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This volume treats of Murshidabad, the metropolitan District of Lower Bengal in the last century, and of Pabna, the District which has become the central mart for the great new staple of Bengal in the present day. Murshidabad forms one of the few examples of a District which has declined in opulence and importance under British rule. In 1765 we found it overflowing with the wealth of a luxurious court and capital; during the early years of our Government it continued to be the seat of the supreme civil and criminal tribunals; nor was it until 1790 that the final appeal in criminal suits was definitively transferred from the 'mutilated Chiefship' to Calcutta. Murshidabad, moreover, was the commercial not less than the political capital of Lower Bengal. The great native bankers kept their hoards within its walls. Kasimbazar, in its immediate neighbourhood, formed the site of one of the oldest and most splendid of the Company's mercantile settlements. The history of Murshidabad during the last century was the history of Lower Bengal. It is now a decaying rural town; and of the fortified warehouses of Kasimbazar, all that remains are some brick ruins in a swamp.

The existence of Pabna, as a separate District, dates only from 1832; and it was not till 1859 that it became altogether a separate administrative unit. Lying at the point of the angle formed by the convergence of the Ganges and Brahmaputra, it commands the two river highways of Eastern India. Its marts, often of mushroom growth, have become centres for collecting and re-distributing the exports and imports of rich provinces; and the Sirajganj merchants transact, on an arid sandbank, half the jute trade of Bengal. The rural population have proved themselves quick to appreciate and to act upon the rights which English rule secures to rich and poor. They have fought out with keen persistence, but with few ebullitions of violence, the struggle between landlord and tenant, and are conducting before our eyes an agrarian revolution by due course of law.

The Districts of Murshidabad and Pabna, dealt with in this volume, contained in 1872 a population of 2,565,220 souls, and covered an area, as estimated for the Census of that year, of 4616 square miles. I beg to express my obligations to my friend Mr. J. S. Cotton, late Fellow of Queen's College, Oxford, for his help in compiling the Murshidabad Account.

W. W. H.


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