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Hundi/hawala: the problem of definition

Martin, Marina B.V. (2009) Hundi/hawala: the problem of definition. Modern Asian Studies, 43 (04). pp. 909-937. ISSN 0026-749X

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Identification Number: 10.1017/S0026749X07003459


In contemporary times, hundi has collected countless labels; the international press has spurned innumerable villainous descriptions, the bulk of which have helped to perpetuate a dense fog of notoriety. The critical problem lies in definition. As there is an incomplete understanding of hundi's form and remit, there is also a rather limited understanding of why the system persists, set against the backdrop of modern banking. In many ways the problem of definition presented legal and financial authorities of the early and late twentieth century with core issues which remain unresolved and problematic for authorities in the twenty-first century. By drawing on archival and other historical material pertaining to the system's usage amongst Indian merchants, this paper attempts to tackle much of the confusion and many misconceptions surrounding hundi. The discussion explores the idea that hundi is more accurately described as an indigenous banking system endowed with a complex range of functions, but whose central purpose is trade.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2011 Cambridge University Press
Divisions: Economic History
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DS Asia
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
H Social Sciences > HG Finance
Date Deposited: 29 Nov 2012 15:26
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2021 03:39

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