"The Punjab Peasant in Prosperity and Debt, first published in 1925, is an acknowledged classic. Its author, Sir Malcolm Lyall Darling (1880-1964), combined an outstanding Anglo-Indian career with literary achievement. And he belonged to that rare breed of bureaucrats who had a sense of mission: his goal, rural reconstruction; his means, village cooperative societies.
The volume is the distillation of a lifetime of experience of working among the peasants. In the course of his official duties as Registrar of Cooperative Societies, Darling had no end of opportunities of meeting peasants and conversing with them on economic and social issues. And few men have observed the peasant with so keen an eye for detail or entered his mental world so completely.
In this book Darling proceeds to explain the varying incidence of indebtedness in the Punjab and examines the factors influencing such variations. He analyses the economic factors first – the size of holdings, irrigation facilities, yield of crops, access to markets, etc. Then he probes the social institutions bearing upon indebtedness – the power of the landlord and priests, and of the institutions of the moneylender, and finally the local value system prevalent in the rural society. All along Darling offers a wealth of perception and any number of new insights.
This reprint has a long scholarly introduction specially written for this edition, and also a bibliography of Darling’s works.