It is a commonplace in Indian history that the decision to move the colonial capital from Calcutta to New Delhi was spurred by the political landscape of Calcutta: anticolonial nationalism had made Calcutta ungovernable. What is rarely asked is exactly what aspect of the urban attributes and political landscape of the city prompted this reaction? What made it difficult or impossible to carve out a twentieth-century imperial diagram in Calcutta? Based on readings of the nationalist and terrorist movements launched in Calcutta (and Bengal) during the first two decades of the twentieth century, I argue that what was at stake was the spatial legibility of the state. If New Delhi produced a clear description of the imperial state, making it visually explicit, Calcutta defied this legibility of the state. Anticolonial nationalism fundamentally altered the political geography of Calcutta as the capital city of empire: the colonial archives tell a story of a spatially beleaguered state. The story describes the process through which city space, even those that display the most authoritative diagram of power, is appropriated and disarticulated to produce a new political field.