Endangered Archives

EAP262: Retrieval of two major and endangered newspapers: Jugantar and Amrita Bazar Patrika

Mr Abhijit Bhattacharya, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta
2009 award - Major project
£31,041 for 24 months

Archival partner: Archive of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta

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Project Overview

This project aims to digitally retrieve and store issues of two leading newspapers, Jugantara patrika (Calcutta, Bengali, daily: 1937 - 1980) and Amrita bazar patrika (Jessor/Calcutta, bi-lingual / English, bi-weekly / daily: (1872 - 1890; 1892 - 1905; 1911; 1919) - two of the most important newspapers from colonial and post-colonial Bengal. Most issues of both these newspapers are not available or usable in any safe archive.

Amrita bazar patrika is a bilingual weekly which later transferred to an English language daily and established itself as a nationalist newspaper as a sharp contrast of its European counterpart, The Statesman. Jugantara patrika started as a Bengali daily from the same house in 1937. Both newspapers recorded all important events of the nationalist movements in India, partition of Bengal in 1905, Indian perspective on both World Wars, the famine of 1943 in columns of leftist intellectuals of the time, recorded the independence of India, the partition and massive influx of migration and related trauma, and of course the process of nation-building in post-colonial period, with critical review of the coercive machinery of the nascent democratic state of India. Both newspapers are important tools for research for historians and social scientists.

The newspapers, press-copies of the publication house, were lying in the building of the publishers since 1996. In 2006 the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC) recovered all the available volumes from the non-functional building. The newspapers were printed on cheap newsprints and are brittle and damaged in many ways but copying of the entire set is still possible.

Many of the newspapers will only be able to be opened once before they disintegrate so it is important that the papers are digitised to allow future use by scholars.

The total amount to be copied is approximately 270,000 pages and will be stored as TIFF images. One copy will be transferred to the British Library and another set together with microfilm rolls will be stored as an archive copy at the CSSSC, together with the original newspaper copies.

Project Outcome

The project digitised all available issues of both newspapers:
Amrita Bazaar Patrika - total number of pages: 62,642
Jugantara - total number of pages: 124,587

The project took longer to complete than anticipated, mainly due to the extremely poor condition of much of the original material, with pages glued together or torn in small parts. There were also delays with the scanner malfunctioning.

The original material is shelved at the Resource Centre of CSSSC and it is being planned that some of the important issues of the newspapers, following conservation work, will be used by the Institute as display material in the proposed Sir Jadunath Sarkar Museum of CSSSC being funded by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India.

The digital copies are housed inside the CSSSC archive and staff are now engaged in the preparation of pdf files as access copies. The task of converting the entire set of Amrita Bazar Patrika has been completed and they are being widely used by scholars at the reading room of the CSSSC archive. Work has started on creating pdf files of Jugantara Patrika.

The digital copies will be hosted on the SAVIFA portal, a collaborative effort of CSSSC and the South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg.

The records copied by this project have been catalogued as:

  • EAP262/1 Collection of two rare newspapers presently housed at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta: Amrita Bazar Patrika and Jugantar Patrika. (1870-1980)

The catalogue is available here.