The Indian Middle Classes: Thei Growth in Modern Times


This work, as its title suggests, is historical, not sociological. It is an attempt to trace the growth of the Indian middle classes from about the middle of the eighteenth century to modern times. It is in the main a story of the social policy and changes that occurred in the course of about 200 years of British rule, largely as a consequence of Western education and modern capitalist enterprise, of improved communications and commercial progress, of land reforms and legal administration.

As the character of a social class can by no means be exclusive of its relations with the strata above or below it, an attempt is made to study changes from a sociological angle. But this is done as part of a historical process, not as a study of their present form. My object is to produce a social history, a historical survey of the composition, character, and role of the Indian middle classes. This is a difficult task, since it demands an appreciation of three of the main disciplines immediately involved: history, economics, and sociology. I have some knowledge of the first, but not of the remaining two. Yet in the absence of a work on this subject I have ventured to undertake this as a pioneering project.


The term middle class is much used and since most of us, without the aid of a specialist, understand what we mean when we use it in our everyday conversation, I am not attempting a meticulous definition. While it may be of interest to note the features of the Indian middle classes, and while it may be necessary broadly to know their composition in order to be able to assess their historical role, to attempt to draw the precise limits of the middle class, a heterogeneous social layer, is, in the words of Lewis and Maude, to get 'lured into an almost interminable discussion of the social . . .

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • London
Publication year:
  • 1961


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