Glimpses from Calcutta’s Old Chinatown: The Oldest Chinatown outside Southeast Asia

Glimpses from Calcutta’s Old Chinatown: The Oldest Chinatown outside Southeast Asia

This post from the founder of a really good heritage walk in Cal. Some great images and description of the need to preserve what parts of Kolkata’s Chinese heritage that can be …

Encounters

India has a long history of commercial and cultural contacts with mainland China. Chinese communities had, therefore (mostly temporarily) settled in different ports along the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea since at least the early centuries of the Common Era. However, the socio-cultural space that we now call “Chinatown”, emerged globally as a result of the large-scale migration of Chinese communities in the 18th century, especially from South China. These migrations were brought about by a rapidly weakening central authority, and a sharp decline in the economy. The expansion of European maritime commercial network in the South China Sea opened up new opportunities for trade and for seeking newer, lucrative markets in other parts of Asia and the world.

IMG_4758 The Old Chinabazaar Street with the white spire of the Armenian Church visible

Calcutta, the fledgling capital of East India Company’s territories in India was probably the oldest of…

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Defoe on prisons 1698

Defoe, as a good Protestant, was of course keen to remedy the ‘torrent of vice’, ‘venal crime’ and ‘Epidemick Distemper’ that afflicted the nation with ‘wickedness’ (The Poor Man’s Plea’ 1698 [1926: 1-2). Against lewdness, debaunchery and sport on the Sabbath, he takes the side of the ‘Plebeii’ who are no differently equipped than the Dignitaries, excepting in terms of quality and estates. Noting that vice and the Devil are good levellers (4), he objects ‘against setting any poor man in the stocks, and sending them to the house of correction for immoralities’ considering this a ‘most unequal and unjust way of proceeding in the World’ (5). 
P6 of the 1926 reprint – The Shortest Way with the Dissenters and other pamphlets, Oxford: basil blackwell. 

Both informers and judges are guilty of the same crimes for which the poor are sent to the stocks. (16-17) (Defoe would be condemned to stand in pillory three times in 1703 for publishing The Shortest Way with the Dissenters).

The parson and the judge pass sentence on a drunkard when they themselves had been ‘both drunk together … the night before’ (18). 

In 1701, in a preface to another pamphlet, The true-born Englishman: a Satyr, Defoe also has the following quote on immigration, which shows how far our well bred English have come…:


In A Hymn to the Pillory, Defoe rails against wise Vice-Chancellors, Doctors in scandal and Professors on reproach as ‘true-born English tools’ and plagiarists (140) (of course Defoe would borrow generously from others for his Robinson). 

Then this beautiful verse against banks, stock-traders and colonial accountants: