competing for Indian textiles, the main rivalry was between the Dutch and the
English, with the former initially having an edge but the latter gradually
gaining supremacy by the turn of the 17th century and the beginning of the
18th century.
With regard to the textile varieties that were exported from the Coromandal
to South East Asia and other Asian markets, and later to Europe, the
European records give us a very long list. The various types, in order of
importance, were long-cloth, salempores, moris (chintz), guinea-cloth,
bethiles, allegias, sarassas, tapis, and the like. All these varieties were being
exported even during earlier periods to several Asian markets such as the
Moluccan Spice Islands, Java, Sumatra, Borneo, the Malay Peninsula, Siam,
Tenasserim, Pegu, Arakan, Persia, Arabia, and the Red Sea ports. But the
speciality of the period under study was the increased European orders
which, though matching the already existing varieties, demanded
measurements larger than those in the Asian markets. Consequently the
Indian weavers had to change their methods and their looms to accommodate
this European demand. Many of them did so quite profitably, but it
necessitated long-term contracts and rendered spot orders improbable.
The Indian economy, more specifically its textile trade and industry, during
the second half of the 17th century, was a sellers’ (i.e. producers’) market.
For, when the three European companies-English, Dutch and French (which
had entered the fray in the 1670s) were competing in the open market,
making large orders from India, and these were supplemented by European
private trade and Indian trade, the weavers had greater flexibility and larger
freedom of operation. The interchangeability of goods ordered by these
various buyers, who were aiming at broadly the same export markets, made it
possible for weavers to play one against the other. In other words, this was
the phase in which whatever the weaver produced was bought up by one or
the other eager customer. If, for instance, any cloth produced by the weaver
was rejected by the companies, then the weaver could sell it to English
private traders. This situation existed in many parts of the country where the
three companies as well as the other buyers were in free competition.
Changes in the Organisation of Trade