This episode continues to set the scene and provide important historical context to the story of Lollywood.
In particular this episode examines how Bombay rose to its dominant position as the commercial (and eventually, entertainment) capital of British India.
Between the 16th and 19th centuries the global economy and ‘world order’ went through some deep and profound changes. Qing (pronounced, Ching) Dynasty China was the number 1 economy and (not dissimilar to our times) was attracting the interest of businessmen and companies from Europe and America. These changes were driven by a bunch of plant based and mineral products: tea, silver and opium.
By the mid 19th century, a small island kingdom from northern Europe was the undisputed global superpower. And China, the giant of Asia, was reduced to a country of drug addicts, political insignificance and civil war. Of course, to achieve this the British had to inflict a lot of violence and political manipulation on the people of India and China. Ultimately, it got what it wanted–global domination–by launching a war to protect its drug smuggling racket.
As a direct consequence of these wars and illegal narcotics pedaling, the city of Bombay also rose to be the commercial heart of British India. By the early 20th century, the city was one of the main gems in a global garland of cities across Asia, Africa and South America, which international musicians, artists and performers visited regularly to entertain their European residents. The most popular sort of music during this period was American jazz. And throughout the 1930s a large number of African American jazz musicians worked regularly in the many clubs and dancehalls and hotels of Bombay (and other Indian cities, including Lahore and Karachi).
One American jazz musician in particular, Teddy Weatherford, the pianist, was a superstar in Bombay and Calcutta. He settled down in India, married a local girl and died in Calcutta in 1945. His time in Bombay exemplifies the ‘glamour’ and international relevance of Bombay (Mumbai) around the time movies were just starting to take off.
Go to the Episodes Page of this website (or Apple, Spotify, Stitcher etc) to hear the full episode. And don’t forget to subscribe, leave a positive review and spread the news. Thanks.
Select resources consulted for or referenced in this episode are mentioned below.
Greenberg, M. (n.d.). British Trade and the Opening of China 1800-42. An excellent, highly informative book on how the combination of England’s thirst for tea and the “country trade” in Indian opium gave rise to Britain as the global commercial and political power.
Farooqi, A. (2006). BOMBAY: A COLONIAL PORT IN SEARCH OF BUSINESS. In Opium City Anything by Farooqi is essential to understand how the Malwa opium trade shaped and drove the rise of Bombay as India’s premier commercial center.
Farooqui, A. (2016). The Global Career of Indian Opium and Local Destinies.
Farooqui, A. (1995). Opium enterprise and colonial intervention in Malwa and western India, 1800-1824. Indian Economic & Social History Review, 32(4), 447–473.
Zhuang, G. (1993). Tea, Silver, Opium and War: The International Tea Trade and Western Commercial Expansion Into China in 1740-1840 A Chinese perspective on this topic. Full of excellent quantitative statistics.
Deming, S. (2011). THE ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE OF INDIAN OPIUM AND TRADE WITH CHINA ON BRITAIN’. the title of this fascinating article says it all.
Fernandes, Naresh. City Adrift : A Short Biography of Bombay One of India’s most respected journalist’s tells the story of his beloved city.
Budetti, D. V. (2016). From Silver to Opium : A Study of the Evolution and Impact of the British-Chinese Trade System from 1780 to 1842
Bassett, N. (1970). Teas Empire Opium and the Price of Tea (Vol. 23, Issue 1863).
Haq, E. ul. (2001). Drugs in South Asia: from the opium trade to the present day South Asia.
Fernandes, Naresh. (2012). Taj Mahal Foxtrot: The Story of Bombay’s Jazz Age Indispensable resource–full of rare photographs–on the time when Bombay was a key part of the global jazz circuit.
Koerner, Brendan I. (2011). Piano Demon: The globetrotting, gin-soaked, too-short life of Teddy Weatherford, the Chicago jazzman who conquered Asia. Excellent article on Teddy Weatherford’s jazz career in Asia. Link