martedì 19 giugno 2012

June 20, 1756: The Black Hole of Calcutta

It is known to history as "The Black Hole of Calcutta", one of the most famous and manipulated events in the history of the Indian struggle against British rule. 
We are in 1756, the British East India Company is seeking to consolidate its trades against the French and, in view of future conflicts, strengthen the defenses of Fort William in Calcutta. 
Map of the East Indies, 1665
The Nawab of Bengal, Siraj al-Dawlah, ruler of Calcutta, was not even notified about it, and then he decides to attack the army of the Company. 
The men of the nawab win soon against a few British soldiers. They captured both military and civilian people. 
According to the account of the man who became the only witness, John Zephaniah Holwell, 146 people are imprisoned in a windowless cell size of 24 feet to 18 (about 4 meters by 5) and there they stay during all night. 
The next day, June 20, 1756, only 23 people survived. The others are all dead, many of the dead people were found still standing as the crowding of the cell did not have them dropped. 
The fact caused a sensation and aroused the indignation of the 'civilized' English against the 'barbarians' Indians. 
Only then they began to dispute the fact especially as regards its actual size of the cell and claimed that Holwell had exaggerated. In particular it was shown that in a cell 24 to 18 was physically impossible for them to enter 146 people, that they could not be more than 64 of these were dead and that 'only' 43. 
It turned out also that it was only by forgetfulness and not by the will that the prisoners were left overnight in the cell. 
Of course the British did not hear reason, and one year later they defeated the army of the Nawab Siraj al-Dawlah who was killed and replaced with a Nawab more 'compliant' to British interests.

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