University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Graduate Workshops in Economic and Social History > Linking Business and Philanthropy: The Social Concerns and Philanthropic Behaviours of Bombay's Mercantile Elite, 1845-1870

Linking Business and Philanthropy: The Social Concerns and Philanthropic Behaviours of Bombay's Mercantile Elite, 1845-1870

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In the nineteenth century, Bombay became a hub for the export of raw Indian goods such as opium and cotton to overseas locations across the Indian Ocean and to as far away as China. In particular, the dramatic increase in commercial activities brought about by the trade with China facilitated the emergence of a powerful Indian merchant class that possessed great wealth and exerted considerable influence in local political and social matters. This group has been credited by some historians as engaging in some of the earliest coordinated public activity in India and, later in the century, developed coherent economically nationalist discourse. In this paper I will explore the development of this group’s civic mindedness and emerging focus on “Indian” issues through the lens of their philanthropic activities. Through an analysis of their patterns of giving it is possible to gain a greater understanding of how such donations were made through the cooperative efforts of Indian mercantilists from a number of different caste backgrounds, as well as how such giving indicated a growing concern with the general welfare of the Indian community in Bombay.

This talk is part of the Graduate Workshops in Economic and Social History series.

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