Chapter 12 Colonial Cities Urbanisation, Planning and Architecture
To what extent are census data useful in reconstructing patterns of urbanisation in the colonial context ?
The census data are useful in reconstructing patterns of urbanisation in the colonial context in the following ways :
- The censuses reveal that after 1800 the urbanisation in India was slow. The proportion of the urban population to the total population in India was almost stagnant. Between 1900 and 1940 the urban population increased from about 10 per cent of the total population to about 13 per cent.
- Smaller towns did not grow economically but Bombay, Madras and Calcutta grew rapidly.
- The introduction of railways changed the centre of economic activity from traditional towns to towns connected with the railways.
The above facts provide us the patterns of urbanisation but the historians have found the census data misleading because the census operation was a means by which social data were converted into convenient statistics about the population. There were many shortcomings in it. For example, classification of different sections of population was arbitrary. There were overlapping identities of people. People w7ere too suspicious of census operations and did not cooperate with the officials. Thus, census data is invaluable but should be studied carefully in restructuring patterns of urbanisation in colonial India.
What do the terms “White” and “Black” Town signify?
The British had white skin as they were often described ‘white’ and they considered themselves as superior to others. On the other hand, the blacks had brown or black skin. So they were known as the ‘black’. The White signified their superiority over the black due to the colour of their skin. The British symbolised the Black areas full of chaos and anarchy, filth and disease and on the other hand, the white areas stood for cleanliness and hygiene. In Black areas, epidemics like cholera and plague often broke out. So the British took stringent measures to ensure sanitation and public health to prevent diseases of the Black areas. They ensured underground piped water supply and introduced sewerage and drainage system in White areas. Thus, we can say, the White Towns were those parts of the colonial towns where the White people lived. These towns had wide roads, barracks, churches, paradeground, big bungalows and gardens, symbolised settled city life, whereas the Indian lived in Black Towns, were said to be unorganised and a source of filth and disease.
How did prominent Indian merchants establish themselves in the colonial city?
The prominent Indian merchants established themselves in the colonial city in the following ways :
- With the expansion of railways, the countryside from where raw materials and labour were obtained was linked to the cities like Bombay, Madras and Calcutta. This gave an opportunity to the Indian merchants to set up modern factories. Thus, after the 1850s, cotton mills were set up by Indian merchants and entrepreneurs in Bombay.
- Kanpur specialised in leather, woollen, cotton textiles and Jamshedpur where steel factory was established by J. Tata, specialised in steel.
- The American Civil War started in 1861 gave another opportunity to the Indian merchants for earning huge profits. Bombay was the most important city of India. By the late nineteenth century, Indian merchants in Bombay established cotton mills.
Examine how concerns of defence and health gave shape to Calcutta.
Sirajudaula, the Nawab of Bengal in 1756, sacked the small fort from Britisher. In this fort the British traders had built to house their goods. Consequently, when Sirajudaula was defeated in the Battle of Plassey, the British built a new fort, Fort William which could not be easily attacked. Around this a vast open space was left. This open space ‘ was called the Maidan or garermath. This was done for security reasons, because there would be no obstructions to a straight time of fire from the Fort against an advancing enemy army. Soon the British began to move out of the Fort. They built residences along the periphery of the Maidan. This indicates that how the English Settlement in Calcutta began to take shape. The vast open space around the Fort William became the significant town planning measure in Calcutta (Now Kolkata).
Lord Wellesley was more concerned about the conditions that existed in the cities. Cities were overcrowded, and had no sanitation facilities. He issued an administrative order in 1803 on the need for town planning and set up various committees for this purpose open places in the city would make the city healthier. As a result of this, many bazaars, ghats, burial ground and tanneries were cleared or removed. After Wellesley’s departure, the Lottery Committee carried on with the work of town planning in Calcutta.
What are the different colonial architectural styles which can be seen in Bombay city ?
The different colonial architectural styles which can be seen in Bombay city are as mentioned below :
- European style : In mid nineteenth century, the buildings were constructed in the European style to create a familiar landscape in an alien country and to symbolise their superiority.
- Indian style : As the Indians used European architecture, the British adopted Indian style that can be seen in the construction of bungalows in Bombay and all over India.
