Partners, Servants, or Entrepreneurs? Banians in the Nineteenth-Century Bengal Economy

Michael Aldous*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Banians acted as intermediaries for European merchants in Bengal. They were highly influential in the eighteenth century but their importance waned thereafter. This article reexamines their role in the nineteenth century and argues that their importance persisted but evolved in response to changes in the Bengal economy and issues of contracting and governance. It shows that the banians remained a nexus between the local and global economies, facilitating a bidirectional transfer of knowledge. They enabled the development of innovative Indian business forms and contributed to the emergence of a diverse ecology of organizational forms and ownership in Bengal at the end of the nineteenth century.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)675-697
Number of pages23
JournalBusiness History Review
Issue number4
Early online date03 Feb 2021
Publication statusEarly online date - 03 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The President and Fellows of Harvard College 2021.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • corporate governance
  • India
  • intermediaries
  • knowledge
  • organizational forms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • History


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