BBC Radio 4 is broadcasting the first in a series celebrating India’s independence in 1947 with a programme about the effect of the first wooden printing press being brought to Kalkota by the British in 1799.
In Printing a Nation, Anindita Ghosh from the University of Manchester argues that print was far more important than the railways in shaping the Indian nation. The setting up of the first presses by missionaries led to a search for a putative ‘Indian’ identity – the Bengal Renaissance – that was shaped through the exchange of ideas via printed texts.
This was particularly because of the sea of Indian-run presses, printing in local languages, that furthered ‘a cacophonous print revolution’. By the end of the nineteenth century, ‘more titles were produced in India than in France during the Age of Enlightenment’.