NCERT Class 10 History The City in Colonial India

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The City In Colonial India Class 10 History NCERT

Class 10 History students should refer to the following NCERT Book chapter The City In Colonial India in standard 10. This NCERT Book for Grade 10 History will be very useful for exams and help you to score good marks

The City In Colonial India NCERT Class 10

The City in Colonial India

In sharp contrast to Western Europe in the same period, Indian cities did not mushroom in the nineteenth century. The pace of urbanisation in India was slow under colonial rule. In the early twentieth century, no more than 11 per cent of Indians were living in cities. A large proportion of these urban dwellers were residents of the three Presidency cities. These were multi-functional cities: they had major ports, warehouses, homes and offices, army camps, as well as educational institutions, museums and libraries. Bombay was the premier city of India. It expanded rapidly from the late nineteenth century, its population going up from 644,405 in 1872 to nearly 1,500,000 in 1941. Let us look at how Bombay developed.

4.1 Bombay: The Prime City of India?

In the seventeenth century, Bombay was a group of seven islands under Portuguese control. In 1661, control of the islands passed into British hands after the marriage of Britain’s King Charles II to the Portuguese princess. The East India Company quickly shifted its base from Surat, its principal western port, to Bombay. At first, Bombay was the major outlet for cotton textiles from Gujarat. Later, in the nineteenth century, the city functioned as a port through which large quantities of raw materials such as cotton and opium would pass. Gradually, it also became an important administrative centre in western India, and then, by the end of the nineteenth century, a major industrial centre.

4.2 Work in the City

Bombay became the capital of the Bombay Presidency in 1819, after the Maratha defeat in the Anglo-Maratha war. The city quickly expanded. With the growth of trade in cotton and opium, large communities of traders and bankers as well as artisans and shopkeepers came to settle in Bombay. The establishment of textile mills led to a fresh surge in migration.

The first cotton textile mill in Bombay was established in 1854. By 1921, there were 85 cotton mills with about 146,000 workers. Only about one-fourth of Bombay’s inhabitants between 1881 and 1931 were born in Bombay: the rest came from outside. Large numbers flowed in from the nearby district of Ratnagiri to work in the Bombay mills.

Women formed as much as 23 per cent of the mill workforce in the period between 1919 and 1926. After that, their numbers dropped steadily to less than 10 per cent of the total workforce. By the late 1930s, women’s jobs were increasingly taken over by machines or by men.

Bombay dominated the maritime trade of India till well into the twentieth century. It was also at the junction head of two major railways. The railways encouraged an even higher scale of migration into the city. For instance, famine in the dry regions of Kutch drove large numbers of people into Bombay in 1888-89. The flood of migrants in some years created panic and alarm in official circles. Worried by the influx of population during the plague epidemic of 1898, district authorities sent about 30,000 people back to their places of origin by 1901.

4.3 Housing and Neighbourhoods

Bombay was a crowded city. While every Londoner in the 1840s enjoyed an average space of 155 square yards, Bombay had a mere 9.5 square yards. By 1872, when London had an average of 8 persons per house, the density in Bombay was as high as 20. From its earliest days, Bombay did not grow according to any plan, and houses, especially in the Fort area, were interspersed with gardens. The Bombay Fort area which formed the heart of the city in the early 1800s was divided between a ‘native’ town, where most of the Indians lived, and a European or ‘white’ section. A European suburb and an industrial zone began to develop to the north of the Fort settlement area, with a similar suburb and cantonment in the south. This racial pattern was true of all three Presidency cities.

With the rapid and unplanned expansion of the city, the crisis of housing and water supply became acute by the mid-1850s. The arrival of the textile mills only increased the pressure on Bombay’s housing. Like the European elite, the richer Parsi, Muslim and uppercaste traders and industrialists of Bombay lived in sprawling spacious bungalows. In contrast, more than 70 per cent of the working people lived in the thickly populated chawls of Bombay. Since workers walked to their place of work, 90 per cent of millworkers were housed in Girangaon, a ‘mill village’ not more than 15 minutes’ walk from the mills.

Chawls were multi-storeyed structures which had been built from at least the 1860s in the ‘native’ parts of the town. Like the tenements in London, these houses were largely owned by private landlords, such as merchants, bankers, and building contractors, looking for quick ways of earning money from anxious migrants. Each chawl was divided into smaller one-room tenements which had no private toilets.

Many families could reside at a time in a tenement. The Census of 1901 reported that ‘the mass of the island’s population or 80 per cent of the total, resides in tenements of one room; the average number of occupants lies between 4 and 5 …’ High rents forced workers to share homes, either with relatives or caste fellows who were streaming into the city. People had to keep the windows of their rooms closed even in humid weather due to the ‘close proximity of filthy gutters, privies, buffalo stables etc.’ Yet, though water was scarce, and people often quarrelled every morning for a turn at the tap, observers found that houses were kept quite clean.


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