- Neo-classical or new classical style : Its characteristics are construction of geometrical structures fronted with lofty pillars. Town Hall is an example of this style.
- Neo-Gothic style : Its characteristics are high-pitched roofs, pointed arches and detailed decoration: Secretariat, University of Bombay and High Court were made in this style. The most spectacular example of the neo-Gothic style is the Victoria Terminus.
- Indo-saracenic style : It was a hybrid architectural style that combined the Indian with the European. It was inspired by the medieval buildings in India with their domes, chhatris, jalis and arches. The Gateway of India and the Taj Mahal Hotel that was built by Jamsetji Tata belong to this style.
How were urban centres transformed during the eighteenth century?
(i) The disintegration of the mughal empire after the death of Aurangzab paved the way of emergence of paverful regional powers. The capital cities of these regional kingdom likes Lucknow, Poona, Nagpur and Barda now become important. Taking the advantage of this opportunity many nobles and officials created new urban settlements such as the qasbah and ganj.
(ii) The European companies too had set up their bases in different parts of India during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. For example the Portugues (in Panaji in 1570) and the British in Madras in 1639. With the expansion in commercial activity, towns began to emerge as trading centres.
(iii) From the mid-eighteenth century trading. Centres like Surat and Dhakha which had grown in the seventeenth century now began to decline as trade shifted to other places. When the British acquired Bengal and the east Indian’s Company’s trade hereafter expanded the colonial port cities likes Madras and Calcutta. These new part cities began to emerge as the new economic capitals.
(iv) In these newly developed cities many new buildings were built and new occupations developed. People flocked to these cities in large numbers. By the nineteenth century, these newly developed cities become the biggest cities in India.
What were the new kinds of public places that emerged in the colonial city ? What functions did they serve ?
New kinds of public places that emerged in the colonial city were as given below :
- Fort St. George (Madras), Fort William (Calcutta), the Fort George (Bombay). These were the fortified areas of British settlement.
- The Writers’ Building in Calcutta : It was the building where the servants of the East India Company in India stayed on arrival in the country. Later this building became a government office.
- Clubs, racecourses and theatres were built for the ruling elites exclusively on racial grounds.
- Cantonment places were developed. Here Indian troops under European command were stationed. These were considered safe enclaves for Europeans.
- Simla, founded during the course of Gurkha war, and Darjeeling were hill stations that became strategic places for billeting troops, guarding frontiers and launching campaigns against enemy rulers.
- Public places such as public parks, theatres, and cinema halls came into existence for providing new forms of entertainment and social interaction.
- Government House Calcutta : It was built by Lord Wellesley for himself in Calcutta.
What were the concerns that influenced town planning in the nineteenth century?
- Two concerns which influenced the town planning in the nineteenth century were defence and health.
- In many towns British built forts to protect their factories. Around the fort, a vast open space was left open. This vast space was known as the Maidan.
- It was done so that there would be no obstructions to a straight line of fire from the Fort against an advancing enemy.
- Attempts were also made to improve the sanitation and cleanliness by creating open spaces in the city.
- For this purpose, in Calcutta many bazaars, ghats and burial grounds were cleared.
To what extent were social relations transformed in the new cities ?
The social relations were transformed in the new cities in the following ways :
- New transport facilities as horse-drawn carriages, trams and buses meant that people could live at a distance from the city centre. This led to separation of the place of work from the place of residence. People travelled from home to office or factory.
- The sense of coherence and familiarity of the old towns disappeared. The public places such as parks, theatres and cinema halls provided new forms of entertainment and social interaction.
- New social groups came into existence. The “middle classes” increased due to the coming of all types of people i.e., clerks, doctors, teachers, lawyers and others. With the spread of education, people could put forward their views in newspapers and journals. People started questioning old customs and practices.
- Women entered new professions as factory workers, teachers, theatres and film actresses. However, their entry into public spaces remained the objects of social censure.
- There was a dramatic contrast between extreme wealth and poverty. The new cities were bewildering places where life seemed always in a flux. Paupers from the villages came to cities in search of employment. The male migrants left their families in the villages because jobs were uncertain and food was expensive. But yet the villagers participated in religious festivals, tamashas and swangs which mocked the pretensions of their masters, Indian and European.