War and the Colonial Book Trade: The Case of OUP India

Fraser, Robert (2008). War and the Colonial Book Trade: The Case of OUP India. In: Hammond, Mary and Fraser, Robert eds. Books Books Without Borders, Volume 2. London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 137–150.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230289130_10

URL: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/97802302...


On the night of 10 October 1943, under pressure from heavy Monsoon rains, the two rivers in Madras — the Cooum and Adyar — burst their banks. Floods ‘as bad’, reckoned the Madras Mail, ‘as any known in living memory’, swilled across the city, soon reaching the business district where overseas publishers had their offices and godowns, or warehouses. Water, as one harassed editor reported, was ‘lapping at the gates of Longmans’ and it rapidly inundated the bottom storey of the Kardyl Building in Mount Road, which housed the godown of the Oxford University Press (OUP). Much of the stock — bound books and loose quires — was ruined. From the relative safety of Head Office in Nicol Road, Bombay, R. E. Hawkins — overall Manager of the Indian Branch — relayed the plight of one of his hapless authors back to Oxford. ‘Roused from sleep by the rising waters,’ he said, ‘she waited for rescue on the roof of her house, repelling the rats and snakes that also sought sanctuary.’1 The following evening, safely down again, she heard wailing over the stricken city what under the circumstances seemed almost a homely sound. It was an air raid siren, keening the arrival of yet another consignment of Japanese bombs.

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