Prof. Jayanth R. Varma’s Financial Markets Blog

A blog on financial markets and their regulation

Indian financial history

My blog post a couple of months ago on financial history books led to a lively discussion in the comments on a similar list for Indian financial history. There was so much useful material in these comments that I thought it useful to hoist it from the comments to a blog post in its own right. As you can see, very little of this post is my contribution. Most of the material is from my colleague at IIM Ahmedabad, Prof. Chinmay Tumbe who is deeply interested in business, economic and demographic history. All that I have done is to add hyperlinks wherever possible, and must in fact confess that I have not yet read most of the material listed here.

Amol Agrawal January 27, 2017 at 5:44 pm

I was also wondering whether you could recommend some books on India’s financial history as well. I guess you might say there are hardly any. But I guess history of RBI (Volume I), History of SBI, Indigenous Banking by LC Jain etc could be a part of the list. But these are just on banking, We have very little ideas on equity markets, insurance, funds etc. Could you please help me with a few titles?

Jayanth Varma January 27, 2017 at 9:07 pm

There are some excellent books on Indian economic history. The Cambridge Economic History of India is absolutely invaluable. There are some books and other material on the history of the East India Company and the Dutch VOC which are also relevant. Adam Smith’s [discussion](, Ch.1, Of the Expences of the Sovereign or Commonwealth) of the English East India Company in the Wealth of Nations is also worth reading. Angus Maddison’s Asia in the World Economy 1500–2030 AD is also useful.

But there is too little of financial history in all this. I would like to know more about the financial transactions of Jagat Seth for example though there is some material here.

Indian monetary history in the nineteenth century is absolutely fascinating: I think at one time or the other, India had every kind of exchange rate regime known at the time. Oscar Wilde famously advised a student to omit this chapter because it is too sensational. If you have access to JSTOR, I recommend: Laughlin, J. Laurence. “Indian Monetary History.” Journal of Political Economy, vol. 1, no. 4, 1893, pp. 593–596.

Way back in 2010, SEBI set up an Advisory Panel on History of Indian Securities Market of which I was a member and some material was collected and made available on the SEBI web site. I do not think that much progress has taken place after that.

Amol Agrawal January 28, 2017 at 8:58 am

I fully agree we have nothing much in financial history which is a puzzle. I have read the Lodewijk Petram work on World’s oldest Stock exchange. We need similar accounts for BSE and other Regional SEs which were important earlier. I have seen SEBI’s links but most are unreadable. Like RBI and SBI have commissioned their history, we need SEBI/IRDA etc to do the same for other markets. From these, students like me can pick up and build.

Likewise Sylla and Homer’s History of Interest Rates could be developed into History of interest rates in India using several RBI publications. There is some data which has to be all put together.

Having said this, I think following books do give some perspective on history of finance in India:
1) Industrial Organisation (1934) by PS Lokanathan
2) Organisation and Finance of Industries in India (1937) by D R Samant and M A Mulky
3) Financial Chapter in History of Bombay (1910) by DE Wacha

There are some others which are mainly on banking. I can add them but I think if one reads History of RBI and History of SBI (by Prof AK Bagchi), banking is pretty much covered.

We clearly need to expand this list and have more works on India’s financial history. I will try and add as and when I find more readings.

Jayanth Varma February 13, 2017 at 9:28 pm

Another useful book is
Raymond W. Goldsmith The financial development of India, Japan, and the United States : a trilateral institutional, statistical and analytic comparison, Yale University Press 1983.

Prof. Chinmay Tumbe March 1, 2017 5:10 pm

Adding a few that have not been covered above:

  1. Goldsmith has one book just on India called Financial Development of India, 1860-1977, which is a truly monumental work.

  2. A 2017 book by a friend of mine attempts to synthesise monetary history in India

  3. I have a paper in the Indian Economic and Social History Review on the history of the Post Office as a financial institution; not too many associate that with finance though it is the largest financial institution of India in terms of network and personal deposits.

  4. Tirthankar Roy has a recent paper on seasonality of interest rates in the money market of colonial India.

  5. Dwijendra Tripathi of IIMA wrote the biography of Bank of Baroda in the 1980s and updated that in the late 2000s.

  6. Amiya Bagchi’s edited volume on Money and Credit in Indian History in 2002 has wide ranging contributions to it

  7. P R Brahmananda’s Money, Income, Prices in 19th century India: A Historical, Quantitative and Theoretical Study.

  8. On the 1860-65 Bombay episode, see Wacha’s Financial Chapter; or any
    biography of Premchand Roychand as in Lakshmi Subramanian’s Three Merchants
    of Bombay

  9. Some Books:

    Of course, several other banking histories can be added to this list.

The Financial History Review does not have a single piece on India, which
goes to show the huge scope for research in this field. Amol’s thesis on
south Indian banking history will add to our knowledge.


6 responses to “Indian financial history

  1. Amol Agrawal March 22, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    Dear Prof Varma and Prof Chinmay,
    Thanks a lot for these links. More importantly all these books are available on (Gokhale Institute’s Digital Repository).

    Chinmay says other banking histories can be added to the list. So let me add them as have seen a few recently. Recently, there has been spate of Individual Banking History as they have celebrated anniversaries. The late Mr. MV Kamath (former editor Illustrated Weekly of India) has the honour of writing most of these histories.

    1. MV Kamath: Canara Bank, Syndicate Bank, Corporation Bank, Union Bank, Saraswat Bank, Shamrao Vitthal Bank
    2. NK. Thingalaya, M.S: Moodithiya and NK Shetty: Indian Overseas Bank
    3. S.K Shetty: Vijaya Bank
    4. Inhouse History of State Bank of Travancore ( Perhaps the only Associate State Bank which has put its history. They are going to be merged with SEBI on 1 Apr 2017 and all their fascinating history is going to be lost.
    6. Karur Vysya Bank completed 100 years and released an inhouse historical account. Most of the existing old private sector banks have completed 90 years and are based in South.
    7. Prof D Tripathi: Bank of Baroda
    8. RK Sheshadri: Indian Bank (an old classic; perhaps the first individual bank history)

    A big challenge is to put all these books at one place and hopefully digitise them over a period. Most of these books are published by the banks themselves and release a few copies. After the anniversary event no one cares and the historical account is lost.

    Hope we can keep adding to the list and overtime try and get papers published in Financial History Review. I never realised that not a single article on India which is pure tragedy given how varied Indian monetary and banking system has been.

    Hope to keep adding on the list…

    Thanks Prof Varma for uploading them..

  2. Pingback: Books on Indian Financial History and World Economic History | Mostly Economics

  3. Mudit March 22, 2017 at 9:33 pm

    1) book on history chit funds in India would also be a nice research topic
    2) History of Financial scandals in India would be pretty useful too

  4. Anantha Nageswaran March 24, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    I would add Shankkar Aiyar’s ‘Accidental India’ to the list of books on ‘Indian Economic History’

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