ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Chandernagore: A 'Glorious Chapter' in the History of Independence

Chandernagore: From Bondage to Freedom, 1900-1955 by Sailendra Nath Sen (Delhi: Primus Books), 2012; pp xv + 376, Rs 1,150.

It is a little known fact that the French colonial presence in India lasted for about as long as the British. But the French colonies were small, scattered and marginal, which means they have only attracted attention when their histories have intersected with that of the Indian nation. So, Chandernagore, a small town approximately 33 kilometres north of Calcutta and a French colony from 1688 to 1954, is most famous for providing refuge to Aurobindo Ghose, who was escaping the clutches of the British police on his way to the French settlement of Pondicherry. Lesser known, but similarly celebrated aspects of its history include the fact that the bombs that were thrown at the Dalhousie Square in Calcutta in March 1911 and at Viceroy Hardinge in Delhi in December 1912 were manufactured in Chandernagore. Later, in 1930, Chandernagore once again sheltered members of Surya Sen’s group, on the run after the Chittagong Armoury raid.

Viewed through this prism of nationalist history, the social, political and cultural impact of French colonialism on Chandernagore has been of limited interest to Indian historians. Sailendra Nath Sen in Chandernagore: From Bondage to Freedom, 1900-1955 replicates this pattern. As the title itself suggests, the key aim of the book is to tabulate Chandernagore’s patriotic journey from a French colony to a proud member of the Indian nation.

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