There is no direct contemporary evidence for St Thomas the Apostle coming to Kerala, but such a trip would have been possible for a Roman Jew in the first century. Jews lived in India then. The earliest text connecting him to India is the Acts of Thomas, one of the New Testament Apocrypha, written in Edessa early in the third century.
The word Malankara in the name of several south Indian churches derives from the name of the island of Maliankara near Muziris, where Thomas first landed.
According to tradition, he established Seven Churches, the Ezharapallikal: Cranganore (Malayalam: കൊടുങ്ങല്ലൂര്), Paravur (Kottakavu) (കോട്ടക്കാവ്), Palayoor (പാലയൂര്), Kokkamangalam (കൊക്കമംഗലം), Niranam (നിരണം), Chayal (Nilackal) (നിലക്കല്), Kollam (Quilon) (കൊല്ലം).
Thomas of Cana, a Syrian, arrived in Kerala in the fourth century or later. The subgroup of Thomas Christians known as the Southists trace their lineage to him and his followers. The Northists claim descent from Thomas the Apostle’s converts.
Settlers and missionaries from Persia, members of the Church of the East (East Syrian rite), or Nestorian Church (last post), which was centred in the Sasanian capital of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, started to establish themselves in Kerala.
Nestorianism, which insists on the dual nature of Christ, had been condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431. Many of Nestorius’s supporters moved to Sasanid Persia, from where they spread into Central Asia and China.
Circa 650 Patriarch Ishoyahb III solidified the Church of the East’s jurisdiction over the Thomas Christians. In the late eighth century Patriarch Timothy I organised the community as the Ecclesiastical Province of India, one of the Nestorian church’s illustrious Provinces of the Exterior.
After this point the Province of India was headed by a metropolitan bishop provided by Persia, the Metropolitan-Bishop of the Seat of St Thomas and the Whole Christian Church of India. His metropolitan see was probably in Cranganore, or (perhaps nominally) in Mylapore, the original burial site of St Thomas, before his body was moved to Edessa. Under him were bishops, and a native Archdeacon, who had authority over the clergy and who wielded a great amount of secular power.
For a time the archidiaconate was hereditary in the Pakalomattam family, who claimed a connection with Thomas the Apostle. In the broader Church of the East, each bishop was attended by an archdeacon, but in India, there was only ever one archdeacon, even when the province had several bishops serving it.
The blame for the destruction of the Nestorian communities east of Iraq has often been thrown upon the Turco-Mongol leader Timur, whose campaigns during the 1390s spread havoc in Persia and Central Asia. But in many parts of Central Asia Christianity had died out decades before Timur’s campaigns. The evidence from Central Asia, including a large number of dated graves, indicates that the crisis for the Church of the East occurred in the 1340s rather than the 1390s.
In China, the last references to Nestorian and Latin Christians date from the 1350s. It is likely that all foreign Christians were expelled from China soon after the revolution of 1368, which replaced the Mongol Yuan dynasty with the xenophobic Ming.
India was cut off from the Church’s new heartland in northern Mesopotamia. Nestorian Christianity was now mainly confined to the triangle formed by Mosul and Lakes Van and Urmia. There were small Nestorian communities further west, notably in Jerusalem and Cyprus, but the Malabar Christians of India represented the only significant survival of the once-thriving exterior provinces of the Church of the East.
By the late fifteenth century India had had no metropolitan for several generations, and the authority traditionally associated with him had been vested in the Archdeacon.
In 1491 the Archdeacon sent envoys to the Patriarch of the Church of the East, as well as to the Oriental Orthodox Coptic Pope of Alexandria and the Syriac Oriental Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, requesting a new bishop for India.
The Patriarch of the Church of the East Shemʿon IV Basidi responded by consecrating two bishops and dispatching them to India. These bishops helped to reestablish fraternal ties with the patriarchate, but the years of separation had changed the structure of the Indian church. The Archdeacon was firmly established as the real power in the Malankara community.
When the Portuguese arrived in 1498, the Thomas Christians were in a difficult position. Though prosperous owing to their large stake in the spice trade and protected by a formidable militia, the small community had come under pressure from the forces of the powerful rajas of Calicut, Cochin and various smaller kingdoms. When the Vasco da Gama arrived on the Malabar coast, the leaders of the St Thomas community proffered a formal alliance to their fellow Christians. The Portuguese, keen to implant themselves in the spice trade and to expand Latin Christianity, jumped at the opportunity.
Facilitating the objective, the Padroado Real: the treaties and decrees in which the Pope conferred authority in ecclesiastical matters on the Portuguese secular authorities in territories they conquered. The Portuguese organised themselves in Goa, established a church hierarchy, and set themselves to bringing the native Christians into conformity with Latin church customs and subjecting them to the authority of the Archbishop of Goa.
After the death of Metropolitan Mar Jacob in 1552, the Portuguese became more aggressive in their efforts to subjugate the Thomas Christians. Protests on the part of the natives were frustrated by events in the Church of the East’s Mesopotamian heartland, which left them devoid of consistent leadership. In 1552, a schism there resulted in there being two rival patriarchates, one of which entered into communion with the Catholic Church (was that the Chaldean Catholic Church?) and the other of which remained independent. At different times both patriarchs sent bishops to India, but the Portuguese were able to outmanœuvre the newcomers or convert them to Latin rite Catholicism outright. In 1575 the Padroado declared that neither patriarch could appoint prelates to the community without Portuguese consent, thereby cutting the Thomas Christians off from their own hierarchy.
In 1599 the last Metropolitan, Abraham, died. The Archbishop of Goa, Aleixo de Menezes, secured the submission of the young Archdeacon George, the highest remaining representative of the native church hierarchy. Menezes convened the Synod of Diamper, which instituted a number of structural and liturgical reforms to the Indian church. The parishes were brought directly under the Archbishop’s authority, certain “superstitious” customs were anathematised, and the indigenous liturgy, the East Syrian Malabar rite, was purged of elements unacceptable by the Latin standards. Though the Thomas Christians were now formally part of the Catholic Church, the conduct of the Portuguese over the next decades fuelled resentment in parts of the community, ultimately leading to open resistance.
Matters came to a head in 1641 with the appointments of Francis Garcia as Archbishop of Kodungalloor (pro-Portuguese) and of Archdeacon Thomas, the nephew and successor of Archdeacon George. In 1652, the situation was further complicated by the arrival in India of a mysterious figure named Ahatallah.
Ahatallah arrived in Mylapore in 1652, claiming to be the rightful Patriarch of Antioch who had been sent by the pope to serve as Patriarch of the Whole of India and of China. He appears to have been a Syriac Orthodox (Oriental Orthodox) Bishop of Damascus who was converted to Catholicism and travelled to Rome in 1632. He then returned to Syria in order to bring the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Hidayat Allah into communion with Rome. He had not accomplished this by the time Hidayat Allah died in 1639, after which point Ahatallah began claiming he was Hidayat Allah’s rightful successor. In 1646 he was in Egypt at the court of the Coptic Pope Mark VI, who dispatched him to India in 1652, evidently in response to a request for aid from Archdeacon Thomas. Reckoning him an impostor, the Portuguese arrested him, but allowed him to meet members of the St Thomas Christian clergy, whom he impressed. The Portuguese put him on a ship bound for Cochin and Goa. Archdeacon Thomas led a militia to Cochin demanding to meet him. The Portuguese refused, asserting that he was a dangerous invader and that his ship had already sailed on to Goa.
Ahatallah was never heard from again in India, and rumours spread that Archbishop Garcia had had him drowned in Cochin harbour before he reached Goa, or burned at the stake. In reality, it appears that Ahatallah did reach Goa, was sent on to Europe and died in Paris before reaching Rome, where his case was to be heard. In any event, Garcia’s dismissiveness towards the Thomas Christians’ appeals only embittered the community further.
The dismissal of Ahatallah was the last straw for the Thomas Christians, and in 1653 Thomas and representatives of the community met at the Church of Our Lady in Mattancherry. In a ceremony in the churchyard, before a crucifix and lighted candles, they swore an oath that they would never obey Garcia or the Portuguese or Jesuit missionaries again, and that they accepted only the Archdeacon as their shepherd. The Malankara Church and all its successor churches regard this declaration, known as the Coonan Cross Oath (Malayalam: Koonan Kurishu Satyam), as the moment when their church regained its independence.
In the same year, in Alangad, Archdeacon Thomas was ordained, by the laying on of hands of twelve priests, as the first known indigenous Metropolitan of Kerala, under the name Mar Thoma I. Pope Alexander VII sent a Syrian bishop, Joseph Sebastiani, at the head of a Carmelite delegation, to convince a majority of the Thomas Christians that the consecration of the Archdeacon as metropolitan was illegitimate. Palliveettil Chandy Kathanar was consecrated as bishop for the East Syrian rite Catholics with the title The Metropolitan and the Gate of all India, denoting a quasi-patriarchal status with all-India jurisdiction, in communion with Rome.
This led to the first permanent split in the St Thomas Christian community. Thereafter, the faction affiliated with the Catholic Church was designated the Pazhayakuttukar or Old Party, while the branch affiliated with Mar Thoma was called the Puthankuttukar or New Party. These appellations were controversial, as both groups considered themselves the heirs to the St Thomas tradition, and saw the other as heretical.
Initially the terms Malankara Christians or Malankara Nasranis were applied to all Thomas Christians, but following the split the term was usually restricted to the faction loyal to Mar Thoma, distinguishing them from the Syrian Catholic faction.
Out of 116 churches, the Catholics claimed eighty-four and the Archdeacon Mar Thoma I thirty-two. The eighty-four churches and their congregations were the body from which the Syro-Malabar (East Syrian rite) Catholic Church descended. The thirty-two churches and their congregations were the body from which the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Christian Church and its offshoots have descended.
An Oriental Orthodox affiliation now replaced the old Nestorian one. In 1665, Mar Gregorios Abdul Jaleel, a Bishop sent by the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, arrived in India and the Thomas Christians under the leadership of the Archdeacon welcomed him. This visit resulted in the Mar Thoma party claiming the spiritual authority of the Antiochean Patriarchate and gradually introducing the West Syrian liturgy, customs and script to the Malabar Coast.
Jacobites or Syrian Jacobites is a reference to the Syriac Orthodox Church’s connections with a sixth-century bishop of Edessa, Jacob Baradaeus.
Over the next centuries this relationship strengthened, and the Malankara Church adopted a variant of the West Syrian rite known as the Malankara rite (as distinct from the previous East Syrian usage) and entered into full communion with the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch. These affiliations seem to have been more matters of liturgy and hierarchy than Christology.
In 1912 a dispute over authority between supporters of the Metropolitan and supporters of the Patriarch divided the Malankara church, with the former group becoming the essentially independent Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church or Indian Orthodox Church under an autonomous Catholicos of the East, and the latter maintaining ties with the Patriarch as the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church.
Other groups that split from the main body of the Malankara Jacobite church:
The Thozhiyur Sabha, or Malabar Independent Syrian Church (1772). Independent. West Syrian rite.
The Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church (1835). Follows a variant of the West Syrian tradition.
The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church (1930). Re-entered into communion with the Catholic Church as an Eastern Catholic Church following the West Syrian liturgy. It and the larger Syro-Malabar Catholic Church (East Syrian rite) are among the 22 Eastern Catholic churches mentioned in the last post.
The St Thomas Evangelical Church of India (1961). Derives from a schism in the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church.
The Nestorian connection survives in the Chaldean Syrian Church, an Indian archbishopric in the Nestorian Assyrian Church of the East (last post).
Syro-Malabar Catholic bishop Mar Mathew Arackal, Bishop of Kanjirappally Eparchy, holding the Mar Thoma Cross, which symbolises the heritage of St Thomas Christians even for Catholics, and other priests, at the tomb of the beatified Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly, St John Nepumsian Syrian Catholic Church, Konthuruthy, via Wikimedia Commons
A few years ago, I was taken into the San Thome Basilica in Chennai by a Hindu friend who crossed himself as he entered. India has been notoriously slow at adopting positions on anything in international diplomacy, which is perhaps a legacy of its standing in the Non-Aligned Movement. If it is seeking a global role now, it should be as the most complex partially-successful multicultural society on earth.
Anyone who has read the last two posts and followed their few links should now be able to answer the trivia questions:
What are the differences between the
Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch
Assyrian Church of the East
Greek Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East and
Jacobite Syrian Christian Church?
What two churches are Chaldaean?
Archive for the 'South Asia' Category
The Umayyad Caliphs, 661-750
The dynasty starts with Muawiya (ruled 661-80), who had been governor of Syria. Uthman had also been an Umayyad, but is classed as one of the four Rightly-Guided caliphs. Shia Muslims believe that the succession should have gone through Ali.
Muawiya had fought against Byzantium and had a well-trained army to set against the anarchic Bedouin who had followed Ali.
