The Malda Diary and Consultations (1680-1682)
About this text
The Malda Diary and Consultations (1680-1682) was published during 1680-1682. It was edited by Walter K. Firminger. It is an account of the district of Malda in the 17th century. Walter K. Firminger was born in 1870. He was an archdeacon of Calcutta as well as being as a historian. Firminger passed away in 1940. The Malda Diary and Consultations is notable for looking at the suburban area of Calcutta and the kind of lifestyle that was witnessed then. Primary Reading Firminger, Walter K., The Malda Diary and Consultations (1680-1682), Asiatic Society of Bengal. Secondary Reading Wilson, C.R., The Early Annals of the English in Bengal,Thacker,Spink &co.
ASIATIC SOCIETY Of BENGAL,
The Malda Diary and Consultations
The town of Malda is situated close to the muhand, or conflux, of the rivers Kalindri and Mahananda. ‘The Towne’, writes Edwards, ‘is small, but conveniently seated on a branch of the Ganges, and a small river from Morung [i.e. the Nepalese tarai] which joyne a little above the Towne, which is of great resort, being the staple of cloth, etc., for that part of the Countrey, and conies in from all parts within thirty or forty myles.’ In ancient times the Ganges in full pride flowed through or close by the mighty city of Gaur, but riparian changes led to Malda becoming the port for both Gaur and Pandua. The Phuti [‘cracked’] Mosque, according to its inscription, is dated 11th Shawal, 900H. [8th July 1495 a.d.], in the reign of Husain Shah. The picturesque ruins of the Katla, or fortified caravanserai, for the better protection of the valuable goods of itinerant merchants, remain to bear witness to the great days of old Malda.
On December 6th, 1676, Edwards writes: The Towne is small, but conveniently situated on a branch of the ganges and a small river from Morung which joyne a little above the Towne, which is of great resort, being the staple of cloth etc, for that part of the Countrey, and comes in from all parts within thirty or forty myles. The chiefe trade driven there is by Factors of Agra, Guzzaratt, and Bannaras Merchants, who yearly send them from fifteen to twenty-five Pattelaes, whose ladeing consists of Cossaes, and Mullmulls from 11/2 Rupees to five rupees per piece, and mundeels and Elatches of all sorts, valued at about one lack each Pattella, and about half that amount by landing said goods and raw silk (in goodness inferiour to that procured about Cassambazar). What goes by land is sent hence in Aprill or May, and that by water as soone as the river begins to fall, which is usually about the latter end of August, and in September; and about three Lack of Rupees yearly goes to Dacca in Elaches and course cloth, and about the same value to petty merchants of Rajamaull and Muxadevad and other places below. The weavers very willingly ingage in any new sort of worke, either of white cloth or silk of different Lengths, breadths, fineness, colour, or stripe, is bespoake. Elee for the usual vend of the place they seldom exceed 36: Covids long and two Ditto broad, and 5: rupees price for Cossaes and Mullmulls, and 15 Covids long and 11/2 broad Elatches to 4: rupees price: Ditto of nine Covids long and one and halfe broad to 2: rupees 8. annaes; and Soosyes and Chundenyes of 15: Covids long, 11/2 broad, to three rupees to the finer and larger sorts.
The volume of old records we are concerned with exhibits, in a very lucid light, the condition of Bengal in the days when Shaistah Khan reigned at Dacca as Siibadar of Bengal. From the Diary we learn that Malda ‘is the Nabob's Jaggeer and is rented of him by Hernaraine, Congoy of Bengali.’ This statement is of great importance as explaining many, though, of course, not all, of the troubles experienced by the English Factors. The Mughal habit of farming out taxes and imposts of all kinds was bound to make exactions sufficient grievous in themselves, absolutely intolerable, and, by substituting the farmer for a lawfully constituted and responsible servant of the Imperial Government, to render the administration of justice simply impossible.
The English commenced their business at Malda in 1680 in a hired house ‘of brick, but very much out of repair, and the rooms being for blackness and darkness more like dungeons [Page 5] than dwelling houses.’This house was within the town. In December they decided to buy from Rajaray Chowdry ‘a piece of his land lying on the other side the River about 2 little miles distant from Maulda.’ Here we have the origin of the present civil station of Malda—‘English Bazar’ or ‘Engle zavad’ as the Factors called it. The Diary shows that the Factors intended their home to be a place of defence. Timbers for the building were brought down from the Morung, and, alas, the mighty buildings of Gaur were made to contribute bricks and pillars.
