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Tea WarA History of Capitalism in China and India$
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Andrew B Liu

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780300243734

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300243734.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM YALE SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.yale.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Yale University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in YSO for personal use.date: 28 September 2021

Coolie Nationalism

Coolie Nationalism

The Category “Freedom” and Indian Nationalist Campaigns against Labor Indenture

(p.195) 6 Coolie Nationalism
Tea War

Andrew B. Liu

Yale University Press

This chapter focuses on how, from the time penal labor laws were liberalized in the 1880s until they were abolished in 1926, Indian nationalists charged that indenture was unfree and resembled slavery. Indian nationalists, living in an increasingly commercial and industrialized society, pushed for abolition on the reasoning that a free labor system was more economically rational than indenture. Most prominent were the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj and the Indian Association, two groups foundational to the long history of Indian nationalism. The chapter then looks at the Bengali writer Ramkumar Vidyaratna and his social novel Sketches of Coolie Life (1888). Drawing direct comparisons with the emancipation of enslaved Africans, Vidyaratna's work rested upon the assumption that labor was a commodity that should naturally be free to seek employment wherever it desired, an idea plausible partly because a disposable waged workforce in eastern India had become a general feature of economic life.

Keywords:   penal labor laws, Indian nationalists, indenture, free labor system, Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, Indian Association, Indian nationalism, Ramkumar Vidyaratna

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