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New Left Review I/79, May-June 1973

Premen Addy and Ibne Azad

Politics and Culture in Bengal

Bengal was the microcosm of British rule in India, the original seat of Imperial power, the base from which the East India Company set out on its career of aggrandisement, ending in the complete subjugation of the subcontinent from the Khyber to Cape Comorin. Private loot, the organized spoliation of commerce, industry and agriculture, far-reaching administrative innovations, educational reforms, the acceptance of new and liberating ideas from the West by a rising and articulate bourgeoisie, the intensification of certain archaic social relations by the colonial power—these were all part of the complex and contradictory fabric of colonized Bengal. It was against this background that initial indications emerged of an Indian national consciousness and of the rival forms such consciousness could assume. Through the prism of Bengal’s historical experience were to be refracted significant themes of the later development of India as a whole.

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