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

By Partha Chatterjee | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
Liberty of the Subject

THE BRITISH FORT in Calcutta was badly damaged by the siege of 1756 and its aftermath. Siraj, having renamed the city Alinagar, even had a mosque built inside the fort walls. The decision was made, soon after its recapture by the British in 1757, to abandon the old fort and build a new one. Captain Robert Barker, who would later rise to be commander in chief of the Bengal Army under Hastings, prepared a plan for a new fort on slightly raised ground to the east of the old fort, noting that since most of the structures there were “houses of no consequence and black people's huts,” clearing the area for new construction would not pose too many problems.1

But Barker's plan was dropped—it is said, because of opposition from Clive. The story is credible, since the alternative plan was substantially more ambitious, and it is unlikely that it could have been adopted by the council in Calcutta, against the explicit advice of the company's directors in London, without Clive ‘s encouragement. The new plan involved the resettlement of the inhabitants of the village of Gobindapur located south of the town, because that is where Clive argued the fort should be built. Strategically, the new Fort William would be primarily defended against attacks from the river, and naturally protected by forests to the east and south.


THE NEW FORT WILLIAM

Relocating the inhabitants did not pose as much of a problem as might have been expected, due to the plentiful funds made available by the new nawab, Mir Jafar, as restitution for the damages inflicted on Calcutta by Siraj. The propertied families of Gobindapur, including not only the well-established Seths and Basaks but also the newly emergent Debs, Ghoshals, and Tagores, were handsomely compensated. Nabakrishna Deb took his large establishment to Shobhabazar. Gokul Ghoshal moved south to Khidirpur to build a new mansion.2 Nilmani Tagore resettled in Pathuriaghata, just north of the Great Bazar of Sutanuti, from where a branch of the family would later move further north to Jorasanko to become one of the most celebrated families in the cultural life of modern India.3 It is not known to what extent those inhabitants of Gobindapur who did not come within the protected circles of rich patrons were also com-

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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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