The Port of Hugli in Seventeenth-century Bengal

By Kainat Siddiqui, published August 2023


Medieval Bengal occupied a focal position on the map of India due to its unique topography. The province was profusely rich in agricultural and non-agricultural produce as attested in the accounts of many foreign travellers. Satgaon and Chittagong in Bengal were the initial trading centres and custom ports in the sixteenth century. With the decline of the port of Satgaon, Hugli acquired a place of commercial importance in the seventeenth century. This marked the decline of Portuguese trade in Bengal with the simultaneous rise in Dutch and the English trade. The Hugli port served as a market for a wide range of commodities, and with time it developed into a major textile-producing area in the Mughal Empire. A series of studies by modern authors shed light on the commercial aspects of the Hugli port-town. Using Persian sources, travellers’ accounts, and records in English, this article revisits the relevance of the Hugli port in the seventeenth century. The article analyses the lucrative trade the port offered until its importance was overshadowed by the gradual rise of the port of Calcutta in the eighteenth century

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Filed under: Other (Early Modern) | Indian Ocean | East India Company
Subjects include: Harbours & Dockyards | Strategy & Diplomacy

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