The British Impact
The strategic decision Awadh's rulers made from 1766 to ally themselves with the Bengal-based British East. India Company proved fateful. Since their treaty with the EIC limited their armed forces, the nawabs had to rely on the British for their own external security. The East India Company remained a highly ambiguous ally, and the nawabs found themselves riding a tiger. The Nishapuris did draw some benefit from the alliance. In 1774 Shujacu'd-Dawlah drew the British into helping him annex the Ruhilkhand. Twenty years later Asafu'd-Dawlah again mounted a joint venture, the invasion of Rampur. On the negative side of the ledger, however, Barnett has demonstrated that after 1775 the governor-general's demands on the Awadh treasury for tribute grew insatiable. By 1779 the sums demanded quadrupled, amounting to half the gross income of the nawabi government. Awadh notables responded by hiding revenue locally, resisting further British demands.
At the same time that the East India Company attempted to extract revenue from the nawabi government, private British traders sought profits through penetrating the region's markets. Early British residents in Lucknow gained a monopoly over Awadh's most lucrative export, saltpeter for the manufacture of gunpowder. Shujacu'd-Dawlah, conscious of the Bengal precedent, strove to keep EIC and private merchants out of his realm, with only mixed success. The Commercial Treaty of 1788 disengaged the residents from such enterprises, but opened the way for increased European private trade. Private merchants, excluded from the rich Bengal market by the com-
pany, expanded into Awadh. Merchants trading in textiles or indigo built up alliances with local magnates or actually exercised political power in the towns that produced the commodities in which they traded.
Marshall has shown how imports into Awadh from Bengal doubled in the period 1786-1796, and Awadh's exports to Calcutta increased about five times during the same period to five million rupees. Europeans fostered and carried on much of the trade. The value of cheap Awadh piece goods exported from Calcutta grew six times in 1786-1796, to three million rupees. Raw cotton constituted another important export, and indigo cultivation spread into the Doab region of Awadh in this period. High duties and frequent local imposts, in addition to the ever-present fear of arbitrary, expropriation, often made life miserable for the European merchants involved in this rapid trade expansion. They "loudly" complained to the resident of infractions against the Commercial Treaty, and of high duties in Awadh despite their permits from the Commercial Office.
Awadh's incorporation into the world market proceeded unevenly. In 1801 Governor-General Wellesley annexed nearly half of the region from Nawab Sacadat ‘Ali Khan on the pretext that the nawab's government had fallen hopelessly behind on payment of its tribute to Calcutta and only annexation could ensure revenues for the British. The move left the nawab "reserved territories" surrounded on three sides by the British and on one by Nepal and the Himalayas. Wellesley thereby ended the subsidiary alliance, disencumbering the British of many obligations. Thirty-five years earlier, officials of the East India Company felt too weak to absorb Awadh, needing time to consolidate their hold on Bengal. They then found that threats such as the Marathas and the Afghans could be dealt with by British and British-trained arms, and the need for Awadh as a buffer state correspondingly declined. Mukherjee has stressed the futility of attempting to separate economic and imperial motives in the annexation. Wellesley acted to ensure the receipt of huge revenues, as well as for strategic advantages. The British probably took too seriously, for example, the threat of an invasion from Afghanistan.
The 1801 annexation left old Awadh not only divided between two states but also partitioned into two economies. Awadh under its Indian rulers remained a stable agrarian state with successful rainfall-based agriculture producing an abundance of grain for local consumption and regional export.
The Ceded Provinces, however, underwent rapid and radical evolution. Within a year of cession raw-cotton exports to China jumped, and finished textile goods slumped as a proportion of the total exports. The class structure of the annexed area began to change. British officials insisted that large landholders back up their revenue assignments by bank credit, strengthening immeasurably the hand of the bankers and moneylenders who guaranteed the revenues, and often allowing them to foreclose in bad years. This policy transformed some petty tax-farmers into landholders at the expense of village holders.
Peasants began cultivating indigo extensively for export through Calcutta. Cheap British broadcloth began to affect the weavers in North India after 1800, though it hardly wiped them out, and it had a larger impact from 1833. In the first decade of the century, increased imports of manufactured cloth, twist, and yarn from an England undergoing the Industrial Revolution hurt spinners and began to depress the local cotton market. But with the end of the Napoleonic wars, European demand for raw cotton rose, and its cultivation in the Ceded Provinces spread rapidly, The British gradually incorporated the annexed half of old Awadh into the world market as a producer mostly of raw materials. Although from 1815 to 1828 such cash-crop agriculture grew lucrative, it also proved subject to cycles of boom and bust. The depressed cotton and indigo markets after 1828 created a crisis that drought years like 1833 exacerbated.
Although nawabi Awadh did not altogether escape the penetration of European capital and the influx of cheap British manufactures, it remained a far less open market than the Doab. In 1830 the British resident in Lucknow lamented the demise of the 1788 Commercial Treaty. Landholders exacted imposts on goods passing through their estates, and the government taxed British merchandise heavily. Between the British commercial center Kanpur and Lucknow, only fifty miles away, a merchant bearing Manchester's textiles had to pay taxes to twenty different landlords in addition to a duty charged for entering the capital. British goods cost double in Lucknow what they did in Kanpur. Still, the demand for English manufactures remained considerable.