Even the expert student of Indian commercial history may, perhaps, find the frequent enumeration of piece-goods somewhat wearisome, but the record is relieved by instances of the really marvellous courage and patient fidelity on the part of the ancient factors. Such men are very different from ‘the trader meek and tame’ with ‘timid foot’ whom Rudyard Kipling has sung of in his altogether unfortunate verses anent the foundation of Calcutta.
In the Record Department of the India Office there are two bound volumes of Malda Factory Records. Of these the earliest is now published. It consists of three diaries bound together. The first is entitled ‘Maulda Diary and Consultation Book’ and covers the period April to November 1680 during which Nedham and his assistants carried on business in the hired house at Malda. The second part, ‘Maulda and Englezavad Diary’ (December 1680 to November 1681) begins with the purchase of land ‘two little mile distant from Maulda’ and ends before the completion of the new building. The third part, ‘Maulda and Englezavad Diary,’ (December 1681 to November 1682) chronicles events during, and subsequent to, the completion of the Company's house at English Bazar.
The Mundeels whoes stripe the Company have ordered to be made long wayes wee on talking with the brokers and weavers find not possible to be done for then the Silke that now is the wooving and occations the shart Stripe by covering the cotton warp must bee in the warp by which meanes as was demonstrated to us the Mundeell will become a Slight Elatcha and retaine nothing of its lively colour and glossiness wherefore it is thought fitt not to alter them yet without order two or three musters to be made of them in the same nature as now they onely to be 21/2covets broad to be sent home with advice that if that or greater or less breadth wnll serve for the uses of Europe that then they shall be sent and that they cannot be made as enordered.
Tanjeebs and Mulmulls besides what may be gott in towne as well as of Seerbunds and Wanges haveing been found to be made in great quantities here about in a day or 2 : Journy in the Severall [Page 10] ajacenies of this place nearer then which few or none are made about Dacca and haveing good grounds to judge that those goods must come much cheaper here then there where such constant imposts are layd on the brokers picars and weavers not practised here as alsoe hopeing in time as at Cassambuzar Avee now doe and impossible ever to be done at Dacca by reason of the Nabobs &ca. great peons constant residence there who will always take the brokers parts by whome they receive proffit wee say hopeing in time to be able to put by the broakers and to come to deale Imediately with the weavers ourselves which will be [...] advantagious to our Masters trade in these parts wee resolved and thought fitt to make the whole Investment of Cossaes and Mulmulls in this Factory haveing in our ey the order left herein by consultation when the Agent and Councell were here wherebv it was aerreed that noe cloth should be made at Dacca which could be procured elsewhere.
The Consultation bookes in the said respective Factoryes to be kept in the nature of a Dyary wherein is to be entred the Dayly transactions of the Companyes business and the bills for Cash payd out as aforesaid and other materiall occurrences as the Arrivall and dispatch of the Shipps espetially what comes to knowledge of the business and proceedings of the Duch French Deans or other Europe Nations as what Shipps of theires comes and goe and as well theires as our transactions with the Government and great persons in these Countryes which passages being soe entred the advises to the Company may be abreviated by referring thereunto and the Diary and Consultation booke to be closed the last November yearly.
In every of the Subordinate Factoryes there shall be a hansome conveinent roome large and well Situated neare the Cheifes and Seconds lodgings which shall be sett appart for the office and never diverted from that use m which roome shall be placed deskes or tables to write upon and presses with locks and keys wherein the Registers of the letters the Accompts and all other writeings of the Factory shall be locked up and kept which upon removes of the Cheifes are to be delivered over by Roll or list to the Succeeding Cheifes that none may be embazeled and at Hugly the said lists are to be kept by the Seccond in the Accoumptants office and by the Seccretary in the Seccretarus office:
A publicke table shall be kept as the Company have appointed at which all single persons of the Factory are to dyet and noe dyet mony shall be allowed to single persons only to those that are marryed and doe desire to dyet appart dyet mony is to be paid as the Company have appointed and the Stuard for the charges of the table at Hugly and at Cassambuzar shall be the employment of one of the young men a writer or Factor by which they may gaine experience and the 3ds : in the other Factoryes is to take charge thereof as appointed at Cassambuzar in November 1676:
The price of all goods provided for the Honourable Company shall be Agreed upon by Muster and goods sorted by those Musters and in such Factoryes where there is noe mony to give out upon Dadone or imprest upon goods there the Cheife and Councell shall take care to agree with the Merchants for such goods (or some part of them) as the Honourable Company require in the month of February March or Aprill and that the mony shall be paid upon the brin[ing] in the goods in September or October following.
