The mansions of North Kolkata described in Great Houses of Calcutta were built by the cream of the indigenous elite during the city's colonial era. Some exceptions apart, these are now largely forlorn reminders of the ways of life, aspirations and aesthetic values of the wealthy Indian land owners, bankers and traders who flourished during the heyday of the city's colonial era of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The houses are an important part of the urban and architectural history of Kolkata and are past representatives of the ongoing debate over what it means to be modern while representing a living culture in built form. Taking off from Joanne Taylor's widely acclaimed award-winning book The Forgotten Palaces of Calcutta and drawing from her thesis The Great Houses of Kolkata, 1750-2006, this book is a more comprehensive endeavor bringing in Joanne Taylor's first hand experiences and research in Kolkata and Jon Lang's knowledge of the broader context of architectural history and the attempts to display contemporary design attitudes in built form, not only in today's changing world but also during India's colonial and post-colonial eras.
Contents: Foreword and Preface; Prologue: The Symbolic Function of Buildings; Part I: Calcutta and The Great Families- Calcutta-The Great Families of Calcutta; Part II: Architectural Antecedents and Potential Precedents-The Indigenous Architectures of Bengal; The Contemporary Architecture and Ways of Life of British Calcutta; Part III: The Great Houses; The Generic Technical and Cultural Nature of the Mansions and Palaces of Bengal; Twelve Great Houses of Calcutta; Part IV: Today and Looking Ahead- Evolving Histories: the Great Houses in the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries; The Future?.