Example of a Dutch Pattas or landownership document (Collection National Archives of the Netherlands)

Digitisation of Dutch Landownership Documents Finished

The digitisation of the Dutch Pattas – or legal documents for landownership – concerning Chinsurah in West Bengal, India is finalised.

Almost 10,000 images are now available for research, and the database on these land holdings has been completed. This is a project of the National Archives of the Netherlands in close association with the West Bengal State Archives, the Dutch Consulate in Kolkata and the Dutch Embassy in New Delhi.

Dutch Pattas (1702 – 1825)
The Dutch Pattas are part of the collection of the West Bengal State Archives (WBSA) located in Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) and are important for more than one reason. For example, land holdings give us great insight in the urbanisation process of Chinsurah. Besides, these Patta records are also essential for constructing the socio-economic history of the district in general and of the town of Chinsurah in particular.

Chinsurah was the headquarters of the Dutch in Bengal until 1825, when it came under control of the British East India Company. A remarkable detail is that the Pattas are bilingual. The languages are Bengali and either Dutch or English. The seals in the Pattas are even translated in three languages – Persian, Bengali and Dutch. When Chinsurah was taken over by the British in 1825, a large area came under the administrative control of the British. So from then onwards, the documents were mainly written in English.

Preserve historical information
The relatively new technique of digitising documents allows organisations like the National Archives to preserve historical information and to make it available for online research. These scanning activities are of tremendous importance for the preservation of shared cultural heritage.