The Shia vilify Muawiya. They believe that his conversion to Islam was superficial, that he was motivated by lust for power and that he secured it by force. They point out that he is the only Sahaba Caliph (companion of the Prophet) who was not regarded as righteously guided by the Sunni. (He was related to the Prophet, like the others.)
His son and heir Yazid I is hated for his actions towards the house of Ali, in particular for sending forces against Ali’s son Husayn ibn Ali at the Battle of Karbala in 680.
The great administrators of the dynasty, Muawiya I, Abd al-Malik (ruled 685-705) and Hisham (ruled 724-43) took over many of the systems of the Greeks and Persians.
In 661-71 the Arabs conquered Tokharistan (Bactria), which the Persian Empire had won from the Ephthalite Hun Empire. This put the Islamic state astride the overland route between India and China via the Oxus-Jaxartes basin.
They had completed the conquest of North Africa by 698.
In 706-15 they conquered Transoxiana and Khwarezm, which had been the Turkish steppe-dwellers’ share of the Ephthalite Empire. They consolidated their position there in subsequent decades.
In 710-12 they extinguished the Visigothic Kingdom in Spain.
In 711 they conquered Sind and the southern Punjab, up to and including Multan.
On four fronts, they were defeated.
In order to conquer Asia Minor and take Constantinople, they needed naval command of the Mediterranean. In 669 Muawiya built a fleet. In 674-8 and in 717-18 the Arabs besieged Constantinople by sea and land and were defeated.
In 677 they gained a temporary foothold in the Lebanon. In 741 they were brought to a halt along the line of the Amanus range in southern Turkey. They did eventually carry their frontier beyond the Amanus to the Taurus.
In 732 they failed to conquer Carolingian France. Before reaching the Loire, they were checked at Poitiers.
In 737-38 they failed to conquer the empire of the Khazar nomads, between the Volga (which flows into the Caspian) and the Don (which flows into the Sea of Azov).
The Umayyad caliphs faced the opposition of Shiite Arab tribesmen of Iraq and that of pious elements in Medina who favoured the claims of Ali’s descendants, the Imams of the Shia (Shiʿat Ali or party of Ali).
The masses of non-Arab peoples in the conquered territories, the Mawali, began to stir and to resent their position as second-class citizens.
In 750 the Umayyads were overthrown by a revolution which began in Khurasan in eastern Persia, led by Abu Muslim Khorasani. One of the few members of the Umayyad family to survive was Hisham’s grandson, Abd al-Rahman, who escaped to North Africa and continued the Umayyad line in Spain.
See Clifford Edmund Bosworth, The Islamic Dynasties, A Chronological and Genealogical Handbook, Edinburgh University Press, 1967, revised 1980. There have been subsequent revisions. It contains complete lists of rulers. I am partly following it in this series, but leaving out most diacritics used in romanisations of Arabic.
Umayyad Moque, Damascus, picture: studyblue.com
Some posts on the Caliphates in order of posting:
The widest term for the languages and cultures (rather than racial identities) of Malaya and the islands from Madagascar to Sumatra, Java, Taiwan (before China), the Philippines, Borneo, Micronesia, Melanesia, New Zealand, Polynesia, Hawaii is Austronesian.
Austronesian languages are not to be confused with the much older Papuan and Australian languages. (New Guinea is outside the Austronesian space.)
It used to be thought that they had originated in Taiwan, from where large-scale migrations began after 5000 BC. The first Austronesian-speaking settlers were said to have landed in northern Luzon, where they intermingled with an older population.
Recently (2009) their origin has been placed further south, in Sundaland, the peninsula, before the end of the last Ice Age, that had extended the Asian landmass as far as Borneo and Java. Under this scenario, refugees from the rising seas migrated north to Taiwan.
Austronesian-speakers spread eastward to the islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia and westward to Madagascar. Sailing from Melanesia and Micronesia, they had discovered Polynesia by 1000 BC, Easter Island by AD 300, Hawaii by AD 400 and New Zealand by AD 1280. They reached South America and traded with Native Americans.
By the beginning of the first millennium CE, the Austronesian inhabitants of maritime Southeast Asia had begun trading with India and China. Hinduism and Buddhism were introduced and Indianised kingdoms established. By the tenth century Muslim traders had brought Islam, which gradually displaced the older religions. The Austronesian inhabitants of Polynesia were unaffected by these cultural migrations and diffusions and retained their indigenous culture.
Map of the Austronesian migrations, Wikimedia Commons, opens in a new window; a couple of the dates differ slightly from ones I have given:
It is significant that the Indian regime that has now succeeded the British regime in India has abandoned the British practice of transferring the seat of government from Delhi to Simla in the hot season. One motive for this change from migratoriness to stationariness has been financial. The present Indian Government of India has, reasonably, cut out of its budget a debit item which can be dispensed with now that the personnel of the Government of India consists of native inhabitants of the country who have been inured from birth to enduring the Indian summer heat. A more cogent reason, however, is that the functions of the Government of India have now become the multiple functions of a present-day “welfare state”, and the physical scale of the apparatus of administration has expanded proportionately. Visit New Delhi today; measure the area now covered there by the Government of India’s administrative buildings; calculate the total figure of their cubic content; watch the locust-like hordes of civil servants bicycling slowly, twice a day, between those administrative buildings in the centre of New Delhi and the new governmental housing-estates on the outskirts in which they and their families live; note the building-activities in these housing-estates that are providing ever more living-space for an ever-increasing host of government employees. When you have completed this reconnaissance of present-day New Delhi, you will realize that, even if the Government of India were to be endowed miraculously with the revenue of the Government of the United States, no amount of money would avail to carry New Delhi to Simla and to fetch it back. Even if the move could be financed, it would not be able to get under way. The quantity of conveyances required would choke all the roads and railways on the route, and magic carpets are not available in the prosaic present-day world. The twice-a-day flow of bicyclist commuters between the centre of New Delhi and its suburbs is already almost overwhelming.
Cities on the Move, OUP, 1970
“Singapore is the meeting place of many races. The Malays, though natives of the soil, dwell uneasily in towns, and are few; and it is the Chinese, supple, alert and industrious, who throng the streets; the dark-skinned Tamils walk on their silent, naked feet, as though they were but brief sojourners in a strange land, but the Bengalis, sleek and prosperous, are easy in their surroundings, and self-assured; the sly and obsequious Japanese seem busy with pressing and secret affairs; and the English in their topees and white ducks, speeding past in motor-cars or at leisure in their rickshaws, wear a nonchalant and careless air.”
W Somerset Maugham, P&O, story in The Casuarina Tree, William Heinemann, 1926.
The first sentence there is in what could be called High Baedeker.
EM Forster (who brings Baedekers into A Room with a View) uses it in the first sentence of A Passage to India, Edward Arnold, 1924:
“Except for the Marabar Caves – and they are twenty miles off – the city of Chandrapore presents nothing extraordinary.”
Another story, The Letter, in the same Maugham collection, has a similar passage to the one in P&O:
“Outside on the quay the sun beat fiercely. A stream of motors, lorries and buses, private cars and hirelings, sped up and down the crowded thoroughfare, and every chauffeur blew his horn; rickshaws threaded their nimble path amid the throng, and the panting coolies found breath to yell at one another; coolies, carrying heavy bales, sidled along with their quick jog-trot and shouted to the passer-by to make way; itinerant vendors proclaimed their wares. Singapore is the meeting-place of a hundred peoples; and men of all colours, black Tamils, yellow Chinks, brown Malays, Armenians, Jews and Bengalis, called to one another in raucous tones.”
He is enjoying the mixture of black, yellow, brown and white. That isn’t racist.
“Chinks” is still used sometimes in India. It is one of a dwindling number of verbal survivals from the Raj. “Peg”, as in “a peg of whisky”, is another. An Indian man in Delhi – who is married to a Tibetan (Tibetans are a significant minority there) – referred to “chinkies” when talking to me in 2010 and did not in the least mean to be offensive. I am not sure whether he meant to include Tibetans.
Mussoorie, a mere 170 miles away, has the training centre for the Indo-Tibetan Border Police.
In 1984, when I first visited Singapore, people would still ask where one was “putting up”, to mean where was one staying.
Singaporeans like the phrase “cock and bull story”.
Jews? They were and are an important, though small, minority, mainly Iraqi Jews, whose modern diaspora got under way in the nineteenth century. They settled in Bombay and moved east. I knew one very well in Singapore. See Wikipedia articles on David Sassoon of Bombay and Edward Isaac Ezra of Shanghai, especially. There are Sassoons in Singapore. David Marshall, one of Singapore’s modern founding fathers, was an Iraqi, or Baghdadi, Jew.
Armenians? They were a parallel movement. The Raffles Hotel was founded by Armenians, the Sarkies Brothers. The Straits Times was co-founded by an Armenian, Catchick Moses. Was he also Jewish? I suppose both groups were attracted by a growing trade between South Asia and the West and found little room for their energy in a declining Ottoman Empire.
Raffles, despite its sugar-coating and fakifying, is a fine building, especially from the side. Its architect was Regent Alfred John Bidwell (1869-1918) of a local firm, Swan and Maclaren. He also designed the Victoria Memorial Hall and deserves to be remembered.
You immediately feel that Raffles has taken something from Malay architecture. But what? Compare the Wikipedia picture of Raffles with the main Wikipedia image of the Rumah Melayu, the traditional Malay house. Here are both.
It is hard to pinpoint the architectural feature which defines a hybrid style, but the windows are similar. The Rumah Melayu tradition is indigenous. In its origin, it owes nothing to colonial influences. But does that house in Kedah owe nothing or is it itself done in a local hybrid style which in turn influenced the design of Raffles?
Baker’s and Lutyens’s buildings did not come out of a local hybrid vernacular, but were products of individual genius. That is why New Delhi feels unreal to some people. Not to me. Its architects were too talented. If you want unreal stage sets, go to Putrajaya in Malaysia.
The great indigenous vernacular architectures of East Asia are Japanese and Malay. Some primitive Chinese vernacular is also moving.
Loggia, arcade and shophouse (Singapore architecture)
There seemed to be little sign [in A.D. 1952] of any tendency for a polyglot Hindu Society’s sense of oecumenical solidarity to disrupt itself into parochial national movements animated by the perverse ideal of manufacturing so many political fatherlands out of the areas in which the divers living vernacular languages of the Hindu World happened respectively to be current. If it were indeed true that the Hindus had not reacted in this unfortunate Western way to the literary cultivation of local living vernaculars under the stimulus of a classical language and literature derived from an antecedent civilization, the Hindus’ happier record in this respect was perhaps the consequence of external pressure rather than the fruit of innate virtue. Whereas the Modern Western World had been virtually free from external pressure from A.D. 1683, when the ʿOsmanlis had met with their second, and decisive, reverse before the walls of Vienna, down to A.D. 1917, when the Bolsheviks had entered into the heritage of a Petrine Russian Empire, the Hindu World had been under Muslim pressure since the tenth century of the Christian Era, and under Western pressure since the eighteenth.
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954 (footnote)
“Hinduism has often and justly been compared to a jungle. As in the jungle every particle of soil seems to put forth its spirit in vegetable life and plants grow on plants, creepers and parasites on their more stalwart brethren, so in India art, commerce, warfare, and crime, every human interest and aspiration seek for a manifestation in religion, and since men and women of all classes and occupations, all stages of education and civilization, have contributed to Hinduism, much of it seems low, foolish and even immoral. The jungle is not a park or garden. Whatever can grow in it, does grow. The Brahmans are not gardeners but forest officers. To attempt a history or description of Indian creeds seems an enterprise as vast, hopeless and pathless as a general account of European politics. As for many centuries the life of Europe has expressed itself in politics, so for even longer ages the life of India, which has more inhabitants than Western Europe, [footnote: The population of India (about 315 millions) is larger than that of Europe without Russia.] [This would now be true even if you included all of Russia.] has found expression in religion, speculation, and philosophy, and has left of all this thought a voluminous record, mighty in bulk if wanting in dates and events. And why should it chronicle them? The truly religious mind does not care for the history of religion, just as among us the scientific mind does not dwell on the history of science.” [Footnote: Eliot, Sir Charles: op. cit. [...].] [Referring to Eliot, Sir Charles: Hinduism and Buddhism (London 1921, Arnold, 3 vols.) [...].]
A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934
A conversation [...] took place in the nineteen-twenties between the Zaydi Imam Yahya of Sanʿa and a British envoy whose mission was to persuade the Imam to restore peacefully a portion of the British Aden Protectorate which he had occupied during the general War of 1914-18 and had refused to evacuate thereafter, notwithstanding the defeat of his Ottoman overlords. In a final interview with the Imam, after it had become apparent that the mission would not attain its object, the British envoy, wishing to give the conversation another turn, complimented the Imam upon the soldierly appearance of his new-model army. Seeing that the Imam took the compliment in good part, he went on:
“And I suppose you will be adopting other Western institutions as well?”
