SMU Journal of Undergraduate Research


In the long history of violence and cruelty that defined the period of British rule in India, Arthur Cotton is one of the few men remembered today not for his crimes, but for the good he did for the people of India. Cotton’s irrigation projects protected millions of Indians from the threat of famine, but the true legacy of his work is global in scope. As a major figure in the development of India’s infrastructure for most of the nineteenth century, Cotton witnessed the British Empire struggle with questions about its role in facilitating public works projects. Despite the Empire’s dedication to the principles of free-market capitalism for issues relating to India, by the final decades of the nineteenth century the British had recognized the need for government- funded infrastructure projects, and they became the first modern nation to leverage public debt for major infrastructure projects. Arthur Cotton played an instrumental role in the development of state-supported public works through his highly successful irrigation projects on the Cauvery and Godavari rivers, promoting the success of these projects in his writing, and by providing a solution to the challenge of developing Indian cotton agriculture.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License