SHOWNOTES: Chatroom 2

Bombay as Plague City

feat. Tarangini Sriraman

  We visit Bombay Presidency at the turn of the 20th century. The port city was a major economic hub, so, when rats onboard ships from Hong Kong carried bubonic plague into Bombay in August 1896, the British Raj reacted vehemently to tamp it down.

There were a multitude of experiences of the plague and disease control, often delineated by class and caste. Maybe you’ve noticed this with Covid19, too?

Cities were divided into white town — the colonial enclave — and black towns — for Indians. And when plague hit, the authorities destroyed houses, precipitating a housing crisis. 

We discuss some of these themes with Tarangini Sriraman, a historian at Azim Premji University in Bangalore.

Time Stamps

03:00 – Earliest forms of ID used in India

04:00 – Before plague, there was famine

06:41 – What Bombay was like

09:45 – White vs. Black town

14:13 – Epidemic Diseases Act was set up

22:11 – Caste and experience of disease

29:19 – Will government power last? Or will people find ways to subvert it?

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Tarangini. 2018. In Pursuit of Proof: A History of Identification Documents in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

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