“I think not,” said the Imam with a smile.
“Oh, really? That interests me. And may I venture to ask your reasons?”
“Well, I don’t think I should like other Western institutions,” said the Imam.
“Indeed? And what institutions, for example?”
“Well, there are parliaments,” said the Imam. “I like to be the Government myself. I might find a parliament tiresome.”
“Why, as for that,” said the Englishman, “I can assure you that responsible parliamentary representative government is not an indispensable part of the apparatus of Western civilization. Look at Italy. She has given that up, and she is one of the great Western powers.”
“Well, then there is alcohol,” said the Imam, “I don’t want to see that introduced into my country, where at present it is happily almost unknown.”
“Very natural,” said the Englishman; “but, if it comes to that, I can assure you that alcohol is not an indispensable adjunct of Western civilization either. Look at America. She has given up that, and she too is one of the great Western powers.”
“Well, anyhow,” said the Imam, with another smile which seemed to intimate that the conversation was at an end, “I don’t like parliaments and alcohol and that kind of thing.”
The Englishman could not make out whether there was any suggestion of humour in the parting smile with which the last five words were uttered; but, however that might be, those words went to the heart of the matter and showed that the inquiry about possible further Western innovations at Sanʿa had been more pertinent than the Imam might have cared to admit. Those words indicated, in fact, that the Imam, viewing Western civilization from a great way off, saw it, in that distant perspective, as something one and indivisible and recognized certain features of it, which to a Westerner’s eye would appear to have nothing whatever to do with one another, as being organically related parts of that indivisible whole. Thus, on his own tacit admission, the Imam, in adopting the rudiments of the Western military technique, had introduced into the life of his people the thin end of a wedge which in time would inexorably cleave their close-compacted traditional Islamic civilization asunder. He had started a cultural revolution which would leave the Yamanites, in the end, with no alternative but to cover their nakedness with a complete ready-made outfit of Western clothes. If the Imam had met his Hindu contemporary Mr. Gandhi, that is what he would have been told, and such a prophecy would have been supported by what had happened already to other Islamic peoples who had exposed themselves to the insidious process of “Westernization” several generations earlier.
Toynbee’s distant perspectives are as dangerous as the Imam’s. The modern cultural interaction of the West with other societies was a subtler process than he acknowledges. He rarely examines its nuances. He had a rather superficial conception of what constituted modernity.
The Imam is, in Toynbeean terminology, a Zealot rather than a Herodian.
Britain in Yemen (old post).
Civilization on Trial, OUP, 1948
“But whether it is to-morrow, or a day a little more remote, there will be one sense in which the British will never quit India, and that is a spiritual sense. With all our faults of omission and commission, our occasional outbursts of temper, our frequent lack of imagination, we gave India peace, and it was not the peace of the desert; we gave India law, and it was not the law of the strong; and in the final judgment, we gave India liberty, for it was the ideals of Milton, of Locke, of Wilberforce, Mill, Bright and Gladstone that first kindled the Indian mind to an understanding of what liberty really is. Long after we have left, the students of the future will be opening the golden pages of the Areopagitica, and thrilling, as all young men should thrill, to the revolutionary music of Shelley. The ghost of Byron will brood in the quadrangles of universities yet unbuilt, and in the council chambers there will be heard the echo of the distant cadences of Burke. These things we gave to India, as we gave them to the rest of the world, and maybe it is in India that they will have their finest flowering. In the fulfilment of such a hope lies much of the future happiness of mankind.
Many English people thought like this, and so did some Indians, such as Nirad C Chaudhuri. The book is available on Kindle.
Nichols (who once lost his cat in my mother’s garden) spent a year in India, from 1943 to ’44. “I came to India, originally, as a correspondent of Allied Newspapers; a long and serious illness interrupted this connection; I stayed on as an independent observer; and when I felt that I had observed enough, I wrote this book.”
It is, on the whole, not bombastic about Britain. Its main angle is acute distrust of the Hindus and of the Congress Party, where he finds not only fascist sympathisers but fascists; and sympathy with the idea of Pakistan. Some of the criticism of Hindu culture is crude polemic. Descriptions of Hindu politics prefigure the coming third world. He interviews Jinnah.
Chinatowns in the Middle East, but are any real?
Oldest. Anywhere: Manila. In Japan: Nagasaki. In Americas: Mexico City. In US: San Francisco. In Canada: Victoria. In Australia: Melbourne. In Europe: Liverpool. The oldest are never the largest.
Largest. In US: New York, followed by San Francisco. In Canada: Vancouver, followed by Toronto. In Japan: Yokohama, followed by Kobe, followed by Nagasaki (the three official Chinatowns). In Australia: Sydney, followed by Melbourne. In Britain: London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Newcastle.
In the Netherlands: Amsterdam, followed by The Hague, followed by Rotterdam. In Belgium: Antwerp (the only official one). In France: Paris, the main one in the 13th arrondissement.
The only official Chinatown in Korea is in Incheon. There are Chinatowns in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. Jakarta’s is in a district called Glodok. The only real Chinatown in India is in Kolkata.
It is odd, in the case of Singapore, to have a Chinatown in a country that is ethnically Chinese. The word at least pays lip service to Singapore’s multiculturalism. There is no Chinatown in Tokyo.
Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo do not have well-defined areas. Buenos Aires has a small Chinatown. Moscow and Berlin do not have historic Chinatowns.
Many Chinatowns are in decline or are being replaced by China-themed malls. Flight of upwardly-mobile Chinese in US to the suburbs.
Chinese laundries in North America.
Manhattan, Wikimedia Commons
When the news [of the abolition of the Caliphate] reached Delhi – where [...] the Caliphate had been revered for seven hundred years [since the formation of the Delhi Sultanate] with a naïveté seldom corrected by first-hand acquaintance – the shock declared itself in a dramatic incident at a Red Crescent tea-party which offers a burlesque counterpart to the tragic scene in Saint Jerome’s cell at Bethlehem when the Christian scholar received the news of the fall of Rome.
“A mission from the Turkish Red Crescent Society, which was collecting funds in India at the moment when the news of the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate arrived, found it advisable to cut short its activities and return home. (The Times, 5th March, 1924; Oriente Moderno, IV, 3, p. 181). The news was actually received during a tea-party at Delhi, where the members of the Turkish mission were being entertained by their Indian co-religionists. Upon the recital of the telegram containing the text of the Turkish Law of the 3rd March, [1924,] [his bracket] all but two of the Indians present immediately left the room.”
A footnote gives the source of this as the previously cited
Toynbee, A. J.: Survey of International Affairs, 1925, vol. i (Oxford 1927, University Press), “The Islamic World since the Peace Settlement” [...].
Jerome died near Bethlehem in 420. What is the source for the scene in his cell?
The shock felt by those hearing of the destruction of the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad in 1258 is also compared with the shock of hearing of the fall of Rome in 410.
The Indian telegram service will close on July 15.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954 (footnote)
The main line of Sunni Caliphs – Rightly Guided, then Umayyad, then Abbasid – came to an end when the Mongols conquered Baghdad in 1258.
A surviving member of the Abbasid house was installed at Cairo under the patronage of the newly formed Mamluk Sultanate three years later.
In 1517 the Ottoman Turks took the last nominal Abbasid Caliph at Cairo into custody and transported him to Constantinople.
When he died, the Caliphate was virtually in abeyance. The first time Caliph was used as a political instead of symbolic religious title by the Ottoman Sultans was in the peace treaty with Russia at the end of the war of 1768-74, as a way of allowing the Turks to retain moral authority in territory they had ceded, notably the Crimea.
Around 1880 Sultan Abdul Hamid II reasserted the title as Russia expanded into Central Asia. His claim was fervently accepted by the Muslims of British India.
The Khilafat movement (1919-24) was a vain pan-Islamic protest campaign launched by Muslims in India to persuade the British government to protect the Ottoman Empire and the Caliphate. The Ottoman Sultanate was abolished in 1922, the Caliphate in 1924.
At the time when the present chapter was being written, it looked as if this had really been the end of the Caliphate, for an immediate attempt on the part of the Hāshimī King Husayn of the Hijāz to assume the office (on the eve, as it turned out, of his own ejection from his ancestral patrimony by Ibn Saʿūd) was – in spite of the Sharīf’s unimpeachable Qurayshī lineage and his sovereignty, at the moment, over the two Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina – as dismal a failure as most of his other enterprises. Nor did any practical action result from a Caliphate Congress held at Cairo on the 13th-19th May, 1926.
Yet, even if this forecast were to prove correct – though, in the light of previous history, it would not be safe to sign a death certificate for so resilient an institution as the Caliphate until it had been in abeyance for at least a quarter of a millennium [footnote: Its latest interregnum had lasted from the death of the last Cairene ʿAbbasid Caliph Mutawakkil in A.D. 1543 to the drafting of the Russo-Turkish Treaty of Küchuk Qaynārja in A.D. 1774.] – the marvel would be, not that the Caliphate should have petered out at last, but that, on the strength of having been an effective sovereignty over a span of less than two hundred years, [footnote: From the death of the Prophet Muhammad in A.D. 632 to the death of the ʿAbbasid Caliph Amīn (imperabat A.D. 809-13), in a civil war with his brother and supplanter Ma’mūn (imperabat A.D. 813-33) over the heritage of their father Hārūn-ar-Rashīd (imperabat A.D. 786-809).] it should have been able within that time to acquire a prestige sufficient to keep it alive, and twice revive it, [footnote: i.e. at Cairo in A.D. 1261 and at Constantinople in A.D. 1774.] for another eleven hundred years [footnote: Reckoning from the death of the Baghdādi ʿAbbasid Caliph Amīn in A.D. 813 to the deposition of the Constantinopolitan ʿOsmanli Caliph ʿAbd-al-Mejīd in A.D. 1924.] during which it never emerged from the state of political impotence into which it had begun to decline in the reign of Hārūn-ar-Rashīd’s son Ma’mūn (imperabat A.D. 813-33).
The revival of the Caliphate is often predicted today, in Brummie, Indonesian and other accents.
Ma’mūn is written thus in the OUP text, not as Maʿmūn.
At times in Muslim history there have been rival caliphs, notably those of the Ismaili Shia Fatimid Caliphate in North Africa, 909-1171.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954
The sea-faring empire-builders of a thalassocracy control their overseas dominions from the sea-ports linking them with the metropolitan territory across the water. [Footnote: The typical structure of a thalassocracy is illustrated on the Aegean scale by “the thalassocracy of Minos” and by the Athenian Empire that grew out of the Delian League, and on the Oceanic scale by the British Empire. The British conquered India from three maritime bases: the river-port of Calcutta, the sea-port of Madras, and the inshore island of Bombay. The transfer of the political capital of the British Indian Empire from Calcutta to New Delhi in A.D. 1912 was a step towards the renunciation of British rule over India [...].]
“Thalassocracy of Minos” seems to be an allusion to Thucydides, Book 1, Chapter 4.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954
By the year A.D. 1952 the initiative and skill of Western Man had been engaged for some four and a half centuries in knitting together the whole habitable and traversable surface of the planet by a system of communications that was unprecedented in the two features of being literally world-wide and being operated by a technique which was constantly surpassing itself at a perpetually accelerating pace. The wooden caravels and galleons, rigged for sailing in the eye of the wind, which had sufficed to enable the pioneer mariners of Modern Western Europe to make themselves masters of all the oceans, had given way [in the 1840s] to mechanically propelled iron-built ships of relatively gigantic size [some smaller steamships had wooden hulls]; “dirt-tracks” travelled by six-horse coaches had been replaced by macadamized and concrete-floored roads travelled by automobiles; railways had been invented to compete with roads, and aircraft to compete with all land-borne or water-borne conveyances. Concurrently, means of [instantaneous] communication which did not require the physical transportation of human bodies had been conjured up, and put into operation on a world-wide scale, in the shape of telegraphs, telephones, and wireless transmission – visual as well as auditory – by radio. The movement of sea-borne and airborne traffic had been made detectable at long range by radar. There had been no period in the history of any other civilization in which so large an area had been made so highly conductive for every form of human intercourse.
From this perspective, the creation of an electronic World Wide Web (for non-privileged users) in 1994 was the latest stage of a process that had begun with the discovery of Madeira by the Portuguese in 1419.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954
The key-notes of the fifteenth-century acceleration in the shipwright’s and the navigator’s art were its suddenness and its speed.
“In the fifteenth century … there was a swift and momentous change in the building of ships. It was a great era of architecture. In the space of fifty years the sea-going sailing-ship developed from a single-master into a three-master carrying five or six sails.” [Footnote: Bassett-Lowke, J. W. [that should be W. J.], and Holland, G.: Ships and Men (London 1946, Harrap), p. 46. [...]]
