The Black Hole of Empire: History of a Global Practice of Power

By Partha Chatterjee | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
The Pedagogy of Culture

IT IS NOT DIFFICULT to date when Indian opinion began to be voiced against the calumny of the Black Hole. There is evidence from the 1870s, when a series of textbooks were published on Bengal's history. The model for these Bengali books was the Outline of the History of Bengal by John C. Marshman, a Baptist missionary closely associated with the newspaper Friend of India. In it, Marshman described the “massacre of the Black Hole” as an “atrocity that keeps the event fresh in the memory of men in all countries,” even though Siraj “knew nothing of this deed of darkness, till the next morning.”1 But the Bengali versions often deviated from the prescribed script. A school text from 1872, for instance, spoke of Siraj's tyranny, but after declaring that he was not responsible for the Black Hole incident, went onto say that although betrayed by Mir Jafar, Siraj's other generals fought valiantly: “If this battle had continued for some time, then Clive would surely have lost. But fortune favoured the English, and weakened by the betrayal of Mir Jafar, the Nawab was defeated and Clive was victorious.”2 Resort to conspiracy and force did not end with the British victory in Palashi. In the period before and after Clive, stated the same book by Kshetranath Bandyopadhyay, “the English committed such atrocities on the people of this country that all Bengalis hated the name of the English.”3

Another textbook on the history of India published in 1870 mentioned Clive's intrigues: “Most people criticize Clive for these heinous acts, but according to him there is nothing wrong in committing villainy when dealing with villains.” The author also speculated on the political condition that might have foiled the British conquest of India: “If this country had been under the dominion of one powerful ruler, or if the different rulers had been united and friendly towards one another, then the English would never have become so powerful here and this country would have remained under the Musalman kings. Perhaps no one in this country would have ever heard of the English.”4 Yet another book from 1876 opened with this preface by the author: “I have written this book for those who have been misled by translations of histories written in English.” It ends with the following conclusion: “Having come to India as a mere trader, the East India Company became through the tide of events the overlord of two hundred million subjects, and the shareholders of the Company, having become millionaires and billionaires, began to institute the laws and customs of foreign peoples. In no other country of the world has such an unnatural event taken place.”5

-222-

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The Black Hole of Empire: History of a Global Practice of Power
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Preface xi
  • Chapter One - Outrage in Calcutta 1
  • Chapter Two - A Secret Veil 33
  • Chapter Three - Tipu's Tiger 67
  • Chapter Four - Liberty of the Subject 104
  • Chapter Five - Equality of Subjects 134
  • Chapter Six - For the Happiness of Mankind 159
  • Chapter Seven - The Pedagogy of Violence 185
  • Chapter Eight - The Pedagogy of Culture 222
  • Chapter Nine - Bombs, Sovereignty, and Football 264
  • Chapter Ten - The Death and Everlasting Life of Empire 311
  • Notes 347
  • References 387
  • Index 409
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