Calcutta and J.Z. Holwell, a man on the periphery
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University of North Carolina at Charlotte
WILLIAM ARMSTRONG BRANCH. J. Z. Holwell, a peripheral man. (Under the direction of Dr. David Johnson) In the middle of the eighteenth century the trading city of Calcutta flourished by exporting three categories of goods; textiles, opium, and saltpeter. Of these three exports, saltpeter stood as the most important because it is used to formulate gunpowder. To support this trade a Bengali banking family, the house of Jaget Seths, developed a sophisticated financing structure. A network of native traders also developed. The Jaget Seths and the most successful native traders came from small religious groups and were social outsiders. In 1756, the local Mughal ruler, Siraj-ud-Daulah captured the peripheral trading city of Calcutta. Siraj-ud-Daulah attacked the city hoping to regain a stolen treasure, of gold and jewels, as well as to throw out the East India Company. In retaliation, the East India Company invaded Bengal in 1757. Siraj-ud-Daulah died soon after losing the battle of Plassey. In the following years the East India Company looted the treasuries of Bengal and redesigned the banking and trading structure of Calcutta to conform to the norms found in London at that time. In doing so, they dismantled the peripheral system that existed before the invasion. One man, John Zephaniah Holwell, triggered the events that led to the dismantling of the successful peripheral system in Calcutta and the British conquest of India. Holwell, a keen observer, recorded many of his observations when he returned to England as a wealthy man. Born in Dublin and an outsider in England, Holwell exemplifies the type of individual who flourished on the periphery.
Johnson, DavidThorsheim, PeterSmail, John
Thesis (M.A.)--University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 2016.
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