21 June 2018

BOOK: Debjani BHATTAACHARYY, Empire and Ecology in the Bengal Delta : The Making of Calcutta [Studies in Environment and History] (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018). ISBN 9781108425742,£ 75.00

Cambridge University Press has published a new book which deals with aspects of colonial law and ecological change in the Bengal Delta.


What happens when a distant colonial power tries to tame an unfamiliar terrain in the world's largest tidal delta? This history of dramatic ecological changes in the Bengal Delta from 1760 to 1920 involves land, water and humans, tracing the stories and struggles that link them together. Pushing beyond narratives of environmental decline, Bhattacharyya argues that 'property-thinking', a governing tool critical in making land and water discrete categories of bureaucratic and legal management, was at the heart of colonial urbanization and the technologies behind the draining of Calcutta. The story of ecological change is narrated alongside emergent practices of land speculation and transformation in colonial law. Bhattacharyya demonstrates how this history continues to shape our built environments with devastating consequences, as shown in the Bay of Bengal's receding coastline.


Debjani Bhattacharyya, Drexel University, Philadelphia
Debjani Bhattacharyya is Assistant Professor of History at Drexel University, Philadelphia. She was a Junior Fellow of the American Institute of India Studies, and a former Research Fellow at the International Institute of Asian Studies, Leiden.


Introduction. Almanac of a tidal basin
Part I. Environmental Consolidations:
1. Power and silt
2. Drying a delta
Part II. Legal Maneuvers:
3. Notarizing possessions
4. Commerce in land
Part III. Un-real Estate:
5. Speculative properties
Conclusion: disappearing coastlines.

More information with the publisher

No comments: