Skip to main content Accessibility help

The Space between Nation and Empire: The Making and Unmaking of Eastern Bengal and Assam Province, 1905–1911

  • Iftekhar Iqbal

The article examines the spatial turn in the contestations between the Indian nation and the British empire, as manifested in the creation and annulment of a new province at the turn of the twentieth century. The province, Eastern Bengal and Assam, was a culmination of the British Indian empire's eastern gaze since the early nineteenth century across northeastern India, Burma, and southern China. While the new province was expected to facilitate the empire's eastward transregional engagements, the national resistance to the scheme was influenced more by the comfort zone of the agro-ecological regime of the plains of the Bengal Delta, imagined to be capable of sustaining the Bengali nation in decline. The province was dismantled within six years in the face of the razing national movement, but a century later its legacy returns as India looks east.

Hide All
Anderson, Benedict. 1991. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso.
Banerjee, Prathama. 2005. “The Work of Imagination: Temporality and Nationhood in Colonial Bengal.” In Subaltern Studies XII: Muslims, Dalits and the Fabrications of History, eds. Mayaram, Shail, Pandian, M. S. S., and Skaria, Ajay. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Basu, Subho. 2010. “The Dialectics of Resistance: Colonial Geography, Bengali Literati and the Racial Mapping of Indian Identity.” Modern Asian Studies 4(1):5379.
Bertuzzo, Elisa T. 2009. Fragmented Dhaka: Analysing Everyday Life with Henri Lefebvre's Theory of Production of Space. Berlin: Franz Steiner Verlag.
Boulger, Demetrius C. 1901. “India's Interest in China.” Fortnightly Review 70:690–99.
Bradley-Birt, F. B. 1906. The Romance of an Eastern Capital. London: Smith Elder & Co.
Brown, Francis Carnac. 1847. Free Trade & the Cotton Question with Reference to India: Being a Memorial from the British Merchants of Cochin, to the Right Hon. Sir John Hobhouse, Bart., M.P. President of the Board of Control. London: Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange.
Chattopadhyay, Sarat Chandra. 1926. Pather dabi [The demand of the road or Revolutionary road]. Calcutta: Umaprasad Mukherjee.
Chattopadhyay, Sarat Chandra. 1970. “Smritikath” [Memoirs]. In Sarat-sahitya-sangraha [Sarat literary collections], vol. 10. Calcutta: M. C. Sarkar.
Colebrook, H. T. 1822. “On the Geology of the North-eastern Border of Bengal.” Transactions of the Geological Society 1(1):132–40 (series 2).
Cotton, Arthur. 1866–67. “On Communication between India and China by the Line of the Burhampooter.” Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London 11(6):255–59.
Curzon, George Nathaniel. 1902. Speeches by Lord Curzon of Kedleston, vol. 2, 1900–1902. Calcutta: Government Printing Press, India.
Curzon, George Nathaniel. 1903. Mss Eur F111/323: Minute by His Excellency the Viceroy on Territorial Redistribution in India. Part II, Bengal. India Office Records. London: The British Library.
Curzon, George Nathaniel. 1903–5. Mss Eur F111/247a. India Office Records. London: The British Library.
De, Amalendu. 2003. “Sri Aurobindo's Role in Indian Freedom Struggle: An Assessment from Different Perceptions.” Presidential Address 2002–3. Kolkata: Asiatic Society of Bengal.
Dickinson, . 1847. Panorama of the City of Dacca. London: Dickinson.
D'oyly, Charles. 1830. Antiquities of Dacca. London: John Landseer.
Duara, Prasenjit. 2010. “Asia Redux: Conceptualizing a Region of Our Times.” Journal of Asian Studies 69(4):963–83.
Duckworth, Henry. 1861. New Commercial Route to China (Capt. Sprye's Proposition). London: Georg Philip and Son.
Eastern Bengal and Assam Era. 1906. February 14.
Fuller, J. B. 1902. Secretary to the Government of India: In Proceedings of the Government of India, Department of Revenue and Agriculture, no. 1-50-2, Calcutta, 10 January 1902, (Resolution), in Government of Bengal, Revenue Dept.: Land Revenue February 1902, file: 16-S-4/1-2, no. 39-40, in National Archives of Bangladesh: Rev (L), wooden Bundle: 47, List: 17.
