During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the British East India Company monopolized salt production in Bengal, and the British sought a new market for English salt in India. As previous studies have emphasized, external political and economic forces devastated indigenous industry and its workers. However, working conditions were influenced more by the natural environments of the salt-producing localities, particularly the availability of fuel, which was indispensable to the process of manufacture. The industry had always benefitted from abundant grass and straw for use as fuel. However, as grasslands were lost due both to constant river encroachment and to land clearance for cultivation, straw prices increased with the emergence of a regional market for biomass fuels, so that increasing difficulties in procuring fuel gradually made the salt industry costly. That state of affairs was accelerated by the advance of economic activity in general and a shortage of coal in particular. The changes made workers much more dependent on the fuel market.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)