Research Assistant – Economics/Political Economy

Research Assistant – Economics/Political Economy

Krea University

Colonial Land Tenure, State Capacity, and Economic Development in Tamil Nadu

Karthik Rao Cavale Sumit Mishra
Assistant Professor, SIAS Assistant Professor, IFMR GSB

Krea University invites applications for the position of Research Assistant as part of a research project in the broad area of economics/political economy.

This project examines the long-term effects of colonial land tenure on economic development in present-day Tamil Nadu (part of the erstwhile Madras Presidency). Research assistants will be primarily involved in digitizing archival data, conducting a literature review, and carrying out data analysis. This position is ideal for candidates who have a long-term interest in social science research (including archival research and data analysis) and wish to explore various disciplinary pathways.

Required technical skills: Proficiency in R or Python.

Required educational qualifications: A master’s degree in economics, development studies, or other related fields.

Preferred competencies: Ability to speak and write in Tamil is preferred. Any experience of conducting archival research would be helpful, though it is not necessary.

Duration and location: The position will be initially offered for a period of six months and may be extended depending on performance. Research Assistants must be based either in Sri City (Andhra Pradesh) or Chennai, but may work remotely

Remuneration: Selected candidates will be offered a consolidated sum of Rs. 45,000 per month.

Application Process: Candidates may send their applications in the form of a consolidated PDF file to Karthik Rao Cavale ([email protected]) or Sumit Mishra ([email protected]) with the following material:

1) a cover letter expressing interest in the position; and

2) a detailed CV (including the name of one referee)

The name of the PDF attachment should include the candidate’s full name.

The deadline to apply is 10th May 2023. The selection process will involve a short online interview.

Description of Research Project

Our research project exploits the availability of historical data at a granular scale to revisit the question of colonial land tenure and its long-run consequences on rural society in southern India. Too often, the debate on colonial land tenure has relied on a simplistic comparison between two starkly different systems of land revenue collection: in the Bengal Presidency, the Permanent Settlement of 1793 established large zamindari estates that were responsible for collecting the revenue from individual cultivators (whose status was reduced to that of tenants-at-will). By contrast, in the Madras and Bombay Presidencies, the state collected most of the land revenue from individual peasant proprietors (ryots). The zamindari system strengthened the position of landlords in relation to tenant cultivators and agricultural labourers. The resulting social structure lacked the necessary dynamism for sustained private and public investment in agriculture, leading to long-term economic divergence between zamindari and ryotwari regions.

However, historians and political scientists have long been dissatisfied with such a simplistic account, for many important reasons. First, the zamindari/ryotwari dichotomy fails to account for the diversity of land tenure arrangements in different parts of the country, such as the arrangements that were put in place in Punjab and the Central Provinces. Second, land tenure arrangements could vary not only between provinces or districts, but also within districts. Finally, the actual relations between propertied and non-propertied classes within a given system of land tenure could vary widely based on several other factors, such as the level of inequality in land ownership.

In our research project, we propose to address some of these concerns by creating a digitised version of village-level census data from Tamil-speaking districts of the Madras Presidency (approximately present-day Tamil Nadu,) which are available from 1871 onwards. These census tables categorize every revenue village in a district into three types of land tenure: ryotwari, zamindari, and inam, and provide a limited amount of data on caste, religion, and occupation. We aim to match these data with the outcomes for the present-day villages. We also intend to collect and digitize the data from colonial-era resettlement reports for selected districts, especially on irrigation, taxation, and public goods. We expect our analysis of the data thus collected to yield new insights on the relationship between land tenure institutions and economic development at the local level.