• ‘Debganer Martye Aagaman’ is a novel, written by Durgacharan Ray in the year 1880.
  • According to this novel Brahma visited the earth (Calcutta) by train with some other gods. They were so impressed that they decided to build a museum and a high court in heaven.
  • Though the gods were happy with the trade, commerce, wealth, property, education and jobs, they were unhappy with the cheats, thieves, poverty, caste, religion, gender and poor housing.
  • These contrasting images were quite confusing for the gods and also the other writers of that time.
  • The three historical processes that shaped the modern cities were – industrial capitalism, colonial rule and democratic ideals.

Characteristics of the City

  • The earlier towns and cities developed along the river valleys. For example, Ur, Nippur and Mohenjo-Daro etc. These were larger in terms of area and population.
  • These cities were the centres of politics, administration, trade and industries with various social groups.
  • Cities may vary in terms of size, population and their functions.
  • In the 19th century, London was the largest city in the world and also the Imperial Centre whereas in the Indian subcontinent, Bombay was one of the most modern cities.

Industrialisation and the Rise of the Modern City in England

  • For many decades, even after the industrial revolution, most of the western countries were largely rural but the fact cannot be denied that the form of urbanization was changed due to industrialisation.
  • During the year 1851, the industrial cities of Britain (Leeds and Manchester) attracted large number of migrants out of which 3/4th were the adults from the rural areas and therefore it is also called a powerful magnet for the migrants.
  • The population of London increased from 675,000 in 1750 to 4 million in 1880.
  • According to the historian Gareth Stedman Jones, there were clerks, shopkeepers, small masters, skilled artisans, casual labourers, soldiers, servants, street sellers and beggars living in London during the 19th century.
  • There were five major industries in London. These were – (a) clothing and footwear (b) wood and furniture (c) metals and engineering (d) printing and stationery (e) precision products like surgical instruments, watches and precious metals.

Marginal Groups

  • Crime activities increased with the growth of London. There was problem of law and order, public morality and hardworking labour force.
  • The people made a living from crime and therefore criminals were counted, their activities and ways of life were watched and investigated.
  • Henry Mayhew made a long list of the criminals but many of them were the poor people who made their living by stealing lead from the roofs, food from the shops or lump of coals.
  • There were some skilled and experts at their work who were cheats, tricksters, pickpockets and petty thieves.
  • Actions taken to discipline the population- high penalties for crime and jobs were offered to the deserving poor.
  • According to the 1861 Census of London, large number of domestic servants were the migrant women who lost their industrial jobs due to the technological changes.
  • To increase the family income, women used their homes as lodges and did work like tailoring, washing or match box making but again they withdrew from such domestic services when they got job opportunities in wartime industries and offices.
  • The children were forced by their parents to work as child labourer at low wages.
  • In the 1880s, a clergyman named Andrew Mearns explained in his book “The bitter cry of outcast London” why the crime was more profitable.
  • The problem of child labour was seen in London during the passage of legal acts in 1870 (Compulsory Elementary Education Act) and 1902 (The Factory Act).


  • After the industrial revolution, people migrated to London but the factory owners or the workshop owners did not make any arrangement for their stay. They were given tenements by the individual landowners at cheap rates but were unsafe.
  • Charles Booth was a ship-owner in Liverpool who conducted the first social survey of the low skilled workers in the east end of London in the year 1887.
  • This survey revealed that there were one million poor people with life expectancy of 29 years only. They had to die in workhouse or hospital or lunatic asylum. Booth suggested for the rebuilding of at least 40,000 rooms for these poor Londoners.
  • The well off people in the city demanded for clearing the slums but later on larger number of people raised voice for the housing of the poor due to the following reasons:

(a) Health issues: the one room rented houses were overcrowded with poor ventilation and sanitation facilities.

(b) Fire hazards: due to poor housing conditions there was risk of fire.

(c) Social disorder: the migrant crowds may turn to be rebellious and thus the mass housing schemes were planned to prevent such social disorder.

Cleaning London

  • The various attempts made to clean up London were –decongestion of localities, the open spaces were greened up, reduce pollution, landscape the city, large blocks of apartments were built, rent control was introduced and green belts were made around the city of London.
  • The principle of the Garden City was the idea developed by Ebenezer Howard, an architect and planner.
  • According to him the garden city would be a pleasant space full of greenery with beautiful views where people could both live and work.
  • A million houses were built, mostly the single family cottages, by the local authorities of the British State.

