FAMINES IN THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT, 1500 to 1767
|1736 (a) [from 1733]: south-east India|
|Documented causes: drought|
|Documented effects: flexibility by European companies|
|Fort St. George "Diary and Consultation Book, 1736" (1930)|
|p47 (consultation of 1 Mar 1736): [petition for repair of a wind-driven water-pump]|
[in addition to the income shortfall caused by the lack of pumped water for irrigation] "there has been several ballance remaining upon the Bound Habitants & your petitioner could not collect it because of the famine."
[Incidentally, the assessors' view was that it would be cheaper to employ men to carry the water than to rebuild the poorly-designed pumping system]
p77 (consultation of 30 Apr 1736): [petition from the cloth-washers of Madras] "… by means of the constant famines which have happened for these ten or eleven years past their Cooley or allowance from the Hon'ble Company has not been sufficient for their Subsistence after the usual Charges incident thereon were defrayed, which we shall acquaint Your Honour with hereafter, and also that the Rice for some time was so scarce and dear that it could not be procured under 1/4 or 1/2 measure for a Fanam, so through these and the like Exigencies they were entirely disabled to support themselves and families provisions &c. being so scarce that induced a great number of their people to desert their habitations and take refuge in other parts where provisions were cheaper many having sold themselves, wives & Children and many likewise embarked themselves on several Vessels to divers places together with a great mortality amongst them which has reduced them to the small number of about 100 Men By whom your Petitioners assure Your Hon'r, it is morally impossible to carry on and discharge their whole duty of washing the Cloth also another difficulty arises which further disables your Petitioners in compleating the whole business is that in former times the Long Cloth weigh'd but 10 to 11 lb Pr. p'ce. which was more easy for a man to hold and wash it, especially in such times when they had provisions cheap they were the stronger to perform it whereas of late years the Long Cloth provided has been of between 13 & 14 lb. Pr. p'ce. which in such time of scarcity reduced your petitioners in their strength so much that they found it impossible for a single man to hold a piece of Cloth of that burthen & wash it effectually. ...
... your Pet'rs, allowance from the Hon'ble Company being only but P[agodas] 1. 5 [fanams] for every Corge of Long Cloths washing ...
... The said Ps. 1. 5 was the rate allowed to your Petitioners when there was a garce of paddy sold for 5 or 6 Pagodas or thereabouts but by reason of the severe famines aforementioned together with the desertion and Deaths of so many, your petitioners are reduced to such extreme poverty and to so small a number of hands that they are intirely incapable of maintaining themselves & families & likewise not in a Capacity of discharging their duty of washing the Cloth effectually. ...
Your Honr's, poor petit'rs, further crave Leave to represent to your Hon'r, that in the severe famine in Gov'r. Pitt's time there was some Cloth destroyed by worms &c. and other some stole in the washing town which Your Hon'r. is very sensible of but when the Thieves were found at three or four several times and produced by the poligar they were tryed by the Hon'ble Judges Court, but acquitted from any corporal punishment only were turn'd out of the bounds which was owing to Gov'r. Pitt's & Your Honr's, wonted favour & compassion by taking into consideration the Misery and poverty of their condition occasioned by the then present famine your poor petitioners humbly acquaint your Honour that payment is demanded of them for 260 Cloths that was destroyed and stole in Gov'r. Pitts time abovementioned.
... all persons are in duty bound to be for ever thankfull in regard of your Honr's. goodness & Compassion in restoring Grain to so cheap a rate as at present it is But more especially your poor petitioners acknowledge it with a gratefull remembrance your Honr's. goodness in granting them grain in the last famine …"
[after due consideration, at the consultation of 17 May, the Council ordered increased allowances for the washers]
p141 (consultation of 3 Sep 1736): [petition from three merchant suppliers to the Company, for a price renegotiation] "... of the Cloth which Your petitioners brought in for the Hon'ble Company there is about 100 Bales of Middling Long Cloth which with Charges stands Your petitioners in 44 [pagodas]. 7 [fanams]. 52 [cash] Pr. Corge which Your Hon'r. &c. is well acquainted with & also with the great Trouble your petitioners have to procure the same by the Extravagant price of Cotton & thread & the severe famine that has Long Continued in these parts making it very difficult to get back the Value of the Money Your Petitioners request of Your Hon'r. &c. to take in for the Company's account the aforemention'd Cloth at such price as to your Hon'r, shall seem reasonable which will be readily accepted by your Petitioners, who think no Trouble too much to serve the Hon'ble Company or Your Hon'r. &c. entirely depending on your goodness."
[A new price was negotiated]
p170 (consultation of 18 Oct 1736): [another petition from the same merchants] "... The Long continuance of the Famines, Wars & Disturbances in the Country will not permit the Merchants of the Distant Kingdoms to come as formerly to this place to purchase Broad cloth which with the quantitys imported here by some Captains of the Europe ships sometime ago, has greatly Lower'd the price of those Goods, so much that Your Petitioners was not able to dispose of any or but very Little in the place. …
... by the Death of our late Nabob Sadatull Caun several Disturbances happening in the Country as also the severe Famine, at that time a great part of Your Petitioners Money was Lost by Outstanding debts. …"
[although the Council noted that"perhaps they have Exaggerated the Difficulty's they complain of" a study of recent sales statistics convinced them to agree a revision of arrangements to help the merchants]
|"Procès-verbaux des délibérations du Conseil souverain de la Compagnie des Indes" (Vol. 3, 1914)|
|p24: (meeting of 16 Apr 1736) "Les droits d'entré sur les grains qui servent à la nourriture des homes et bestiaux ayant été suprimés au premier janvier mil sept trente-quatre, dans la veüe de soulager le peuple accablé de mizère par la dizette et la cherté du riz et autres denrées et comestibles, et en même tems d'engager les marchands forains d'en apporter de dehors, cette supression de droits a subsisté jusqu'à ce jour, mais les pluyes qui ont été fréquentes l'hyver dernier ayant, grace a Dieu, ramené l'abondance, le Conseil a délibéré et arrêté de rétablir les droits d'entrée sur le ris et autres grains ..."|
|"Correspondance du Conseil Supérieur de Pondichéry et de la Compagnie ... 1736-1738" (Vol. 2, c1920)|
|p185 (15 Oct 1738, responses to Compagnie queries dated 30 Oct 1737, regarding the Pondichéry reports of October 1736): "Le coton a toujours continué de valoir 32 à 35 pagodes le bar pendant le courant de cette dernière année et les grains n'ont point baissé de prix, de sort que la famine et la misère ont toujours continué et la difficulté d'avoir des marchandises a été plus grande que jamais. Quantité d'aldées où il y avait beaucoup de tisserands ont été ruinées par l'armée du Nabab, qui est toujours dans le Tanjaour et d'autres ont été encore détruites par la misère."|
|"Lettres édifiantes et curieuses, écrites des missions étrangères" (vol. 8, 1835)|
|p329 (letter from Père Calmette, missionary at Vencatiguiry, Karnataka, 16 Sep 1737): "Depuis le mois d'août de l'année 1736, la famine, qui dure encore, a désolé tout ce pays ..." [Given the April entry from Pondicherry, I'm treating this as the start of a new famine, to be examined in 1737]|