Welcome to Calcutta1940s


e-mail: info@calcutta1940s.org    Sitemap    Reference    Last updated: 11-March-2009




Our Aim


We are a group interested in finding out more and presenting the history, life and culture of the Calcutta of the 1940s. Our first aim is the capturing of the personal reminiscences of Calcutta and surrounding area in one of its most dramatic decades i.e. from 1939-1950.  To illustrate these reminiscences, we are also looking for old maps, pictures, newspaper articles, diaries etc.

Our second aim is to educate people about life iin Calcutta in the 1940s.  To do that we are building up a virtual museum on the internet, with the materials we have collected, where they can be publicly viewed sorted by topics.  Quite a bit of our material can already be viewed on this website, in the sections ‘Daily Life’, ‘Communities’, ‘Guided Tours’ and ‘Historic Events’.

We hope you enjoy our museum.


Dramatic Events


Why are we so interested in the 1940s?

We believe that in Calcutta’s history, few decades have been as dramatic and eventful as the 1940s.  No decade has changed the city so much in such a short time, and much of what is good (and bad) about Calcutta can be traced back to the events and decisions of that decade.

The 1940s started with the outbreak of World War II in Europe in September 1939 and two years later in Asia. The war brought with it many changes in everyone’s daily lives, ranging from rationing, and Japanese air-raids to the building of Howrah Bridge.

The pressures of war saw a widespread intensification of colonial suppression as well as deep conflicts of loyalty for many Indians, some trying to help India by spying or even actively fighting for the Axis powers, others working or volunteering to fight for the Allies.

The closing in of the war after the fall of Singapore in 1942, brought an increasing number of people to the city.  Refugees from Malaya and Burma, as well as soldiers from as far away as the United States gained their first and often lasting, impressions of the city.

The 1940s also saw the heating up of the struggle for independence with Subhas Chandra Bose escaping from Calcutta to form the INA, and Congress starting the Quit India movement. 

Meanwhile the economic pressures combined with political neglect led to several civil catastrophes.  The Bengal Famine, the Calcutta Killings, Partition and its refugee crisis have all left deep and long-lasting scars on the social landscape of the city.

The changing political and economic situation at independence brought an end for many people’s lives in Calcutta, as the British as well as many Muslim Bengalis, Anglo-Indians and other formerly prominent Calcutta minorities left the city they had made their home for generations.

The arrival of East Bengal refugees brought both further problems as well as a large number of resourceful people who have changed the city for good.

By the end of this turbulent decade India and its largest city, Calcutta, had finally achieved independence.  The first fully democratic elections were held and people looked forward to a new age.  Bengalis finally ruled themselves without foreign interference and all Bengal was finally liberated in 1950 when the French tricolour came down just up-river in Chandernagore.




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then please contact the group under info@calcutta1940s.org