Reviews

Synthesising the argument of a remarkable dissertation (The Indian Diaspora in Central Asia and Its Trade, 1550-1900, Leiden: Brill, 2002), the author skims through the history of Indian merchants in Iran and Transoxiana—from late sixteenth-century ‘Multanis’ to mid-eighteenth century ‘Shikarpuris’.  The author shows how, as competition intensified in the subcontinent, Indian family firm directors began to seek out under-exploited opportunities in the neighbouring markets of Central Asia and Iran.  Several primary centres of diaspora activity, with rotating populations, emerged in those centres of trans-regional commerce like Isfahan, Bandar ‘Abbas, Astrakhan, Qandahar, Kabul, and Bukhara.  The paper deals with the system utilised by Indian family firms for dispatching agents throughout the region:  They were trained to reinvest the retrieved cash in other commercial activities, most commonly in interest-earning lending ventures.  The Indians, therefore, served their host societies by providing investment capital to facilitate agricultural and industrial production.  That situation changed as the Indian merchant communities suffered during the Afghan occupation of Persia in 1722, and during Nader Shah’s reign (1736-47).  In Central Asia, the strength and number of the Indian diaspora declined rapidly following the Russian conquest of Tashkent in 1865, and by the time of the 1917 Bolshevik takeover the Indian diaspora in Central Asia had almost stopped to exist.

The Redaction
CER: I-3.4.A-255