John Zephaniah Holwell

Holwell, John Zephaniah, a writer on Indian affairs, was born in Dublin in September 1711. He went to India in 1732 as a surgeon, and in 1736 became a member of the Court of Calcutta. In 1756 he defended Fort William, Calcutta, against Surajah Dowla, Nabob of Bengal; but was obliged to surrender on 20th June, after a gallant defence. He and 146 companions were, the evening of the surrender, shut up in the memorable "Black-hole" of Calcutta, a room some twenty feet square, where the wretched prisoners soon became frantic with suffocating heat and insufferable thirst. But twenty-three survived a night's confinement. They were liberated from captivity by Clive a few months afterwards. It is from Mr. Holwell's narrative we learn the particulars of this outrage. In after years he raised a monument at his own expense to his fellow-prisoners who died in the Black-hole. After a short visit to England, he succeeded Clive in 1758 as Governor of Bengal, in which office he was superseded about the end of 1760. He died in England in 1798. In his various works he treated especially of some of the native systems of religion — believing them to be of divine origin. His principal books were: Indian Tracts (1764), Historical Events relative to Bengal and Indostan, and Mythology of the Gentoos.


16. Authors, Dictionary of British and American: S. Austin Allibone. 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1859-'71.

38. Biographical Dictionary: John Gorton. 3 vols. London, 1833.