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Urbanizing Uttarpara : Philanthropy, Improvement, Education, c.1846 to c.1865

This paper examines the causes and patterns of urbanization in nineteenth-century Uttarpara, one of the eight west bank municipalities near the city of Calcutta (present-day Kolkata) in eastern India. The focus is on the early years of its transformation from a cluster of hamlets in the northern corner (uttar means north and pārā refers to a locality) of a village called Bally into a place of steady nagarāyan (urbanization). In 1846, an English medium school was established in Uttarpara and a bridge was built connecting Uttarpara with Bally. The urbanizing aspirations of the local landholding elite led to the physical and social transformation of Uttarpara in the ensuing years, producing a municipality in 1853 and consolidating the demographic and social power of the Bengali urban middle class (bhadralok) over the space of the erstwhile gandagrām (obscure village). This paper analyses the nature of these changes and argues that under conditions produced by the Permanent Settlement of 1793, Uttarpara’s nagarāyan crystallized out of the interconnected operations of philanthropic capital in agriculture and education. In the process, Uttarpara emerged, towards the end of the century, as a municipal town that was not yet convincingly urban — a ‘fluid space’ with finely calibrated relationships with the metropolis on the one hand and the rural hinterland on the other.



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Education and the Urban in India | Working Paper Series


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