This paper explores the context in which skilled artisans introduced innovations in India around 1900 and suggests that such steps carried the potential for conflicts between the innovator and those affected by his actions. Conflicts could arise over the protection of knowledge, over the right to make a change, in the form of resistance, or as a choice between maintaining and diluting quality. Conflicts were absent when the mediation of social and political leaders was available and when skilled artisans emerged from unconventional backgrounds. By stressing the capacity of artisans to innovate and by suggesting that individuals were the agents of innovation, this paper refocuses attention on the skilled individual within a historiography that has been rather neglectful of both craftsmanship and the craftsman.

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