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A Joint Enterprise

Indian Elites and the Making of British Bombay

Preeti Chopra

Publication Year: 2011

It was the era of the Raj, and yet A Joint Enterprise reveals the unexpected role of native communities in the transformation of the urban fabric of British Bombay from 1854 to 1918. Preeti Chopra demonstrates how British Bombay was, surprisingly, a collaboration of the colonial government and the Indian and European mercantile and industrial elite who shaped the city to serve their combined interests.

Chopra shows how the European and Indian engineers, architects, and artists worked with each other to design a city—its infrastructure, architecture, public sculpture—that was literally constructed by Indian laborers and craftsmen. Beyond the built environment, Indian philanthropists entered into partnerships with the colonial regime to found and finance institutions for the general public. Too often thought to be the product of the singular vision of a founding colonial regime, British Bombay is revealed by Chopra as an expression of native traditions meshing in complex ways with European ideas of urban planning and progress.

The result, she argues, was the creation of a new shared landscape for Bombay’s citizens that ensured that neither the colonial government nor the native elite could entirely control the city’s future.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press


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pp. 1-7


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p. vii-vii

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Author’s Note

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pp. ix-x

This text uses both the words “native” and “Indian” to refer to non-Europeans, the latter term coming to play as nationalist themes resonate more strongly in the narrative. The choice of the term “native” needs some explanation, as Raymond Williams in Keywords (1983) shows that it can be used both pejoratively and in a positive sense. As Williams points out, “It was ...

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pp. xi-xxiv

Regent’s Park in London is home to a drinking fountain, a structure that might draw little attention to itself except that it was paid for by a well-known nineteenth-century philanthropist from Bombay (Figure I.1). The Gothic fountain’s sculptural features reveal the connection between Britain and its empire. Each side of the basin has a triangular pediment. The sculpted visage of ...

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1. A Joint Enterprise

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pp. 1-30

On 5 March 1839, five prominent native businessmen of Bombay proposed a scheme to the government that would cost over two hundred thousand rupees, a huge sum in those days. The scheme consisted of the building of a wharf and basin at the Cooly Bunder (dock) for the landing of grain, and the extension of this wharf as far as the Bori Bunder for the landing of cotton or any other ...

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2. Anglo-Indian Architecture and the Meaning of Its Styles

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pp. 31-72

Most scholars of the architecture of the British Empire focus on the question, how was empire represented in its architecture? Buildings and architectural style were of particular importance in the Victorian era because, as the architectural historian Mark Crinson notes, “to build was to create meaning ...

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3. The Biography of an Unknown Native Engineer

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pp. 73-115

In most architectural histories of Bombay, native engineers are either ignored or summarily dispatched because they are not seen to be the originator of ideas but, rather, functionaries who carried out orders.1 But is this all they were? Macaulay’s Minute (1835) articulated the aim to create through missionary education “a class of interpreters between us ...

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4. Dividing Practices in Bombay’s Hospitals and Lunatic Asylums

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pp. 117-158

The Bombay Chabuk, in an editorial on 26 January 1870, praised the philanthropy of the British government, setting this “virtue” in contrast with the native manner of exhibiting charity: A Native rájá or nawáb, if of a charitable disposition, will feed thousands of Bráhmans or faquirs with dainties, build fine temples or superb mosques, or will do some other acts of a like nature. But, the ...

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5. An Unforeseen Landscape of Contradictions

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pp. 159-189

On the face of it, one might conclude that the joint enterprise was extremely successful and the colonial government achieved its aims in directing the native elite to collaborate in the creation of public institutions and an urban vision of Bombay that the former desired. However, as demonstrated in chapter 4, local donors did not simply respond to the ...

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6. Of Gods and Mortal Heroes: Conundrums of the Secular Landscape of Colonial Bombay

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pp. 191-230

In the second half of the nineteenth century, the city was modernized and a new secular public landscape was created—the joint public realm that was made up of public buildings and open spaces. The Gothic Revival architectural style signified the consensus between native philanthropists and colonial officials on the need for and the aims underlying the ...

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pp. 231-234

I am glad that i listened to Dell Upton, my doctoral advisor, when he suggested that I lay my dissertation aside for a year and then ask someone who had written a book to read it. After that year, I turned to my friend Lisa Pollard. She agreed without hesitation and then offered a startling insight: it could result in two books. I thank Lisa not only for ...


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pp. 235-261


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pp. 263-279


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pp. 281-293

E-ISBN-13: 9780816676873
E-ISBN-10: 0816676879
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816670376

Page Count: 344
Publication Year: 2011