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Guest lecture: "Intra-Asian Competition and Collaboration against the West"

Oct 24, 2019 04:45 pm to 06:00 pm

"Intra-Asian Competition and Collaboration against the West:
The N.Y.K. Bombay Line, Tata & Sons, and Indian Cotton at the End of the Nineteenth Century"

Speaker: Professor Shigeru AKITA (Osaka University)

The traditional and orthodox interpretation of the British Raj (colonial rule in India) characterizes it in terms of the economic exploitation of India. However, recent historical studies have focused on the revival or development of the Indian cotton industry at the turn of the twentieth century. This presentation pays special attention to the rapid development of the Indian cotton-spinning industry as an export industry for the Chinese market and its implications for ‘intra-Asian trade’.

The N.Y.K. (Nippon Yusen Kaisha) was the largest Japanese company in the late nineteenth century, and it launched its first international shipping route, connecting Kobe and Bombay in November 1893. This Bombay line was a joint shipping venture of Indian-Japanese partnership, between the N.Y.K. and the Tata & Sons, in order to break the monopoly of the European companies. After the start of this line, intra-Asian trade networks between East Asia (Japan, China), Southeast Asia, and South Asia (British India) emerged. At the end of the century, about 30 percent of Indian exports were bound for Asian countries. The formation of this network was quite unique among non-European regions and had no parallel in Africa or Latin America.

This development led to ‘Intra-Asian competition’ for Asian consumer goods markets, especially in China. From 1890s, the export of Japanese (Osaka) cotton yarn rapidly increased and competed with the dominant position of Indian yarn in the Chinese market. The rapid development of ‘intra-Asian trade’ and the acceleration of the movement of Asian goods and products made a positive contribution to the growth of the interests of the City of London.  In this context, Asian industrialization and “gentlemanly capitalism” of the UK could coexist.


Prof. Akita is staying at the HCTS as Toshiba Visiting Professor and is also teaching a class on "From Empires to Development Aid—A Global Historical Perspective on the Asian International Economic Order in the 1950s and 1960."


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