Transport in the city

  • The housing crisis in London was partially solved by the underground railway. It carried large number of people to and from the city.
  • On 10 January 1863, the first section of underground railway was opened in London between Paddington and Farrington Street.
  • On the very first day it carried ten thousand passengers. The trains were running at an interval of every 10 minutes.
  • Initially the people were afraid to travel in the underground railways but by 1880 it carried 40 million passengers every year.
  • Some people thought that these underground railways must be stopped soon as they were not good for the health. It was because the people were using smoking pipes, there was heat, coal dust and foul smell from the gas lamps which made the journey vulnerable in these trains.
  • Charles Dickens wrote about the massive destruction in the process of construction of the underground railways in his book ‘Dombey and Son’ which published in the year 1848.
  • He explained that the houses and the streets were broken down, deep pits and trenches were dug, there was huge heaps of earth and clay lying everywhere which contributed a lot in the mess and unhealthiness of the city of London.
  • The making of the underground railway displaced large number of people. For example approx. 900 houses had to be destroyed for two miles of railway.
  • Now due to the better suburbs and the grand success of the underground railway resulted in dispersion of large number of people from the city.

Social Change in the City

  • During the 18th century, the family was considered as a unit of production, consumption and political decision making but due to the emergence of the industrial city life, the function and the shape of the family changed completely.
  • The institution of marriage broke down, ties between the family members weakened and the women were facing isolation in the family. Therefore there was need to save and reconstruct these social changes by pushing the women into home.

Men, Women and Family in the City

  • The spirit of individualism developed and the collective values declined among the men and women and also raised the problem of mass leisure on Sunday or other holidays.
  • Women lost their jobs in the industries and were pushed back into the domestic sphere whereas the presence of men increased in the public spaces.
  • The men were mobilized in the political movements like the Chartism movement and the Ten-hour movement.
  • Chartism movement demanded the voting rights for the adult males.
  • The Ten-hour movement was related to limiting the working hours in the factories.
  • Later on, the women also participated in the political movements for their voting rights and property rights.

Leisure and Consumption

  • There was a tradition of Annual London Season among the rich Britishers with several cultural events like the opera, the theatre and the classical music.
  • The industrial working classes met in pubs, exchanged news and organized political actions.
  • Different types of entertainment provisions were made for the common people at large scale such as libraries, art galleries and museums.
  • This was done to create a sense of history and pride among the Britishers.
  • In the year 1810, the entry was made free in the museums which tremendously increased the number of visitors every year.
  • Lower class people were entertained in the music hall whereas cinema became popular for the mixed audiences.
  • Gradually the number of industrial workers rose to the seaside to spend their holidays for getting the benefits of the sun and the bracing winds.

Politics in The City

  • In the year 1886, a riot took place involving ten thousand London poor demanding relief from poverty. The shops were closed down and they marched from Deptford to London in the severe winter.
  • Again in November 1887 a similar riot took place which was brutally suppressed by the police and called the Bloody Sunday.
  • In the year 1889, the London’s dock workers went on 12 days peaceful strike for the recognition of the dockworkers union.

The City in Colonial India

  • In India the pace of urbanization was very slow under the British rule as only 11% people were living in the cities during that time who were basically the residents of the three presidency cities named Bombay, Calcutta and Madras.
  • The presidency cities were the multi-functional cities as they had major ports, warehouses, homes and offices, army camps, educational institutions, museums and libraries.
  • Bombay was the premier city of India which expanded rapidly between 1872 and 1941.

Bombay: The Prime City of India?

  • Bombay was controlled by the Portuguese in the 17th century. It was a group of 7 islands whose control was shifted to the British in the year 1661 when Charles II, the king of Britain got married to the princess of Portugal.
  • Now the Company shifted its base from Surat to Bombay from which cotton textiles were exported earlier but later on it became important administrative and industrial Centre along with the exporter of raw materials like cotton and opium.

Work in The City

  • The city Bombay expanded when it became the capital of the Bombay Presidency in the year 1819.
  • Due to the establishment of textile mills different communities like traders, bankers, artisans, shopkeepers etc. migrated to Bombay.
  • In the year 1854, the first cotton textile mill was set up in Bombay which increased to 85 by the year 1921.
  • The original nhabitants of Bombay were only 1/4th of the total population and the majority of the migrated people were from the Ratnagiri district.
  • During the period between 1919 and 1926 there were 23% women mill workers but later on by 1930s their jobs were taken by the machines and the men.
  • Bombay had the advantage of maritime trade and railways which helped in large scale migration to the city.

