Abstract: Controlling Currency and Smuggling Specie in the Arabian Sea, 1873-1966

Johan Mathew


This paper argues that mercantile networks in the Arabian Sea were engaged in opaque, speculative, and rent-seeking endeavors that Fernand Braudel describes as capitalist in his classic work <em>Civilzation and Capitalism</em>. The monetary policies of the British Empire sought to regulate and constrain these merchant networks while guaranteeing those monopolies that served the empire and British businesses. Yet Indian and Arab merchant networks were resilient, operating through cunning to escape regulation and to co-opt state monopolies. First, the smuggling of money and specie directly undermined British policies. Second, the plethora of monies and jurisdictions created significant loopholes through which merchant networks could circumvent British policies while skirting the edges of legality. Lastly, the shallow penetration of British businesses into these colonial economies necessitated both state-sponsored monopolies and the complicity of Indian and Arab financial networks to sustain