FAMINES IN THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT, 1500 to 1767
|1729 (a) [possibly from 1726]: south-west India|
|Documented causes: drought|
|Documented effects: "great mortality"|
|Theodore Morison, "The economic transition in India" (1911)|
|pp114-5: "Bombay.- Drought appears to have extended over five years, 1726-31. In Bombay general letter dated 27th January 1730, this entry: 'The great mortality among the Weavers detrimental to the Investment. Of 1800 Weavers about Cotata [=Kottar, Kerala] 1200 dyed.' ("Bombay Public Consultations Range 341," vol. vi.)" [Clearly, the single document quoted here by Morison does not support his implication that Bombay / Mumbai was itself afflicted by famine at this time, but his "five years" claim suggests that he has seen multiple other relevant documents]|
|1729 (b) [from 1727-8]: Coromandel Coast|
|Documented causes: drought|
|Documented effects: relief efforts by Europeans|
|Fort St. George "Diary and Consultation Book, 1729" (1930)|
|p18 (consultation of 3 Jan 1729): "There having been imported this year pritty large quantities of grain from the Northward, notwithstanding which the price holds up at Ten 10 mercalls Pr. pagoda for paddy, and Scarce any procureable even at that rate, especially for the poorer sort of people, the President proposed to the Board to take into their consideration the settling of the prices of Grain for the ensuing season and after some time spent in considering thereon it was Agreed and Ordered that the prices of Grain be as follows.|
~ Paddy Course Thirteen 13 Mercall for a pagoda.
~ Paddy Fine— Twelve 12 ditto.
~ Natcheny — Seven 7 ditto.
~ Rice one and a quarter 1 1/4 measures for a fanam.
which prices the Secretary is ordered to affix at the Gates with the following resolves, viz't.
~ that whoever shall sell at a dearer rate than above specified, shall upon proof thereof made be fined at the pleasure of the Governour and Council and
~ that the person who shall make proof of his having paid more than the above prices, shall have his money returned him, and shall also keep the grain he has purchased to himself
~ that whoever has more rice or Paddy than is necessary for his usual annual expence, shall be obliged to sell and whoever shall deny or conceal such overplus upon proof thereof made, it shall be Confiscated to the use of the Company.
Ordered that the above be also signified by beating the Tomtom."
[Also at this consultation was a report on the peons or servants working for the Company in Madras, subcontracted via a Chief Peon; comments include: "59 Peons are appointed to attend on the Hon'ble Governour ... seldom above a quarter part of them are in waiting, which gives us too much reason to Suspect that one quarter of that number are Imaginary" "the number of Peons appointed to watch at the Batteries and Mettahs, most of whom we suppose are kept there to prevent clandestine importations of goods but the Land Customer assures us that upon taking his rounds he has seldom found them upon duty, and when the reason was demanded, They answered that the Chief Peon had drawn them off to attend upon the Governour" "eighteen Peons at the nine gates are necessary, but at the same time we must represent them rather as a nuisance than any thing else Since They Think it as much their right to Take Toll upon all Greens, Bratty, wood and fish, as much as if there was really a legal Tax Laid upon provisions, and This lies very heavy upon the poorer Sort of people."]
p63 (consultation of 8 Jul 1729): "The President represented to the Board, that notwithstanding the indulgence given the Merchants in Consultation of the 24th. February when it was agreed to give them till the first of September to compleat the Contract which shoud have been finished the 31th. of January last, They had nevertheless been very backward in bringing in Cloth and that unless some further measures are Taken to oblige them to bring in Cloth he feared we should be very much disappointed in the quantity necessary for the dispatch of our Ships which being debated, It was Thought that possibly the indulging them with the Broad cloth this year, come and coming from Europe, might be a means to induce them to bring in goods & accordingly the following terms were Agreed to be proposed to them viz't.