The revolution in navigation was the development of the sea astrolabe.
And this technological revolution in the West not only gave its authors access to all quarters of the Globe by making them masters of Oceanic navigation; it also gave them an ascendancy over all non-Western mariners whom they encountered in any seas.
“At the beginning of the fifteenth century the seaborne trade of Europe was carried in ships markedly inferior in design and workmanship to the vessels used in many parts of the East; but at the end of the sixteenth century the West European ships were the best in the World. They were, perhaps, less handy and less weatherly than the junks of the China seas, but in general, in their combination of seaworthiness, endurance, carrying capacity, and fighting power, they proved superior to anything else afloat.” [Footnote: Parry, J. H.: Europe and a Wider World, 1415-1715 (London 1949, Hutchinson), p. 21.]
This new-fangled Western type of vessel is the most characteristic emblem of a Modern Age of Western history (currebat circa A.D. 1475-1875) during which its unchallenged supremacy was proclaimed in its monopoly of the title “ship”, by which it came to be known par excellence. The “ship’s” distinctive virtue, in which it surpassed its successors as conspicuously as its predecessors, was its power to keep the sea for an almost unlimited length of time on end; and this virtue has been divined and lauded by a nineteenth-century Western man of letters who lived to see the “ship” reach its peak of technical perfection, and all but lived on to see it disappear from the seas as suddenly as it had invaded them some four hundred years earlier.
“L’ancien navire de Christophe Colomb et de Ruyter est un des grands chefs-d’œuvre de l’homme. Il est inépuisable en force comme l’infini en souffles, il emmagasine le vent dans sa voile, il est précis dans l’immense diffusion des vagues, il flotte et il règne.” [Footnote: Hugo, Victor: Les Misérables, Part II, Book II, chap. 3.]
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954
The writer of this Study had the good fortune, as a child, to catch a last glimpse of the sailing-ship before she vanished from the seas, and to be initiated into the lore of her divers rigs by the former master of an East Indiaman, his great-uncle Captain Henry Toynbee (vivebat A.D. 1819-1909), who had retired from the sea in A.D. 1866 without ever having seen service on a steamship or indeed on any build of sailing-vessel other than a full ship since his first voyage at a tender age on a barque [which is a “full ship”]. On summer holidays in the eighteen-nineties at St. Margaret’s Bay on the English shore of the Straits of Dover, under the eye of the South Foreland lighthouse, the small boy learnt the rigs from the old sailor as the ships came gliding past: schooners and three-masted schooners and top-sail schooners (very common); brigantines and brigs (rather rare); barquentines and barques; and full-rigged ships ranging from classic three-masters to the four-masters and five-masters that were a nineteenth-century revival of a sixteenth-century fashion. He learnt to know and love them all, without ever suspecting that he would live to see the disappearance of this divine work of Man’s hands which, in his uncle’s confident eyes, was as much a part of the eternal order of Nature as the chalk cliff on which they were standing, or as the water which gave the measure of the distance from the shore to the passing ship. In the eighteen-nineties the sailing-ships plying through the Straits were still far more numerous than the steamships (though doubtless steam had by then long since outstripped sail in aggregate tonnage). As late as the summer of 1910, there used always to be several four-masted sailing-ships at anchor in Falmouth harbour, and in the summer of 1911 the wreck of one huge sailing-ship was lying huddled against the cliffs between the South Foreland and Dover. Yet, already, forty years back, sail was being driven by steam off one sea-route after another. The China tea clippers had been put out of business by the opening of the Suez Canal in A.D. 1869, which had deprived them of their advantage over steamships trying to compete with them on the long voyage round the Cape; by A.D. 1875 all routes except the Australian had been captured by steamships; and in A.D. 1881 the Australian route itself was conquered for steam by the S.S. Aberdeen with her triple expansion engines, though the wool clippers went on fighting their losing battle till the end of the decade. The interval between the first two world wars saw the process of extinguishing the sailing-ship completed.
Clippers were very fast sailing-ships that appeared in their classic form at the same time as steamships and competed with them for a generation.
Footnotes refer to three works previously cited:
Clowes, G. S. L.: Sailing Ships, their History and Development: Part I: Historical Notes (London 1932, H.M. Stationery Office) [...].
Abell, W.: The Shipwright’s Trade (Cambridge 1948, University Press) [...].
Bassett-Lowke, J. W. [that should be W. J.], and Holland, G.: Ships and Men (London 1946, Harrap) [...].
Footnote on Uncle Harry:
“Captain Henry Toynbee was one of the most scientific navigators of his day. … ‘He was always sure of his longitude within five miles,’ writes one of his officers. And his wonderful landfalls were the admiration of his passengers.
“Toynbee … went to sea in 1833 at the age of fourteen as a midshipman in the East Indiaman Dunvegan Castle. … Toynbee’s first command was the Ellenborough; and he had also commanded the Gloriana and Marlborough before he took over the Hotspur, the command of which he resigned in 1866 in order to succeed Admiral Fitzroy as Marine Superintendent of the Meteorological Office. He retired in 1888, and lived to be over ninety years of age, an example of all that an officer in our mercantile marine should be” (Lubbock, Basil: The Blackwall Frigates, 2nd edition (Glasgow 1950, Brown, Son, & Ferguson), pp. 145-6).
In The Times of the 25th January, 1951, a photograph will be found of “the Pamir and Passat, the last two sailing barques to take part in the traditional grain race from Australia to England, lying at Penarth Docks. They will be taken in tow to Antwerp for breaking up.”
The four-masted barque Petschili in the English Channel between 1903 and 1918; the Petschili was built in Hamburg in 1903 and beached in 1919 in Valparaiso and was a sister ship of the Pamir and Passat just mentioned; Wikimedia Commons
One of those four-masted sailing-ships at anchor in Falmouth harbour, watercolour, Henry Scott Tuke, 1914
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954 (footnotes)
Anglican and partly-Anglican cemeteries in non-English-speaking countries:
Bornova Anglican Cemetery, Izmir
British Cemetery, Callao
British Cemetery, Madrid
Cementerio Británico, Buenos Aires
Cheras Christian Cemetery, Kuala Lumpur
Christian Cemetery, Dhaka
English Cemetery, Florence
English Cemetery, Malaga
English Cemetery, Naples
Gora Kabristan, Lahore
Feriköy Protestant Cemetery, Istanbul
Mount Zion Cemetery, Jerusalem
Old English Cemetery, Livorno
Old Protestant Cemetery, George Town
Old Protestant Cemetery, Macau
Protestant Cemetery, Rome
Protestant Cemetery, São Paulo
Yarborough Cemetery, Belize City
This, of course not complete, is everything relevant in a Wikipedia list of Anglican cemeteries generally. Apart from Lahore and Dhaka, it has nothing from British India, but it mentions the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia.
The rather user-unfriendly BACSA site says: “People sometimes think that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission [my link] cares for all graves in Britain’s former Empire, but in fact the Commission only deals with the graves of soldiers [of all Commonwealth countries] killed in World War One and World War Two. The graves of European civilians, and soldiers who died before World War One, and between the two World Wars, generally have no-one to protect them, or to record their inscriptions, which is where BACSA comes in.
“BACSA – the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia – was set up in 1977 to bring together people with a concern for the many thousands of British and other European cemeteries, isolated graves and monuments in South Asia. There is no one body or agency responsible for looking after these last resting places in the area from the Red Sea to the China Coast – wherever the East India Company and its rivals from France, the Netherlands and Denmark set foot. An estimated two million Europeans and Anglo-Indians – mainly British administrators, soldiers, merchants and their families – are buried in the Indian sub-continent alone. Without our support many of their graves and monuments – witnesses to centuries of European residence in the area – would disappear.
“We record the locations of cemeteries and monuments, and the inscriptions on headstones. We publish cemetery and church records containing names, inscriptions and biographical notes on individual tombs and gravestones. We support local people active in the restoration and conservation of European graveyards.”
It is run by volunteers and has a membership of 1,400 in the UK and elsewhere.
Another site, indian-cemeteries.org, “is attempting to preserve the images of graves and monuments before they disappear. It covers the area which used to be British India and includes present-day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Entries are not limited to British citizens. Monuments cover many nationalities. All information comes ad hoc from volunteers, therefore it is not an exhaustive and accurate survey.
“When I [John, site owner] started looking around cemeteries, I was shocked by the state of neglect of most of them. Monuments of British men, women and children, who had sometimes died in the most tragic ways, were crumbling into the dust. Some of the local people had a genuine interest in these cemeteries and were trying to get something done, but much of the money which is awarded for renovation work does not reach the people doing the work.
“The British Government, I was told, contributes nothing. [It does only in so far as it is a member of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.] If this is true, then it is indeed a disgrace.
“This site is a photographic record of those cemeteries and churches which I visited, along with transcriptions of the memorials and gravestones. They are not an exhaustive survey, as time did not permit. Since this site started it has continued to grow as contributions are sent in by other people.”
The overgrown Old English Cemetery at Livorno
There was no North-East Frontier Province so-called, but the Burma-Yunnan border was the Raj’s northeast frontier from the fall of Mandalay in 1886 to Burma’s separation from India in 1937. In the north, on the Burma side, were the Kachin Tracts. In the south were the Shan States. Those British names do not do justice to the complex ethnographic map of Burma.
Now India’s northeast frontier is Arunachal Pradesh, which is claimed by China. If you take Arunachal away, it is Assam. Arunachal borders Tibet and Burma. So would Assam but for Arunachal: the buffer was established by the McMahon line in 1914. Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram, to the south of Arunachal, border Burma.
I saw a novella in a real bookshop recently about life in the Kachin country: Last Chukker by JK Stanford (the Wikipedia entry needs an editor), Faber and Faber (no less), mcmli. 1951.
“Few writers have attempted to describe the north-eastern frontier of Burma, where it marches with Yunnan, in all its loveliness and savagery. Fewer still have woven a real knowledge of this land, little known even before the Japanese War, into a tale of smuggling and polo, of mystery and murder, of wild beasts, and even more dangerous men.
“The author of The Twelfth, who knew Burma well for over eighteen years, has crowned the vivid story of Jeremy Gayner (naturalist and ex-policeman and the bankrupt outcast of the European community) with a climax which will thrill even those who have never seen polo played.
“Last Chukker is an unforgettable vignette of the Burma which came to an end so abruptly in 1941.”
How can one resist an invitation to a lost world? I bought, read and enjoyed it.
Stanford saw active service in both wars, and between the wars was a civil servant in Burma, including in the Police Department.
M.F.M.M., Obituary, Lt.-Col. J.K. Stanford, O.B.E., M.C., Scottish Birds, Vol 7, No 1, spring 1972:
“He was one of that admirable band of servants of the British Empire who passed the few hours of leisure they had in enriching, or even founding, the ornithology of the remote areas where they were stationed, and it is as an authority on Burmese fauna that J.K.’s name will largely survive.”
Until twenty years ago, one read obituaries of these Empire naturalists in the Telegraph.
He wrote many books, mainly in his retirement in England. The first, The Twelfth (1944, revised 1964), written in the North African desert, was a comic fantasy of English sporting life about a character called George Hysteron-Proteron. Later came Ladies in the Sun: The Memsahibs’ India, 1790-1860 (1962). His bird knowledge is evident in Last Chukker.
The nineteen year-old Orwell joined the Indian Imperial Police in Burma in 1922 and stayed until ’27. Perhaps Stanford met him. Perhaps Orwell reported to Stanford. Orwell’s maternal grandmother lived at Moulmein. He was posted in various places, ending in Katha, which became the setting for Burmese Days (1934). That was furthest north he got. He arrived in Burma during a crime wave which had turned it into the most violent corner of the Empire.
Emma Larkin quotes a memoir by Stanford (Reverie of a Qu’hai, and Other Stories, 1951, apparently a memoir) in her book about Orwell in Burma, Secret Histories, John Murray, 2004:
“‘Everyone had realised what an astounding assortment of malefactors – murderers, dacoits, thieves, robbers, house-breakers, forgers, coiners, blackmailers, and so on – each district possessed. They seemed to spring up like dragon’s teeth, till there were scarcely enough columns in the criminal game-book.’”
We meet them in Last Chukker. One wonders how much of that savagery was a result of British interference with Burmese life.
Last Chukker has illustrations (drawings by Maurice Tulloch). I wish more books did, but publishers are too lazy and mean to commission them. “What is the use of a book without pictures or conversation?”
Beyond the Raj, to the north and east, were desert, ice and green: Sinkiang (Xinjiang, Chinese Turkestan), Tibet and Yunnan. Which, come to think of it, are the colours of the Indian flag, not that that is its official symbolism.
