Literature of nineteenth century Calcutta
A voluminous literature has grown up around the social life and culture of nineteenth century Calcutta, in both English and Bengali. Contemporary sketches by travelers and inhabitants (H. E. Busteed's Echoes of Old Calcutta, 1897; E. Heber's Narrative of a Journey through the Upper Provinces of India, 1828; George H. Johnson's The Stranger in India, or Three Tears in Calcutta, 1843 are only a few among the vast literature of reminiscences by contemporaries) throw interesting light on the daily lifestyle of both the British settlers and the indigenous elite. The indigenous lower orders loom vaguely in the background in these accounts, and any description of their manners or culture that might appear there is only incidental.
Study of Calcutta's economic, social and cultural history
Serious academic studies have been made in the present century on different facets of Calcutta's economic, social and cultural history. Dr Pradip Sinha's Calcutta in Urban History (1978) and S. N. Mukherjee's Calcutta Myth and History (1977) trace the growth of Calcutta as a city and the composition of the elite in the early years. These two important studies on Calcutta deal primarily with the urbanization process leading to the physical-spatial differences in the city and the resultant rise of new power relationships. Mukherjee's book in particular draws exhaustively on census reports, archival material, literary works, travel accounts, etc. to analyze the class, caste and political situation in the city during the first three decades of the nineteenth century. But while both the studies frequently draw upon contemporary cultural products mainly the literary products of the Bengali elite as sources for studying urbanization, an analysis of the cultural products in their own right and on their own terms, as expressions of social attitudes of certain groups, is outside the scope of their survey framework.
Development of the nineteenth century Bengali elite
Quite a number of books have been written on the growth and development of the nineteenth century Bengali elite, with particular reference to their ideological views. Susobhan Sarkar's On the Bengal Renaissance (1946) deals with the differences between the so-called 'modernists' and 'conservatives' among the elite and their respective response to British administrative policies. A. F. S. Ahmed's Social Ideas and Social Change in Bengal (1818-1835) (1965) is a highly documented account of the impact of colonial economic policies on the emerging elite, the division between the land-owning 'conservatives' and the 'liberal' merchants, and the latter's support of free trade and colonization by private British business interests. David Kopf's British Orientalism and the Bengal Renaissance 1773-1835 (1969) deals primarily with the educational policies of the British government, passing from the orientalist phase to the Anglicist phase of Macaulay, and how the Bengali intelligentsia responded to them. In these books too the cultural products are referred to only as sources. Although Kopf's study throws some light on educational experiments directed at the lower orders and how such experiments were abandoned because of various socio-economic reasons, the culture of the lower orders as a separate entity is absent from the purview of the study.
Some literatures of nineteenth century Calcutta
Benoy Ghose in his Bengali books Bdngldr Sdmdjik Itihdser Dhdrd (1968) and Kdlpenchdr Rachand Sangraha (1969) did pioneering work in drawing attention to the major forms of Calcutta's nineteenth century urban folk culture and in underlining the reflection of contemporary social developments in those products. Bireshwar Bandyopadhyay's Banglddesher Sawng Prasangey (1972) is another original study of an interesting urban folk form the pantomime, which in nineteenth century Calcutta was a powerful weapon in the hands of the lower orders for deriding the upper classes. W. G. Archer's Bazaar Paintings of Calcutta (1953), and the more recent Kalighat Painting (1986), published by the Santiniketan Kala Bhavana, are interesting attempts to collect and interpret the most important form of visual folk art that flourished in nineteenth century Calcutta.
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