~ that They should provide and deliver seventeen hundred bales of Calicoes on or before the 20th. of January next, in consequence of which They should have the Broad Cloth at Thirty five Pr. Cent on the Invoice but if they did not comply and deliver the said seventeen hundred bales that Then they should pay Ten Pr. Cent more for the Broad Cloth & that the old penalty should be forgiven them if They Complyd with this Contract, in order to do which the better They should be advanced fifteen Thousand 15000 pagodas, without Interest till the 20th. January next.
The Merchants were hereupon Called in and the above proposals offered them, which They refused, alledging that the great droughth in the Country and dearness of Cotton made it very difficult to provide Cloth and that Therefore They could not Comply therewith.
Whereupon, They were told it was a favour to them that was designed hereby that They had incurred a penalty of near Twenty thousand pagodas by their non-compliance with the last Contract, that there were now due on that Contract fourteen hundred bales not yet delivered in by them so that the seventeen hundred now proposed to be provided by them was only three hundred more than They were obliged to by their old Contract, and that in consideration thereof, They were to be indulged with all the Companys broad Cloth, but these Arguments not prevailing, the Board came to no Conclusion with them."
p67 (consultation of 21 Jul 1729): "The Company's Merchants being again called in & asked whether They had Considered of the offers made them the last Consultation day and would sign a Contract on those Terms still urged the difficulties of providing Cloth, the Scarcity, and famine and dearness of Cotton, which made the Weavers turn their hands to other work and retire into other Countries where Grain was to be got, which arguments they insisted on so strenuously, that the Board came to no agreement with them and therefore dismissed them with an assurance that they would sell the Broad Cloth at Outcry and insist on the performance of the last Contract or Penalty due for the breach thereof."
p81 (consultation of 1 Sep 1729): "General Letter No. 57 dated 27th. August from the Deputy Governour and Council of Fort St. David read, advising that their Merchants have requested them to Take in fifteen bales of Salampores of two and one eighth 2 1/8 covids broad which were provided before making the present Contract, as also to sort a parcel of Fine Long Cloth to No. 3 which had been turned out, as not being equal to No. 2.
The purport whereof being Considered it was AGREED that the Deputy Governor and Council there be permitted to Take in the Salampores, provided the difference in bredth be made up in goodness, and also that They may take in the fine Long cloth at an abatement, but that it be left to them to fix it because we are not Judges here how much worse than No. 2 the said cloth may be which resolves the Board came into for the following reasons vizt.
~ that we have been greatly disappointed this year in the quantities of Cloth we expected, occasioned by the famine in the Country.
~ that our Hon'ble Masters are desirous of shewing all reasonable indulgence to their Merchants, which we think this to be for,
~ that the Fort St. David Merchants are not Men of great fortunes, and therefore should this quantity of Cloth lie on their hands, it would disable them from making the necessary advances to the Weavers in the Country for the purchase of more cloth.
~ that we are never able exactly to comply with the List of Investment from Europe, and therefore we hope if we keep as near it as the Circumstances of time will permit us, It will be approved …"
p97 (consultation of 10 Oct 1729): "There being Cossids going to Bengal Agreed that a General Letter be sent to letter to the President and Council there to give them notice that the troubles to the Northward and the Extremity of the famine here, will we fear occasion a disappointment in our investment & that we believe two Thousand bales will be the most we shall be able to provide, that therefore we desire them to fill up the Ships They send us so much more and only send one to Vizagapatam."
p119 (consultation of 22 Dec 1729): [petition from the Company's tenants at Egmore etc.] "Whereas your Petitioners having Taken the Cowle of the above named Villages for the space of Ten years, and have for the first Three years paid their rent punctually according to their Cowle; but this last year there being a great famine and the feilds all parched up for want of rain and our Cattle dying for want of food, and vour Petitioners almost famished with hunger, now your Petitioners being pressed for the payment of last year's rent which They are not able to perform, therefore your Petitioners most humbly Request your Honour &c. Council will be pleased to Grant them the allowance that has been granted formerly to the Renters of the said Villages in the Like case, as in the time of Governour Harrison & Governour Collett, there was four years of famine and the said Villages rented by Colloway Chittee who paid no more than the produce of the villages during the years of famine.
