Romesh Chunder Dutt
Romesh Chunder Dutt, c. 1911
Born(1848-08-13)13 August 1848
Died30 November 1909(1909-11-30) (aged 61)
Baroda State, British India
Alma materUniversity of Calcutta
University College London
Occupation(s)Historian, economist, linguist, civil servant, politician
Political partyIndian National Congress
SpouseManomohini Dutt (née Bose)

Romesh Chunder Dutt CIE (Bengali: রমেশচন্দ্র দত্ত; 13 August 1848 – 30 November 1909) was an Indian civil servant, economic historian, translator of Ramayana and Mahabharata. He was one of the prominent proponents of Indian economic nationalism.[1]

Early life and education

Dutt was born into a distinguished Bengali Maulika Kayastha family. His parents were Thakamani and Isan Chunder Dutt, a Deputy Collector in Bengal, whom Romesh often accompanied on official duties. He was educated in various Bengali District schools, then at Hare School, Calcutta. After his father's untimely death in a boat accident in eastern Bengal, his uncle, Shoshee Chunder Dutt, an accomplished writer, became his guardian in 1861. He wrote about his uncle, "He used to sit at night with us and our favorite study used to be pieces from the works of the English poets."[2] He was a relative of Toru Dutt, one of nineteenth century Bengal's most prominent poets.[citation needed]

He entered the University of Calcutta, Presidency College in 1864. He passed the First Arts examination in 1866, ranking second in order of merit and won a scholarship. While still a student in the B.A. class, without his family's permission, he and two other friends, Behari Lal Gupta and Surendranath Banerjee, left for England in 1868.[3]

At that time, only one other Indian, Satyendra Nath Tagore, had qualified for the Indian Civil Service. Dutt aimed to emulate Tagore's feat. For a long time, before and after 1853, the year the ICS examination was introduced in England, only British officers were appointed to covenanted posts.[4]

At University College London, Dutt continued to study British writers. He qualified for the Indian Civil Service in the open examination in 1869,[5] taking the third place.[6] He was called to the bar by the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple on 6 June 1871.[7]

His wife was Manomohini Dutt and his children were Bimala Dutt, married to Bolinarayan Bora, the first civil engineer from Assam, Kamala Dutt, married to Pramatha Nath Bose, Sarala Dutt, married to Jnanendranath Gupta, ICS, and Ajoy Chandra Dutt, an Oxonian, who was a Professor of Law at Calcutta University and later a Member of the Bengal Legislative Assembly in 1921. His grandsons were Indranarayan Bora, Modhu Bose and Major Sudhindranath Gupta, who retired as the first Indian Commercial Traffic Manager of the BNR.


Civil service


He entered the Indian Civil Service as an assistant magistrate of Alipur in 1871. A famine in Meherpur district of Nadia in 1874 and another in Dakhin Shahbazpur (Bhola District) in 1876, followed by a disastrous cyclone, required emergency relief and economic recovery operations, which Dutt managed successfully. He served as administrator for Backerganj, Mymensingh, Burdwan, Donapur, and Midnapore. He became Burdwan's District Officer in 1893, Commissioner (offtg.) of Burdwan Division in 1894, and Divisional Commissioner (offtg.) for Orissa in 1895. Dutt was the first Indian to attain the rank of divisional commissioner.[6]


Dutt retired from the ICS in 1897. In 1898 he returned to England as a lecturer in Indian History at University College, London where he completed his famous thesis on economic nationalism. He returned to India as dewan of Baroda State, a post he had been offered before he left for Britain. He was extremely popular in Baroda where the king, Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III, along with his family members and all other staff members used to call him ‘Babu Dewan’, as a mark of personal respect. In 1907, he also became a member of the Royal Commission on Indian Decentralisation.[8][5]


He was the president of Indian National Congress in 1899. He was also a member of the Bengal Legislative Council.[citation needed]


Dutt on a 1973 stamp of India


He served as the first president of Bangiya Sahitya Parishad (Bengali: বঙ্গীয় সাহিত্য পরিষদ) in 1894, while Rabindranath Tagore and Navinchandra Sen were the vice-presidents of the society.[9]

His The Literature of Bengal presented "a connected story of literary and intellectual progress in Bengal" over eight centuries, commencing with the early Sanskrit poetry of Jayadeva. It traced Chaitanya's religious reforms of the sixteenth century, Raghunatha Siromani's school of formal logic, and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar's brilliance, coming down to the intellectual progress of the nineteenth century Bengal.[10] This book was presented by Thacker, Spink & Co. in Calcutta and Archibald Constable in London in 1895, but the idea had formed earlier in Dutt's mind while he managed famine relief and economic recovery operations in Dakhin Shahbazpur. It had appeared originally under the disguise of an assumed name in 1877. It was dedicated to his esteemed uncle, Rai Shashi Chandra Dutt Bahadur.


