Untold lives blog

9 posts from August 2013

30 August 2013

La Martiniere Schools: the legacy of Claude Martin

Major General Claude Martin was a French adventurer, born in Lyon in 1735. He had the unusual distinction of having served in the French Army, before joining the East India Company’s Army, and eventually commanded the cavalry of the Nawab of Oudh. From humble origins, he had accumulated a vast fortune by the time of his death in 1800, a large portion of which he left in his will for charitable purposes, such as the relief of the poor of Lucknow and Calcutta.

Martin also left funds in his will for the founding of schools in Lucknow, Calcutta and Lyon, known as La Martiniere schools. Martin’s will was complex and inevitably involved much legal wrangling, not being finally settled by the Supreme Court of Calcutta until 1840, some 40 years after his death. The India Office Records holds several files relating to Martin’s will and his charitable bequests.

La Martiniere School in CalcuttaLa Martiniere School in Calcutta (Photo 179 no 13)   Images Online   Noc

The rules and regulations of La Martiniere Schools in Calcutta founded in 1836, one for boys and another for girls, illustrate what educators of the day thought important for children to learn. It states that the education of the children must, as much as possible, focus on the primary design of the schools, “… that of qualifying them for obtaining honest means of livelihood on their leaving it.”

The curriculum sounds rather intimidating: boys were to be taught English, English grammar, writing, geography, history (particularly of Britain and British India), Hindustani, Bengali, mathematics, natural history and mechanical philosophy; while girls were to be taught the same, without mathematics and mechanical philosophy, and additionally needlework, knitting, straw-plaiting, and music.

Teaching was six days a week, with Saturday as half holidays. Regular holidays were 15 days at Easter and 15 days at Christmas. The anniversary of Claude Martin’s death was also deemed a holiday, with a public dinner for the boys and girls, where a toast was to be drunk to the memory of the schools founder, and a medal awarded to the most deserving boy and girl in each division of the school. The parents or guardians of the children were only permitted to visit them on alternate half holidays, and were not permitted on school grounds at any other time without the express permission of the school Secretary.

Portrait photo of  L.E. Rees, W. Catania and the child of William Babington Peile, Bengal Army
Portrait c.1856-57 of  L.E. Rees, W. Catania and the child of William Babington Peile, Bengal Army.  Rees and Catania were masters at La Martinière School Lucknow.  Images Online Noc

The children were fed well at the school. Breakfast consisted of bread, butter and tea; and supper was bread and milk. The main meal of the day followed a set weekly menu, of roast or boiled mutton, bread and vegetables Monday and Thursday; mutton curry, rice, bread and fruit Tuesday and Friday; roast beef, potatoes and rice pudding Wednesday and Sunday; and roast fowls, pulau and vegetables on Saturday.

Claude Martin’s generous educational bequests have proved to be farsighted, and La Martiniere schools for boys and girls in Kolkata and La Martiniere College in Lucknow are still going strong today, as is La Martiniere College in Lyon.

John O’Brien
Post 1858 India Office Records

Further Reading:

Rules and Regulations of La Martiniere, founded in Calcutta, under the Will of Major General Claude Martin. With An Extract of the Will of the Testator, The Decree of the Supreme Court with regard to the same, And other Documents. (Calcutta, 1835) [British Library reference: 8365.c.2]

Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, A Very Ingenious Man. Claude Martin in early colonial India (Oxford University Press, 1992) [British Library reference: YC.1993.a.3360]


27 August 2013

The Lost City

When we first created this blog, we hoped that it would inspire new research and encourage researchers to tell us about their discoveries in our collections. The Library recently filmed a range of different people who have taken inspiration from the collections, to create a series called Made with the British Library. Here’s one of our favourite stories: the rediscovery of a lost city.

Dr Diana Newall is an Associate Lecturer at the University of Kent. She is an art historian, focusing on 15th century travel and Mediterranean studies. Diana began using the British Library during her PhD, when she was researching the Venetian period on Crete (in the 13th – 17th centuries), and the Cretan school of art created during that time. She became interested in Candia: the former capital of Crete, on the site of modern Heraklion. Candia was destroyed in the early 20th century and there is very little evidence of the old city. Diana used our collections to try to recreate this lost city. Watch the video to find out what she discovered.


We’d love to hear about how the Library has inspired you, or about your discoveries in our collections. Write a comment below, or send us an email highereducation@bl.uk.

Melissa Byrd, Higher Education team  Cc-by

23 August 2013

Bournville – A Confection of Industrial Relations

In the British Library’s stall of social history, the curious Cadbury company provides a chocolate box of interests.  The Cadbury family of Birmingham grew their cocoa products empire throughout the 19th century and this led them to building not only a factory but a whole factory town.  In fact, Bournville was a conspicuously composed community that worked wonderfully. 

