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India Negatives


A century-old collection of photographs of India has recently been discovered in the RCAHMS archive. The rare and fragile glass plate negatives, which date back to around 1912, show life on the subcontinent at the high point of the British Raj.

The 178 negatives were stored in their original five-by-eight inch plate boxes and wrapped in copies of the 'Statesman' newspaper dating from 1914. Founded in 1875, the 'Statesman' is one of India’s largest circulation English language newspapers, and is still published today.

Highlights from the imagery include celebrations for the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Calcutta in 1912 – the only visit by a British monarch to India while it was still part of the Empire – with the city’s buildings lit up at night in tribute; ships arriving at the Chandpal Ghat, the main landing place for visitors to Calcutta along the Hooghly river; pilgrims gathered for a religious festival on the Maidan, the large urban park at the centre of Calcutta; and merchants selling their wares outside the eleventh century Jagganath Hindu temple in Orissa.

All 178 negatives have now been digitised, and you can browse a selection of the best images here in our gallery.