Thursday, 7 February 2019

Modernising Calcutta: Technology, the Spectacular and the Unexpected (Thursday 28 February)

Calcutta - the official name of Kolkata until 2001 - is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. It is the principal commercial, cultural and educational centre of East India and India's oldest operating port. During the eighteenth century the British East India Company traded there, developed a fortified trading post and eventually assumed full sovereignty of the region.

Under East India Company rule and, from 1858, the British Raj Calcutta served as the capital of British-held territories in India.

Professor Anindita Ghosh's background, career and current activities are summarised on the home page of this website. Her recent work, funded by a major grant from the British Academy, examined the city of Calcutta during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

In the late nineteenth century Calcutta was a melting pot of migrant workers, artisans, servants, boatmen, labourers, petty traders and shopkeepers and an army of clerks, apart from the educated Bengali classes who served in the various colonial and mercantile establishments in the city. As the administrative and commercial capital of British India, Calcutta was the quintessential harbinger of modernity in the subcontinent. And yet we know rather little of the responses of its inhabitants to these tumultuous developments.

Professor Ghosh's lecture will explore urban experiences in the colonial metropolis as articulated in its street songs, newspapers, memoirs and images. It will examine how print and performance in Calcutta in the late nineteenth century animated the urban domain with widely shared discourses on the city, on material changes and shifting conceptions of space and technology, giving insight into the experience of a recently urbanised world.

Mike Short