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The Legacy of Bengal Renaissance in Public 
Library Development in India during the 
Colonial British Rule: A Historiograp...
Introduction 
 The 19th and 20th century Bengal was a nerve centre with hosts of socio-cultural 
and religious reform mov...
Introduction 
 With modern and secular education, the country saw the emergence of a learned, 
enlightened and educated n...
Introduction 
 The colleges produced learned actors or supporters of 
Bengal Renaissance movement include: 
 Fort Willia...
Study Results
Century Old Libraries in the state of West Bengal 
 West Bengal Public Library Network (WBPLN), under the Mass Education ...
Concentration of Century Old Libraries in West Bengal 
Surrounding City of Calcutta 
Bengal Districts in the Early 20th Ce...
Distribution of Century Old Libraries in West Bengal
Distribution of Century-old Libraries based on Year of 
Establishment
Distribution of Century-old Libraries based on 
Management Type
Some Other Observations 
 WBPLN maintains ICT-enabled online referral services for directing library users to public 
lib...
 Digital Repository of West Bengal Public Library Network, launched on 12th August 2010, provides 
open access to full te...
Influence of Religious Reforms Movements 
 The religious reform movements in Bengal that influenced 
establishment commun...
• Sadharan Brahmo Samaj Library, founded on 13th April 1895 by the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj. 
• One of the prominent religiou...
Influence of other Social Movements 
 The Swadeshi Movement 
• Swadeshi movement became a nationalist awakening movement ...
Influence of Swadeshi and Revolutionary Movements 
Historian Sumit Sarkar observes: 
 From the very beginning, the societ...
 Calcutta Public Library (CPL), established in 1836 with private membership 
 Imperial Library, established in 1891 comb...
 North Bengal State Library was established in 1869 by the British Commissioner; 
later handed over to the local ruler Ma...
Concluding Remarks 
 Public library was considered as most appropriate public space for 
engagement with local communitie...
Acknowledgement 
IFLA 
Enssib.fr, and 
Jawaharlal Nehru University 
Thank You 
http://anupkumardas.blogspot.in
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The Legacy of Bengal Renaissance in Public Library Development in India during the Colonial British Rule: A Historiographical Study

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Presentation titled "The Legacy of Bengal Renaissance in Public Library Development in India during the Colonial British Rule: A Historiographical Study" was presented at IFLA International Conference on History of Librarianship, at Lyon, France, 25-26 August 2014. Full-text paper will be published as a book chapter in a forthcoming book. Further information: http://histlibr2014.sciencesconf.org

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The Legacy of Bengal Renaissance in Public Library Development in India during the Colonial British Rule: A Historiographical Study

  1. 1. The Legacy of Bengal Renaissance in Public Library Development in India during the Colonial British Rule: A Historiographical Study Anup Kumar Das Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India Presented at International Conference History of Librarianship 25-26 August 2014
  2. 2. Introduction  The 19th and 20th century Bengal was a nerve centre with hosts of socio-cultural and religious reform movements due to early association of secular liberal western education.  University of Calcutta, established on 24 January 1857, became the first modern university in South Asia.  Later University of Bombay and University of Madras were established in the same year 1857.  Incidentally, the year 1857 is better known for India’s first struggle for independence or Indian Mutiny (also called the Great Rebellion of India, the Revolt of 1857, the Uprising of 1857 or the Sepoy Mutiny), from the British colonial ruler – the East India Company.  British colonial rule helped expansion of these universities with affiliated colleges across the country.  Modern institutions of higher learning, established by colonial British rulers, European missionaries and also by contemporary social reformers, led to the awakening of Bengali educated communities.
