Calcutta was second city of the British Empire and a hub of cultural and artistic production throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This lecture looks at the arts and architecture of this extraordinary city, which was India’s capital until 1911. Calcutta played a central role in shaping the culture of modern India, as its artists sought to interpret India’s classical heritage in new ways, and to combine this heritage with Western cultural forms. We will examine how Calcutta became the epicentre of the ‘Bengal renaissance’ and how the city’s artists viewed (and were affected by) British rule.
Dr John Stevens is a Research Associate at SOAS, University of London, and a member of the academic staff at the SOAS South Asia Institute. His PhD in History is from University College London. He teaches British Imperial history, Indian history and Bengali language, and is a regular visitor to India and Bangladesh. He publishes widely in the fields of British and Indian history. His biography of the Indian guru Keshab Chandra Sen – Keshab: Bengal’s Forgotten Prophet - was published by Hurst and Oxford University Press in 2018. He appears regularly in the Indian media, and was recently a guest on BBC Radio Four’s In Our Time, discussing the poet and artist Rabindranath Tagore.