Why was India richer than Iran or Afghanistan-


I don’t have many answers but the Indo-Gangetic plains have certainly fared a lot better than the Mesopotamian and Nile River Valley.

It may be that certain civilisation required manmade constructs and when depredations occurred; they simply collapsed. It seems that the Indo-Gangetic was ringed with a massive dessert (the Thar desert and Deccan plateau notwithstanding) in the same manner the Nile, Iraq, North Africa or Central Asia were.

Just a few thoughts on what is surely a complex matter..

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5 years ago

I dont think at any moment in history Afghanistan (Including Gandhara’s time etc)was more prosperous than Indo-Gangetic plain. Yes probably was more prosperous due to silk route and over land trade at different times in history, but that’s when you just compare Afghanistan history only. Agriculture/fertile land was still the main mode for subsistence for prosperity.

Razib Khan
5 years ago

during most of history most people in most areas were nearish the malthusian margin. there were some differences in wealth due to classic smithian factors, especially in the transient. but the reason places were ‘wealthy’ was due to the number of ppl elites could extract resources had.

india had a lot of people. ergo, it was ‘wealthy.’

5 years ago
Reply to  Razib Khan

Population density itself is an indicator of some measure of prosperity. It is hard for Inuits to grow to levels of population similar to people in fertile river basins.
It is also conceivable that “all other things being equal” some sort of cultural factors can contribute to differential levels of “prosperity”.

5 years ago
Reply to  Razib Khan

Razib, isn’t “wealthy” = real per capita GDP or total factor productivity? Or [total capital]/[total labor]?

I think historical economics is a nascent science with very little data. I suspect that per capita income in the ancient past was a lot higher than people now think. I suspect that per capita income fell sharply between 400 AD and 1500 AD during the dark ages in Europe.

5 years ago

The difference is Malthusian true, but large enough to have a psychological impact worldwide such that a land becomes a land of El Dorado in popular imagination from Iran to Iberia.

Say GDP/cap in Indian subcontinent is $700 and in rest of Eurasia minus China it is at $450, that’s a significant relative difference.

5 years ago
Reply to  Bharotshontan

The best estimates are that we have (Mathieson) are only from about 1600, and put China, Indian and Eastern Europe about similarly at $1000, and Western Europe about $1600. Then the data seems to be that China and India decline while others improve (well before any colonial impacts as well). (No data on Iran or Turkey for that period, but they’re closer to Europe than to China or India when estimates do begin in the 19th century).

The explanation for why India was a land which lots of people from countries to the West were keen to get trade goods from is mostly because India could produce spices and cotton cloth relatively cheaply while countries to the West either couldn’t do so cheaply or at all. There’s just no sign that this ever meant a particularly high general standard of living or wealth otherwise (at least for the intervals where we have the best estimates). Things may have been different in 1000AD though.

5 years ago
Reply to  HistoricalEcon

You must be new here. Many (but not all) posts and comments are flights of fancy and does not represent reality. There was never a time between 1601-2000 that Nile or Mesopotamian valleys were poorer than Indo-Gangetic plains.

State Per Capita GDP (Nominal), 2017
Pakistan Pumjab 1575$
Uttar Pradesh 770 $
Bihar 540 $
West Bengal 1300$
Sindh 1748$

Bangladesh 1512 $
Egypt 2412 $
Iraq 5120$

This clearly supports “I don’t have many answers but the Indo-Gangetic plains have certainly fared a lot better than the Mesopotamian and Nile River Valley.”

Deep Bhatnagar
Deep Bhatnagar
5 years ago

I guess there can be many factors but i don’t have an exact time frame to produce a coherent narrative but i guess it prospered because first of all Indians never debated or took up the identities issue & thus instead debated everything which allowed them to develop indigenous Science {within religious frame} as well as they always remained open to all the advancements other societies made like Roman, Greeks & Chinese etc.

For e.g. –
Indian Jyotish mentions Romans, Greeks etc.

From Indus civilization we know 2 things –
They knew city management, water management & they had trade links {maritime & other links} with other earliest civilizations we know thus prosperity had a head start in India.


India was the only source for diamonds so this certainly was one of the factor for Indian subcontinent’s prosperity.

I guess metallurgy was another factor – For e.g. export of Wootz steel {Other examples keep generating debates so i am only mentioning the info we have for sure.}

The basic point is – All regions were busy in developing themselves without useless controversies surrounding Identity & trying to nullify their actions to make them conform to those identities {something which modern India could learn from their ancestors esp. politicians because it was the ‘secular’ practice of kings to revere all beliefs but not strictly adhere to any of them by the book which allowed them the freedom to peruse the goals of prosperity for their kingdoms.}

Brown Pundits