Paul Craddock

Perceptions and Reality: The Fall and Rise of the Indian Metals Industry Through Three Millennia

‘Glorified rabbit holes’ was typical of the pejorative descriptions of the local mining operations observed in the 19t h century by the colonial administrators. Yet, recent excavations have revealed mining and smelting operations in South Asia as extensive and technically sophisticated as their contemporaries in Greece and Rome. This lecture, as well as describing some of these ancient mining and smelting operations, will on a broader scale, attempt to address how such misunderstandings arose as well as why India’s sophisticated mines and smelters succumbed to European imports. The latter is in itself a global phenomenon.

If the 19th century failed to appreciate the technical sophistication of the earlier periods, then the 20th century up to the present has perhaps been unduly harsh on the Imperial powers for discouraging metal production in India. In fact, there were numerous attempts to establish mines and furnaces, both private and by the government, usually with disastrous results. Some of these will be described, together with the real sustained rise of the metals industry from the end of the 19th century.


This lecture is sponsored by the Center for South Asia, Anthropology, Art History, Classics, Cultural Heritage Preservation Research Circle, Global Studies, Division of International Services, and International Institute.