Crops for Europe and Demand for Indian Indigo
India was one of the largest raw materials suppliers for Britain.
Indian cash crops were in great demand in England. So, the Company forced Indian cultivators to cultivate them.
One such crop which was in great demand in the European market was Indigo.
Indigo plant was used for producing the blue colour and India was the largest supplier of it in the 19th century world market.
India is a tropical country and Indigo grows well in tropical regions.
In the 13th century, Indian indigo was used by cloth manufacturers from France, Italy and Britain.
The manufacturers used the indigo colour to dye clothes.
Indigo was very expensive, so the European cloth manufacturers were dependent on another plant called woad.
Woad was cultivated in Italy, southern France and parts of Germany and Britain. So it was easily available in the European markets.
Fearing the competition from Indigo, woad producers demanded the ban on import of indigo.
However, the dye from woad was dull and pale.
So the dyers preferred indigo over woad for its rich blue colour.
The government was forced to relax the ban on indigo import.
Many European countries started cultivating Indigo in different parts of the world.
Due to industrialisation in Britain, cotton production expanded to produce clothes.
Clothes needed dye, which led to high demand for indigo.
West Indies and America were not able to meet the high demand of indigo. So, cloth dyers in Britain needed new sources of indigo.
Therefore, the Company decided to expand the area under indigo cultivation in India.
Indigo cultivation in Bengal expanded rapidly and it started to dominate the world market.
With the growth of indigo trade, commercial agents and officials of the Company invested more in indigo production.
Many company officials left their jobs and took up indigo plantation.
Attracted by high profits, many Englishmen came to India and became indigo planters.
Now let us revise what we have studied today
India was a great supplier of crops like jute, rice, wheat sugarcane, opium and cotton to the world market.
There was another crop called indigo, which was in great demand in the European markets for its rich blue colour.
Indigo was very expensive, so European cloth manufacturers had to depend on woad for violet and blue dye.
Woad plant was grown in many parts of Europe, so it was easily available in the European markets.
Woad producers pressurised the governments to put a ban on indigo import.
But indigo was better than woad, so the dyers preferred indigo. The government lifted the ban on import of indigo.
Many European countries started cultivating Indigo in many parts on North and South America.
Industrialisation in Britain led to cloth production which increased the demand for Indigo. This demand could not be fulfilled by America.
So the British expanded indigo cultivation in Bengal which dominated the world market.
Due to higher profits, many company officials got attracted to indigo cultivation. They left their jobs, took indigo business and became planters.