Therefore your poor Petitioners most humbly request your Honour &c. Council will be pleased to grant them this favour"
[Council's response, p118:] "ORDERED that as we think the Cowle is Lett at a moderate rent and will one year with another produce the Renters a reasonable profit that They Comply with the conditions therein, but if They think the terms of the Cowle too hard, that They have Liberty to resign."
|Theodore Morison, "The economic transition in India" (1911)|
|p114: "1728-30. Fort St. George.- 'A severe famine and the rise of cotton in the country made it impossible to keep strictly to the Court's Orders of Investment. The famine so severe, in some villages where used to be 300 Weavers now scarce 30.' ("Coast and Bay Abstracts," vol. iii. p. 55.)"|
|"Procès-verbaux des délibérations du Conseil souverain de la Compagnie des Indes" (Vol. 2, 1914)|
|p223: (meeting of 25 Feb 1729) "Les menats ou blanchisseurs nous ayant représentez, dès les mois de septembre et octobre derniers, que le manque de pluyes et la cherté du riz les mettoient dans l'impossibilité de blanchir les toilles, sans s'endetter considérablement envers les marchands auxquels ils se trouvoient redevables d'une some si considérable, qu'ils ne pourroient jamais l'acquitter si nous ne leur accordions une augmentation de prix pour le blanchissage, proportionnée à la cherté de ris qu'ils sont obligez de consommer tant pour le cange [=rice-water, used for starch; in English, congee] que pour leur subsistance, n'ayant pas, pour lors, jugé à propos d'augmenter les prix du blanchissage, à cause des conséquences, nous avons ordonné au courtier de faire fournir par les marchands la quantité de ris, qui seroit nécéssaire pour le cange et pour la nourriture de ceux qui travailloient au blanchissage des toilles, et d'en tenir un compte exact, affin de leur faire une indemnité proportionnée à la dépense extraordinaire qu'ils étoient forcé de faire, tant par la cherté du ris que par le déffaut d'eau dans les étangs. ..."|
p228: (meeting of 1 Mar 1729) La famine où est réduitte cette Colonie, estant devenüe si extrême que les gens du pays sont absolument hors d'état de se procurer, et à leurs familles, le nécessaire, surtout ceux qui n'ont d'autre ressource pour vivre que leur paye, en qualité de pions, écrivains, ouvriers et autres serviteurs de la Compagnie, lesquels n'ayant pas de quoi subsister tombent d'inanition et sont, par conséquent, hors d'état de travailler; le Conseil désirant apporter quelque soulagement à la misère de ces différents ouvriers et serviteurs, affin qu'ils puissent vivre et faire leur service, et que les affaires ne souffrent aucun dérangement, a délibéré de faire délivrer gratis, chaque mois, à commencer de ce jour, jusques au retour de l'abondance, une quantité de ris à chacun de ces pauvres gens pour les aider à subsister, suivant l'état arresté au Conseil, montant à quatre cent quatre-vingt-six marcals. [= about 6 cubic metres; proposal agreed]
|"Correspondance du Conseil Supérieur de Pondichery et de la Compagnie ... 1726-1730" (Vol. 1, 1920)|
|p336 (21 Jan 1730; general report on activities in 1729): "Nous n'avons pû vendre l'année dernière le corail à cause de la grande famine qui dure depuis 2 ans à cette côte. La plus grande partie de ceux qui avaient des joyaux ont été forcés de s'en défaire pour vivre ..."|
p340 (21 Jan 1730 report ctd.): "Les soutes du Royal Phillipe n'étant pas bien conditionnées, le biscuit s'y est gâté ... nous étions alors mal en provisions de blé, parceque celui que nous avions demandé à Surate, tant pour votre compte que pour nos provisions, n'est point arrivé, des vaisseaux sur lesquels il a été embarqué, l'un a péri, et les autres ont manqué le voyage ..."