Afghanistan, Pakistan and India border Xinjiang.
India, Nepal, Bhutan and Burma border Tibet.
Burma, Laos and Vietnam border Yunnan.
It was the armed forces of the East India Company and the Crown that opened up the sub-continent of India to British trade through the wars of 1799-1849, and it was the Royal Navy that opened up the sub-continent of China to British trade through the War of 1840-2.
1799, as every Victorian schoolboy knew, saw the defeat of Tipu Sultan in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War. 1849 saw the end of the Second Anglo-Sikh War and the annexation of the Punjab. Could one put the first India date earlier, at the start of the First Anglo-Mysore War?
The Mysore Wars broke the power of the Muslim Kings of Mysore. The Maratha Wars broke the resistance of the Hindu Maratha Confederacy in the Deccan. The Sikh Wars, after the conquest of Sindh, broke the power of the Sikh Empire.
First Anglo-Mysore War (1767-69)
First Anglo-Maratha War (1777-83)
Second Anglo-Mysore War (1780-84)
Third Anglo-Mysore War (1789-92)
Fourth Anglo-Mysore War (1798-99)
Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803-05)
Third Anglo-Maratha War, or Pindari War (1817-18)
First Anglo-Sikh War (1845-46)
Second Anglo-Sikh War (1848-49)
Wellesleys and Lawrences (old post)
First Opium War (1839-42)
Second Opium War (1856-60)
Tipu Sultan confronts his opponent during the Siege of Srirangapatna (1792) in the Third Anglo-Mysore War; Wikimedia Commons, unidentified 1909 source
A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939 (footnote)
“The optimistic view is that Karachi has seen worse periods of violence only to bounce back, even to thrive.” BBC correspondent Shahzeb Jillani, who is returning there after twelve years in London. I would be doing the same in his position.
This is from Basil Davidson’s 1984 sweeping Channel 4 television series Africa: A Voyage of Discovery (from the third of its eight one-hour parts).
Davidson put African history on the map for laymen, including Africans. Is he still regarded highly? If not, is that because he has been superseded or because he was self-taught and a journalist and lacked any academic qualifications? Or is it a residue from a time when he must have seemed unsettlingly left-wing and when African history was not considered a real subject?
The Channel 4 series is all on YouTube, but not in one place and not in good recordings. There is no decent bibliography of him online. Many people will know his Lost Cities of Africa (1959), African Slave Trade (1961), Africa: History of a Continent (1966) and Time-Life book African Kingdoms (1966).
Swahili, or Kiswahili, is a Bantu language of the East African coast. It became the tongue of the urban class in the Great Lakes region and went on to serve as a post-colonial lingua franca in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Romans visited the coast in the first century. Arab traders had contact with the black coastal peoples from the sixth century CE or earlier. Islam reached the coast in the ninth century or earlier. There is cultural evidence of early Persian (or Arabo-Persian) settlement on Zanzibar from Shiraz. Swahili contains many Arabic and Persian loan words.
City-states – Muslim, cosmopolitan, and politically independent of each other – began to flourish along the coast and on the islands: Kilwa, Malindi, Gedi, Pate, Comoros, Zanzibar. They depended on trade from the Indian Ocean.
The Swahili acted as middlemen between Africa and the outside world. Slaves, ebony, gold, ivory and sandalwood were brought to the coasts and sold to Arab, Indian and Portuguese traders, who carried them to Arabia, Persia, Madagascar, India, China, Europe. Many slaves sold in Zanzibar ended up in Brazil.
Zanzibar grew spices: cinnamon and cardamom were introduced from Asia (when?), chilli and cacao were brought by the Portuguese from South America. When were cloves introduced? Were spices sent mainly to Europe or also to Asia?
How Arab were the ruling classes? How much of the Indian Ocean sailing was done by black Africans? Is there evidence for the arrival of black traders in China? Wikipedia on Chinese in the Indian Ocean and in Africa.
The sultanates began to decline in the sixteenth century, as Portuguese influence grew. The Portuguese in turn were threatened by Omanis, who controlled Zanzibar from 1698 until the middle of the nineteenth century, when the British started to interfere. They were in turn followed by Germans.
Commerce between Africa and Asia via the Indian Ocean declined, but some of the dhow trade survived when Davidson made his film. Swahili fishermen still sell fish to their inland neighbours in exchange for products of the interior.
The earliest known documents written in Swahili are letters written in Kilwa in 1711 in the Arabic script. They were sent to the Portuguese of Mozambique and their local allies. They are preserved in the Historical Archives of Goa. Another document in Arabic script is Utendi wa Tambuka (The History of Tambuka), an epic poem from 1728, written in Pate, about wars between Byzantium and Muslims from 628 to 1453. The Latin script was used later, under the influence of European colonial powers.
Akbar recognized that a Muslim regime in India could not survive for long if it failed to win the assent of its Hindu subjects. In 1564 he abolished the poll-tax on non-Muslims. He demonstrated his power to the Rajput descendants of the Huns and Gurjaras by taking Chitor in 1567-8 (this once impregnable rock was not proof against artillery), but, having intimidated the Rajputs, Akbar conciliated them, and this was wise, since they were the most martial of the Hindu peoples before the rise of the Marathas and the Sikhs, and Rajasthan, where the Rajputs had congregated since the Muslim conquest of the Jumna-Ganges basin in the twelfth century, was the nearest to Delhi of all the regions in India in which the Hindus had preserved their autonomy.
However, Akbar’s conciliatoriness to his Hindu subjects was not prompted solely by political considerations; it was partly inspired by an ambition to break down the traditional barriers between the historic higher religions. Akbar initiated a series of debates between representatives of Islam, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, and Roman Catholic Christianity, and in 1582 he promulgated a new religion of his own, the Din-i-Ilahi (“the Divine Religion”), which, so he hoped, would unite all the older religions by transcending each of them.
The first call on Akbar’s time and energy was necessarily the organization and expansion of his empire. Akbar profited by the administrative and financial ability of the Bengali Afghan Emperor Sher Shah Sur, who had evicted Akbar’s father Humayun from India in 1539-40. In his brief reign (1540-5), Sher Shah had created an excellent administrative and fiscal organization and postal service, and these assets were inherited from him by Akbar.
Mankind and Mother Earth, OUP, 1976, posthumous
Akashic Books (New York) publishes the grim Delhi Noir, new stories by: Irwin Allan Sealy, Omair Ahmad, Radhika Jha, Ruchir Joshi, Nalinaksha Bhattacharya, Meera Nair, Siddharth Chowdhury, Mohan Sikka, Palash Krishna Mehrotra, Hartosh Singh Bal, Hirsh Sawhney, Tabish Khair, Uday Prakash, Manjula Padmanabhan. All, as far as I can see, written in English except the one by Uday Prakash, which is translated from Hindi.
“Delhi Noir’s fifteen original stories are written by the best Indian writers alive today – the ones you haven’t yet heard of but should have. They are veteran authors who have appeared on the Booker Prize short list and budding geniuses who your grandchildren will read about in English class. Delhi Noir is a world of sex in parks, male prostitution, and vigilante rickshaw drivers. It is one plagued by religious riots, soulless corporate dons, and murderous servants. This is India uncut, the one you’re missing out on because mainstream publishing houses and glossy magazines can’t stomach it.”
The gang rape makes it topical. (What is this particular publisher unable to get right when it does it as an ebook? Every two or three pages, a word has a nonsensical hyphen in the middle.)
It is edited by Hirsh Sawhney, who writes the Introduction, which is dated May 2009. He came back in 2005 from New York to a Delhi where middle-class families who had once lived frugally were comparing plasma television prices.
Nowadays those televisions are rigged up in slums. Sawhney doesn’t define his own family as middle-class, though their address in the 1950s, Connaught Place, perhaps suggests it. They had one bedroom, but they were refugees from the Punjab. I can remember when the English middle class was, by modern standards, poor. It was all it could do to keep a bottle of sherry in the larder.
“International brands like the Wall Street Journal and Chanel were setting up shop. The city’s cruddy public transportation system was being revolutionized by an ultramodern metro. [...] The educated elite [...] bragged about the new malls and cinemas going up in Gurgaon.”
Reforms began under Manmohan Singh, who began to dismantle Nehruite socialism in 1991, when he was Finance Minister. This new India, and new Delhi, does not like to talk about its noir side.
“Every morning, papers abound with alarming stories: accounts of the unmitigated corruption and contract killing that make this city of more than fifteen million tick; indications of increasing divisions between rich and poor that lead servants to murder masters and foment Maoist movements in the country’s hinterland; synopses of so many rapes and sexual assaults that readers become numb to them. Yet the everyday depravity and anguish of Delhi life remains confined to news copy. Despite notable exceptions like Namita Gokhale and Arvind [sic] Adiga, authors of literature – particularly those who write in English – usually choose to ignore the capital’s stains.” Perhaps no more. What must the rape statistics be telling us about violence hidden in the home?
A servant murders his once-loved master in Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger, which won the Booker Prize in 2008. I enjoyed that book. Some thought it vastly overrated. It certainly had flaws.
“It’s only natural that Delhi’s book-buying-and-publishing citizens would avoid such writing. Any insight into their hometown’s ugly entrails would threaten their guilt-free gilded existence and the bubble of nationalistic euphoria in which their lives are contained. They are too dependent on the power structures and social systems intrinsic to the city – embassies, government offices, and corporations; rural poverty and illegal immigration – to risk looking critically at these things.
“[...] Delhi Noir’s contributors are diverse: They are Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Punjabis, Biharis, Bengalis, and Keralites; men and women; gay and straight. Many reside in the capital, but others have addresses in Uttarakhand or the U.S. Some have published critically acclaimed books, and a few are still working on their first manuscripts. What they have in common is the inclination to write delectable literature that doesn’t shy away from the city’s uncomfortable underside.”
The stories, as with others in the Noir series, are identified in the table of contents with areas of the city: Ashram, Bhalswa, Defence Colony, Delhi Ridge, Delhi University (North Campus), Green Park, Gyan Kunj, Inter-State Bus Terminal, Jantar Mantar, Lodhi Gardens, Nizamuddin West, Paharganj, RK Puram, Rohini.
“Irwin Allan Sealy’s tale about a vigilante autorickshaw driver who avenges sexual assault on the Ridge is defined by the wry, rhythmic prose that garnered him a place on the Booker Prize shortlist in 1998.” He is an Anglo-Indian who lives in Dehra Dun. At the top of the valley, in Mussoorie, resides an Anglo-Indian who must be the least noir writer in the subcontinent, Ruskin Bond.
I discovered Nizamuddin in 2010. If you want the address of an upmarket bed and breakfast there, let me know. It’s a Muslim area, as the name suggests. Part of it is pleasant and expensive, with gates that are lifted before cars can drive in. Still, not repulsive, or a planned development, or too obviously part of the great middle-class secession into gated communities (to quote or paraphrase Arundhati Roy), and seductive and neighbourly in the early evening. This is Nizamuddin East. Nizamuddin West, across Mathura Road, is rougher. Part of it feels medieval. Go there if you want to eat without alcohol at Karim’s.
I have read two stories in Delhi Noir: Mohan Sikka’s The Railway Aunty (Paharganj) and Palash Krishna Mehrotra’s Fit of Rage (Defence Colony). They aren’t masterpieces, but they do tempt me to read more. The Railway Aunty is about a young man who becomes a gigolo in a middle-class prostitution ring. Fit of Rage is about a servant’s murder of his master, or rather mistress. [Postscript, January 14: I have now read Irwin Allan Sealy’s Last in, First Out (Delhi Ridge). It is hard to imagine it in a shortlist. Is he one of the “best Indian writers alive today”?]
There’s a strong element of class warfare in Indian crime.
I was in New Delhi in early summer 1999. The person who was looking after me, R_, from the Confederation of Indian Industry, invited me to a reception they were holding at the Taj Palace hotel (Diplomatic Enclave). We arrived there after some meetings an hour and a bit before it was due to start. R_ said she would go home (East of Kailash) to get ready. We would see each other later.
She never returned. I didn’t think much of it, but it was puzzling. I was staying not at the Taj but at the more modest and delectable (in those days) two-storey Claridge’s (“The Claridges”, Lutyens Bungalow Zone). You wouldn’t think, in the LBZ, that Delhi was a violent city. Though it’s a cliché in small talk that Delhiites are not the nicest people in India.
In the morning, The Times of India was brought into my room with my breakfast. High on the front page, a column was headed: “Mother of CII Director Murdered in South Delhi.” I could hardly believe that the daughter was the person I had been with the evening before.
“NEW DELHI, April 28 (PTI) — The 63-year-old mother of a top executive of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) was today found strangled to death at her flat in a South Delhi locality.
“H[_] K[_] N[_]’s body was discovered by her daughter R[_] N[_], who is Director (International) at CII, around 6.30 p.m. when she returned to her East of Kailash home, the police said.
