Politics and culture are originally related in the city of Calcutta. The period (1940s to 1950s), was chaotic and turbulent, yet, this was also a time of significant creativity in literature, art, films and music in the city. This is an unusual feature of any city but is interestingly characteristic of Calcutta.
The originality of the work lies in blending poetry with historical writing, retaining the essence of both forms against the backdrop of the tumultuous events of the critical decades, as against the entire historical period of a city. This historical method together with twenty-one papers give the reader a sense of the pulse of this complex city ‘emerging creatively and chaotically from its colonial past’.
Tanika Sarkar is retired professor of History at JNU, Delhi. Her most recent publication is Rebels, Wives and Saints : Designing Selves and Nations in Colonial Times, Permanent Black, Ranikhet, and Seagull, New York, 2009.
Sekhar Bandyopadhyay is a professor of Asian History at Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand. His most recent publication is From Plassey to Partition and After: A History of Modern India, New Delhi: OBS, 2015.
This is an excellent collection of essays delving into a tumultuous decade in the history of Calcutta – the 1940-50 period – which encapsulated within its tiny folds, momentous events ranging from anti-colonial struggles to a devastating famine, from a communal holocaust to the birth of two new states. The writers narrate how during the brief span, the city went through traumatic – as well as invigorating – socio-economic and cultural changes that other cities in history, in the normal course, had experienced through gradual stages over several decades, or even centuries.
Political commentator and researcher in social history,
Calcutta: The Stormy Decades edited by two of India’s finest historians put together essays on the city’s history and culture in the 1940s, a decade that made and unmade Calcutta. This book fills an important gap in Indian historiography. What is also worth noting is that many of the contributors are young scholars. It also has some translations from Bengali by Sumit Sarkar, who needs no introduction to students of modern India. This is a rich volume which I strongly recommend.
Vice-Chancellor and Professor of History,