chapter  7
Levels of living
Pages 13

Generalizing about the eighteenth century based on quantitative data meets with two difficulties. The first problem is that of the sources. Contemporary sources are not necessarily sparse; indeed they can be quite rich. But they are biased towards two aspects, trade and warfare. The major archives, which consist of Persian or Marathi records and the archives of European trade in the Indian Ocean, do not supply systematic time-series data on (indeed anything more than occasional snapshots into) the lives of the peasant, landlord, merchant, banker or the artisan. With few exceptions, Persian chronicles tend to be obsessed with the military exploits of courtiers and noblemen, little heroes now banished to the dustbin of history, while the English and the Dutch sources are concerned with a small segment of the larger sub-continental trading world, and one confined to the littoral and the river-borne trade. The coverage of themes in the East India Company’s administrative records expanded progressively from the 1770s, but it was only a regional state after all until the end of the period covered in this book.