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India has played an important role in recent debates on the development of agriculture during colonial rule, and on the performance of US cotton plantations during the nineteenth century. The debates suffer from a lack of quantitative evidence on the productivity of Indian cotton cultivation. In this article, we examine levels of land and labour productivity in cotton cultivation in nineteenth-century India, and compare this data with corresponding productivity figures from the US. Average yields in India were much lower than previous research would suggest, and trends were generally stagnant or even negative. The difference between the cost of labour in India and the US was also lower than previous research would suggest.