|Arkstée & Merkus (pub.) "Suite de l'Histoire Générale des Voyages ..." (vol. 17, 1761)|
|p348: "... en 1729, les Missionnaires Danois nous apprennent, que le Roi de Tanjour, dans un tems de famine, qui la fournit l'occasion de user de stratagême, fit prisonnier Babanu-Singu, Prince de Marava, & envoya à sa place, pour Gouverneur de ce Pays, un nommé Catta-Deven, qui après avoir été baptisé dans sa jeunesse, par les Missionnaires Jésuites, étoit rentré dans le Paganisme."|
|1730-33: the aftermath in Madras & Pondicherry|
|Fort St. George "Diary and Consultation Book, 1730" (1930)|
|p28 (consultation of 6 Apr 1730): [public "outcry" auction of leases of Company lands and privileges:] the Garden lately Rented by Sebastian Chanda was also put up to Outcry but that some Objections were rais'd on Account of a great number of poor Familys who had Possessed themselves of part of the said Garden in the late Famine time and Committed such disorders as discouraged People from bidding, and therefore deferr'd till the Board should determine what is necessary to be done therein and that the Old Renter was willing to take it again at the usual Rate of Seventy Pagodas Pr. annum in case he is placed in full Possesion. Order'd that Messrs. Symonds, Roach and Burton examine into this matter and make their Report.|
p29 (same consultation): The President recommends to the Board to take into Consideration what is necessary to be done Concerning the Investment for the ensuing year whether 'twill be best to Enter into a New Contract with the Merchants or come to some Resolution on the Old one, which being Debated The Board are of opinion that it is needless to make a New Contract since there is about twelve hundred Bales due on the old, And That as they are satisfied the endeavours of the Merchants to Comply with that Contract were very much obstructed by the Drought & Famine. AGREED That in Case they do bring in one thousand Bales more by the end of September the Penalty on the Contract shall be Relinquish'd, but If not That it shall be insisted on.
p134 (consultation of 29 Sep 1730): Great Complaints being made that the Merchants dealing in Rice and Paddy, secret the same and withhold it's coming to market, and it being necessary in order to prevent the ill consequences of such a practice, to be informed of the Quantities of Grain in the place and the Possessors thereof, ORDERED that public notice be given that all persons being possessed of more than five garse of Rice or Paddy do declare the same within three days to Messieurs Hubbard and Morse on penalty of being severely fined, and that whomsoever shall within three days after, discover and prove any such concealment, shall have ten pagodas reward.
p136 (consultation of 6 Oct 1730): notwithstanding the order of last Consultation for discovering the stock of Grain in the place, the Committee acquaint the Board that they received notice only of a few small parcels, whereby it appears the Merchants hoard up their Grain in order to enhance the price, and the Markets having been quite empty for several days and consequently the Poor grievously distressed thereby, ORDERED that all the Merchants dealing in Grain by the great, be obliged to sell their Stock on hand at the rate of Sixty 60 pagodas Pr. garse for rice and Paddy at Thirty 30 pagodas, that the Retailers shall be obliged to sell it again. Rice at one measure three Eighths 1 3/8 for one fanam, and twice the quantity of Paddy, and no dearer on any pretence whatever; that Messieurs Hyde, Burton, Peers and Morse be appointed at a Committee to see these orders complied with and the markets fully supplied at that rate, & that They may be the better able to do this, Ordered that no grain be sold between the hours of six in the Evening and Six in the morning, and also that the Committee be authorized to seal up all godowns or repositories of grain in order to secure the same for public use.
ORDERED that the Secretary do give public notice thereof.
p150 (consultation of 7 Dec 1730): The Vessels coming in from the Northward, making Grain Cheaper than it has been of late, ORDERED that the late orders about Grain be repealed.
