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The causes and processes of rural-urban migration in 19th and early 20th century India: The case of Ratnagiri district

By GM Yamin


The aim of this thesis is to investigate the reasons for the growth of large scale labour migration from Ratnagiri district during the nineteenth century. It is argued firstly that for an understanding of the origins of migration from Ratnagiri it is necessary to investigate the socio-economic structure of the district, since exogenous demand for labour cannot explain many aspects of the pattern of migration from Ratnagiri, nor can it explain the high rate of migration compared to other areas with similar access to labour markets. It is argued that regional and gender patterns of migration from Ratnagiri can be partly explained by the structure of demand for labour within the district; but that the scale of migration can most convincingly be explained in terms of the acute poverty of sections of the rural population. It is argued that this poverty cannot be ascribed to demographic pressure in the early nineteenth century, since population in the district did not rise rapidly until migration was already underway. It is instead suggested that the poverty of many cultivators in the earlier nineteenth century was an outcome of the spread of a village zamindari system in Ratnagiri during the late eighteenth century, the impact of which was intensified by legal changes introduced under British rule; the consequent concentration of landholding in the hands of the village zamindars led to higher exactions on the lower caste cultivators, which stimulated emigration in the mid nineteenth century. Furthermore, it is suggested that the land tenure system was at the root of the problems of agricultural development which the district faced later in the nineteenth century. When population rose In the mid nineteenth century, the extension of cultivation put pressure on the fragile ecology of the district, which led to rapid deforestation and falling yields per acre. it is argued that though cultivation intensified In Ratnagiri during the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the output per head nonetheless probably fell, and the system of land tenure discouraged the adoption of many strategies which might have raised output per head, thus perpetuating the poverty which, it is argued, lay at the root of out-migration from Ratnagiri

Topics: HC, DS, HD4801, mem_text_and_place, other
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