Public Education in Bombay’s Mill District in the Early Twentieth Century
The emergence of Mumbai as India’s premier urban metropolis was directly related to the development of its textile industry from the mid nineteenth century. The extensive scholarly archive on Bombay (now Mumbai) provides a lens through which to view the growth of the early city, from studies of spatio-cultural changes, issues related to housing, sanitation, neighbourhoods, and city planning, to the work and lives of its industrial workforce, largely composed of migrants from the rural hinterland. Scholarly inquiry into the making of the city has largely left unaddressed the place of public schooling in the wider imagination of the unique urban modern sphere that Bombay came to represent. This paper draws on a research study that attempted to recover the history of public education in the city by focusing on the contexts in which children of the industrial working class were educated in the mill district of Bombay in the first half of the twentieth century. The paper focuses on the implementation of Free and Compulsory Primary Education (FCPE) in F and G wards of the city, collectively constituting the area known as Girangaon (village of the mills). The paper situates this significant experiment within the historical context of its times and attempts to provide a descriptive and thematic account of its implementation.