[There had been a severe rainstorm about 18 Nov, which caused much damage around both Madras and Fort St. David]
[petition from Sebastian Chanda for a rent reduction on his garden] ... since the late storm many trees being blown down and many very old and the young ones your Pet'r. has planted will not bear these five years, so that the Toddy people cant afford to pay their usual rent. ...
[petition from Mahaudu (aka Mahamada) for a rent reduction on his garden] ... in the late Storm many of the trees are blown down and many so much damaged that They will not come to themselves these Twelve months, neither will the young ones bear these five years.
Your Pet'r. being obliged to constantly Employ more Servants in order to bring the garden into repair, and the Toddy people not able to pay their former rent, most humbly hopes your Honour to take his case into your serious consideration ...
[Council orders a survey of the damage]
|Fort St. George "Diary and Consultation Book, 1731" (1930)|
|p2 (consultation of 4 Jan 1731): Since our report of the 16th. Ultimo the very heavy rains that have unexpectedly fallen has done a great deal of more damage to the Company's Building[s] ...|
p8 (consultation of 11 Jan 1731): The two farms let to farm one to Mahadu the other to Sebastian Chanda suffered very much in the late storm, two hundred trees having been blown down & many shattered and tho' care has been taken to set up all those again which were not entirely ruin'd yet there is scarcely one that will grow. Your Honour &c. having on the petition of the renters for an abatement of some part of the rent directed me to examine into the affair which I have accordingly done & am of opinion if you will grant an abatement of twenty five pagodas to Mahaudu & ten to Sebastian Chanda for the ensuing year it will make up for the Loss they will sustain by the accident.
|"Procès-verbaux des délibérations du Conseil souverain de la Compagnie des Indes" (Vol. 2, 1914)|
|pp280-281: (meeting of 29 Nov 1730) "Les droits d'entrées qui se percevoient sur les graines, qui servent à la nourriture des hommes et des bestiaux, conformément au règlement arresté en conseil le douze octobre mil sept cent vingt-deux, ayant été suspendus, par délibération du douze novembre mil sept cent vingt-huit, pour engager les marchands qui font le commerce à en faire venir dans la ville, qui se trouvoit alors dans une grande calamité par la sécheresse qu'il faisait depuis un longtems; les pluies ayant été très abondantes, depuis trois mois, et les graines ayant déjà commencé à baisser considérablement de prix, il a été délibéré et arresté qu'à commencer du premier de décembre prochain les droits d'entrées et de sorties sur les graines seront rétablis ..."
p296: (meeting of 19 Apr 1731) La maison de la Compagnie, qui servoit de Douane cy-devant, étant entièrement ruinée par les dernières pluyes, et hors d'état de servir, ne convenant point de la rebatir, le terrain étant trop petit ... il a été délibéré de faire une vente publique de la dite maison, en l'état qu'elle est actuellement ... [Agreed]
|Fort St. George "Diary and Consultation Book, 1732" (1930)|
|p104 (consultation of 15 Nov 1732): The Heavy rains which have fallen for some days past having spoiled all the roads so as to make them impassable Ordered that the Paymaster set about the repairing of them.|
|Fort St. George "Diary and Consultation Book, 1733" (1930)|
|p147 (consultation of 22 Oct 1733): [petition from the merchants Sunca Vaincatachelum, Mudu Rama & Nairo Ball Chitty, penalised for repeatedly failing to fulfill their contracts]|
" 3. Your Honour &c. may please to observe the Contract is dated the 31st. July 1729 a very late and unusual time for the Company's Merchants to enter into Contracts for the Year, Your Honour &c. may also be informed that Governour Macrae &c. Council had treated and seem'd to have concluded this Contract in April 1729. But when the Contract was drawing up Governour Macrae insisted upon an article to be mention'd therein, whereby Your Petitioners &c. were in case of Failure not only liable to the usual Penalties But also to the payment of the Penalty incurred by the deficiency of the former Contract 1728. Your Petitioners &c. had largely excused the deficiency of 1728 by reason of the Famine and other troubles in ye Country and thereupon thought themselves exempt from any further demands on that head wherefore they desired Governour Macrae &c. to take out that article relating to the penalty 1728 and your Petitioners &c. would sign to all the rest of the Contract as then drawn out. But Your Petitioners not being able to prevail with Governour Macrae for that time the Contract lay in Suspence from the 1st. May to 31st. July 1729. Here your Honour &c. may be informed that Your Petitioners &c. had always hopes of a Compliance to their Exception of said Article and thereupon had Set about the Providing of Cloth and accordingly did bring in 145 bales value 8416 Pagodas in May and June 1729 (the two Months the contract lay in suspence) and when the contract was agreed to and signed the said 31st. July 1729 It was mutually agreed by the said Governour Macrae &c. Council and Your Petitioners &c. that the said 145 Bales should be received and accounted as part of the said 1700 Bales. If this be true as the case was and is Your Petitioners hope Your Honour &c. will enter the same into the Credit of Your Petitioners &c's. contract and then there will be but 733 bales deficiency of the Contract and consequently but 366 1/2 Bales short of Your Petitioners 1/2 Part.
