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, subtitles, and links. The title-page bears the date 1856, but internal evidence in various entrees makes clear that the text dates from 1851. This discussion of British India has particular importance because it immediately precedes the 1857 Mutiny.— George P. Landow]

The range of the thermometer in Novemher, December, January, and February, denominated the cold season, is from 50 to 75 Fahrenheit; the Northeast monsoon, then the prevailing wind, is bracing to the European constitution, relaxed by the preceding heats; and at this season the appetite and strength improve. Balls, and gaiety by night, and boar-hunting with spears, jackal-hunting with hounds, and horse-racing with Arab, English, New South Wales, and country-bred horses, are the amusements of the mornings during this season. European vegetables for the table are then grown, and are fully equal to those produced in more temperate climates.

March brings with it the South West monsoon, and hot weather, which increases in temperature during the succeeding month; and in May the thermometer reaches 90-95 in the shade, 100-110 in the open air; and the hot atmosphere of that month striking the face, on going out of a house from which the external air has been from sunrise carefully excluded, has been aptly compared to the heat of a blast-furnace. This heat is, however, alleviated by occasional storms, called North westers, which are generally accompanied by thunder and lightning. In June the rainy season commences, much to the relief both of animal and vegetable nature, and continues to the end of September; but there are very few days that have not some hours free from rain.

The interval between the cessation of the rains, and the commencement of the cold weather, is unhealthy, from the moisture in the atmosphere, and a still powerful sun causing a rapid decay of vegetable matter. The climate has been, however, much ameliorated since the original establishment of the factory, by judicious draining, clearing away jungle in the suburbs, and by opening up roads and thoroughfares, and otherwise improving, from time to time, both the native and European quarters of the city. A permanent sanitary commission, with extensive powers, has been lately established by a local act.

A stranger going to India, in order that he may be gradually acclimated, should so time his departure from England that he may arrive in the beginning of the cold weather. The sun of Bengal is singu larly prejudicial to Europeans, and at no season is it safe in Calcutta to be in the open air, when the sun is up, without some protection from its rays. Carriages, gigs with leather hoods, or palanquins carried by natives, by means of poles resting on their shoulders, are, therefore, absolutely necessary for Europeans. The proportion of deaths to the population is 3-13 per annum nearly; that of London is about 2-16; the difference being accounted for on the score of climate.


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