My study centers on the period 1854-1918. The first textile mill was founded in Bombay in 1854 by an indigenous industrial capitalist, while 1918 marked the end of World War I. From 1858 to 1918, the British were firmly in power in India. Major physical transformations of the city, which included investments in infrastructure and public buildings, took place in the second half of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. This period was crucial to the development of Bombay as a global city. My historical account of this transformation will be periodically interrupted by making incursions into the city’s postcolonial history, thus bringing the colonial and postcolonial histories of the city into a dynamic relationship.
By emphasizing the role of native communities in the construction of colonial Bombay, Communities of Care builds on my previous book A Joint Enterprise: Indian Elites and the Making of British Bombay (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011). In that book, I argue that the public infrastructure—the joint public realm-- of colonial Bombay, constructed especially since the 1850s was built jointly by the colonial rulers and wealthy native philanthropists, British and Indian expertise, and Indian labour. In contrast to A Joint Enterprise’s emphasis on the role of elites, and formal processes of planning, my current project foregrounds everyday life, formal and informal processes by which various groups and the colonial state constructed and remade the city, sometimes through cooperation, and at other times through contestation in a context of unequal power relations. This account does not exclude elites but emphasizes the exercise of charity rather than philanthropy. By doing so, I show how communities of care played a critical role in shaping colonial Bombay as an exemplar of the city and its fragments.