1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Calicut

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CALICUT, a city of British India, in the Malabar district of Madras; on the coast, 6 m. N. of Beypur. In 1901 the population was 76,981, showing an increase of 14% in the decade. The weaving of cotton, for which the place was at one time so famous that its name became identified with its calico, is no longer of any importance. Calicut is of considerable antiquity; and about the 7th century it had its population largely increased by the immigration of the Moplahs, a fanatical race of Mahommedans from Arabia, who entered enthusiastically into commercial life. The Portuguese traveller Pero de Covilham (q.v.) visited Calicut in 1487 and described its possibilities for European trade; and in May 1498 Vasco da Gama, the first European navigator to reach India, arrived at Calicut. At that time it was a very flourishing city, and contained several stately buildings, among which was especially mentioned a Brahminical temple, not inferior to the largest monastery in Portugal. Vasco da Gama tried to establish a factory, but he met with persistent hostility from the local chief (zamorin), and a similar attempt made by Cabral two years later ended in the destruction of the factory by the Moplahs. In revenge the Portuguese bombarded the town, but no further attempt was made for some years to establish a trading settlement there. In 1509 the marshal Don Fernando Coutinho made an unsuccessful attack on the city; and in the following year it was again assailed by Albuquerque with 3000 troops. On this occasion the palace was plundered and the town burnt; but the Portuguese were finally repulsed, and fled to their ships after heavy loss. In the following year they concluded a peace with the zamorin and were allowed to build a fortified factory on the north bank of the Kallayi river, which was however again, and finally, abandoned in 1525. In 1615 the town was visited by an English expedition under Captain Keeling, who concluded a treaty with the zamorin; but it was not until 1664 that an English trading settlement was established by the East India Company. The French settlement, which still exists, was founded in 1698. The town was taken in 1765 by Hyder Ali, who expelled all the merchants and factors, and destroyed the cocoa-nut trees, sandal-wood and pepper vines, that the country reduced to ruin might present no temptation to the cupidity of Europeans. In 1782 the troops of Hyder were driven from Calicut by the British; but in 1788 it was taken and destroyed by his son Tippoo, who carried off the inhabitants to Beypur and treated them with great cruelty. In the latter part of 1790 the country was occupied by the British; and under the treaty concluded in 1792, whereby Tippoo was deprived of half his dominions, Calicut fell to the British. After this event the inhabitants returned and rebuilt the town, which in 1800 consisted of 5000 houses.

As the administrative headquarters of the district, Calicut maintains its historical importance. It is served by the Madras railway, and is the chief seaport on the Malabar coast, and the principal exports are coffee, timber and coco-nut products. There are factories for coffee-cleaning, employing several hundred hands; for coir-pressing and timber-cutting. The town has a cotton-mill, a saw-mill, and tile, coffee and oil works. A detachment of European troops is generally stationed here to overawe the fanatical Moplahs.