chapter  4
10 Pages

Mobile Artisans

WithTirthankar Roy, Douglas Haynes

Throughout recorded history, skilled artisans in South Asia have exhibited a high degree of geographic mobility. Craft activity on the subcontinent has generally been characterized by low capital intensity, and workshops have often been highly portable as a result. Handloom weavers, for instance, could usually make, assemble and repair looms almost anywhere, with only minimal support from tool-making artisans, namely, carpenters and blacksmiths. Political and economic developments could thus easily induce small producers to move from one place to another within the subcontinent. The formation of strong empires, the discovery of new trading routes and commercial expansion, and the development of new urban centres strongly attracted skilled artisans, whereas famines, warfare, state failure and political oppression could drive them to seek work in distant locations.