4. As there is a Clause in the said Contract to excuse any Penalty in case of any deficiency on your Petitioners &c's. Part Provided the Wars and disturbances in the Country should render it impracticable to procure the whole quantity of 1700 Bales, So your Petitioners hope to be indulged with the Benefit of said Clause since it was most evident the Weavers and other People of the Country still labour'd under the sad Effects of a severe famine then going on of three years continuance whereby the death of many able weavers, the slow Progress of new Workmen added to the disturbances in the Country occasion'd from the Severity of the Rent-Gatherers over the Poor People now unable to pay the usual Taxes, increasing the unhappy condition of the Poor remainder of Workmen, and thereby renderd the Weavers incapable of Performing their Promises to your petitioners &c. they were also unable to comply with their contract. However Your Petitioners cannot but acquaint your Honour &c. of their continual and eager struggles with all the above disadvantages and many others to procure Cloth at any Rate. Your Petitioners most freely distributed and advanced their money among the Weavers under the greatest hazard of Bad debts. Your Petitioners Spread their Servants into all Parts where they could hope for Cloth at any Tollerable price, so as to bring a Corge of Long Cloth ordinary to 33 and 34 Pagodas Pr. Corge choosing to Suffer a loss rather than be Slack in Performing their contract which contract Yr. Honour &c. know allows Your Petitioners but 29 Pag. for No. 3 But 30 1/4 for No. 2 But 31 1/4 for No. 1. Thus Your Petitioners were a trading to the sure loss of 15 Pr. Cent upon their contract of Long Cloth and so in proportion of other Cloths, and notwithstanding these great hazards and difficulties your Petitioners have the Pleasure to say they &c. Merchants did bring in between 15 or 1600 Bales of Cloth accordingly to contract that is to say in number and Species. But so it happen'd that very good Cloth was not then to be Got for Reasons above-mention'd and the want of able workmen at the Lombe. This last difficulty cou'd not be overcome by your Petitioners Industry or Prudence. Wherefore Your Petitioners Suffered by 578 Bales being turn'd out by Governour Macrae &c. whose Strict Sortings and Strict measurings threw out the Cloth that was not quite so good or quite so long & broad as the Muster at a time when your Petitioners might hope for the most favourable reception of such Cloth as was to be got. Had these 578 Bales been added to the 967 Bales already taken in they would very near have compleated the Contract. …"
p146 [from the Company's assessment of the petition]: "... Supposing the Allegations of ye Famine then Subsisting to be true, The Merchants could not be affected thereby any longer than the Year 1729 when it ceased and they have been allow'd all the Year 1730 and Part of 1731 to compleat the Same, nay in the beginning of the year 1732 the Board received Cloth of them on this Acco't and in August of that Year they were called upon to Finish the Same, and offer'd an Advance for that Purpose, which they refused, So far is what they Assert of their Readyness to Serve the Company in the 8th. and 10th. Paragraph wide of the Truth."