Housing and Neighbourhoods

  • The city of Bombay was over crowded. This can be justified by the fact that a Londoner had an average space of 155 sq. yards whereas Bombay people had 9.5 sq. yards, London had 8 persons per house whereas Bombay had 20 persons per house.
  • The Bombay Fort area was divided into the native town and the Europeans. The Indians lived in the native town area which was teh industrial area whereas the white people lived in the European suburb.
  • Due to the rapid and unplanned expansions of the Bombay city there was problem of housing and water.
  • The Europeans and the other elite people lived in the large bunglows whereas majority of the working class people lived in the chawls whcih were thickly populated.
  • Most of the industrial workers lived in the mill village named Girangaon which was just 15 minutes walking distance from the mill.s
  • Chawls were built in the native part of the town and had multi-storeyed structures bult by the private landowners for the migrants to earn easy money.
  • These chawls were divided into small one-room tenements without private toilets. According to the 1901 cencus about 80% people lived in the one room tenements with 4 to 5 people.
  • Due to the high rent they shared the room with their relatives or the caste fellows.
  • Due to the filthy gutters, buffalo stables and the toilet outside, the people were not able to open their windows even in the high humidity weather.
  • Due to the water scarcity the Chawl people quarrelled every morning for their turn at the water tap but they kept their houses quite clean.
  • The Chawl people used the streets and the neighbourhood for cooking, washing and sleeping at night as the rooms were small in size.
  • There were liquor shops and akharas in the empty spaces and the streets were used for leisure activities by the magicians , monkey players, acrobats, Kadaklakshmi and also to exchange news about jobs, strikes, riots and demonstrations.
  • There were leaders in the chawls. The jobbers sometimes helped in settling disputes, supplied food, brought information about the political developments and arranged informal loans to these Chawl people.
  • It was difficult for the depressed classes to get room in the chawls and had to live in shelters.
  • The plague epidemic resulted in the town planning of Bombay.
  • In the year 1898, the City of Bombay Improvement Trust was established which displaced 64,000 people from the poorer homes out of the city but rehoused only 14,000.
  • A Rent Act was passed in the year 1918 for keeping the rooms rent reasonable.
  • The massive reclamation projects helped in the development of the city of Bombay.

Land Reclamation in Bombay

  • In the year 1784, the Bombay Reclamaiton Project was started which was to join the 7 islands of Bombay.
  • To prevent the low lying areas of Bombay from flood, the great sea wall project was approved by the then governor of Bombay, William Hornby.
  • Reclamation meant the levelling of the hills for the additional space for different purposes. The Private companies were more interested than the government agencies but later on due to the rising expenditure in the reclamation work most of the private companies closed down.
  • In the year 1864, the Black reclamation Company got the right to reclaim the western foreshore. It was basically a project of reclamation from the tip of Malabar hill to the end of the Colaba.
  • The famous Marine Drive in Bombay is also a result of the land reclamation.

Bombay as The City of Dreams : The World of Cinema

  • Bombay is also called ‘Mayapuri’ -a city of dreams whcih contributed in blending the dream and reality of slums and the star bunglows.
  • Bombay is also called the film city of India.
  • Number of songs from the film industry speaks of the contradictory aspects of Bombay.
  • In the year 1896, India’s first movie was shot by Harishchandra Sakharam Bhatwadekar. It was a wrestling match scene going on in the Bombay’s Hanging Garden.
  • In the year 1913, Dadasaheb Phalke made the film Raja Harishchandra.
  • Most of the people who come to join the film industry were from Lahore, Calcutta and Madras but the people from Lahore and Punjab contributed a lot in the development of the Hindi film industry.
  • Ismat Chughtai and Saadat Hasan Manto were the famous writers in the Hindi cinema.

Cities and the Challenge of the Environment

  • The development of any city takes place after damaging or transforming the natue and ecology of that place. It is done to meet the demand for space for various reasons.
  • The cities always produce huge quantity of wastes that causes different types of pollution like air, water, noise etc.
  • In the earlier cities, coal was used widely in the homes and the factories which resulted into grey sky, black vegetation, black fog, bad tempers, dirty clothes and smoke related diseases.
  • Initially people campaigned for the clean air and wanted to control it through legislation but the factory owners were not willing to spen dmore on technologies.
  • The Smoke Abatement Acts of 1847 and 1853 proved a failure as the smoke monitoring was not easy and also the factory owners did only small adjustments to their machinery.
  • Calcutta was built on marshy land which resulted in fog during the winter and together with the factory smoke it generated black smog.
  • Dependence of huge population on the dung and wood for fuel also caused high level of pollution but the main pollutants were the industries and the steam engines whcih run on coal.
  • In the year 1863, smoke nuisance legislation was implemented in Calcutta and hence it became the first city in India to have such legislation.