The Black Hole: Money, Myth And Empire

Written by Jan Dalley
Review by Ann Oughton

In 1756 the Nawab of Bengal besieged the British East India Company’s fort in Calcutta and 146 people were imprisoned in a cell 18ft by 14ft. The only ventilation was supplied by a tiny grille. When the doors were opened the following morning only 23 walked out, stumbling over the bodies of those who had succumbed to the heat.

                That is the legend that has become enshrined in British mythology despite the account being challenged, even ridiculed by both British and Indian historians. In this book Jan Dalley investigates the historical background, the list of players and concludes that rather than an act of deliberate cruelty the incarceration of the prisoners was no more than the result of a tragic blunder.