Joshua Ehrlich Wins An Urban History Association Article Prize

by the Past & Present editorial team

Past & Present was pleased to learn that Dr. Joshua Ehrlich (Unversity of Macau) has been awarded the 2023 Urban History Association Arnold Hirsch Award for Best Article in a Scholarly Journal. The prize (also awarded this year to Dr. Todd M. Michney) was awarded for Dr. Ehrlich’s article in Past & Present No. 257 (November 2022) “The Meanings of a Port City Boundary: Calcutta’s Maratha Ditch, c.1700–1950

The prize committee’s citation reads:

“Ehrlich’s article provides a rich and nuanced examination of the history of Calcutta’s Maratha Ditch and paints a vivid picture of how physical boundaries play a profound role in shaping socio-political landscapes by encapsulating a city’s historical, political, and social evolution. Ehrlich shows how the ditch’s history directly relates to shifts in British colonial ambitions, negotiations with regional powers, and the emergence of Calcutta as a global metropolis. The ditch’s physical form, from a defensive structure to a boulevard, represents not only changing urban planning but also local political and societal dynamics. Through meticulous research, Ehrlich demonstrates that the history of the ditch represents a complex interplay between sovereignty, territorial expansion, and symbolic meaning-making, dispelling the notion of port cities as purely open and connected hubs. It not only delineated physical space, but also contributed to the creation of distinct social, cultural, and economic zones within the city. By weaving Calcutta’s story into the broader narrative of global port cities, it presents a compelling argument for the Maratha Ditch’s dual role as a barrier and bridge.”

To enable more people to read Dr. Ehrlich’s prize winning scholarship our publisher Oxford University Press Academic has kindly agreed to make “The Meanings of a Port City Boundary: Calcutta’s Maratha Ditch, c.1700–1950” free to read for a three month period.

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