1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cochin (town)

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COCHIN, a town of British India, in the district of Malabar, Madras. Pop. (1901) 19,274. The town lies at the northern extremity of a strip of land about 12 m. in length, but in few places more than a mile in breadth, which is nearly insulated by inlets of the sea and estuaries of streams flowing from the Western Ghats. These form the Cochin backwaters, which consist of shallow lagoons lying behind the beach-line and below its level. In the monsoon the Cochin backwaters are broad navigable channels and lakes; in the hot weather they contract into shallows in many places not 2 ft. deep. The town of Cochin is about a mile in length by half a mile in breadth. Its first European possessors were the Portuguese. Vasco da Gama founded a factory in 1502, and Albuquerque built a fort, the first European fort in India, in 1503. The British made a settlement in 1634, but retired when the Dutch captured the town in 1663. Under the Dutch the town prospered, and about 1778 an English traveller described it as a place of great trade, “a harbour filled with ships, streets crowded with merchants, and warehouses stored with goods from every part of Asia and Europe, marked the industry, the commerce, and the wealth of the inhabitants.” In 1795 Cochin was captured from the Dutch by the British, and in 1806 the fortifications and public buildings were blown up by order of the authorities. The explosion destroyed much private property, and for a long time seriously affected the prosperity of the town. Considerable sea-borne trade is still carried on. A lighthouse stands on the ruins of the old fort. The chief exports are cocoanut products, for the preparation of which there are factories, and tea; and the chief import is rice. Cochin is the only port south of Bombay in which large ships can be built.