The Saltpetre provided at Pattana is to be dryed before weighed of from the Merchants and not taken moist with allowance for it and it is to be sent downe as it comes in by 3: or 4: boates laden at a time and not all kept to the last which hath proved very prejuditiall the like is to be observed in sending the goods from the other Factoryes that all be not kept to the last but sent away as soone as they are packed to prevent the ill consequences of a Stop or any loss of time upon the dispatch of the Shipps.
The packing Stuff is in all Factories to be bought at the cheapest hand with the companyes money the Accompts thereof to be kept as appoynted in the orders the 3rd: November 1676: and neither the warehouskeeper nor any others is to have any advantage thereby.
Yesterday and to-day the town of Maulda was put to a great alarm both our Phowsdar and Crowry prepareing to fly for feare of one Sadutbund Caun (formerly a Hindoo of these parts) whoe is come from the King with a Company of 4: or 500: horse pretending to have a phirmaund for his haveing the place of Congoy and for breaking a Hindoo Pagoda by Binnood Rayes house in Sawajaan where he now is it is alsoe reported that by beating an old woman of Binnood Rayes house hould into Confession has found 21 lack of Rupees which he takes as his owne and alsoe 25: Turky horses out of his Stable and since has killed the old woman that told him of the mony and 2: or 3 men at the dore of the house entring in and other of Hernaiames Servants he imprisons and has forced some to turn Musellmen.
This morning haveing called the weavers of this towne of Tittillia who bringin severall peeses of the Duch sorts coarse Mulmulls one ps. whereof wee bought for 7: rs: but came to noe agreement with the weavers being few at present and for that one of the Duch Mutsuddies Jeram has kept back the Delolls of the towne by perswadeing him to give a note which he has done that hee will not serve us any thing as wee now heare he did at Daudpore what hee could both with Delolls and weavers and now is gone to Shabazpore for the same purpose, ihe weavers promiseing all to follow us the the next day to Shabazpore and there take our Burgunny soe wee departed hence this morning and came to Shabazpore about noone where the Delolls of the place comeing to us wee ordered them to gett ready what good weavers they Knew and alsoe some very good Muster peeces and brmg them tomorrow morning to us.
Haveing done what wee could here wee resolved to goe hence this day to Maypore about 2: Coarse off and alsoe for that the waters are soe desperately bad makeing us with our Servants all sick working diversly on us giveing some Fluxes others feavers and Agues and some breaking out in large boyles and festring sores &ca. In our way to Maypore wee saw severall new foottings of Tigers as wee did divers times before in our way to other townes the natives every where telling us sad storyes of men and beast being carryed away by Tygers and beares the Country is very wooddy and watery uneeven land not much inhabited goeing hence this afternoone wee came to Maypore about 5: a clock where calling the Delolls and some weavers of the place ordered them to come in the morning and bring with them some cloth of theire towne that wee might make some Agreement with them.
Last night about 7: a clock wee arrived in Maulda from Gualla Gaum but never came such way in our lives for wooddiness comeing among bushes and Shrubs and shades over head by high trees for above 8: miles together continually expecting incounters with wild beasts but suppose the great noise of our Company kept them at distance.
When we were at Shabazpore we remember we saw divers very good and fine peeces of white cloth of our sorts which then we could by no means buy unless at dear rates which we was resolved not to doe: by which means we suppose they may now be had rather cheaper then before our going thither wherefore it is thought necessary to send and buy some of them by another hand privatly which may afterward if Cheape be some help to us in prizing the Burgunny given them and others whereupon 200 rups: was delivered Hurry saw picar to goe and buy as aforesaid but as if they were for his owne Accompt and not to use our names in the least.
A Great Stir was raised in the towne this dav by Mendy beage and his roguish associates about wild Goggs [sic] flesh thrown into the River by our Harry tho not near his house the sole cause of his enmity to us wee conjecture must be that we would not trust him with any of our Burgunny this year nor buy his house both which he had hopes off which made him make such hast from Dacca he is very poore and dispised by almost all people of note here.
All this day and last night the Dutch factory was beset by the Crowries people and the Rabble on the towne Some blows passing now and then on both sides and their Vaquel had not the Fouzdar rescued him in his owne house had been shamefully beaten at the Durbar as Some of their Servants were alsoe this Evening an order was published by him with beat of a Drum thro out the towne that whoever Should help the Dutch with Victualls, fire, Water, Straw, or provender, for their Cattle their houses and all they had Should be forfitted to the King and alsoe those of their Servants or ours that are of Malda, of which we have not above 2 or 3.