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Crops for Europe

To increase their revenue the British decided to cultivate in the Indian soil, crops that were in demand in Britain.

The British persuaded and sometimes even forced cultivators in various parts of India to produce crops to their liking.

The crops that were forced on the Indian farmers were.

  • Jute in Bengal
  • Tea in Assam
  • Sugarcane in Uttar Pradesh
  • Wheat in Punjab
  • Cotton in Maharashtra and Punjab
  • Rice in Madras
  • During the late eighteenth century the British started cultivating opium and indigo.

    These crops were in great demand in Europe.


    The Story of ‘Indigo’

    Indigo Dye


    Indigo is the color on the electromagnetic spectrum between blue and violet. Color scientists do not usually recognize indigo as a significant color category.

    Indigo and violet are different from purple, which cannot be seen on the electromagnetic spectrum but can be achieved by mixing mostly blue and part red.

    A variety of plants provide indigo dye, but most natural indigo is obtained from those in the genus Indigofera.




    The Dye was obtained from processing the plant's leaves. These were soaked in water and fermented. The precipitate from the fermented leaf solution was mixed with a strong base, pressed into cakes, dried, and powdered. The powder was then mixed with various other substances to produce different shades of blue and purple.

    Historically, indigo played an important role in many countries' economies because natural blue dyes are rare.

    Among other uses, it is used in the production of denim cloth for blue jeans. Natural indigo was the only source of the dye until July 1897.


    Let us see why the British wanted to grow the ‘indigo plant’ in India.
    • The indigo plant grows primarily in the tropics.

    • By the thirteenth century Indian indigo was being used by cloth manufacturers in Italy, France and Britain to dye cloth.

    • Only small amounts of Indian indigo reached the European market and its price was very high.

    • European cloth manufacturers therefore had to depend on another plant called woad to make violet and blue dyes.

    • Cloth dyers, however, preferred indigo as a dye because Indigo produced a rich blue colour, whereas the dye from woad was pale and dull.

    • The demand for Indian indigo grew.

    • At the same time Britain began to industrialise, and its cotton production expanded dramatically, creating an enormous new demand for cloth dyes.

    • Indigo production in other countries began to decline and the demand for Indian Indigo increased in European countries.

    • This demand made the East India Company to expand the area under indigo cultivation.

    Soon India was the biggest supplier of indigo in the world.


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