Pakistan Institute of Development Economics



Imran Ali. The Punjab under Imperialism 1885 – 1947. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988. ix + 264 pp.$ 49.50 (Hardback).

The title of Ali’s book needs to be clarified. The work does not cover what is currently the entire Punjab, East and West. It is an economic history of the development of the canal colonies in the Punjab. These canal colonies fell entirely into Pakistan’s area when the subcontinent was partitioned in 1947. So the work has special significance for the canal colony region of the Punjab, Pakistan. As such, Ali’s book fills a great need for two reasons. First, in Pakistan the green revolution has been based in the canal colonies. The rate and comprehensiveness of adoption of the package has been greater in the canal colonies compared to the other regions. If the canal colonies provided such a suitable environment for the adoption of agrarian technical change in the 1960s, then there is a need to assess their emergence and economic impact in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The question is: Did the emergence of the canal colonies result in an agrarian revolution at that time? This forms Ali’s main problematic. And his answer is that the political and economic objectives of British imperial interests in the Punjab overrode their development interests, with the result that the canal colonies did not fulm their growth potential. The second need that Ali’s work fills is to raise the question of the political behaviour of the Punjab. This question needs to be raised for two time periods, namely in the state of Pakistan since 1947, and earlier, during the independence movement in the first half of this century.

Khwaja Sarmad

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