Monday, 25 June 2018

Job Charnock who developed Calcutta and his connection with Madras

Job Charnock , founder of Calcutta?Amazing Kolkata
Job Charnock establishing the Trading post 1690. Calcutta. en.wikipedia.org/
Charnock was an employee of the East India Company that had mercantile trading interest in Bengal  and wanted to establish a permanent  fortified trading post in the land where the modern city of Kolkata (Kolkata ) stands. It was once a swampy area covering three villages and  had good access to the sea through the river Hoogley.   Charnock takes the full credit for having developed the metropolis  by combining  near-by villages and it clearly shows his indefatigable spirit and firm determination to get his project done unmindful of hurdles and bottlenecks on the route.  In January, 1658 he joined the East India Company's service in Bengal, where he was stationed at Cossimbazar, Hoogly, Bengal.
Gov. of Bengal. Shaista Khan Wikipedia

The English, Dutch and French East India companies all maintained factories at  Cossimbazar. In 1658 the first English agency of the East India Company (EIC) was established there. Shaista Khan (reign 1664 to 1688; maternal uncle to Aurangzeb), was appointed as the Governor of Bengal  around 1664 by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb during the same period the English company got the Firman from the Mogul  Emperor that gave them special privileges and exemption from taxes. As the Firman was vague and not clear about taxes on certain items, frequently disputes arose between the English company and the Governor. Certain incidents in Bihar and disruption of production of saltpeter trade by another English company  did not enthuse the Governor.  The original East India Company made a  request to build a fort in the mouth of Hooghly or on its banks which was immediately turned down by Shaista Khan. He imposed  a 3.5% tax  in addition to the already existing tax of 3,000 rupees, not withstanding the Firman obtained earlier.  Yet another incident with the head of Cossimbazar resulted in altercations between the Governor of Bengal and the company causing their ships to leave Bengal without obtaining cargo.  When Charnock took control over  the English company after the demise of John Baird, the hostilities between the company and the Bengal forces peaked and never scaled down. The British had a plan to attack the port city of Chittagong, fortify it and make an alliance with the local ruler to intimidate the Gov. of Bengal and Mogul  representative. The plan went awry as the ships by mistake arrived  and anchored off the Hooghly factory, later joined by ships from Madras. Shaista Khan, Gov. of Bengal, upon hearing the arrival of so many British ships, was furious and  ordered the closing and confiscation of all their factories and properties in Bengal and sent a large force to drive out the English from Hooghly.

Having fed up with continued confrontation and failed persuasion with the  resident representative of the Mogul ruler, Charnock moved his company's goods and servants down the Hoogley river 
(27 miles down stream) and after some struggle finally made a truce and  settled in November 1687 in Sutanuti, then "a low swampy village of scattered huts". Later, again mistrust cropped-up and  Charnock and his men were  forced to move out to a place called Hajli - a dangerous place ridden with poisonous snakes, mosquitoes and tigers. Here, Charnock lost half of his men and survival became a big issue.
Finally, Charnock  made a peace treaty with the Governor of Bengal and decided to build trading post in Sutanuti towards the end of 1687.   Fate had it during this transition period Charnock suffered a personal loss in the death of his beloved  Hindu Wife whom he renamed Mary. They had one son (he predeceased his father) and three daughters. Later, a favorable situation dveloped and  several issues and misunderstanding were sorted out and the new Governor Ibrahim Khan  made a trade treaty that  included certain clauses as demanded by Charnock. Ibrahim Khan gave them permission to protect their own factories, but  ruled  out any fortification  explicitly.
Mr. Job Charnock with 30 soldiers  came back to Sutanuti on 24 August 1690 and hoisted the Royal Standards of England on the banks of river Hooghly, thus facilitating the beginning of a new era of British involvement in Bengal. Job Charnock died in 1692, but he  made a niche for himself in the history of Calcutta.


A fort was built on the bank of river Hooghly at Sutanuti with mortar brought from Madras, completed in 1701 and was called Fort William after King William III of England. This was the old Fort William and construction for a new one (the present one) started after Siraj Ud-Daulah attacked Fort William in 1756. The five day siege was a long one and the famous black hole incident took place during that time.
Historical map, Calcutta. India Water Portal
An interesting fact is Charnock, the man whose name is synonymous with  Calcutta had close links with  Madras (Chennai) which was then the capital of Madras Presidency.  This historical link with Madras goes down in Indian history and shows how Madras was a source of strength in the establishment  of  East India company in Bengal and its future capital Calcutta. 
Charnock who made a brief visit to Madras in 1656 took serious efforts and started a trading post up the Hoogley  and the representatives of the Mogul ruler were not cooperative and troublesome, in particular, Shaista Khan. The relationship between the antagonistic  English company and the belligerent Governor Shaista Khan  never improved and, on the contrary, the threats continued unabated.  Unable to establish a trading post with all required facilities to get the English company going, he thought that it was prudent to seek the help of Madras Presidency to supply army, etc to confront the army of the Nawab of Bengal. Gov. Elihu Yale, (5 April 1649 – 8 July 1721, was a British merchant, slave trader; President of the East India Company settlement in Fort St. George, at Madras, and a benefactor of the Collegiate School in the Colony of Connecticut, which in 1718 was renamed Yale College in his honor), being a good administrator,
Gov. Madras Presidency Elihu Yale. en.wikipedia.org
understood the predicament of Charnock and, without any hesitation,  gave him men and money to get back  to Bengal and establish a trading post consisting of a 'factory'  and  a fortified warehouse in Sutanuti in 1690. This village had good access to the sea and  the depth of water could provide good anchorage for the ships.
In the village of Sutanuti,  Calcutta had a humble beginning and Charnock also helped the surrounding villages such as
Gobindapur  grow (the intervening place was called Kalighat / Kata).
Charnock's connection with Madras does not stop with the establishment of a trading post in Sutanuti. It was on August 19, 1689, that  his three girls by his Hindu wife Mary, Elizabeth and Catherine, were baptized in St. Mary's in the Fort (Ft. St. George);  the entry in the baptismal register still there. Charnock worked for 34 long years. After his death  a Mausoleum was built over his tomb  in his memory by this son-in-law. It is St. John's Church  is Kolkata which is being maintained by the Church of NE India.
Ft.St. George, Madras (Chennai). commons.wikimedia.org
Calcutta 1690. Wikipedia
Calcutta Presidency became  independent of Madras presidency  several decades later. When it became the capital of British India, its growth was phenomenal. Until early 1900 the British Raj under the British Crown ruled the roost from  this city. 
Charnock established the English 'factory', at the village of Sutanuti from where Calcutta grew southwards. The role played by Madras and the timely help under Gov. Elihu Yale have become part of history of Kolkata.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Job_Charnock
http://www.thehindu.com/2001/01/01/stories/13011282.htm