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Height 2” (5cm) Width 3.25” (8cm)
Bengali Indian, early to mid 19th century, circa 1820 - 1850
Stock No. 9581
With a distinct shortage of labour in the area, plantation owners were forced to go much further afield to obtain their workers and, using the forced indenture method of procuring men and women to work for them, went into regions such as Bengal. The poor, migrant workers, unable to pay for their journey to Assam, were forced into contracts that held then more of less captive for at least three years, whilst their work paid off the travel debt to the plantation owner. These plantation workers were called ‘coolies’ and were more or less always Indian. Working conditions were extremely harsh and their ‘un-free labour’ rendered them more of less slaves.
Senimora, or Senimara as the Bengali inscription states, is a small village in the Brahmaputra Valley where, no doubt, there was a tea plantation belonging to George Williamson. The purpose of the label is unclear, but its inscribed language infers that it was either carved by a coolie from Bengal or that it acted as a label to be understood by the Bengali coolies, implying ownership by George Williamson. ‘shrijut’ is a common title equivalent to ‘esquire’ and ‘sahib’ is for Mr or Master and often used in speaking of or addressing Europeans.