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A bare, low-ceilinged dungeon with two barred air-holes, the cell known as the Black Hole prison, in the British East India Company’s Fort William, was intended to hold at most a couple of prisoners. But on the terrible night of June 20, 1756, at the end of a four-day battle of astonishing ferocity which saw a vast Indian horde overwhelm the Fort’s defenders, 145 men and one woman were cruelly herded into the Black Hole. Only twenty-three survived the ten horriÞc hours till their release at dawn. The siege of Calcutta and the night of the Black Hole together comprise one of the most dramatic episodes of British Imperial history, and Noel Barber’s detailed “reconstruction” is so gripping and well-written that I do not hesitate to class his book as history at its compellingly readable best.
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Noel Barber (born 1909) is the author of among other titles, The Sultans, The White Desert and A Sinister Twilight.
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