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History of Bangladesh

Ryder Folsom

Feb 13, 2024

The land of Bengal has been home to many kingdoms and under subjugation of many empires from the ancient Gupta to the oppressive British. This land boasts a rich history and culture rooted in scholarship and literature. The Ganges delta is the largest in the world. Its rivers provide fertile soil and easy transportation throughout the region.  

Although limited, evidence of trade in Bengal dates back as far as 2500 BC. Bengal was a merchant heaven for much of its history, its main products being textiles and ships. Despite the immense agricultural potential of the region farming was, aside from specialized companies, a domestic practice and the region didn’t bother exporting crops until forced by the British. The rise of the Maurya empire around 400 BC and the later Gupta in 320 CE saw a golden age for the region. There is debate over the causes for Gupta decline. Some blame socio-economic factors such as the Hunnic invasion of India in the late 450’s while others point to geological evidence of a large flood in the 6th century that could have crippled the empire.  

The post Gupta classical period in Bangladesh saw the region fluctuate through the ownership of many empires. Although the Gupta period is regarded as a golden age, Bengal has been an economic superpower for its whole history. When discussing the historic, unrivaled prosperity of India, who, prior to British exploitation, owned nearly 27% of the world’s economy (far more than any other unified region), Bangladesh is always included in this equation as it was not independent from Indian powers for the vast majority of its history. Not only is Bangladesh included when discussing historical Indian wealth, it was an extremely important and influential region of the sub-continent.  

Hinduism and Buddhism had a shared presence in Bengal for thousands of years and were the predominant religions in the region up until the Middle Ages. Islam arrived in the country in the 8th century and slowly took hold as the years climbed. Nowadays, Bangladesh is predominantly, over 80 percent, Muslim. 


Fast forward to the 1800’s when the rich resources, people, and culture of this prosperous land were squandered in the name of the British and you can see an almost immediate negative shift in mortality rate, education, and overall happiness of the Bengali populations. Hundreds of millions died in the British caused famines in India and tens of millions in the Bengal region alone. When Bengal was grated independence, it was not left a whole country. Borders were drawn up halfway through the Delta to separate the people of this land. The western half was given to India and the Eastern half, Bangladesh, was placed under the control of the recently independent Pakistani government, keep in mind Pakistan and Bangladesh are separated by over 1000 miles. This left the Bengali people grossly underrepresented and un-cared for. Pakistani, a language no Bengali could speak, was made the official language of Bangladesh, further oppressing the people on a day-to-day basis. Eventually the fight for the Bangla language led to the independence of the country. Today Bangladesh is still poor but growing economically. Today Bangladesh has a population of 174 million. 

Blessings to Bangladesh! 

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