J.S. Furnivall

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J.S. Furnivall


Born
in Great Bentley, Essex, The United Kingdom
February 14, 1878

Died
July 07, 1960

Genre


John Sydenham Furnivall was a British colonial public servant and academic. After winning a scholarship to Trinity Hall, Cambridge in 1896, he obtained his degree in natural science from Cambridge University in 1899. He served with the Indian Civil Service in Burma from 1901 to 1923, and was also an honorary research fellow at the University of Rangoon. He studied colonial administration at Leiden University in the Netherlands 1933-35, and in 1936 he was appointed Lecturer in Burmese Language, History and Law at Cambridge University, which position he held until 1941. He is credited with coining the concept of the "plural society" and was an influential historian of Southeast Asia, particularly the Netherlands East Indies (now Indonesia) an ...more

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Colonial Policy And Practice

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The Fashioning Of Leviathan...

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Progress And Welfare In Sou...

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Educational Progress In Sou...

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“Pages 85-87:

Lower Burma when first occupied … was a vast deltaic plain of swamp and jungle, with a secure rainfall; when the opening of the canal created a market for rice, this wide expanse of land was rapidly reclaimed by small cultivators … Formerly, the villager in Lower Burma, like peasants in general, cultivated primarily for home consumption, and it has always been the express policy of the Government to encourage peasant proprietorship. Land in the delta was abundant … The opening of the canal provided a certain and profitable market for as much rice as people could grow. … men from Upper Burma crowded down to join in the scramble for land. In two or three years a laborer could save out of his wages enough money to buy cattle and make a start on a modest scale as a landowner. … The land had to be cleared rapidly and hired labor was needed to fell the heavy jungle. In these circumstances newly reclaimed land did not pay the cost of cultivation, and there was a general demand for capital. Burmans, however, lacked the necessary funds, and had no access to capital. They did not know English or English banking methods, and English bankers knew nothing of Burmans or cultivation. … in the ports there were Indian moneylenders of the chettyar caste, amply provided with capital and long accustomed to dealing with European banks in India. About 1880 they began to send out agents into the villages, and supplied the people with all the necessary capital, usually at reasonable rates and, with some qualifications, on sound business principles. … now the chettyars readily supplied the cultivators with all the money that they needed, and with more than all they needed. On business principles the money lender preferred large transactions, and would advance not merely what the cultivator might require but as much as the security would stand. Naturally, the cultivator took all that he could get, and spent the surplus on imported goods. The working of economic forces pressed money on the cultivator; to his own discomfiture, but to the profit of the moneylenders, of European exporters who could ensure supplies by giving out advances, of European importers whose cotton goods and other wares the cultivator could purchase with the surplus of his borrowings, and of the banks which financed the whole economic structure. But at the first reverse, with any failure of the crop, the death of cattle, the illness of the cultivator, or a fall of prices, due either to fluctuations in world prices or to manipulation of the market by the merchants, the cultivator was sold up, and the land passed to the moneylender, who found some other thrifty laborer to take it, leaving part of the purchase price on mortgage, and with two or three years the process was repeated. … As time went on, the purchasers came more and more to be men who looked to making a livelihood from rent, or who wished to make certain of supplies of paddy for their business. … Others also, merchants and shopkeepers, bought land, because they had no other investment for their profits. These trading classes were mainly townsfolk, and for the most part Indians or Chinese. Thus, there was a steady growth of absentee ownership, with the land passing into the hands of foreigners. Usually, however, as soon as one cultivator went bankrupt, his land was taken over by another cultivator, who in turn lost with two or three years his land and cattle and all that he had saved. [By the 1930s] it appeared that practically half the land in Lower Burma was owned by absentees, and in the chief rice-producing districts from two-thirds to nearly three-quarters. … The policy of conserving a peasant proprietary was of no avail against the hard reality of economic forces…”
J.S. Furnivall, Colonial Policy And Practice

“Page 178-179:

It was not only unnecessary but imprudent to recruit Burmese [during the time Burma was part of the British Empire]. There could be little reliance on troops raised from among a people with no divisions of caste but united in religion, race and national sentiment … Obviously security required that the Burmese should be disarmed and debarred from military service. The Karens and other minor tribes, however, might be expected to side with the British, and these have been recruited, even when an initial reluctance had to be dispelled, but it has always been easy to find reasons for withholding military training, even as volunteer cadets, from the great mass of the people.”
J.S. Furnivall, Colonial Policy And Practice

“Page 308:

Like a confederation a plural society is a business partnership rather than a family concern, and the social will linking the sections does not extend beyond their common business interests. It might seem that common interest should tie them closely, for a dissolution would involve the bankruptcy of all the partners. But the tie is strong only so far as this common interest is recognized. Perhaps the only plural society inherently stable is the Hindu society in India. Here there are separate groups or classes, partly racial, with distinct economic functions. But in India caste has a religious sanction, and in a plural society the only common deity is Mammon. In general, the plural society is built on caste without the cement of a religious sanction. In each section the sectional common social will is feeble, and in the society as a whole there is no common social will. There may be apathy even on such a vital point as defense against aggression. Few recognize that, in fact, all the members of all sections have material interests in common, but most see that on many points their material interests are opposed. The typical plural society is a business partnership in which, to many partners, bankruptcy signifies release rather than disaster.”
J.S. Furnivall, Colonial Policy And Practice