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History of 10th July – The Fort Williams College

History of 10th July – The Fort Williams College

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10th July

Today’s episode is on the history of 10th July which includes the Battle of Dyrrhachium, Lady Godiva’s ride, the Vellore Mutiny, Madonna’s nude pictures in Playboy, etc. It also discusses the history of Fort William College, which was established for linguistic and cultural studies during the British Raj.

Interesting fact, the history of 10th July goes back to the year 48 BCE when Julius Caesar barely avoids a catastrophic defeat to Pompey near the city of Dyrrhachium (Now called Albania), known as the ‘Battle of Dyrrhachium’. What I also see from the history of 10th July is an incident when on this day Lady Godiva rode naked on a horse through Coventry to force her husband the Earl of Mercia to lower taxes in the year 1040.

Lady Godiva rode naked on a horse through Coventry 

Well, now let me remind you on a history which I shared  a few days back; the Santhal Hool which was a revolt against the British much earlier than the Sepoy mutiny? Interestingly the history of 10th July tells me that the first Sepoy mutiny took place much earlier on this day in the year 1806 in Vellore known as the Vellore Mutiny.

In present times we use permanent markers, but do you know that it was this day in the year 1866 when Edson P. Clark patented the indelible pencil? Fun fact isn’t it?

Now coming to celebration of  Silence Day which is celebrated by the followers of Meher Baba every year on the 10th of July. It is celebrated as it was this day when Meher Baba begins his silence of 44 years in the year 1925.

Interestingly, this was also the day when Playboy (and also Penthouse) publish nude pictures of Madonna in the year 1985.

Mandonna in Playboy and Penthouse cover
Mandonna in Playboy and Penthouse issue

 

With this, I come to my feature story from the history of 10th July.

The blend of Cultures at the Fort William College

During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the British East India Company’s influence in India was expanding rapidly. To consolidate their rule, the British recognized the importance of understanding and communicating with the local population. This recognition prompted the establishment of Fort William College, an institution dedicated to linguistic and cultural studies.

On the 10th of July, Fort William College, also referred to as the College of Fort William, emerged as a renowned academy for oriental studies and a prominent center of knowledge. Its establishment took place under the leadership of Lord Wellesley, the Governor-General of British India, within the premises of the Fort William complex in Calcutta. Lord Wellesley’s primary objective in initiating the college was to provide comprehensive training for European administrators. The college played a significant role in translating numerous books from Sanskrit, Bengali, Arabic, Persian, Hindi, and Urdu into English, fostering a rich exchange of knowledge.

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Fort William College had a primary objective of training British officials in various Indian languages, which inadvertently contributed to the growth and development of languages like Bengali and Urdu. This era holds significant historical importance, particularly with the arrival of Ram Mohan Roy in Calcutta in 1815, marking the beginning of the Bengali Renaissance, according to many historians. The establishment of The Calcutta Madrassa in 1781, the Asiatic Society in 1784, and Fort William College in 1800 completed the initial phase of Kolkata’s emergence as an intellectual hub.

The college focused on teaching Asian languages, including Arabic, Urdu, Persian, Sanskrit, Bengali, and later, even Marathi and Chinese were included. Each department of the college was staffed with renowned scholars. The Persian department, for instance, was led by Neil B. Edmonstone, who had been serving as the Persian translator for the East India Company’s government since 1794. However, when it came to Bengali, there was a shortage of suitable individuals in Calcutta who could serve as instructors. Brahmin scholars at the time only studied Sanskrit, which was considered the language of the gods, and they did not engage with Bengali. To address this issue, the authorities appointed Carey, who was associated with the Baptist Mission in Serampore. Carey, in turn, selected Mrityunjoy Vidyalankar as the head pandit, with Ramnath Bachaspati as the second pandit, and Ramram Basu as one of the assistant pandits.

Besides teaching, the college also facilitated translations, employing over a hundred local linguists. At the time, there were no available textbooks in Bengali. So the Calcutta Gazette also published a Bengali grammar and dictionary on 23 April 1789. ,.

That’s all for the day.

 

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