Coolies of the Empire: book review

The book Coolies of the Empire by Ashutosh Kumar has been reviewed by professor Ruben Gowricharn (VU University Amsterdam) for The Indian Economic and Social History Review, 56, 1 (2019): 99–118

Prior to the abolition of slavery, many colonial powers experimented with an indentured labour system to keep their plantations running. The system was heavily criticised, especially by the anti-slavery movement that was later joined by civil servants, indentured labourers themselves and Indian nationalists. Ever since, there has been a debate about the moral valuation of the system: whether indentured labour was a new system of slavery. In this book, Ashutosh Kumar endeavours to push the historical debate further by connecting the economic and cultural lives of the labourers, both in India and beyond. To that end, Kumar argued that individuals made choices, had aspirations and lives overseas that were connected with their custodian socio-cultural life in the villages of the Gangetic plane.

Please download the full review here