Some Observations on Library for Indian Travelers

Posted by sepoy on June 03, 2008 · 13 mins read

Edward Eastwick (1814—1883) joined the East India Company in 1836 as a cadet but was soon promoted because of his capacity for language acquisition. In 1845 the East India Company appointed him to the post of professor of Urdu at their officer-training school at Haileybury. He continued to serve the India Office in a number of diplomatic missions through the 60s until his election to House of Common. His translations of Sa'di's Gulistan and Kashifi's Anvar-i Suhaili were popular texts in the East India Company corpus. He also wrote several handbooks on various cities and edited or prefaced a number of books by the natives (published for English audiences).

In his 1859 Handbook for India: Being an Account of the Three Presidencies, and of The Overland Route; Intended as A Guide For Travellers, Officers, and Civilians; With Vocabularies and Dialogues of the Spoken Languages of India with Travelling Map and Plans of Towns, he lists the essential books one needs to know India before getting to India.

I assume that this list was exhaustive.

Elphinstone's History of India, 1 vol., 1857.
Lord Mahon's British India, 1 vol., 1858.
Mill's History of India, with continuation by H. H. Wilson, 9 vols., 1808.
Kaye's Administration of the East India Company, 1 vol., 1853.
Thornton's British Empire in India, 5 vols., 1845.
Dow's History of Hindustan, 3 vols., 1768.
Murray's History of British India, 1853.
Briggs' Mahomedan Power in India, 4 vols., 1832.
Shore's Notes on Indian Affairs, 1837.
Taylor's Popular History of British India, 1842.
Malcolm's Political History of India, 1830.
Prinsep's Political and Military Transactions in India from 1813-18, 1825.
Hough's Political and Military Events in India, 1853
Speir's Life in Ancient India, 1856.
Martineau's British Rule in India, 1857.
Macfarlane's Our Indian Empire, 1844.
Ludlow's India and its Races, 1858.
Campbell's India, 1852.

Stewart's History of Bengal.

Orme's Hindustan.
Wilks' History of the Maisur (Mysore)

Grant Duff's History of the Marathas.

The Punjab.
Cunningham's History of the Sikhs.
Smyth's Reigning Family of Lahur (Lahore).

Postan's Sindh, and Tuhfatu'l Kiram, Bengal Asiatic Translation., vol. xviii., 1848.
Burton's Sindh and the Races that inhabit the Valley of the Indus. 1851.

Tod's Rajasthan.

Bird's Analysis of the Mirat-i Ahmadi
Forbes' Ras Mala

Central India.
Malcolm's Memoir of Central India in 1824, 2 vols.

Oliphant's Visit to Nipal.

Stirling's History of the Rajas of Orissa.

Biograhies and Letters.
Malcolm's Memoirs of Lord Clive, 3 vols.
Macaulay's Essay on the Life of Clive.
The Wellesley Despatches and Despatches of the Duke of Wellington, vols. 1, 2. 3.
Gleig's Life of Lord Clive
Gleig's Life of Sir T. Munro.
Kaye's Life of Metcalfe.
Kaye's Life of Tucker.
Kaye's Life of Malcolm.
Life of Sir Charles Napier.

Travels and Miscellaneous.
Hakluyt, vols 2 and 5.
Purchas' Pilgrims, vol. 1, books 4 and 5.
Fryer's Account of India.
Forbes' Oriental Memoirs.
Foster's Journey from Bengal to England.
Buchanan's Travels through Maisur and Kanada.
Tod's Travels in Western India.
Heber's Journal.
Fitzclarence's Journey from India to England.
Lord Valentia's Travels.
Jacquemont's Voyage aux Indes.
Graul's Indische Reise, 5 vols.
Bacon's First Impressions.
Baron Hugel's Travels in Kashmir and the Panjab.
Fraser's Tour in the Himalayas.
Vigne's Travels in Kashmir.
Sleemans' Rambles and Recollections.
Burton's Unhappy Valley.
Burton's Goa and the Blue Mountains.
Burnes' Visit to the Court of Sindh.
Mrs. Postans' Kachh (Cutch).
Mrs. Postans' Western India.
Hervey's Ten Years in India.
Eastwick's Dry Leaves from Young Egypt.
Davidson's Trade and Travel in the Far East.
Von Orlich's Travels.
Welsh's Military Reminiscences.
Taylor's Memoirs of a Thug.
Rice's Tiger Shooting in India.
Smoult's Edition of Baikie's Nilgiris.
Lawrence's Thakurine and Life of an Adventurer.
Bradshaw's Overland Guide to India.
Lutfullah's Autobiography of Lutfullah.
Fane's Five Years in India.
Thornton's Gazetteer.
Eastwick's Letter from Madras.
Capper's Three Presidencies of India.
Crauford's Dictionary of the Eastern Archipelago.
The Kanun-i Islam, being an account of all Muhammadan Customs, etc.
Royle's Productive Resources of India.
Cotton's Public Works in India.
Emma Roberts' Scenes and Characteristics of Hindustan.