“The house was bolted from outside and the victim’s body was lying in a pool of blood in an inside room of the flat with hands and legs tied with a rope and a sari tied around her neck, the police said, adding that there were strangulation marks on her body.
“The victim, a widow, was alone in the house when the incident occurred.
“The house was completely ransacked and it could not be immediately ascertained whether any valuables were missing as the victim’s family was under shock, the police said.
“Senior police officials and forensic experts examined the area and lifted some fingerprints as the body was sent for a post-mortem examination.
“The police suspects the absconding servant, a Nepali employed just four days back, in the murder and has detained for questioning a maid who had brought him to the house.”
I have the original newspaper somewhere. The text I have quoted is from The Tribune and is on the web. R_ was unmarried and lived with her mother. I blanked out their names. One report said that the servant had run into the main street and had been seen catching a bus.
South Delhi is prosperous. I assumed it was a robbery, and I remember wondering why it was necessary to kill an old woman for the sake of a few valuables.
Mehrotra asks that question in Fit of Rage:
“Servants murdered their masters all the time in Delhi. Every other week the newspapers carried stories of elderly couples being drugged and clobbered to death. I often wondered: If the motive was robbery, why kill? Why not steal and scoot? Anyway, this seemed to be how they did it in Delhi.”
I called R_ that day at home. “Now you know India,” she said to me bitterly. Had she gone back the night before, with so little time to spare, because she was afraid of something?
Are criminals sometimes referred to as “Nepalis” before anybody has checked? In The Railway Aunty, we have:
“‘You’re not to open the door, Bibiji,’ she said sharply to the old woman. ‘What if some Nepali slashes our throats?’”
Akashic started the Noir series in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir. They have done several dozen cities since, not all in the US, but nothing on East Asia. No Tokyo Noir, no Shanghai Noir, no Hong Kong Noir, no Bangkok Noir. Macau might not have enough writers, but is certainly noir enough. But Manila, Seoul and Singapore are scheduled. Yes, Singapore. One had been told that crime was forbidden there. They will lap that up when Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan delivers it. Lagos Noir is due, editor Chris Abani. So is Baghdad, editor Samuel Shimon. Tokyo is a strange omission.
There is a Venice Noir. Venice, Italy, but can a city that has no nightlife be noir? Of course there is a Moscow Noir, and a St Petersburg.
Paris Noir contains no Simenon, since most volumes allow stories only by living writers (a few, subtitled The Classics, have older ones), and how can a city be noir when Madame Maigret is preparing foie de veau à la bourgeoise for her husband’s lunch (Maigret et le marchand de vin)? But some of Simenon’s eleven “hard” novels set in the US (Les frères Rico and Feux rouges especially) are true, almost defining, examples of 1950s noir.
To Delhi from Ferghana and Calcutta (old post).
Constantine’s motive for becoming a convert to Christianity was ethically much inferior to Ashoka’s motive for becoming a convert to Buddhism. Ashoka’s motive had been repentance for his crime of having waged an aggressive war, and he had never gone to war again. Constantine’s motive was gratitude for his victories in three successive civil wars.
Mankind and Mother Earth, OUP, 1976, posthumous
In A.D. 1952 it would, no doubt, have been folly for a Western World that had been thrown on the defensive by a Russo-Chinese entente under the banner of Communism to count upon any possibility of a future breach between the two titanic non-Western Powers that were now cooperating with one another in an anti-Western campaign.
But a breach occurred in 1961. The two powers had been diverging ideologically since 1956.
There was perhaps more legitimate ground for encouragement in the fact that a Western Community which had come into headlong collision with the Chinese in Korea and which was desperately embroiled with the Vietnamese in Indo-China had managed to come to terms with the Indonesians after having crossed swords with them on the morrow of the “liberation” of the East Indian archipelago from the Japanese, and had voluntarily abdicated its dominion over the Filipinos, Ceylonese, Burmans, Indians, and Pakistanis by amicable agreements that had not been sullied by any stain of bloodshed.
The voluntary liquidation of American rule in the Philippines was perhaps not so remarkable – though an English observer could hardly claim to be an impartial judge in this case – as the voluntary liquidation of a British Rāj in India that was not only a hundred years older than the American régime in a former dominion of the Spanish Crown but had also come to count for far more in the life of the ruling Western country. When, on the 18th July, 1947, [footnote: This was the date on which the Royal Assent was given, at Westminster, to an India Independence Act enacted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The formal assumption of authority by the Governments of the Indian Union and Pakistan followed on the 15th August, 1947.] Great Britain had completed the fulfilment of a pledge, first made on the 20th August, 1917, [footnote: In the House of Commons at Westminster by the Secretary of State for India, Mr. Edwin Montagu.] to grant full self-government to India by stages at the fastest practicable pace, the Western country that had carried out this transfer of political power on this scale without having been constrained by any immediate force majeure [he is flattering us] had performed an act that was perhaps unprecedented and was certainly auspicious for the future, not merely of the Western Civilization, but of the Human Race.
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954
Satyajit Ray’s documentary about Rabindranath Tagore (1961).
Film made by the Warwick Trading Company. Fascinating because of its age, but the title is wrong. These are ghats of Bernares or Varanasi, four hundred miles up the Ganges, not of Calcutta, where the Hooghly is a Ganges tributary. The mistake was presumably deliberate. The word Calcutta meant more to people at home than Bernares.
BD Garga, From Raj to Swaraj: The Non-fiction Film in India, New Delhi, Penguin/Viking, 2007, a book which, strangely enough, I have, mentions the Company, but not the film. Swaraj was Gandhi’s conception of governance in India after independence.
Before the Industrial Revolution, Man had devastated patches of the biosphere. For instance, he had caused mountain-sides to be denuded of soil by felling the trees that previously had saved the soil from being washed away. Man had cut down forests faster than they could be replaced, and he had mined metals that were not replaceable at all. But, before he had harnessed the physical energy of inanimate nature in machines on the grand scale, Man had not had it in his power to damage and despoil the biosphere irremediably. Till then, the air and the ocean had been virtually infinite, and the supply of timber and metals had far exceeded Man’s capacity to use them up. When he had exhausted one mine and had felled one forest, there had always been other virgin mines and virgin forests still waiting to be exploited. By making the Industrial Revolution, Man exposed the biosphere, including Man himself, to a threat that had no precedent.
The Western peoples had begun to dominate the rest of mankind before the Industrial Revolution. In the sixteenth century the Spaniards had subjugated the Meso-American and Andean peoples and had annihilated their civilizations. In the course of the years 1757-64 the British East India Company had become the virtual sovereign of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa. In 1799-1818 the British subjugated all the rest of the Indian subcontinent to the south-east of the River Sutlej. They had a free hand because they held the command of the sea and because in 1809 they made a treaty with Ranjit Singh, a Sikh empire-builder, in which the two parties accepted the line of the Sutlej as the boundary between their respective fields of conquest. In 1845-9 the British went on to conquer and annex the Sikh empire in the Punjab. Meanwhile, in 1768-74, Russia had defeated the Ottoman Empire decisively; in 1798 the French had temporarily occupied Egypt, and in 1830 they had started to conquer Algeria; in 1840 three Western powers and Russia had evicted the insubordinate Ottoman viceroy of Egypt, Muhammad Ali, from Syria and Palestine. In 1839-42 the British had defeated China dramatically. In 1853 an American naval squadron compelled the Tokugawa Government of Japan to receive a visit from it. The Japanese recognized that they were powerless to prevent this unwelcome visit by force of arms.
These military successes of Western powers and of one Westernized Eastern Orthodox power, Russia, were won at the cost of occasional reverses. In the seventeenth century, the Portuguese were evicted forcibly from both Japan and Abyssinia. A British army that invaded Afghanistan in 1839-42 was annihilated. Yet by 1871 the Western powers and Russia were dominant throughout the World.
Even before the Industrial Revolution in Britain the Tsar of Russia, Peter the Great, had recognized that the only means by which a non-Western state could save itself from falling under Western domination was the creation of a new-model army on the pattern of the Western armies that were being created in Peter’s time, and Peter also saw that this Western-style army must be supported by a Western-style technology, economy, and administration. The signal military triumphs of the Western powers and of a Westernized Russia over non-Westernized states between 1757 and 1853 moved the rulers of some of the threatened states to do what Peter the Great had done.
Eminent examples of Westernizing statesmen in the first century after the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in Britain are Ranjit Singh (ruled 1799-1839), the founder of the Sikh successor-state, in the Punjab, of the Abdali Afghan Empire; Muhammad Ali, the Ottoman Padishah’s viceroy in Egypt from 1805 to 1848; the Ottoman Padishah Mahmud II (ruled 1808-39); King Mongkut of Thailand (ruled 1851-68); and the band of Japanese statesmen that, in the Emperor’s name, liquidated the Tokugawa regime and took the government of Japan into its own hands in 1868. These Westernizing statesmen have had a greater effect on the history of the Oikoumenê than any of their Western contemporaries. They have kept the West’s dominance within limits, and they have done this by propagating, in non-Western countries, the modern West’s way of life.
While the achievements of all the Westernizers mentioned above are remarkable, the Japanese makers of the Meiji Revolution were outstandingly successful. They themselves were members of the hitherto privileged, though impoverished, traditional military class, the samurai; the Tokugawa Shogunate succumbed after offering only a minimal resistance; a majority of the samurai acquiesced peacefully in the forfeiture of their privileges; a minority of them that rebelled in 1877 was easily defeated by a new Western-style Japanese conscript army composed of peasants who, before 1868, had been prohibited from bearing arms.
Muhammad Ali and Mahmud II did not have so smooth a start. Like Peter the Great, they found that they could not begin to build up a Western-style army till they had liquidated a traditional soldiery. Peter had massacred the Muscovite Streltsy (“Archers”) in 1698-9; Muhammad Ali massacred the Egyptian Mamluks in 1811, and Mahmud II massacred the Ottoman janizaries in 1826. The new Western-style armies all gave a good account of themselves in action. Muhammad Ali began building his new army in 1819 and a navy in 1821; in 1825 his well-drilled Egyptian peasant conscript troops almost succeeded in re-subjugating for his suzerain Mahmud II the valiant but undisciplined Greek insurgents. The Greeks were saved only by the intervention of France, Britain, and Russia, who destroyed the Egyptian and Turkish fleets in 1827 and compelled Muhammad Ali’s son Ibrahim to evacuate Greece in 1828. In 1833 Ibrahim conquered Syria and was only prevented from marching on Istanbul by Russia’s intervention on Mahmud II’s behalf. Muhammad Ali’s army was more than a match for Mahmud’s because he had been able to make an earlier start in building it up. Mahmud could not start before 1826, the year in which he destroyed the janizaries; yet, in the Russo-Turkish war of 1828-9, his new-model peasant conscript army put up a much stiffer resistance than the old Ottoman army in the Russo-Turkish wars of 1768-74, 1787-92, and 1806-12.
Ranjit Singh, like his contemporary Muhammad Ali, engaged former Napoleonic officers as instructors. The British succeeded in defeating the Western-trained Sikh army in 1845-6 and again in 1848-9, but these two wars cost the British a greater effort and heavier casualties than their previous conquest of the whole of India outside the Punjab.
Rulers who set out to Westernize non-Western countries could not do this solely with the aid of a few Western advisers and instructors. They had to discover or create, among their own subjects, a class of Western-educated natives who could deal with Westerners on more or less equal terms and could serve as intermediaries between the West and the still un-Westernized mass of their own fellow-countrymen. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Ottoman Government had found this newly needed class, ready to hand, among Greek Ottoman subjects who were acquainted with the West through having been educated there or having had commercial relations with Westerners. Peter the Great in Russia, Muhammad Ali in Egypt, and the British in India had to create the intermediary class that they, too, needed. In Russia this class came to be called the intelligentsia, a hybrid word composed of a French root and a Russian termination. During the years 1763-1871, an intelligentsia was called into existence in every country that either fell under Western rule or saved itself from suffering this fate by Westernizing itself sufficiently to succeed in maintaining its political independence. Like the industrial entrepreneurs and the wage-earning industrial workers who made their appearance in Britain in the course of this century, the non-Western intelligentsia was a new class, and by the 1970s it had made at least as great a mark on mankind’s history.
The intelligentsia was enlisted or created by governments to serve these governments’ purposes, but the intelligentsia soon realized that it held a key position in its own society, and in every case it eventually took an independent line. In 1821 the ex-Ottoman Greek Prince Alexander Ypsilantis’s invasion of the Ottoman Empire taught the Ottoman Government that its Greek intelligentsia was a broken reed. In 1825 a conspiracy of Western-educated Russian military officers against Tsar Nicholas I was defeated and was suppressed, but it was a portent of things to come, and this not only in Russia but in a number of other Westernizing countries.
