Friday, 27 November 2015

First Indian educational institution - Ft. William college (1800), Calcutta

.Fort William College, Calcutta (Kolkata). puronokolkata.com 

Haileybury College today, England./en.wikipedia.org

 Above image: Once the seat of  East India company college. Haileybury College today, England..........
 
Lord Wellesley, then Governor-General of British India   established Fort William College (also called the College of Fort William) an academy and learning center of Oriental studies.  It was named after King William III of England. The purposes were  multi folded: fostering of Indian languages and making the British officials to be familiar with the local languages, etc  so that their administrative work would become easier as it involved interaction with the Indian  natives. It was founded on July 10, 1800, within the Fort William complex in Calcutta, seat of Black Hole incident. The law to establish its foundation was passed on the 4th of May, 1800 to commemorate the first anniversary of the victory over Tipu Sultan at Sringapatam. In the decisive battle in 1799, Tipu was killed by the British forces led by Wellesley. Thus,  a major bottleneck was  put out of the way in Southern India. No doubt, Lord Wellesley was euphoric about his victory over a tough opponent. In the college  Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, Bengali, Hindi, and Urdu books were  translated into English. 
 

In the  the beginning,  the college was located at the corner of  the  Council House Street  and, at last, shifted to a part of the parade ground as the building was occupied  by an Exchange company and later by the offices of Bengal Nagpur Railway.

Such initiative by Wellesley,  indirectly set the stage for the Bengal renaissance, Bengali,  being a rich Indian language having roots in Sanskrit. Included are other languages such as Arabic, Persian and Chinese. Further, Calcatta became a  center of intellectual pursuits,  with the establishment of The 'Calcutta Madrasa' in 1781, the 'Asiatic Society' in 1784 and the 'Fort William College' in 1800,  Initially the college did not have proper library and, so for teaching purpose, teachers  relied on vast collection of  old manuscripts (collected from all over South Asia) and added multiple copies of its own imprints.

Because of financial crunch, British company was not in favor of continuance of Ft. William college for training in Indian languages. Instead, the English Company  established in 1807 a separate College at Haileybury in England called The ''East India Company College'' to train writers (administrators) for the Honorable East India Company (HEIC). Young British candidates were nominated by the board directors for writer ship.  Charles Grant, Chairman of the British East India Company and Member of Parliament, was closely involved in the foundation of the college. It opened in February, 1806, and in 1857, the British government took over the administration of India after 1857 and in its wake,  the College  faced closure.

With respect to Fort William College,  Henry Thomas Colebrooke, the famous  Orientalist, was head of the Sanskrit department and one John Borthwick Gilchrist, was in charge of Urdu language.  William Carey, linguist, headed the department of vernacular languages. However, there were not many teachers to teach Bengali as most Pundits  were familiar only with Sanskrit.
 

At last, in course of time, the curtain was down on Ft. William College  after 1857. The the Bitish were shaken up by the long drawn internal revolt called Sepoy mutiny over racial discrimination, misrule, poor treatment of Indian soldiers, etc. As the British administrative set up had changed to face a new situation after consolidation of their power in India Administrator William Bentinck gave importance to the educational policy of public instruction in English in 1835, essential for the  administration and commerce. The English language took precedence over oriental languages under his care. Later the Dalhousie administration downed the shutters once and for all. Fort William college of India, Calcutta is a forgotten legacy of first educational policy in India.

Ref:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_William_College