Now, admittedly, I am a medievalist but I was surprised at how many of these texts were familiar to me. (( I chalk that up to my Orientaphilia (Love of the Orient and of the Orientalists).)) Eastwick doesn't provide dates of publications for these texts (I added the ones in the History section) but the overwhelming majority were produced after 1840 - so, within the last 20 years of his composing the list. The overwhelming majority of writers represented are also Company employees (as opposed to Her Majesty the Queen's). There are only two women - Mrs. Spier's history and the travelogues of Thomas Postans' wife, Marianne Postans. The natives are absent. There are three texts that derive on local sources - Dow's History of Hindustan, 3 vols., 1768 (based on Firishta's Tarikh, 1606), Brigg's Mohammadan Power in India, 1832 (based on Tabatabai's Siyar ul Mutakherin, 1781) and Postans' Sindh, 1841 (based on Tattavi's Tuhfatul Kiram, 1727). The local histories are recent (historically speaking), dynastic and concerned mainly with the Mughal past. We get one cursory, secondary text on "Muhammadan Customs", and one memoir of a "Native Gentleman Lutfullah". Absolutely nothing from any puranic or vedic text.

Which brings me to the main reason I found this list so fascinating. I have been thinking lately about the profile of "Indian history" in the late colonial period after reading a recent article by Kumkum Chatterjee ((Chatterjee, Kumkum. "The Persianization of Itihasa: Performance Narratives and Mughal Political Culture in Eighteenth Century Bengal". Journal of Asian Studies Vol. 67, No. 2. (May) pp. 513-543)). British Orientalists, the postcolonial claim goes, asserted that India lacked historical consciousness - either because it has remained unchanged and static or that Indians are themselves unreflective and incurious by nature. Evidence for both these claims is legion - the histories of India by James Mill (1773—1836) and Vincent Smith (1848-1920) are often cited, as are the works of administrators or thinkers from Robert Clive (1725—1774) to Warren Hastings (1732—1818) to Karl Marx (1818—1883) to Charles Napier (1786—1860) and everyone in between and after. Robert Orme (1728—1801) is an early exemplar of the view that Indian pasts - prior to the arrival of Islam - are mere fictions:

The Indians have lost all memory of the ages in which they began to believe in Vishnu, Ishwar, Brama, and a hundred thousand divinities subordinate to these. ... The history of these gods is a heap of the greatest absurdities. Here are there a moral or metaphysical allegory, and sometimes a trace of the history of a first legislator, is discernible in these stories; but in general they are so very extravagant and incoherent, that we should be left to wonder how a people so reasonable in other respects should have adopted such a code of nonsense as a creed of religion, did we not find the same credulity in the histories of nations much more enlightened

- A Dissertation on the Establishments made by Mahomedan Conquerors in Indostan, 1775.

Later influential colonial historians of India such as Mountstuart Elphinstone (1779—1859) and Henry Miers Elliot (1808—1853) turned Orme's observations into demonstrated truths by the mid-nineteenth century. Some nationalist historians, and in rare cases postcolonial historians, have continued to hold the view that "History" came into being in India with modernity. ((This is different than the view that "History as a discipline" was introduced by the Europeans in colonial India. Dipesh Chakrabarty's recent piece in Public Culture deals with that and I still want to discuss that separately)). This is the view that Chatterjee criticizes. ((She is not alone. See Rao, Shulman and Subrahmanyam, Textures of Time: Writing History in South India 1600-1800)) While Chatterjee's correction is commendable, I cannot help, per habit, think that blanket dismissals of Orientalist historiography are in need of a corrective as well.

