Great economic historian Angus Maddison passed away on 24 April. His estimates of global population and income over the past millennium are incomparable.
The chart here shows how India became an ever-smaller part of the world economy after 1700, as Europe and then other parts of the world accelerated, while India stagnated in the colonial era. But the trend had begun much before the British consolidated their power in India.
Graphic: Jayachandran / Mint
The world till 1700 was a Malthusian one. National output was more tightly correlated to national population. India accounted for one-fourth of global output because it had a quarter of the world’s population. The divergence began with use of technology to increase productivity after the Industrial Revolution.
It took something like 280 years before India began to close the gap after around 1980, when the first economic reforms took hold. India’s contribution to global gross domestic product has been growing since then and is now more than what it was at the time of Independence, but it is sobering to note that we are still less than half the level we were at in 1820.
It’s a long journey back into the heavyweight category.