To live between two worlds, which is an intelligentsia’s function, is a spiritual ordeal, and in Russia in the nineteenth century this ordeal evoked a literature that was not surpassed anywhere in the World in that age. The novels of Turgenev (1818-83), Dostoyevsky (1821-81), and Tolstoy (1828-1910) became the common treasure of all mankind.
See the eighth volume of the Study and the Reith lectures.
Vasily Timm, The Decembrist revolt, painted 1853, St Petersburg, Hermitage
The scampering boy in the foreground appears in so many works of this period and somewhat earlier. In British prints he sometimes rolls a hoop and is followed by a scampering dog.
Mankind and Mother Earth, OUP, 1976, posthumous
“Welcome to Colonial Film: Moving Images of the British Empire. This website holds detailed information on over 6000 films showing images of life in the British colonies. Over 150 films are available for viewing online. You can search or browse for films by country, date, topic, or keyword. Over 350 of the most important films in the catalogue are presented with extensive critical notes written by our academic research team.
The Colonial Film project united universities (Birkbeck and University College London) and archives (British Film Institute, Imperial War Museum and the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum) to create a new catalogue of films relating to the British Empire. The ambition of this website is to allow both colonizers and colonized to understand better the truths of Empire.”
Bihar, circa 1922. Ronny Heaslop, city magistrate at Chandrapore, and his mother:
“‘We’re not out here for the purpose of behaving pleasantly!’
“‘What do you mean?’
“‘What I say. We’re out here to do justice and keep the peace. Them’s my sentiments. India isn’t a drawing-room.’
“‘Your sentiments are those of a god,’ she said quietly, but it was his manner rather than his sentiments that annoyed her.
“Trying to recover his temper, he said, ‘India likes gods.’
“‘And Englishmen like posing as gods.’
“‘There’s no point in all this. Here we are, and we’re going to stop [ie stay], and the country’s got to put up with us, gods or no gods. Oh, look here,’ he broke out, rather pathetically, ‘what do you and Adela [his fiancée] want me to do? Go against my class, against all the people I respect and admire out here? Lose such power as I have for doing good in this country because my behaviour isn’t pleasant? You neither of you understand what work is, or you’d never talk such eyewash. I hate talking like this, but one must occasionally. It’s morbidly sensitive to go on as Adela and you do. I noticed you both at the Club to-day – after the Burra Sahib [the Nawab Bahadur, a local Muslim dignitary, loyal to the British; but the scholarly Abinger Edition has substituted “the Collector” at this point – ie Turton, the British tax collector] had been at all that trouble to amuse you. I am out here to work, mind, to hold this wretched country by force. I’m not a missionary or a Labour Member or a vague sentimental sympathetic literary man. I’m just a servant of the Government; it’s the profession you wanted me to choose myself, and that’s that. We’re not pleasant in India, and we don’t intend to be pleasant. We’ve something more important to do.’
“He spoke sincerely. Every day he worked hard in the court trying to decide which of two untrue accounts was the less untrue, trying to dispense justice fearlessly, to protect the weak against the less weak, the incoherent against the plausible, surrounded by lies and flattery. That morning he had convicted a railway clerk of overcharging pilgrims for their tickets, and a Pathan of attempted rape. He expected no gratitude, no recognition for this, and both clerk and Pathan might appeal, bribe their witnesses more effectually in the interval, and get their sentences reversed. It was his duty. But he did expect sympathy from his own people, and except from newcomers he obtained it. He did think he ought not to be worried about ‘Bridge Parties’ [social events intended to bring Indians and British together] when the day’s work was over and he wanted to play tennis with his equals or rest his legs upon a long chair [see the picture in this post].
“He spoke sincerely, but she could have wished with less gusto. How Ronny revelled in the drawbacks of his situation! How he did rub it in that he was not in India to behave pleasantly, and derived positive satisfaction therefrom! He reminded her of his public-schooldays. The traces of young-man humanitarianism had sloughed off, and he talked like an intelligent and embittered boy. His words without his voice might have impressed her, but when she heard the self-satisfied lilt of them, when she saw the mouth moving so complacently and competently beneath the little red nose, she felt, quite illogically, that this was not the last word on India. One touch of regret – not the canny substitute but the true regret from the heart – would have made him a different man, and the British Empire a different institution.”
EM Forster, A Passage to India (1924).
Britain announced last week that it would end financial aid to India by 2015.
A collection of photographs of British India c 1912 was found recently, wrapped in copies of the Statesman from 1914, in the archives of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Samples here, here and elsewhere.
Calcutta, High Court in background
Office in Madras
Chandpal Ghat, Kolkata; bathers reached the river through tunnels under the railway line
Owing to the tendency of the parochial states of a broken-down civilization in its Time of Troubles to sharpen their weapons in fratricidal conflicts with one another and to take advantage of this dearly bought increase in their military proficiency to conquer neighbouring societies with their left hands while continuing to fight one another with their right hands, most universal states have embraced not only a fringe of conquered barbarians but substantial slices of the domain of one or more alien civilizations as well. Some universal states, again, have been founded by alien empire-builders, and some have been the product of societies within whose bosoms there has already been some degree of cultural variety even on a reckoning which does not differentiate between march-men and the denizens of the interior of the same social world. [...]
No other universal state known to History appears to have been as homogeneous in culture as Japan under the Tokugawa régime. In “the Middle Empire” of Egypt, in which a fringe of barbarians on the Nubian glacis of its Theban march was one element of variation from the cultural norm of the Egyptiac Society of the age, there was another and more positive feature of cultural diversity in the Empire’s culturally Sumeric provinces and client states in Palestine and Coele Syria. As for “the New Empire”, which was a deliberate revival of the original Egyptiac universal state, it accentuated the pattern of its prototype by completing the assimilation of the barbarians of Nubia and by embracing the domain of an abortive First Syriac Civilization in Syria and North-Western Mesopotamia; and this culturally tripartite structure – in which the cultural domain of the civilization through whose disintegration the universal state has been brought into existence is flanked by culturally alien territories annexed at the expense of both barbarians and neighbouring civilizations – appears to be the standard type.
For example, in the Mauryan Empire, which was the original Indic universal state, an Indic cultural core was flanked by an alien province in the Panjab, which had been at least partially Syriacized during a previous period of Achaemenian rule after having been partially barbarized by an antecedent Völkerwanderung of Eurasian Nomads, while in other quarters the Mauryan Empire’s Indic core was flanked by ex-barbarian provinces in Southern India and possibly farther afield in both Ceylon and Khotan as well. The Guptan Empire, in which the Mauryan was eventually reintegrated, possessed an ex-barbarian fringe, with an alien Hellenic tincture, in the satrapy that had been founded by Saka war-bands in Gujerat and the North-Western Deccan, and a Hellenized fringe, with a Kushan barbarian dilution, in the territories under its suzerainty in the Panjab. In a Han Empire which was the Sinic universal state, the Sinic World proper was flanked by barbarian annexes in what was eventually to become Southern China, as well as on the Eurasian Steppe, and by an alien province in the Tarim Basin, where the Indic, Syriac, and Hellenic cultures had already met and mingled before this cultural corridor and crucible was annexed to the Han Empire for the first time in the second century B.C. and for the second time in the first century of the Christian Era. In the Roman Empire, which was the Hellenic universal state, a culturally Hellenic core in Western Anatolia, Continental European Greece, Sicily, and Italy, with outlying enclaves in Cilicia, in Syria, at Alexandria, and at Marseilles, was combined with the domain of the submerged Hittite Civilization in Eastern Anatolia, with the homelands of the Syriac and Egyptiac civilizations in Syria and in the Lower Nile Valley, with the colonial [Carthaginian] domain of the Syriac Civilization in North-West Africa, and with ex-barbarian hinterlands in North-West Africa and in Western and Central Europe as far as the left bank of the Rhine and the right bank of the Danube. [Footnote: Leaving out of account the late-acquired and early-lost Transdanubian bridgehead in Dacia.]
There are other cases in which this standard cultural pattern has been enriched by some additional element.
In the Muscovite Tsardom, a Russian Orthodox Christian core was flanked by a vast ex-barbarian annex extending northwards to the Arctic Ocean and eastwards eventually to the Pacific, and by an Iranic Muslim annex consisting of the sedentary Muslim peoples of the Volga Basin, the Urals, and Western Siberia. This pattern was afterwards complicated by Peter the Great’s deliberate substitution of a Westernized for a traditional Orthodox Christian cultural framework for the Russian Orthodox Christian universal state, and by the subsequent annexation of additional alien territories – at the expense of the Islamic World on the Eurasian Steppe and in the Crimea, the Caucasus, and the Oxus-Jaxartes Basin, and at the expense of Western Christendom in the Baltic Provinces, Lithuania, Poland, and Finland.
In the Achaemenian Empire, which was the original Syriac universal state, there was an antecedent cultural diversity, within the Syriac core itself, between the Syrian creators of the Syriac Civilization and their Iranian converts, and a geographical gap between Syria and Iran that was still occupied by the dwindling domain of the gradually disappearing Babylonic culture. The Achaemenian Empire also embraced the domain of the submerged Hittite culture in Eastern Anatolia, the best part of the domain of the Egyptiac Civilization, fringes torn from the Hellenic and Indic worlds, and pockets of partially reclaimed barbarian highlanders and Eurasian Nomads. Moreover, after its life had been prematurely cut short by Alexander the Great, its work was carried on by his political successors, and especially by the Seleucidae, whom it would be more illuminating to describe as alien Hellenic successors of Cyrus and Darius. In the Arab Caliphate, in which the Achaemenian Empire was eventually reintegrated, the Syriac core – in which the earlier diversity between Syrian creators and Iranian converts had been replaced by a cleavage, along approximately the same geographical line, between ex-subjects of the Roman and ex-subjects of the Sasanian Empire – was united politically, by Arab barbarian empire-builders, with barbarian annexes – in North-West Africa, in the fastnesses of Daylam and Tabaristan between the Elburz Mountains and the Caspian Sea, and on the fringes of the Eurasian Steppe adjoining the Oxus-Jaxartes Basin – and with fragments of alien civilizations: a slice of the new-born Hindu World in Sind; the potential domain of an abortive Far Eastern Christian Civilization in the Oxus-Jaxartes Basin; an Orthodox Christian diaspora in Syria and Egypt; and a fossil of the by then elsewhere extinct Babylonic Society at Harran.
In the Mongol Empire, which was a universal state imposed by alien empire-builders on the main body of the Far Eastern Society in China, the annexes to a Chinese core were unusually extensive – including, as they did, the whole of the Eurasian Nomad World, the whole of Russian Orthodox Christendom, and the ex-Sasanian portion of a Syriac World which by that time was in extremis. The Mongols themselves were barbarians with a tincture of Far Eastern Christian culture. In the Manchu empire-builders, who subsequently repeated the Mongols’ performance on a less gigantic yet still imposing scale, there was the same tincture in a more diluted form; and the Chinese universal state in its Manchu avatar once again embraced, in addition to its Chinese core, a number of alien annexes: a “reservoir” of barbarians in the still unfelled backwoods and still virgin steppes of Manchuria, the whole of the Tantric Mahayanian Buddhist World in Tibet, Mongolia, and Zungaria, and the easternmost continental outposts of the Islamic World in the Tarim Basin, the north-western Chinese provinces of Kansu and Shansi, and the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan.
In the Ottoman Empire, which provided, or saddled, the main body of Orthodox Christendom with its universal state, the alien ʿOsmanli empire-builders united an Orthodox Christian core with a fringe of Western Christian territory in Hungary, with the whole of the Arabic Muslim World except Morocco, the Sudan, and South-Eastern Arabia, and with pockets of barbarians and semi-barbarians in Serbia, Bosnia, Albania, the Mani, the Caucasus, the Crimea, and on the Arabian Steppe. In the Mughal Empire, which was the Ottoman Empire’s counterpart in the Hindu World, the pattern was simpler, since, apart from the Iranic Muslim empire-builders and their co-religionists who had been deposited in the Hindu social environment by earlier waves of invasion from the Middle East and Central Asia [since the twelfth century], the Mughals’ only [sic] non-Hindu subjects were the Pathan barbarian highlanders on the north-western fringe of their dominions. When, however, the Mughal Rāj was replaced by a British Rāj, the pattern of the Hindu universal state became more complex; for the advent of a new band of alien empire-builders, which substituted a Western element for an Islamic at the political apex of the Hindu universal state, did not expel the Indian Muslims from the stage of Hindu history, but merely depressed their status to that of a numerically still formidable alien element in the Hindu internal proletariat, so that the Hindu universal state in its second phase combined elements drawn from two alien civilizations with a Pathan barbarian fringe and a Hindu core.