  3. 3. Introduction  With modern and secular education, the country saw the emergence of a learned, enlightened and educated new generation of youths.  Many of them became key actors in socio-cultural and religious reform movements in Bengal and other parts of the country.  The Bengal Renaissance started in the nineteenth century and continued till early twentieth century in undivided India's Bengal province.  European scholars based in India and attached with the Asiatic Society of India and other learned institutions also supported Bengal’s reform movements.  During the British colonial period many public libraries got established.  Some of them were established with community efforts, without bothering patronage of local colonial rulers.  Few others received support from the local rulers.  The public libraries which got supports of the local communities flourished with diversified services.  Public libraries become a community space for social functions, intercultural interactions, debating on contemporary burning issues, and sometimes with political motives of raising awareness against awful governance and anti-people stances of the British colonial rulers.
  4. 4. Introduction  The colleges produced learned actors or supporters of Bengal Renaissance movement include:  Fort William College, 1800 Serampore College, 1818  Hindu College, 1817 (rechristened Presidency College in 1855)  Sanskrit College, 1824 Scottish Church College, 1830 (as General Assembly's Institution/ Duff College)  St. Xavier's College, Calcutta, 1860
  5. 5. Study Results
  6. 6. Century Old Libraries in the state of West Bengal  West Bengal Public Library Network (WBPLN), under the Mass Education Extension and Library Services Department, Government of West Bengal, maintains a list of Century Old Libraries in the state.  It covers about 81 libraries. Most of the century-old libraries are concentrated around Kolkata metropolitan city, due to the legacy of Bengal Renaissance. Later, public libraries were established in other districts of the Bengal Province.
  7. 7. Concentration of Century Old Libraries in West Bengal Surrounding City of Calcutta Bengal Districts in the Early 20th Century
  8. 8. Distribution of Century Old Libraries in West Bengal
  9. 9. Distribution of Century-old Libraries based on Year of Establishment
  10. 10. Distribution of Century-old Libraries based on Management Type
  11. 11. Some Other Observations  WBPLN maintains ICT-enabled online referral services for directing library users to public libraries in their neighbourhood.  WBPLN is trying to fulfil the WSIS Target 4: Connect all public libraries, museums, post offices and national archives with ICTs. However, in many other states situation is not conducive enough.  Many of the Century Old Libraries presently have private or community-based management, and have opted out from the Government aid, due to retaintion of their autonomy.  Many of these Century Old Libraries In West Bengal were associated with various social movements or founded as outcomes of religious reform movements, and freedom struggle.  Some public libraries initiated unique service of free reading rooms, for the young members, which give conducive learning space to students who don't have access to electricity at home or don't have adequate space for serious reading/ learning.  Some of these reading rooms have already completed centenary years, e.g., Ram Mohan Library & Free Reading Room, Kolkata (e. 1904), Bagbazar Free Reading Library, Kolkata (e. 1907), Konnagar Public Library & Free Reading Room, Hooghly (e. 1858). They are continually serving young users for more than a century.
  12. 12.  Digital Repository of West Bengal Public Library Network, launched on 12th August 2010, provides open access to full text of rare books, mainly Bengali books and books produced during British colonial period.  Many copyright-free (out of copyright) rare books were selected from various century-old public libraries in West Bengal.  Presently it hosts about 18000 digitized books, which are presently in public domain.
  13. 13. Influence of Religious Reforms Movements  The religious reform movements in Bengal that influenced establishment community libraries during 20th century across the country, particularly in Bengal province:  Brahmo Samaj movement, since 1828 Ramakrishna Mission Movement, 1897
  14. 14. • Sadharan Brahmo Samaj Library, founded on 13th April 1895 by the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj. • One of the prominent religious reformist institutions during the Bengal Renaissance period. • Many of the key personalities of Bengal Renaissance were born Brahmo Samaj followers. • • Brahmo Samaj helped in expansion of school and college education during 19th and 20th centuries. • It was also pioneer in introducing formal women education in the country. Later formal women education for the natives was expanded to whole Indian sub-continent.