So, here is something else to chew on from Alexander Dow - one of the earliest historians in India:

Though our author has given the title of the History of Hindostan to his work, yet it is rather that of the Mahommedan empire in India, than a general account of the affairs of the Hindoos. What he says concerning India, prior to the first invasion of the Afgan Mussulmen, is very far from being satisfactory. He collected his accounts from Persian authors, being altogether unacquainted with the Shanscrita or learned language of the Brahmins, in which the internal history of India is comprehended. We must not therefore, with Ferishta, consider the Hindoos as destitute of genuine domestic annals, or that those voluminous records they possess are mere legends framed by the Brahmins.
The prejudices of the Mahommedans against the followers of the Brahmin religion, seldom permit them to speak with common candour of the Hindoos. It swayed very much with Ferishta, when he affirmed that there is no history among the Hindoos of better authority than the Mahabarit. That work is a poem, not a history: It was translated into Persian by the brother of the great Abul Fazil rather as a performance of fancy, than as an authentic account of the ancient dynasties of the Kings of India. But that there are many hundred volumes in prose in the Shanscrita language, which treat of the ancient Indians, the translator can, from his own knowledge, aver, and he has great reason to believe, that the Hindoos carry their authentic history farther back into antiquity than any other nation now existing.

- Preface to A History of Hindostan, 1768.

There is then the historiographical question of the tension between Dow and Orme and their vision of Indian past - balanced precariously within the Saidian framework, even - and the reasons that motivate Orme's version to dominate. Next is the question of that list we started with. I hate making lists - but they are uniquely placed historical documents willing us to find the silences and the prejudices that may go beyond that of the list-maker. Eastwick, an "old India hand", an Indologist, a teacher and a librarian (he managed the Haileybury library for many years) reflects both conventional wisdom and personal biases in this list. It is also instructive however to think of the list in the post-1857 moment - before the narrative of Muslim betrayal solidified and that is where all those travelogues listed become fascinating. What? No one made it west of Punjab, Mr. Eastwick?

ps. speaking of Indian pasts, I request comments on the proposed giant Shivaji's statue from CM correspondent in Pune.


munshi | June 04, 2008

Thanks for this interesting post Sepoy. One slight correction though: Brigg's Rise of the Mohammedan Power in India is also based on Firishta's Tarikh, not Tabatabai's Siyar ul Mutakherin. I realise this is tangential to your argument, but (being a big fan of Firishta) I have to point out that Dow is slightly unfair to him: a close reading of Firishta's muqadima shows that Firishta was engaged in some kind of discussions with Hindu pandits about pre-Islamic history in India, an interest that gelled with his deep interests in Indic medicinal traditions, and was supported by a long-established conversation between Indic and Islamic traditions in the Adil Shahi court, since at least the time of Ali Adil Shah. It was recently suggested that Firishta was the first Indo-Islamic historian to write about the pre-Islamic past of India, although I'm not sure if that is true.

sepoy | June 04, 2008

Thanks Munshi. John Briggs's Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India Till the Year AD 1612, in 4 vols published in 1829 is indeed on Ferishta. But his History of the Mohamedan Power in India During the Last Century, 1832 is a re-translation of Siyar ul Mutakherin. I dunno which one Eastwick means in the list - I assumed it was Siyar. I think you are right about the nuance within Ferishta but as for the claim on Frishta being the first Indo-Islamic historian to write about pre-Islamic pasts, it is certainly not a valid one. My own dissertation deals with the early thirteenth century Kufi's Tarikh Fath-i Sindh which delves so greatly into pre-Islamic past of the region that it was soon immortalized by the name of the pre-Islamic king - Chach nama - instead of the author's assigned name.

Ikram | June 04, 2008

A recent Globe and Mail article describes reading lists of a newer army: "The heart of the matter here, as we see it, is a socio-economic dislocation," (United States) Col. Kolenda told me, before quoting at length from Kaffirs of the Hindu Kush (Sir George Scott Robertson, 1900) and explaining in detail the anthropology and tribal politics of this region, including some new research he had commissioned from the U.S. government's elite squad of battlefield anthropologists, better known as Human Terrain Specialists. ".... This is all really new," acknowledged Major Erik Berdy, who had been reading Queen Victoria's Little Wars (Byron Farwell, 1972)." ".... [in] the tents of Naray [Afghanistan], I had the distinct feeling that I had strolled into Uttar Pradesh at some point after 1858, in the early days of the British Raj." Any chance of the Chapati becoming a "Human Terrain Specialist" any time soon?

sepoy | June 04, 2008

If the "Terrain" in question is Washington D.C., sure.