In transcribing the following paragraphs from the Internet Archive online version of The Imperial Gazetteer’s entry on Calcutta (modern Kolkata), I have expanded the abbreviations for easier reading and added paragraphing and links. The illustration is in the original. The title-page bears the date 1856, but internal evidence in various entrees makes clear that the text dates from 1851. This discussion of a major city in British India has particular importance because it immediately precedes the 1857 Mutiny.— George P. Landow]

The want of expensive outward decorations of the shops, and the absence of all show of goods in their windows, must strike a stranger forcibly. But some improvements in these respects are now beginning to be made; and within, no disappointment will be met with, either as to the quality of the goods, or as to the skilfulness of the European tradesmen, by whom they are manufactured. Everything, in short, may be obtained here, which money can purchase, as readily, and as good in quality as in England. Several English firms have carriage manufactories, and turn out, in a style equal to that of Long-Acre, barouches, phaetons, chariots, and other descriptions of carriages adapted to the climate. The taste for the more elegant and expensive European equipages is extending among the rich natives. The principal trades practised by Europeans are those of hotel-keepers, jewellers and silversmiths, watchmakers, cabinet-makers, carvers and gilders, fancy stationers, dealers in objects of vertu, book sellers and bookbinders, boot and shoemakers, tailors, mantua- makers, milliners, ironmongers, apothecaries, confectioners and pastry cooks, grocers, dealers in oilmen’s stores, tea, wine, and spirit dealers, coach-makers, livery-stable keepers and horse-dealers, house-builders, shipbuilders, iron-founders, and lastly undertakers.

Bazaar on the Chitpore Road. From Fraser’s Views in Calcutta. Click on image to enlarge it.

The native shops are in what are called bazaars, being houses in close narrow streets, in the native town, where the rooms in the different floors are appropriated to the selling of all descriptions of goods. Among these, the principal are Burra b izaar, and the old and new China bazaars. In the two latter, the native shopkeepers sell imported European goods. In the Chitpore Road are found numerous stores of native-made furniture (after European models), of mahogany, toon wood (a red wood resembling mahogany), and teak-wood; but inferior both in elegance and durability to that manufactured in the workshops of European tradesmen, and therefore sold at much lower prices. The natives who practise trades on their own account cannot compete, in finish and exactitude, with the well turned out articles of the European workshops, where natives also labour, but under the direction and guidance of the European head, whose better training, and habit of working by rule, correct their faults and defects.

The butcher, poultry, fish, fruit, and vegetable markets are all designated bazaars, and are admirably supplied. The mutton of Bengal is equal to the best Highland mutton; and the beef of the small Bengalee cow is sweet and delicate. [I, 558]

Related material


Blackie, Walker Graham. The Imperial Gazetteer: A General Dictionary of Geography, Physical, Political, Statistical and Descriptive. 4 vols. London: Blackie & Son, 1856. Internet Archive online version of a copy in the University of California Library. Web. 7 November 2018.

Last modified 20 November 2018