This article introduces readers to the presence of thousands of Indian merchants—agents of heavily capitalised, caste-based family firms centred in north-western India—populating diaspora communities in cities and villages across virtually all of sedentary Central Asia and Iran.  A social analysis of the Indian diaspora illustrates the Indians’ modus operandi and the complex relationships that emerged between the primarily Hindu Indians and their host societies.  The author notes that Indian merchants in Central Asia and Iran were commonly perceived as exploitative usurers but, with only a few notable exceptions, such as Iran under Nadir Shah (r. 1736–47), Indian merchants enjoyed the steadfast protection of their host states.  He attributes this partly to the fact that Indian merchants were widely respected as large-scale transregional traders whose fortitude, technical knowledge, and commercial connections were a commodity unto themselves.  But he argues that even more important was the Indians’ money lending activities in both urban and rural markets.  The author concludes that, in Central Asia, Iran and wherever else they were found, the Indian family firms and their agents wielded the strength and resources of the Indian economy as an engine for early modern agricultural and industrial production.  These topics are explored in greater detail in the author’s book, The Indian Diaspora in Central Asia and its Trade, 1550–1900, Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2002.

The Redaction
CER: I-3.4.B-272