  15. 15. Influence of other Social Movements  The Swadeshi Movement • Swadeshi movement became a nationalist awakening movement against the British colonial rule in India  In this movement youths got socio-politically motivated for greater participation in nation-building by following the principles of swadeshi (self-sufficiency).  Swadeshi movement became precursor to Indian independence movement, and helped in flourishing swadeshi enterprises in Bengal province.  Many Revolutionary Societies were founded in Bengal province around the time of Swadeshi movement.  Many of these groups became underground, while maintaining collection of revolutionary literatures collected from different parts of the world. Their politically motivating literatures helped in inspiring the youngsters in achieving freedom from the British rule.  Many of them maintained libraries for inspiring their youth members towards freedom fight against British colonial rule.
  16. 16. Influence of Swadeshi and Revolutionary Movements Historian Sumit Sarkar observes:  From the very beginning, the societies tried to combine physical culture with moral and intellectual training. The Calcutta Anushilan is said to have had a library of 4000 books, a list of 230 titles in the collection of the Mymen-singh Suhrid Samiti has been preserved in the home political files, and these and other samitis had a system of regular classes. The intellectual influences were extremely diverse. … Jogendranath Vidyabhusan's numerous biographies of Mazzini, Garibaldi, and other patriotic leaders, both Indian and foreign, seem to have been almost as important as Anandamath itself; more direct contacts with revolutionary movements abroad were provided by the life of Mazzini, Irish nationalist literature and Kropotkin's works presented by Nivedita. Interest in radical movements and 'revolutions', no less sincere for being so beautifully eclectic and vague, led some early recruits further afield—thus Deuskar asked his Anushilan Samiti pupils to try to obtain literature on socialism from the Imperial Library, and despite the librarian's discouragement, Bhupendranath was able to get from there a book by Hyndman.  … Home department files preserve a printed report issued by the Suhrid Samiti, covering the years 1900-06. Established originally as a centre for the physical and moral training of young men, it started giving special attention from its second year to "the sole use of country made goods", and organised annual Shivaji festivals from 1902 onwards. … The Samiti had by this time a regular system of training for its members. There were lectures, discussion meeting once a week, as well as physical culture and drill. The library of the Samiti had 230 books when the police raided it in November 1908; these included lives of Cromwell, Washington and Napoleon, Condemned as a Nihilist, Nabya Japan and several books on Ramkrishna and Vivekananda. The oath the volunteers had to take emphasised moral virtues, swadeshi and defence of caste and religion.
  17. 17.  Calcutta Public Library (CPL), established in 1836 with private membership  Imperial Library, established in 1891 combining a number of secretariat libraries in Calcutta  CPL amalgamated with Imperial Library in 1903 and expanded for the use of the public  Renamed as National Library of India in 1953, dedicated to the Nation  One of the colonial establishments influenced various actors of Bengal Renaissance for indigenous knowledge creation and creation of neo-classical Bengali literature
  18. 18.  North Bengal State Library was established in 1869 by the British Commissioner; later handed over to the local ruler Maharaja Nripendra Narayan. In the year 1882 the library was opened for public use.  J.W. Troten in his book India under Victoria speaks of this library, “the little State of Cooch Behar on Assam border could be act of a library richer than any to be found in Bengal out side Calcutta”.
  19. 19. Concluding Remarks  Public library was considered as most appropriate public space for engagement with local communities and to attract them in public discourses.  Newly emerged educated liberal and empowered Bengali intellectuals had started establishment of scholarly societies, youth associations and public libraries across the undivided Bengal province.  Many renowned public libraries were founded during the period of Bengal Renaissance.  In every district, public libraries got established with support from the local communities.  Public libraries also helped in development of literacy of local communities, inculcating reading habits to first generation learners, inculcating scientific temper and overall transformation of character of Bengali-speaking communities.  The legacy of Bengal Renaissance had overarching impact on lives of billion peoples rippling beyond the 19th and 20th century timeframes.
  20. 20. Acknowledgement IFLA Enssib.fr, and Jawaharlal Nehru University Thank You http://anupkumardas.blogspot.in

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