The Dutch Cemetery in Chinsurah: A Digital Archive of Memories

Map of the Dutch cemetery in its old location until the 1750s

Map of the Dutch cemetery in its current location

This website is about the Dutch in Chinsurah and the story of a centuries-old colonial settlement that produced some of the key figures involved in the shaping of trade, polity and culture in the Indian subcontinent. Less well-known than its British namesake, the Dutch East India Company, the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC), once managed the vast inter-continental trade in the 17th to the 19th centuries through its settlements in coastal India. As a hub between the Western trade capital Amsterdam and its Eastern counterpart in Batavia, Chinsurah occupies a key position in VOC and indeed, Dutch history as well.

Now, almost two centuries after the Dutch formally ceded their settlements to the British, Chinsurah is a provincial town in the state of West Bengal in India and its old glory hardly to be evidenced. As part of a larger attempt by the Embassy of the Netherlands, this project highlights and indeed preserves the importance of Chinsurah for both the Netherlands and India. The absence of a ready-to-hand archive made this seem an almost impossible project. The intervention of the recent research methodologies of (the) digital humanities have, however, has made it possible to connect these otherwise scattered sources into more coherent narratives. The cemetery of Chinsurah, with its hundred and ninety Dutch and British tombs, is a case in point. Largely unknown to the world, here one finds the beginnings of the stories of women’s education in India, the Dutch general who fought in the Maratha army, the Freemasons in India and of the lady who inspired the Bollywood blockbuster Sat Khoon Maaf.

Presidency University’s digital humanities initiative presents the digital database of the Dutch Cemetery in Chinsurah. This project is funded by the Embassy of the Netherlands. Welcome to the Dutch Cemetery in Chinsurah digitization project.

Key Figures in VOC chinsurah