Centre Director, Nandini Bhattacharya, has been awarded a Carnegie Research Incentive Grant to develop her project, ‘From Toddy to Country Liquor’ Drinking Cultures and Working Men in Urban India 1906-1920′
This project will examine how the cultures of drinking changed in the early twentieth century in British India. This was in response to the colonial government’s attempts to raise revenues through taxation on alcohol and at the same time negotiate criticisms from temperance activists in both Britain and in India. In spite of temperance activists of all political persuasions, the consumption of alcohol (and revenues derived from it) increased incrementally in this period. In the new urban colonial cities, working men consumed new kinds of alcohol; distilled liquors of various strengths made locally, and known as ‘country liquor’. This was a change from the fermented brews that was the usual drink of the masses in nineteenth century India.
This project will examine government policy on liquors and licensing and its negotiations with temperance activists in British India after the report of the all India Excise Committee, 1905, was published, until 1920 when under new devolution laws the revenues from alcohol were transferred to the control of provincial governments. In the process, it will explore how the act of drinking itself changed; the new urban sites such as bars and brothels where drinking became commonplace; it will look at the popular culture of the period-in popular literature such as periodicals, drama, newspapers, how the debates over new liquors and the sites where they were consumed were debated in colonial India.