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Climate Calamity and the Wild: An Environmental History of the Bengal Delta, C.1737-1947

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Item Code: HAN878
Author: Ranjan Chakrabarti
Publisher: Primus Books, Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 2022
ISBN: 9789355724618
Pages: 289 (Throughout B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.5x6.5 INCH
Weight 552 gm
Book Description
About the Book

Climate, Calamity and the Wild: An Environmental History of the Bengal Delta, c.1737-1947 offers a climatic and environmental history of the deltaic plains of Bengal. Unlike the prevalent model of history-writing, this book tackles historical issues in ecological, biological and cultural terms, turning away from conventional ideological and political approaches. The volume examines how the delta's political economy, production, crop pattern, inland and overseas trade, demographic pattern, culture and economy developed and were transformed by shifts in climate, forests, river systems and hydrology. This involves an exploration of the complex dynamics of the interaction of human societies with the rich history of natural disasters such as super cyclones, severe thunderstorms and floods, resulting in loss of life, property, livestock, human settlements and wildlife as well as major shifts in the history of colonial Bengal. This work aims to break the silence in the history-writing of Bengal relating to the climatic and environmental significance of the delta.

About the Author

Ranjan Chakrabarti is currently Professor of History at Jadavpur University and was previously Vice-Chancellor of Vidyasagar University, West Bengal. He is a former Fulbright Visiting Professor at Brown University, and a recipient of the Charles Wallace Fellowship at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, the Alexander O. Vietor Memorial Fellowship at Brown University and the Alfred Bell Memorial Fellowship at the Forest History Society at Duke University. His recent publications include Order and Disorder in Early Colonial Bengal, 1800-1860; A History of the Modern World: An Outline; Critical Themes in Environmental History of India, and a co-edited volume, Natural Resources, Sustainability and Humanity.


THE PRESENT WORK focuses on the climate, calamity and the wild of the Bengal Delta and makes an attempt to bring out the fascinating interactions between the early colonial observers, scientists, writers, the emerging colonial state and the people on the one hand, and the extraordinary natural world and unfriendly climate conditions of the region on the other. It also brings to light the colonial authority's attempt to control the jungle and its wild inhabitants. This study will show how the Bengal Delta's unique climate and topography led to frequent changes or shifts in the courses of rivers, leading to the creation of new channels and the dislocation of already established human settlements. Environment and ecology in general, and the climate of the Bengal Delta in particular, helped to determine in more ways than one the pattern of agriculture, irrigation, food and drinking habits, festivals, rituals, health and disease and even the methods of disposing dead bodies. This book will also concentrate on the unique climate and exceptional geophysical characteristic of the delta.
The Bengal Delta is well known as one of the most climatically vulnerable zones of the world. It has a rich history of super cyclones along the Bay of Bengal coast and is an area prone to severe thunderstorms, rise in sea level, high tides and floods. The people here live in the floodplains or sandbars (chars) in the midst of a fragile environment. Devastating storms in coastal zones also result in loss of life, property, livestock, human settlements and wildlife.


IN HIS RECENT book The Climate of History in a Planetary Age (2021), Dipesh Chakrabarty argues that historians may have to revise many of their fundamental assumptions and methodologies in this period of human- induced climate change. Chakrabarty observes in the opening sentences of this work:
If Hegel-a self-declared admirer of Spinoza-were alive to plumb the depths of our sense of the present, he would notice something imperceptibly but inexorably seeping into the everyday historical consciousness of those who consume their daily diet of news: an awareness of the planet and of its geobiological history. This is not happening everywhere at the same pace, for the global world remains undeniably uneven. The current pandemic, the rise of authoritarian, racist, and xenophobic regimes across the globe, and discussions of renewable energy, fossil fuel, climate change, extreme weather events, water shortage, loss of biodiversity, the Anthropocene, and so on, all signal to us, however vaguely, that something is amiss with our planet and that this may have to do with human actions.1
Fernand Braudel, the well-known French historian and the front-runner of the Annales school, made a laudable effort to write a total history of the Mediterranean world, giving sufficient importance to the role of geography and climate behind history in a longue duree context.2

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