ATIS DASGUPTA* SUBHAS RANJAN CHAKRABORTf
The Growth of Calcutta : A Profile of Social Dislocations in the Early Colonial Period
The purpose of this paper is to understand the nature of social dislocations which accompanied the growth of Calcutta in the second half of the eighteenth century. As the growth of Calcutta was crucially interlaced with the English East India company's increasing domination in Bengal, particularly since the battle of Plassey (1757), the concomitant stress and strain in Calcutta should also be studied in the context of the broader social tensions which Bengal was undergoing due to the expansion of the British colonial rule. In other words, we would like to understand the variations in the parameters of Calcutta's involvement with the process of the colonial domination across the second half of the eighteenth century. Our exploration would be directed, more specifically, to ascertain the social groups who suffered from this domination and also those who, on the contrary, gained from the same process. Social dislocations emerged out of this divergence. Excepting certain new source materials which are few in number, we will formulate our suggestions mainly on the basis of the data already collected by the pioneers in history writing on Calcutta.1 The same data will be utilised by us for investigating the process of social dislocations—the process which might not have drawn adequate attention earlier.
It has been generally recognised that the main drive of the English East India company, after the assumption of diwani in 1765, was to maximise the land revenue of Bengal. Enhancement of land revenue was primarily needed for financing one-way export trading of the Company which was euphemistically described as 'investment. Surplus revenue was used to buy goods from Bengal, often at arbitrarily low rate, for export to England and Europe. Before the battle of Plassey, the Company's public purchases for export amounted to about 3 million current rupees.2 The Company, then, used to import bullion for 'investment'. But, after the assumption of diwani, the surplus revenue
Associate Professor, Sociological Research Unit, Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta. Assistant Professor, Department of History, Presidency College, Calcutta.
Social Scientist, Vol. 20, Nos. 3-4, March-April 1992.