INDIA DURING THE RAJ: EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS
Diaries and Related Records Held at the British Library, London
Part 1: Diaries and Related Records Describing Life in India, c.1750-1842
Part 2: Diaries and Related Records Describing Life in India, 1819-1859
Extracts - Part 2
Ms Eur F. 240/26
Journal of Arthur Herbert Cocks,
1819-1881, Commissioner, Bengal Civil Service
The following is an account of Mr Cocks’ distribution of prizes at the Government school:
“...There was a large assemblage of the native, though not quite so large a one, of the European community. I do not remember seeing so large a number of respectable natives assembled together in this town. Many of the native Chiefs, Talooqdars, and Zemindars, of the country round about, who had come in to pay their respects to the Commissioner, were present. The room looked, with the picturesque dresses of the native chiefs, the maps hung against the walls, and globes, telescopes and other philosophical apparatus placed about the various part of it, quite gay…. I understand there are now about 355 boys in school, the greater number of whom seem to take to English in preference to studying either Persian or Hindee….”
Ms Eur B. 369/1
Journal of Thomas Machell, 1824-1862, merchant seaman and Indigo planter
The following records his impressions of Indian architecture:
“…. As soon as it was light I was dressed and strolled out to look about me. The house struck me as an odd specimen of Architecture. The above is a rough attempt to depict this very comfortable but ungainly building with its white walls and Verandahs and its green folding doors Venetian’d from the top to the bottom their bright green print contrasting strongly with the glistening white washed walls. The whole building is pleasantly situated in a large Garden facing to the Eastward about three hundred yards from the river surrounded with trees which are planted sufficiently distant from the house so as not to stop the circulation of the fresh air which is a very necessary point in a country like India….”
Ms Eur B. .369/2
Journal, 1850, of Thomas Machell,
1824-1862, merchant seaman and Indigo planter
“…. This is a beautiful season of the year in Bengal it is not too hot the Thermometer at noon seldom above eighty in the shade the Trees putting out their new leaves and blossoming magnificently the perfume of the flowers is almost overpowering. The white and yellow Accacias are loaded with blossom and the chumpa tree perfumes the whole country with its overpowering odour….
Early in the morning mounting our nags we set off from Mulinat and galloped along the Road to Choyda a station town on the banks of the Hoogly which is a great place for the cremation of the bodies of all the Hindoos of good caste who die in this neighbourhood and every day you will see men on this road trotting along with such burdens as this above carrying them for miles to the banks of the Holy rivers….”
Ms Eur B. 167/3
Maria Amelia Vansittart’s diary of the Mutiny in Agra, 1857 (wife of Henry Vansittart, Bengal Civil Service)
“Monday May 11th, 1857 Heard that the 3rd Native Cavalry had mutinied at Meerut, they burnt their lines and the officers houses, and murdered and wounded 12 officers. They cut the Telegraphic Wire. Mr Colvin the Lt Gen North West Province sent for Mr Vansittart.
Tuesday 12th May No mails in from Meerut, No communication by Telegraph. Natives news says all the native regiments have coalesced, the guns taken. A regiment going to Delhi chose to return to Meerut and join the mutineers. This afternoon we learnt the communication with Delhi is cut off. Col Frazer and Mr Vansittart went to Mr Colvin. Mr Vansittart telegraphed to Mr Edmonstone, Secretary im Calcutta, to give orders that Europeans should take charge of all magazines. The villages around Meerut, Delhi etc have risen in favour of the Mutineers. Mr Colvin at last listened to Col Frazer and sent for Brigadier Polwhele, and a company of Europeans were sent to the Fort, and the troops kept on the alert.
13th May, Wednesday No dawks in from up the country, the roads, horses, and all carriages being in the possession of the Mutineers. The Fort here in Agra has been saved by the Europeans taking it last night….”
Ms Eur A. 185
Account of a visit to India, 1846-1847 by James Fenn Clark. His father Hezekiah Clark was in the Bengal Medical Service.
“…all the hospital visits are made morning & evening: I generally accompany my Father and take notes of the more interesting cases that occur: his charge is comparatively small at present but will be much larger in a month or two owing to the unhealthiness of the coming season.
There are many schools established for the benefit of Native Boys: the Rev J Long superintends one belonging to the Church Missionary Society at Mirzapore, one of the Calcutta districts: my father kindly took me to see it on the occasion of a public examination…. These native boys are much sharper and more intelligent than those of our own country: they are eager to obtain information, and have retentive memories—they are also generally good mathematicians, but are not gifted with much judgement and their word is scarcely ever to be depended on….”
Ms Eur B. 115
Journal describing the siege of Mooltan by
Lt George Godfrey Pearse
“ Mooltan is the largest town in the Sikh territory after Lahore and Amritsar. The present town is built on a mound of considerable height, formed of the ruins of more ancient cities. The bazaars are extensive, and are well supplied with all articles of traffic and consumption, and the shops amount altogether in number to 4,600. Its principal manufactures are silks, cottons, shawls, lounges, brocades and ?. Its merchants are considered rich, and about fifteen of those are computed collectively to possess 1,500,000 Rupees. Banking constitutes a large proportion of the business of Mooltan….”
