I started research in economic history by taking a fresh look at the contribution of the traditional handicrafts in the making of the modern Indian economy.

The work challenged orthodoxy in the field that suggested a death of the artisan tradition in the nineteenth century.

My work revealed a differentiated and creative impact of the nineteenth century globalization upon Indian artisans.


Traditional Industry in the Economy of Colonial India, Cambridge University Press, 1999, Paperback 2007.

Cloth and Commerce: Textiles in Colonial India, Editor. Delhi: Sage Publications, 1996.

Artisans and Industrialization: Indian Weaving in the Twentieth Century, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1993.


Articles in journals

Did Globalization Aid Industrial Development in Colonial India? A Study of Knowledge Transfer in the Iron Industry, Indian Economic and Social History Review, 46(4), 2009, 579-613.

Knowledge and Divergence from the Perspective of Early Modern India, Journal of Global History, 3(3), 2008, 361-87.

Out of Tradition: Master Artisans and Economic Change in Colonial India, Journal of Asian Studies, 66(4), 2007, 963-991.

Changes in Wool Production and Usage in Colonial India, Modern Asian Studies, 37(2), 2003, 257–286.

Madras Handkerchiefs in the Interwar period, Indian Economic and Social History Review, 39(2-3), 2002, 285-300.

Acceptance of Innovations in Early Twentieth Century Indian Weaving, Economic History Review, 55(4), 2002, 507-532.

Indian Weaving in the 20th Century, Jahrbuch für Wirtschaftsgeschichte, 2, 1998, 129-150.

Conceiving Mobility: Migration of Handloom Weavers in Precolonial and Colonial India, Indian Economic and Social History Review (with Douglas Haynes), 36(3), 1999, 275-302.

Capitalism and Community: A Study of the Madurai Sourashtras, Indian Economic and Social History Review, 34(4), 1997, 437-464.

Foreign Trade and the Artisans in Colonial India: A Study of Leather, Indian Economic and Social History Review, 31(4), 1994, 461-490.

Size and Structure of Handloom Weaving in the Mid-1930s, Indian Economic and Social History Review, 25(1), 1988, 1-24.



Consumption and Craftsmanship in Colonial India 1850-1950. In A. McGowan, D. Haynes, H. Yanagisawa, and T. Roy, eds., Towards a History of Consumption in South Asia 1850-1950, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2009.

The Long Globalization and Textile Producers in India. In Lex Herma van Voss et al, eds., The Ashgate Companion to the History of Textile Workers, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2010.

Labour-intensity and Indian Industrialization. In Kaoru Sugihara, Gareth Austin, Kenneth Pomeranz, eds., Labour-intensive industrialization, London: Routledge, forthcoming.

Handmade in India: Traditional Craft Skills in a Changing World (with Maureen Liebl). In J.M. Finger, ed., Poor People’s Knowledge. Promoting Intellectual Property in Developing Countries, Washington DC: World Bank and Oxford University Press, 2004, 53-74.


Economic and Political Weekly

Handmade in India: Status Report on Indian Artisans (with Maureen Liebl), 2003.

Growth and Recession in Small-scale Industry: A Study of Tamil Nadu Powerlooms, 1999.

Development or Distortion? The Powerlooms in India, 1950-97, 1998.

Relations of Production in Handloom Weaving in the Mid-1930s, 1989.

Silk weaver of Ghatal, Bengal, c. 1870

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Traditional Industry in the Economy of Colonial India, Cambridge University Press, 1999.


The majority of workers in South Asia are employed in industries that rely on manual labour and craft skills. Some of these industries have existed for centuries and survived great changes in consumption and technology over the last 150 years. In earlier studies, historians of the region focused on mechanized rather than craft industries, arguing that traditional manufacturing was destroyed or devitalized during the colonial period, and that 'modern' industry is substantially different. Exploring new material from research into five traditional industries, the book contests these notions, demonstrating that while traditional industry did evolve during the Industrial Revolution, these transformations had a positive rather than destructive effect on manufacturing generally. In fact, the book suggests, the major industries in post-independence India were shaped by such transformations.

.. a new classic in the economic history of modern South Asia.

David Ludden (New York University), Journal of Interdisciplinary History.

This impressively researched book .. drives the last nail into the coffin of the old nationalist, and sometimes Marxist, assumption that artisanal industries in the precolonial India were dealt a death blow in the colonial period ..

Roy’s painstaking analysis .. demonstrates how traditional industry of colonial India experienced ‘commercialization’ and improved their capability - a remarkable saga of struggle and survival that continues in postcolonial times.

Narasingha P. Sil (Western Oregon University), The Journal of Hindu Studies.

Dipesh Chakrabarty (Chicago University), American Historical Review


This book will be of considerable value to anyone who has a serious interest in Indian crafts and craftspeople. Its success in deepening our understanding of such an important aspect of Indian life and society should stimulate more scholarship on this neglected subject. In fact, it shows us how much we need a study that brings the analysis of handicraft industries into the present day.

Clare M. Wilkinson-Weber (Washington State University), Journal of Asian Studies.