Steamboats on the Indus: The Limits of Western Technological Superiority in South Asia

Hardcover | October 15, 2014

byClive Dewey

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Two forms of water-transport competed for supremacy on the Indus and its tributaries in the middle of the nineteenth century: the local country boats and the steamboats imported by the British. The steamers were the most advanced technology in South Asia. British investors poured capital into them, colonial officails subsidised them, and European travellers patronized them. The country boats - blown by the winds, rowed by the oars, dragged by ropes - had hardly changed in a thousand years.Yet the country boats kept the river trade while the steam flotillas went bankrupt. They were far better adapted to the shallow, shifting rivers; they were much cheaper to build and operate; and they drew on an extraordinary pool of skills - the skills of boatsmen and boat-builders.Steamboats on the Indus shows that the received wisdom - the "Technology and Imperialism" school - is wrong to assume that Westerm machines destroyed indigenous techniques wherever they came into competition. Traditional technology could exploit the economic opportunities created by imperialism atlower cost than the most advanced machinery from the West.

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Two forms of water-transport competed for supremacy on the Indus and its tributaries in the middle of the nineteenth century: the local country boats and the steamboats imported by the British. The steamers were the most advanced technology in South Asia. British investors poured capital into them, colonial officails subsidised them, a...

Clive Dewey is Emeritus Reader at University of Leicester. He has also been Visiting Fellow/Professor at the University of Cambridge, University of Heidelberg, and Leiden University.

other books by Clive Dewey

Format:HardcoverDimensions:360 pages, 8.7 × 5.59 × 0.98 inPublished:October 15, 2014Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198092199

ISBN - 13:9780198092193

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Table of Contents

List of IllustrationsList of Maps, Figures, and TablesPrefaceA Note on Conventions1. IntroductionPart I: Constraints2. The Rivers: The 'Hazards of Navigation'3. The Steamboats: The Technological Trap4. The Money: Costs and LossesPart II: Activities5. Passengers6. Cargoes7. The Steamboats' Military RolePart III: Competitors8. The Indian Summer of the Country Boats9. The Country Boats and the Country Boatmen10. The Fate of the FerriesPart IV: Rationale11. The Psychological Impact of the Steamboats12. The Sting in the TaleAppendix: The Statistics on the Country BoatsGlossarySelect BibliographyIndexAbout the Author