Deplorable Deaths

The Black Hole of Calcutta was a dungeon in Fort William, Calcutta, measuring 4.30 × 5.50 ⁠meters (14 × 18 ⁠⁠feet), in which troops of Siraj ud-Daulah, the Nawab of Bengal, held British prisoners of war on the night of 20 June 1756. John Zephaniah Holwell, one of the British prisoners and an employee of the East India Company, said that, after the fall of Fort William. The surviving British soldiers, Indian sepoys, and Indian civilians were imprisoned overnight in conditions so cramped that many people died from suffocation and heat exhaustion, and that 120 of 146 prisoners of war imprisoned there died. Modern historians believe that 64 prisoners were sent into the Hole, and that 43 died there. Holwell wrote about the events that occurred after the fall of Fort William. He met with Siraj-ud-Daulah, who assured him: “On the word of a soldier; that no harm should come to us”.

After seeking a place in the fort to confine the prisoners (including Holwell), at 8.00 p.m., the jailers stripped the prisoners of their clothes and locked the prisoners in the fort's prison—“the black hole” in soldiers' slang—a small room that measured 4.30 × 5.50 ⁠meters (14 × 18 ⁠⁠feet).The next morning, when the black hole was opened, at 6.00 a.m., only about 23 of the prisoners remained alive.