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

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A Micro-history of a Forgotten Disaster

An Imperial Disaster: The Bengal Cyclone of 1876 by Benjamin Kingsbury, New Delhi: Speaking Tiger Books, 2019; pp xviii + 210, 399.


Chennai saw an unprecedented water crisis this year, even as flooding paralysed lives across many parts of South Asia, from Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, to Assam in the North East, and to Mumbai in the west of India. The annual cycle of cyclones, floods and droughts increasingly structures life across the subcontinent. Sunil Amrith (2018) while tracing the imperial history of monsoon management from the latter half of the 19th century proposes monsoon as an analytic to understand the geopolitics of South and South East Asia. These annual cycles of natural

calamities are nested in a long history of imperialism and postcolonial state-making. For instance, environmentalist Nityanand Jayaraman (2019) reminds us in context of Chennai’s water crisis that the city ran out of water more than a century ago, when the British began centralised water projects in 1876. According to Jayaraman, these projects ushered in a new paradigm that severed any relation between humans, land, and water. As a result, Jayaraman affirms that any solution to these crises must restore “our broken relationship with water and land.”

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Updated On : 23rd May, 2021
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