Author: Dhrubajyoti Banerjea
Publisher: UBS Publishers
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8174765069
The present work goes beyond all earlier studies of Calcutta in the colonial times in its punctillous sifting of evidence and documentation to reconstruct the history of the slow growth of the city from its first colonial construction out of three non-descript villages on the bank of Hugli. In the process the author opens up a panoramic historical view of different spots and locations in the city in the first part of the book is followed by a commercial history in the second part documenting the arrival and growth of European business firms and establishments in the city and their slow absorption in the colonial trading system that held away till Independence.
There is little of the usual nostalgia that runs through books about this city which till 1911 was the capital of colonial India, and has been since then a bastion of radical politics and culture, a seat of violence, chaos and creativity. The author’s sense of history and objectivity give him an insight into yet another process at work in this city, viz. its commercial life and the forces that sustain it and the city itself. It is part of the new approach to the history of the city that, instead of the usual bird’s-eye view of cityscapes, this volume offers the richest photographic documentation ever of this city, selected from the author’s own enviable collection of old photographs and rarities acquired from the surviving colonial firms. Contrasting photographs from different periods placed in juxtaposition enliven the conducted tour on which the author takes the readers through European Calcutta-from now to then and back again-in the early part of the book. History comes visually alive in this book which never compromises on fact and cold objectivity.