Ms Eur C. 718
Journal written by Lt Octavius Ludlow Smith of the Bengal Army describing the mutiny at Lucknow, 1857
“ …the following stations have gone, Cawnpore, Shahjahanpur, Seetapore, Darriabad, Secrora, the 3 latter in Oude, these we have heard of but how many more have gone we cannot guess….
The enemie’s bullets fly about in all directions. To-day a Syce and a horse belonging to the volunteer cavalry were killed and 2 other horses wounded. In the Palace the fighting has been very hot, one Officer of the 78th killed and our loss severe in men, but the Insurgents have been dreadfully punished. I hear 20 were killed in one volley. This is very possible for they move about in such crowds that when they do show themselves a volley would create great damage among them.
Strong rumours of our commencing horse-flesh for rations, our grain also is coming short, all Officers’ horses have been ordered to be turned, except those that can feed themselves. It is most extraordinary that no Bunneahs, Maha or influential natives have come forward since General Outram’s arrival to offer us assistance; it only serves to confirm the opinion that every native in Oude is against us….”
Ms Eur D. 1186/1
Letter from Grace Maxwell Hardy, Poona January 1824 to Cecilia Armitage
“…. We arrived here on the 5th having travelled each day one stage, for as I before told you Indian travelling is not very expeditious—we rode half stages, I drove where the road would permit our gig— I like this place, though it cannot boast of much scenery, as you have before you a wide plain bounded by barren hills, but the soldiers quarters & the very pretty Bungalows & gardens of the officers give the Cantonment a very lively pleasant appearance; then the climate is far preferable to Bombay being by no means so relaxing—& the nights throughout the year tolerably cool, & at Xmas quite cold—We mean to stay here until Baby is quite stout & then shall probably have to go direct to Bombay our furlough being nearly expired….”
Ms Eur C. 698
Description of the outbreak of the mutiny at Ambala, May 1857 by Capt Henry Parlett Bishop
“10 May Sunday…. It appears that Lieut Brabazon confined a man of his Regiment the 60th Native Infantry for refusing it is said to take a cartridge, on this many of the Regiment assembled and began to murmur, the officers of the Regiment assembled at the Qtr Guard to investigate the matter, when an alarm arose that the Artillery were coming; many sepoys called out: ‘we must arm ourselves; to the Kots’….
12 May Tuesday At 8 o’clock this morning heard that a despatch had been received from Meerut by sunrise, by runner, (telegraph wire having been cut) that serious disturbances had taken place, collision between sepoys and European Officers, in which several of the latter had been killed, Colonel Finnes, Capt McDonald named, half the station had been burnt down, and part of the 3rd Light Cavalry had taken flight to Delhi. At 12am on the 1lth inst a telegram was received from Delhi that the fugitives from Meerut had seized the Bridge over the Jumna at Delhi, the Troops had been ordered out, refused to go, rose on their Officers, killed them seized the magazine and massacred all the Christian inhabitants of the place….”
Ms Eur A. 69
Diary of Katherine Bartrum, wife of Surgeon Robert Henry Bartrum, kept during the siege of Lucknow, 1857-1858
“…that we ever reached Lucknow, was a miracle, but it was not the will of our Heavenly Father that one of us shd perish. We arrived at Lucknow at 1pm on Tuesday weary, & exhausted with the dust, hot winds, & scorching sun; hungry & thirsty, & worn out with anxiety regarding the fate of those dearest to us, whom we had left behind—We reached the Residency which presented a scene of the utmost confusion. We were then all separated, some went to one garrison & some to another…. On that 1st night we slept in one room, packed closely together (so that each might feel the benefit of the punkah) reducing the discomfort of intense heat & mosquitos - a great change from the comforts of our homes—& at the same time how great was our anxiety concerning the fate of our husbands….
June 27th All our servants have left us; they found out, which we did not, that the Siege was about to commence, & now our trials begin in earnest. From morning till evening we could hardly get any food cooked, & we had not then, the means of doing so ourselves, our little ones used to be so hungry….
June 28th All my time is spent in nursing, washing clothes, cups and saucers, fanning away the flies which have become a fearful nuisance, & cleaning the room, for most seem too ill mentally & bodily to care whether things are clean or dirty….
July 18th …. Sometimes we were able to get Tea made, but not always, as there was no hot water to be had. The nights were far more wearisome than the days, the little children could not sleep for heat & mosquitoes, so that at last those who were strong enough, that is Mrs Kendall and myself, took it in turns to pull the punkah…. We were often disturbed during the night by some ground attack from our enemies outside; then some officer going his rounds would call out ‘All lights out’, in order that we might be a less sure mark for the enemy’s fire. This was always a time of great distress, the little ones shrieking in the darkness, & we ourselves trembling for fear lest the Sepoys might gain an entrance….
Sept 24th Firing all day has been heard, The excitement in the garrison is intense. Can it be really true that we shall be relieved at last.
Sept 25th Firing in the city all day, at 6pm our gates were thrown open for the first time since June 30th. We heard a tremendous cheering, & our relief had arrived. The confusion was so great, that at first we scarcely knew what had happened….
Sept 30th to Nov 16th Nothing but work, constant work. The relief which came in, was no relief; only a reinforcement but it saved us from destruction, since our own garrison was becoming so few in number that it had greatly increased our danger and anxiety; but now there are so many to feed, & our provisions are getting so low, that famine, as well as war & pestilence, stare us in the face….”