After 1800, urbanisation in India was slow-moving. 19th century up to the first two decades of the 20th, the proportion of the urban population to the total population in India was extremely low and had remained stagnant. However, there were significant variations in the patterns of urban development in different regions. The smaller towns had little opportunity to grow economically. Calcutta, Bombay and Madras, on the other hand, grew rapidly and soon became sprawling cities.
Earlier these three centres functioned as collection depots for the export of Indian manufacturers such as cotton But now become the entry point for British-manufactured goods and for the export of Indian raw materials. The introduction of railways in 1853 meant a change in the fortunes of towns. Economic activity gradually shifted away from traditional towns which were located along old routes and rivers.
By the 18th century Madras, Calcutta and Bombay had become important ports. The English East India Company built its factories (i.e., mercantile offices) there and because of competition among the European companies, fortified these settlements for protection.
Indian merchants, artisans and other workers who had economic dealings with European merchants lived outside these forts in settlements of their own. After the 1850s, cotton mills were set up by Indian merchants and entrepreneurs in Bombay, and European-owned jute mills were established on the outskirts of Calcutta. This was the beginning of modern industrial development in India.
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