March 17, 2011

Professor Morris David Morris passes away

It is reported by Dr. Frank Conlon on H-Asia Discussion forum of H-Net org that the eminent scholar Prof. Morris David Morris had passed away on March 12, 2011. Prof Morris was an authority on Economic History of India. Dr. Frank Conlon had written an obituary which can be accessed here.

An extract from the above mentioned obituary which highlights the contribution of Dr. Morris to the Economic History of India:

In 1949 Morris was appointed to the Economics faculty at the University of Washington in Seattle to teach European Economic History. Although his mentors at Berkeley had assumed he would complete a dissertation on labor unions in California, he found himself drawn back to some earlier research, and, taking advantage of the new Fulbright program, he went to India in 1951-52. There he conducted research in preparation of what would be his PhD dissertation "A history of the creation of a disciplined labor force in the cotton textile industry of Bombay City, 1851-1951" -University of California, Berkeley, Sept. 1954. Morris later described the work as being "concerned with labor as a factor of production. I sought an answer to a rather narrow economic question: did the characteristics of the labor supply constitute a bar to effective industrial discipline and thus to long-run economic development" (in his review of _Workers and Unions in Bombay, 1918-1929 by Richard Newman (1981) in _Pacific Affairs _56:1 (1983) p. 167. In time the revised work was published as _The Emergence of an Industrial Labor Force in India: A Study of the Bombay Cotton Mills, 1854-1947_ (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1964; Bombay: Oxford University Press, 1965).

During his career, Morris wrote numerous essays and chapters that opened new horizons in the history of the Indian economy and problems of economic development. Many of these challenged conventional thinking of the time and sometimes drew sharp rebuttals from other scholars. Morris was among the earliest American scholars to contribute to _Economic Weekly_ and its successor _Economic and Political Weekly_ such as "The Myth of 'Paradise Lost'-UNESCO's Study of Bombay Labour" EW 9 (6 July 1957) 857-862; "Order and Disorder in the Labour Force" EW 10 (1 November 1958), "What Is a Famine?" EPW 9:44 (November 2, 1974) 1855-1864, and "Needed--a new famine policy" EPW 10 (Feb, 1975) 283-294.

He helped define his field through his contributed essays to various volumes such as "Trade Unions and the State", in _Leadership and Political Institutions in India_ Ed. R. L. Park and I. Tinker (Princeton, 1959); "The Labor Market in India" in _Labor Commitment and Social Change in Developing Areas_ Ed. W. E. Moore and A. Feldman (New York, 1960); "Neglected Fields" in _Resources for South Asian Studies in the United States (ed. R. D. Lambert. (Philadelphia, 1962); ""The Effects of Industrialization on 'Race' Relations in India" in _Industrialization and Race Relations_ Ed. G. Hunter (London, 1965); "Economic Change and Occupational Cultures in South Asia" in _Entrepreneurship and Modernization of Occupational Cultures in South Asia_ Ed. M. Singer: (Durham, NC, 1973) and "Indian Industry and business in the Age of Laissez-faire" in _State and Business in India: A Historical Perspective_. Ed. D. Tripathi (New Delhi, 1987).

Morris was blessed with a vivacious curiosity and he offered up new ideas as pointers to further research in his field. With Burton Stein he produced "The Economic History of India: A Bibliographic Essay" _Journal of Economic History_ 21 (June 1961), followed by "Towards A Reinterpretation of Nineteenth Century Indian Economic History", _Journal of Economic History_ 23 (Dec. 1963) and "Trends and Tendencies in Indian Economic History _Indian Economic and Social History Review_ 5 (Dec. 1968) which was subsequently reprinted with papers by Bipin Chandra, T. Matsui and T. Raychaudhuri as _Indan Economy in the Nineteenth Century; A Symposium_ (Delhi: Indian Economic and Social History Association, 1969) His "Values as an Obstacle to Economic Growth in South Asia" _Journal of Economic History_ 27 (Dec. 1967) was reprinted in Thomas Metcalf's _Modern India: An Interpreted Anthology_ (London, 1971; Delhi, 1990).

Morris continued his contributions to Indian economic history throughout his Seattle years. Among his publications were "Private industrial investment on the Indian Subcontinent, 1900-1939: some methodological considerations" [review article on A.K. Bagchi, _Private investment in India_] _Modern Asian Studies_ 8 (Oct 1974) 535-555, "Selected railway statistics for the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh), 1853--1946-47" (with Clyde Dudley), _Artha Vijnana_ 17.3 (Sep 1975)[ later reprinted in Ian J. Kerr, _27 Down: New Departures In Indian Railway Studies_ (New Delhi, 2007)] and "South Asian Entrepreneurship and the Rashomon Effect, 1800-1947,"_Explorations in Economic History_16.3 (1979) 341-361. Morris was an active participant in the major publication project led by the late Dharma Kumar and others in creation of the two-volume _Cambridge Economic History of India_. He contributed a chapter "The Growth of Large-Scale Industry to 1947" in the second volume (Cambridge, 1983) Here Morris viewed overall poverty rather than exotic religious or social values as the fundamental constraint upon development in pre-1947 India, tiny scale of units of production, extremely low productivity of labor, and very limited social investment in human capital-as measured by the high rate of illiteracy throughout the period; British investments tended to be in export industries, Indian in domestic ones; and the Raj did relatively little to promote or protect industries in India.

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