ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Story of 'Battala'

Power in Print: Popular Publishing and the Politics of Language and Culture in a Colonial Society, 1778-1905 by Anindita Ghosh;

I n the history of transition from orality to literacy, whether it is the individual experience of the child learning to read and write the alphabets, or the collective practice of a community of adults making use, for the rst time, of the print media each constitutes a decisive moment. Such a moment occurred in early colonial Calcutta when an economically and educationally backward populace encountered a new technology the printing press. The encounter is embalmed in a distinct segment of Bengali literature, known as Battala the nomenclature derived from the area in north Calcutta known by that name, where the rst Bengali printing presses were set up in the early 19th century, and which brought out cheap popular books. They constitute a literary genre which records the efforts of the underprivileged people to use this newly introduced print media to register their voices. Their cultural tastes dovetailed with the commercial motivation of the printers and writers who also came from the same urban petite bourgeoisie and lower classes.

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