18th century, earning huge profits for European companies including the French, English and Dutch.

Indian Iron and Steel

A century ago, India set up its first iron and steel factory when Jamsetji Tata founded the Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO) along with the industrial town of Jamshedpur on the banks of the river Subarnarekha. The First World War however hampered steel production.

TISCO became the largest steel factory under the colonial rule.

The sword of Tipu Sultan was exceptionally hard and sharp, was made of a special type of carbon steel known as Wootz. Wootz steel was being produced in almost all the states in south India and swords made from this steel had a very sharp edge due to the tiny embedded carbon crystals used in them. By the middle of the 19th century, Wootz production in south India came to a standstill.

Iron smelting was a common occupation throughout India, particularly in Central India and Bihar. The smelters used local iron ore deposits to produce iron for making tools and implements of daily use.

The craft of smelting iron saw a decline by the end of the 19th century, owing to steel imports from Britain and stringent forest laws. The laws introduced by the colonial government, prohibited smelters from entering forests to collect iron ore and firewood for charcoal.

Decline of Indian Textiles

In the 19th century, millions of skilled Indian weavers were rendered jobless owing to the decline in the demand for Indian textiles in the world market. Trade had suffered due to the huge import duty levied on Indian textiles in England.

By the beginning of the 19th century, textiles made in England had completely replaced Indian textiles in their own traditional markets.

Though the weavers and spinners lost their jobs, coming up of cotton mills in many Indian cities helped many handloom weavers get employment.

Several Indian towns like Sholapur and Madura became the new important centres of weaving. The first cotton mill came up at Bombay in 1854. The port at Bombay had been exporting cotton to China from the early nineteenth century. Therefore, Bombay made an ideal location for a cotton mill. Thousands of poor artisans, weavers, agricultural labourers and peasants began to migrate to cities with cotton mills in search of work.

During the national movement, Gandhiji urged Indians to discard imported clothes and use khadi that was spun by a charkha and was woven by hands.

The Indian textile industry did not do well initially as it faced stiff competition from cheap textiles from Britain and received no support from the colonial British government. It was the First World War that signaled the initial development of Indian cotton factories.
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