UPSC History Arts and Cultural Movements NCERT Extracts - Colonialism and the City

NCERT Extracts - Colonialism and the City

Category : UPSC



  • Shahjahanabad was built by Shah Jahan. It was begun in 1639 and consisted of a fort- palace complex and the city adjoining it.The Red Fort, made of red sandstone, contained the palace complex.
  • No wonder the poet Mir Taqi Mir said, "The streets of Delhi aren't mere streets; they are like the album of a painter."
  • The modem city as we know it today developed only after 1911 when Delhi became the capital of British India.
  • The famous poet Ghalib witnessed the events of 1857 in Delhi.
  • In 1877, Viceroy Lytton organised a Durbar to acknowledge Queen Victoria as the Empress of India.
  • In 1911, when King George-V was crowned in England, a Durbar was held in Delhi to celebrate the occasion. The decision to shift the capital of India from Calcutta to Delhi was announced at this Durbar.
  • New Delhi was constructed as a 10-square-mile city on Raisina Hill, south of the existing city. Two architects, Edward Lutyens and Herbert Baker, were called on to design New Delhi and its buildings.
  • The features of these government buildings were borrowed from different periods of India's imperial history, but the overall look was Classical Greece (fifth century BCE).
  • For instance, the central dome of the Viceroy's Palace was copied from the Buddhist stupa at Sanchi, and the red sandstone and carved screens or jalis were borrowed from Mughal architecture.
  • The Delhi Improvement Trust was set up in 1936, and it built areas like Daryaganj South for wealthy Indians.




  • 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 City of Bombay Improvement Trust was established in 1898;
  • A successful reclamation project was undertaken by the Bombay Port Trust, which built a dry dock between 1914 and 1918 and used tile excavated earth to create the 22-acre Ballard Estate, Subsequently, the famous Marine Drive of Bombay was developed,
  • Harishchandra Sakharam Bhatwadekar shot a scene of a wrestling match in Bombay’s Hanging Gardens and it became India's first movie in 1896.
  • Soon after, Dadasaheb Phaike made Raja Harishchandra (1913).



  • The Mediterranean origins of this architecture were also thought to be suitable for tropical weather. The Town Hall in Bombay was built in this style in 1833.
  • Another style that was extensively used was the neo-Gothic, characterised by high- pitched roofs, pointed arches and detailed decoration. The Gothic style had its roots in buildings, especially churches, built in northern Europe during the medieval period.
  • The most spectacular example of the neo-Gothic style is the Victoria Terminus, the station and headquarters of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway Company.
  • Towards the beginning of the twentieth century a new hybrid architectural style developed which combined the Indian with the European.
  • This was called Indo-Saracenic. "Indo" was shorthand for Hindu and "Saracen" was a term Europeans used to designate Muslim. The inspiration for this style was medieval buildings in India with their domes, chhatris, jalis, arches.
  • The Gateway of India, built in the traditional Gujarati style to welcome King George V and Queen Mary to India in 1911, is the most famous example of this style.
  • The industrialist Jamsetji Tata built the Taj Mahal Hotel in a similar style. Besides being a symbol of Indian enterprise, this building became a challenge to the racially exclusive clubs and hotels maintained by the British.
  • Bombay Secretariat was designed by H. St Clair Wilkins.
  • Victoria Terminus Railway Station was designed by F.W. Stevens.
  • Madras (Chennai), Calcutta (Kolkata) and Bombay (Mumbai) were originally fishing and weaving villages. They became important centres of trade due to the economic activities of the English East India Company.
  • Company agents settled in Madras in 1639 and in Calcutta in 1690.
  • The European commercial had set base in different places early during the Mughal era: the Portuguese in Panaji in 1510, the Dutch in Masulipatnamh in 1605, the British in Madras in 1639 and the French in Pondicherry (presend-day Puducherry) in 1673.
  • From the beginning there were separate quarters for Europeans and Indians- which came to be labelled m contemporary writings as the “White Town" and “Black Town” Once the British captured political power these racial distinctions became sharper.
  • Colonial cities reflected the mercantile culture of the new rulers. Political power and patronage shifted from Indian rulers to the merchants of the East India Company.
  • Further inland were the chief administrative offices of the Company. The Writers’ Building in Calcutta was one such office.
  • Pasturelands and agricultural fields around the older towns were cleared, and new urban spaces called “Civil Lines” were set up. White people began to live in the Civil Line.
  • Cantonments- place were Indian troops under European command were stationed –were also developed as safe enclaves. These areas were separate from but attached to the Indian towns. With broad streets, bungalows set amidst large gardens barracks parade ground and church, they were meant as a safe haven for Europeans as well as a model of ordered urban life in contrast to the densely builtup Indian towns.


Hill Stations


  • Simla (Present-day Shimla) was founded during the course of the Gurkha War (1815-16); the Anglo-Maratha War of 1818 led to British interest in Mount Abu; and Darjeeling was wrested from the rulers of Sikkim in 1835.
  • Because the hill stations approximated the cold climates of Europe, they became an attractive destination for the new rulers. It became a practice for viceroys to move to hill stations during the summer months.
  • Hill stations were important for the colonial economy. With the setting up of tea and coffee plantations in the adjoining areas, an influx of immigrant labour from the plains began. This meant that hill station no longer remained exclusive racial enclaves for Europeans in India.




  • In 1639 the east India Company constructed a trading post in Madraspatam. This settlement was locally known as chenapattanam- The Company had purchased the right of settlement from the local Telugu lords, the Nayaks of Kalahasti, who were eager to support trading activity m the region.
  • The dubashes were Indians who could speak two languages - the local language and English. They worked as agents and merchants, acting as intermediaries between Indian society and the British. They used their privileged position in government to acquire wealth.
  • Telugu Komatis were a powerful commercial group that controlled the grain trade in the city. Paraiyars and Vanniyars formed the labouring poor.




  • Calcutta had grown from three villages called Sutanati, Kolkata and Govindapur.
  • Around the new Fort William they left a vast open space which came to be locally known as the Maidan or garer-math. This was done so that there would be no obstructions to a straight line of fire from the Fort against an advancing enemy army.
  • In 1798, Lord Wellesley became the Governor General. He built a massive palace, Government House, for himself in Calcutta, a building that was expected to convey the authority of the British.
  • After Wellesley's departure the work of town planning was carried on by the Lottery Committee (1817) with the help of the government.

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