Calcutta was the second city of the British Empire and a hub of cultural and artistic production throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This lecture provides an overview of the arts (poetry, theatre, literature, song) and architecture of this extraordinary city, which was India’s capital until 1911. At the epicentre of the ‘Bengal renaissance’, Calcutta played a central role in shaping the arts and culture of modern India, as a huge variety of artists sought to interpret India’s classical heritage in new ways, and to combine this heritage with Western cultural forms. This lecture examines how Calcutta’s arts and architecture were affected by British rule, and explores the fascinating ways in which Indian artists viewed the British in India.
Dr John Stevens gained his PhD in History from UCL, before going on to teach British Imperial History, Indian History and Bengali Language at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS, University of London). His biography of the Indian guru Keshab Chandra Sen – Keshab: Bengal’s Forgotten Prophet - was published by Hurst and Oxford University Press in 2018. He is a regular visitor to India and Bangladesh and has lectured at numerous Indian universities. He also works as a consultant on Indian affairs and teaches the Bengali language to private students. He has appeared many times in the Indian media, and was a guest on BBC Radio Four’s In Our Time, discussing the poet and artist Rabindranath Tagore.
Indian Museum, also the Imperial Museum at Calcutta