Protests in Print: Resistance against Indian Indentured Labour in Nineteenth Century Bengal

Sudipto Mitra, Purba Hossain

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The post-Abolition search for plantation labour led the British Empire towards the system of indenture. Demerara planter John Gladstone took a cue from the experimental transfer of 36 labourers to Mauritius in 1834 and devised a contract with the Gillanders, Arbuthnot & Company in 1836, by virtue of which 437 coolies were transferred from Calcutta to Demerara in 1837. The system of indenture thereafter expanded on an unprecedented scale. Simultaneously, however, the system also attracted fierce condemnation as protests from anti-Slavery societies and newspaper reports instigated parliamentary motions against it in Britain. Such sentiments were echoed in Calcutta, where public meetings and newspaper reports became sites of resistance.
This essay intends to study the anti-indenture movements in Calcutta during the nineteenth century, through a study of the representation of indentured labour migrations in contemporary print media and public discourse. It aims to situate the coolie question at the juncture of movements supporting and criticising the migrations, to analyse a form of resistance that manifested itself in the print media and enforced a constant remodeling of the system of indentured labour before becoming part of a national agenda.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Nation and Its Margins
Subtitle of host publicationRethinking Community
EditorsAditi Chandra, Vinita Chandra
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
PublisherCambridge Scholars Publishing
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)ISBN (13): 978-1-5275-4018-7
ISBN (Print)ISBN (10): 1-5275-4018-9
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • indentured labour
  • Print culture

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