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

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The Black Hole Myth

The Black Hole of Empire: History of a Global Practice of Power by Partha Chatterjee (Ranikhet: Permanent Black), 2012; pp xiv + 425, Rs 795.

At the heart of Partha Chatterjee’s latest foray into history and political theory lie two intersecting themes which together span the entire period of British rule in India, while also travelling, temporally and intellectually, well beyond it. The first of these concerns is the “local” history of the “Black Hole of Calcutta”. This was the episode in which, reputedly, one sultry night in the summer of 1756, 146 Euro­peans, taken captive by the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-Daulah, were confined in a tiny, airless room in the old Fort ­William. Only 23 survivors emerged alive the following morning, the rest having died of suffocation.

A Historiographical Black Hole

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