Fuller, J. B. 1903. Government of India. MSS Eur 111/247c: Government of India to John Broderick, Secretary of State, 3 Dec 1903. India Office Records. London: The British Library.
Gandhi, M. K. 1984. Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. 5. Delhi: Government of India.
Goswami, Manu. 2004. Producing India: From Colonial Economy to National Space. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Hay, John Ogilvy. 1875. A Map Shewing the Various Routes Connecting China with India and Europe through Burmah and Developing the Trade of Eastern Bengal, Burmah & China. London: Edward Stanford.
Huttmann, William. 1844. “On Chinese and European Maps of China.” Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 14:111–27.
Iqbal, Iftekhar. 2010. The Bengal Delta: Ecology, State and Social Change 1840-1943. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Lefebvre, Henri. 1997. The Production of Space. Oxford: Blackwell.
Ludden, David. 2010. Rethinking 1905: Spatial Inequality, Uneven Development and Nationalism. Kolkata: Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group.
Ludden, David. 2012. “Spatial Inequity and National Territory: Remapping 1905 in Bengal and Assam.” Modern Asian Studies 46(3):483525.
Macpherson, W. C. 1904. MSS Eur 111/47c: Officiating Chief Secretary to the Government of Bengal, to Secretary to Government of India, 6 April. India Office Records. London: The British Library.
Majumdar, Jadunath. [1918] 2007. Hindu samajer samashya [Problems of the Hindu society]. Kolkata: Kaliprasanna chattopadhyay. (accessed October 22, 2014).
Manjapra, Kris. 2011. “From Imperial to International Horizons: A Hermeneutic Study of Bengali Modernism.” Modern Intellectual History 8(2):327–59.
Molla, M. K. U. 1981. The New Province of Eastern Bengal & Assam, 1905–1911. Rajshahi: Institute of Bangladesh Studies.
Osmany, Shireen Hasan. 2007. British Policy and the Port of Chittagong 1892-1912. Dhaka: University Grants Commission.
Rennell, James. 1781. “An Account of the Ganges and Burrampooter Rivers.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 71:87114.
Rice, W. C. 1904. Officiating Chief Secretary to Government of Burma, to L W Dane, Secretary to the Government of India, Foreign Department, Rangoon 2 May 1904. India Office Records, F111/396. London: The British Library.
Risley, H. H. 1905. Notes, 1/9/4, Government of India, Home, Public A, Feb. 1905, Proceeding no. 155. India Office Records. London: The British Library.
Sarkar, Pitambar. 1910. Jati-vikash [Evolution of caste]. Calcutta: n.p.
Sartori, Andrew. 2008. Bengal in Global Concept History: Culturalism in the Age of Capital. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Schendel, Willem Van. 2005. The Bengal Borderland: Beyond State and Nation in South Asia. London: Anthem Press.
Scott, James C. 2009. The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.
Shakespear, L. W. 1914. History of Upper Assam, Upper Burmah and North-Eastern Frontier. London: Macmillan and Co.
Sharma, Jayeeta. 2011. Empire's Garden: Assam and the Making of Imperial India. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Sladen, E. B. 1869. Official Narrative of and Papers Connected with the Expedition to Explore the Trade Routes to China via Bhamo. Rangoon: British Burma Press.
Sprye, Richard. 1858. The British and China Railway: From Her Majesty's Port of Rangoon, in the Bay of Bengal, through Pegue & Burmah, to the Yunnan Province of China: With Loop-lines to Siam & Cambogia, Tonquin & Cochin-China. London: privately printed.
Taylor, James. 1840. A Sketch of the Topography and Statistics of Dacca. Calcutta: G. H. Huttmann, Military Orphan Press for the Government.
Times (London). 1899. September 6, 5.
Walsh, Warren B. 1943. “The Yunnan Myth.” Far Eastern Quarterly 2(3):272–85.
Williams, Michael. 2006. Deforesting the Earth: From Prehistory to Global Crisis: An Abridgement. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Yang, Bin. 2008. Between Winds and Clouds: The Making of Yunnan. New York: Columbia University Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Journal of Asian Studies
  • ISSN: 0021-9118
  • EISSN: 1752-0401
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-asian-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed