Private records of the leading business families of Early Colonial Bengal

Bengal had a rich tradition of commodity production, trade and commerce in the pre-colonial and the early colonial period. The archival records of the families with such leading businesses shed light on the history of pre-industrial Bengal. However, the records are kept in family homes and not available to the public.

Bengali business families prospered in pre-colonial and early colonial periods, but faced more challenges in subsequent periods. A preliminary survey project in the region brought to light archival material of 13 Bengali business families, which can help scholars understand the inner world of the Bengali business community and their strategies in dealing with the English East India Company and afterwards under the British Raj. The material bridges the gap between the two phases of Bengali business enterprises: from business to real estate or commercial farming.

The custodians of the material are not aware of standards of preservation. The fragmentation of some of these families has meant that many records have been dispersed among various family members. The tropical climate and the pests further endanger the material.

Stemming from a previous survey project in 2016 (EAP906), the project digitised the records of 11 families, dating from the 18th to the 20th century. Along with various institutions in India, a digitised copy of the documents was given to the custodians. All the staff of the project received extensive training in digital preservation, and a Digital Preservation Centre was set up in the Banwarilal Bhalotia College (Asansol) for the use of the local community.

Project Details

Location: India, Southern Asia, Asia Organiser(s): Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) Project partner(s): Banwarilal Bhalotia College Funder(s): Arcadia Funding received: £26,400 Commencement Date: 09/2018 Project Status: Completed
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