There had been other universal states in which, as in the Mughal Empire, the cultural pattern had been less complex than the standard type yet not so simple as that of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
The Empire of Sumer and Akkad, which was the Sumeric universal state, included no representatives of an alien civilization – unless Byblus and other Syrian coast-towns are to be counted as such in virtue of their tincture of Egyptiac culture. On the other hand, the Sumeric Civilization itself was represented in two varieties at least – a Sumero-Akkadian and an Elamite – and in no less than three if the domain of the Indus Culture should prove also to have been included in “the Empire of the Four Quarters of the World”. Moreover, the Babylonian Amorites, who eventually restored a polity that had been first constructed by the Sumerian Ur-Engur (alias Ur-Nammu) of Ur, were not merely marchmen but marchmen with a barbarian tinge. So, on a broader and a longer view, the cultural pattern of the Sumeric universal state proves to have been less homogeneous than might appear at first sight. “The thalassocracy of Minos”, again, which was the Minoan universal state, probably included representatives of the continental Mycenaean variety of the Minoan culture as well as the creators of that culture in its Cretan homeland, even if it did not embrace any representatives of an alien civilization.
In the Central American World, two once distinct sister societies – the Yucatec Civilization and the Mexic – had not yet lost their distinctive characteristics, though they had already been brought together by force of Toltec arms, when the task, and prize, of establishing a Central American universal state was snatched, at the eleventh hour, out of the hands of barbarian Aztec empire-builders by Spanish representatives of an utterly alien Western Christendom. In the Andean World the Empire of the Incas, which was the Andean universal state, already included representatives of the Kara variety of the Andean culture [...] before the indigenous Incan empire-builders were suddenly and violently replaced by Spanish conquistadores from Western Christendom who turned the Andean World upside-down, with a vigour reminiscent of Alexander the Great’s, by proceeding to convert the indigenous population to Christianity and to variegate the social map by studding it with immigrant Spanish landlords and self-governing municipalities.
The Danubian Hapsburg Monarchy, which served as a carapace for Western Christendom against the assaults of the ʿOsmanlis, and which, seen from the south-east, wore the deceptive appearance of being a full-blown Western universal state, set itself, like the Tokugawa Shogunate, to achieve domestic cultural uniformity, but lacked both the ruthlessness and the insularity which, between them, enabled the Japanese isolationists for a time to put their policy into effect. In pursuing its aim of being totally Catholic, the Hapsburg Power did succeed, more or less, in extirpating Protestantism within its frontiers; but the very success of its stand, and eventual counter-attack, against the Ottoman embodiment of an Orthodox Christian universal state broke up the Danubian Monarchy’s hardly attained Catholic homogeneity by transferring to Hapsburg from Ottoman rule a stiff-necked minority of Hungarian Protestants and a host of Orthodox Christians of divers nationalities, most of whom proved unwilling to accept the ecclesiastical supremacy of Rome, even when the yoke was proffered in the easy form of Uniatism [union with Rome and retention of local rites], while, among those who did accept this relatively light burden, the rank and file remained nearer in heart and mind to their dissident Orthodox ex-co-religionists than they ever came to be to their fellow Catholics who were of the Latin Rite.
The [post-Assyrian] Neo-Babylonian Empire [or Chaldean Empire], which was the Babylonic universal state, similarly forfeited its cultural purity – and thereby worked unwittingly for the eventual extinction of the Babylonic Civilization itself – when Nebuchadnezzar conquered and annexed the homeland of the Syriac Civilization west of the Euphrates; and the impress of the indigenous Babylonic culture became progressively fainter as the domain which Nebuchadnezzar had bequeathed to a short line of native successors was incorporated first into the barbaro-Syriac Empire of the Achaemenids and then into the Hellenic Empire of the Seleucids.
Our survey has shown that, in the cultural composition of universal states, a high degree of diversity is the rule; and, in the light of this fact, it is evident that one effect of the “conductivity” of universal states is to carry farther, by less violent and less brutal means, that process of cultural pammixia that is started, in the antecedent Times of Troubles, by the atrocities that these bring in their train. The refugees, exiles, deportees, transported slaves, and other déracinés of the more cruel preceding age are followed up, under the milder régime of a universal state, by merchants, by professional soldiers, and by philosophic and religious missionaries and pilgrims who make their transit with less tribulation in a more genial social climate.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954
The military vs the militant.
The English [...] were temporarily shaken out of the moderation which they have studiously practised both before and since by the extraordinary lavishness of Fortune when she showered Canada upon them with one hand and Bengal, simultaneously, with the other. In 1763 it seemed “the manifest destiny” of the British Empire to swallow up the whole of North America as well as the whole of India. Yet twenty years later Great Britain had lost the better half of one of the two sub-continents and was in imminent danger of losing the whole of the other. It is true that the verdict of History has now acquitted British statesmanship of exclusive responsibility for the break-up of the First British Empire. American historians have latterly done much to show that in the fratricidal war of 1775-83 the war-guilt was divided; and the name of Warren Hastings no longer sounds so sinister as it was made to sound a century and a half ago. Nevertheless the fact remains that the Thirteen Colonies would never have been lost to the British Crown if from 1763 to 1775 it had shown towards them the same tact and consideration as it has repeatedly shown towards Canada from 1774 [Quebec Act] onwards. Nor would Bengal have been retained – nor, a fortiori, enlarged into an empire embracing all India – if the predatory practices of the Company’s servants in the East, from Clive and Warren Hastings downwards, during the twenty-six years following the intoxicating victory of Plassey had not been discouraged by the abortive India Bill of 1783 and the effective India Bill of 1784 and the long-drawn-out state trial [of Warren Hastings] of 1786-95. However sincerely Clive may have “marvelled at” his “own moderation”, his economy of virtue would assuredly soon have cost his countrymen the loss of an Oriental dominion which his excess of unscrupulousness had suddenly won for them, if they had not exerted themselves to improve upon Clive’s moral standards under the sobering influence of their American disaster.
The victor over the French (and their allies the Nawabs of Bengal, who were nominally subject to the Mughals) at Plassey in 1757 was Clive. The victor over the French at Quebec in 1759 was Wolfe.
Company rule in India began in 1757, when the Nawab of Bengal surrendered his dominions, or in 1765, when the Company was granted the diwani, or right to collect revenue, in Bengal and Bihar, or in 1772, when it established a capital in Calcutta and became directly involved in governance. It lasted until the Government of India Act of 1858, when its powers were surrendered to the Crown. There were Governors of the Presidency of Fort William (Bengal) from 1774 to 1833 (the first was Hastings) and Governors General of India from 1833 to 1858.
The British ruled Canada directly from the Treaty of Paris in 1763 until 1867. There were Governors of the Province of Quebec from 1760 to 1786, Governors General of the Canadas from 1786 to 1840 and Governors General of the Province of Canada from 1840 until the Constitution Act of 1867, which gave Canada virtual independence and in effect founded the Commonwealth.
A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939
The generation of the Wellesleys [Richard and Arthur] (circa A.D. 1800-30) [...] revealed the promise of a Pax Britannica when they broke the power of Tipu Sahib in Mysore and of the Marathas in the Deccan; and the generation of the Lawrences [Henry and John] (circa A.D. 1830-60) [...] turned promise into performance by breaking the still more formidable power of the Sikhs in the Panjab and then riding the storm of a Mutiny in which the newly launched ship of British state in India came as near to foundering as the Achaemenian Empire came in the general revolt against the tyranny of Cambyses.
A Study of History, Vol VI, OUP, 1939
Harsha (last post) was a convert to Buddhism and was the last Indian Buddhist ever to rule an empire. Had any of the Guptas been personally Buddhist? Which of the Kushan emperors were Zoroastrian? Were all the Indo-Greek kings personally Buddhist? Were all the Mauryan emperors after Ashoka personally Buddhist?
Wikipedia, slightly edited: “The distinction between Hinduism and Buddhism in India was purely sectarian and never more than the difference between saivism and vaishnavism [Buddha was an avatar of Vishnu] [my bracket]. The exclusiveness of religious doctrines is a Semitic conception, which was unknown to India for a long time. Buddha himself was looked upon in his lifetime and afterwards as a Hindu saint and avatar and his followers were but another sect in the great Aryan tradition. Ashoka was a Buddhist in the same way as Harsha was a Buddhist. But in the view of the people of the day he was a Hindu monarch following one of the recognized sects. His own inscriptions bear ample witness to the fact. While his doctrines follow the middle path, his gifts are to the brahmins, Buddhist priests and others equally. His own name of adoption is Devanam Priya, the beloved of the gods. Which gods? Surely the gods of the Aryan religion. Buddhism had no gods of its own. The idea that Ashoka was a kind of Buddhist Constantine declaring himself against paganism is a complete misreading of Indian conditions. Ashoka was essentially a Hindu, as indeed was the founder of the sect to which he belonged.”
Interesting, though not in the style of an encyclopaedia. Indian writers (I notice) often storm into Wikipedia and write or rewrite tendentiously and without citations.
The Mauryas and the Guptas alike retained their seat of government at Pataliputra (the latter-day Patna), which had previously been Magadha’s parochial capital. [Magadha was ancient Bihar.] Standing, as it did, at the junction of the Ganges with the Jumna and with two other tributaries, Pataliputra was the natural administrative centre for the Ganges Basin [...].
After the derelict domain of an enfeebled Mauryan Empire had been overrun by the Euthydemid Bactrian Greek prince Demetrius in the second decade of the second century B.C., the conqueror transferred the seat of government from Pataliputra to a new site far along the Great North-West Road connecting the former Mauryan capital with Demetrius’s own former capital at Bactra (Balkh) on the Central Asian side of the Hindu Kush. Demetrius’s New Taxila [it was called Sirkap] lay near the old city of the same name, in the neighbourhood of the latter-day Rawalpindi, which, before the foundation of the Mauryan Empire, had been the capital of a parochial Indian state; and it commanded the approaches, on the Indian side, to the difficult section of the highway in which a traveller had to negotiate the three successive obstacles of the River Indus, the Khyber Pass, and the main chain of the Hindu Kush.
This neighbourhood was the natural location for the capital of a Power which was seeking to “abolish the Hindu Kush” by uniting the Ganges-Jumna Basin with the Oxus-Jaxartes Basin. The Greek warlord Demetrius’s pioneering essay in this audacious defiance of physical geography proved ephemeral. The Bactrian Greek Power had no sooner overrun the Mauryan Empire than it was broken up by fratricidal warfare which opened the way for Nomad invasions of its dominions on the Indian as well as the Central Asian side of the Hindu Kush; but, when, after more than two centuries of kaleidoscopic political changes, the momentary achievement of the Greek empire-builder Demetrius was repeated in the first century of the Christian Era by the Kushan empire-builder Kadphises I and was perpetuated by Kadphises’ successors, the seat of government of this reconstituted political union of North-Western India with Central Asia came to rest not far from the spot originally selected for it by Demetrius. The capital of the Kushan Empire was planted at Peshāwar [then called Purushapura], on the Great North-West Road between the Indus and the Khyber Pass.
After the Mauryan Empire had been re-established by the Guptas, history repeated itself. The Guptas, like their predecessors, ruled the Indic World from Pataliputra; but, when the Guptan Empire collapsed in its turn and was momentarily restored by the Emperor Harsha (imperabat A.D. 606-47), this last of all the rulers of the Indic universal state [after this, in Toynbee’s terminology, the society is no longer Indic, but Hindu] placed his seat of government, not at Pataliputra, but at Sthanesvara [now called Thanesar] on the banks of the Upper Jumna, above the site of Delhi, covering the north-western approaches to the Ganges Basin from the quarter from which Hun and Gurjara Nomad invaders had swept down on the Guptan Empire from the Eurasian Steppe in the preceding chapter of Indic history.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954
Click. (Strange spelling of Uzbekistan.) The Hindu Kush is a western extension of the Pamirs. On Aksai Chin, see this post.
Both images Wikimedia Commons.
Maps of the Silk Road differ and are often approximate if not inaccurate. Nor is there one Silk Road. I’ll take this one, which appears to be in the public domain, as a simple reference. It shows the main route from Chang’an, now Xi’an, in Shaanxi province, going north and south of the Taklamakan desert or Tarim Basin. The westernmost city in modern China here is Kashgar or Kashi. From there the road passes through Tajikistan (and perhaps Kyrgyzstan) into Uzbekistan – in other words, through Sogdiana – and from there into Turkmenistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria.
This does not show an alternative southern route which began west of Kashgar and passed through Bactria, north of the Hindu Kush, before rejoining the main route north of Merv.
Another road left China to cross the Karakoram into what is now Pakistan.
The Silk Road is not a steppe route. It runs south of the steppe. It is a mountain and desert route.
Buddhism entered China on the Silk Road via the Kushan Empire in the first century of the Christian era.