He was a major economic historian of India of the nineteenth century. His thesis on de-industrialization of India under the British rule remains forceful argument in Indian historiography.[citation needed] To quote him:

India in the eighteenth century was a great manufacturing as well as great agricultural country, and the products of the Indian loom supplied the markets of Asia and of Europe. It is, unfortunately, true that the East Indian Company and the British Parliament ... discouraged Indian manufactures in the early years of British rule in order to encourage the rising manufactures of England . . . millions of Indian artisans lost their earnings; the population of India lost one great source of their wealth.[11]

He also directed attention to the deepening internal differentiation of Indian society appearing in the abrupt articulation of local economies with the world market, accelerated urban-rural polarisation, the division between intellectual and manual labour, and the toll of recurrent devastating famines.[12]

According to Tirthankar Roy, while Dutt’s ideas influenced Marxist and “left-nationalist” thinking into the 1980s, their salience declined as historians studying Indian economic history established that these were at odds with empirical evidence and data.[13]



While still in office, he died in Baroda at the age of 61 on 30 November 1909.[14]


See also


  1. ^ Ahir, Rajiv (2018). A Brief History of Modern India. Spectrum Books (P) Limited. p. 15. ISBN 978-81-7930-688-8.
  2. ^ R. C. Dutt (1968) Romesh Chunder Dutt, Internet Archive, Million Books Project. p. 10.
  3. ^ Jnanendranath Gupta, Life and Works of Romesh Chandra Dutt, CIE, (London: J.M.Dent and Sons Ltd., 1911); while young Romesh came out unnoticed, Beharilal, possibly his closest friend ever, was chased all the way down to the Calcutta docks by his "poor" father, who could not, however, successfully persuade his son to return to the safety of his parental home. Later, in England, both the friends took the civil service examination successfully, becoming the 2nd and 3rd Indians to join the ICS. The third person in the group, Surendranath Banerjee, also cleared the test, but was incorrectly disqualified, as being over-age.
  4. ^ Nitish Sengupta (2002) History of the Bengali-speaking People, UBS Publishers' Distributors Pvt. Ltd. p. 275. ISBN 81-7476-355-4.
  5. ^ a b "Selected Poetry of Romesh Chunder Dutt (1848–1909)", University of Toronto (2002).
  6. ^ a b c S. K. Ratcliffe (1910) A Note on the Late Romesh C. Dutt, in the Everyman's Library edition The Ramayana and the Mahabharata Condensed into English Verse. London: J.M. Dent and Sons and New York: E.P. Dutton. p. ix.
  7. ^ Renu Paul (2010-10-07) South Asians at the Inns: Middle Temple.
  8. ^ Hansard, HC Deb 26 August 1907 vol 182 c149
  9. ^ Mozammel, Md Muktadir Arif (2012). "Vangiya Sahitya Parishad". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. (eds.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  10. ^ Romesh Chunder Dutt (1895). The Literature of Bengal. T. Spink & Co. (London); Constable (Calcutta). the literature of bengal.; 3rd ed., Cultural Heritage of Bengal Calcutta, Punthi Pustak (1962).
  11. ^ The Economic History of India Under Early British Rule, vol. 1, 2nd ed. (1906) pp. vi–vii, quoted by Prasannan Parthasarathi, "The Transition to a Colonial Economy: Weavers, Merchants and Kings in South India 1720–1800", Cambridge U. Press. On line, excerpt.
  12. ^ Manu Goswami, "Autonomy and Comparability: Notes on the Anticolonial and the Postcolonial", Boundary 2, Summer 2005; 32: 201 – 225 Duke University Journals.
  13. ^ Roy, Trithankar (2020). The Economic History of India, 1875–2010. Oxford University Press. p. 13. ISBN 9780190128296.
  14. ^ "Dutt, Romesh Chunder [Rameshchandra Datta]". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/32943. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)