By the 1930s, the company’s complex of neighbourhoods hired 9,000 workers but the Quaker ethos of the owners gave the staff, and their families, a wide range of social services that would not have been affordable by local government.  You probably know that Cadbury’s provided housing, classroom education, health care, swimming and other sports, and music.  But they ran summer camps for boys, a seaside holiday camp for families, Continental holidays, and the firm even taught adults Esperanto!

Photo of the school band
From pamphlets about the Bournville Works (BL, 08248.m.9.) Noc

In 1934’s English Journey travelogue, J B Priestley appreciated the paternalist benevolence that the company served up, but he still thought it a politically sour spoonful.  Perhaps the lack of even one public house offended his nature (Bournville’s still pub-less).   But if you want to form your own opinion of Cadbury’s town built of cocoa beans, the British Library offers many morsels of its history. 

The Bournville reading room had “every kind of newspaper and magazine.” While it’s unlikely they stocked the Communist Party’s Daily Worker, the jazz fans’ weekly Melody Maker, or any timely tip-sheet for horse racing aficionados, it was probably a good resource nonetheless.

In 1936 Cadbury’s published a magazine, The Cococub News (P.P.5793.bch) and many pamphlets, including a generously illustrated guide to the factory and the lifestyle of their workers’ community (YD.2013.b.490).  The Library has a collection of similar items, which form a good sampler of their works, 1913-1948 (08248.m.9).  And the Bournville Village Trust today publishes In View (ZK.9.b.29447).

In the wake of interest in the Cadbury legacy are two recent novels from Pan Books : Annie Murray’s The Bells of Bournville Green (LT.2009.x.517) and Chocolate Girls (H.2003/1412).  Modern overviews of the company can be found in Deborah Cadbury’s Chocolate Wars : From Cadbury to Kraft – 200 Years of Sweet Success and Bitter Rivalry (YC.2010.a.15674), Paul Chrystal’s Cadbury and Fry Through Time (YK.2013.a.9579), and John Bradley’s Cadbury’s Purple Reign : The Story Behind Chocolate’s Best-Loved Brand (YC.2008.b.1108).  But for an acrid taste of the supply chain, there’s Catherine Higgs’ Chocolate Islands : Cocoa, Slavery and Colonial Africa (YC.2013.a.4010).

Andy Simons, Printed Historical Sources, 1914-present  Cc-by


20 August 2013

A Hairy Subject – Secrecy, Shame and Victorian Wigs

At the turn of the nineteenth century, wigs were very much a dying fashion. Whilst the Georgian era was a period visually defined by its towering powdered wigs, usually made from human hair (but in cheaper cases, baked wool or the hair from horses, goats and yaks), the 1830s onwards began to give way to altogether less extravagant modes of hairdressing.

After the French Revolution, wigs and false hair became, both for women and men, an unfashionable indicator of deception and very much an outmoded trend. This is not to say that they weren’t still common – women in particular continued to use clip-in postiches (hairpieces) to create more lavish hairstyles for much of the nineteenth century – but the truth of their artificiality was now something to be hidden at all costs. Indeed, a letter sent to Queen Victoria from her aunt Queen Adelaide in 1843 speaks to the frankly laughable status of wigs at that time, declaring it to be a great shame that Victoria’s eldest daughter had been forced to wear a powdered wig and how strange she must have looked, whilst jokingly suggesting that her brother Edward should be made to wear “einer Allonge-Perücke” – a long Periwig – in sympathy.

The vast wigs of the Georgian era had certainly come with their own hazards, with false hair often so heavy that people developed sores on their scalps, as well as being prone to lice-infestation and highly combustible thanks to the animals fats used for styling. Wigs in the nineteenth century, however, came with their own rather more social dangers. For men, in particular, a wig was now considered a preposterous vanity, whilst women who wore wigs were accused of shameful deception in the pursuit of husbands. Wigs of the Victorian era were advertised in a guilty kind of code, often as “gentlemen’s invisible perukes” or “ladies’ imperceptible hair coverings”, and it was common practice for no one but the hairdresser to be aware if one was fitted for a wig.

Woman sitting in a stream with a man in uniform snatching her bonnet and wig, revealing a bald head
From Frances Burney, Evelina (1822) Images Online  Noc

In his book on the history of false hair, John Woodforde tells a particularly bizarre story once related by a retired Victorian wigmaker, in which a girl, whose mother shaved her head and fitted her with a blonde wig to make her more appealing to suitors, never removed the wig for the entirety of her resultant marriage and even had it arranged that should she die before her husband, her hairdresser should come in and dress the wig in her coffin before anyone could see. This kind of extensive deception was all too common and echoes the shame associated at the time with false teeth – the wearers of whom often never removed them, with the result that the dentures were occasionally swallowed whole or cemented to the remaining real teeth by tartar. One of the sad truths behind this level of deception, of course, was that many of the women still wearing full wigs by the mid-nineteenth century were usually wearing them for reasons other than vanity. Indeed, it was pretty generally understood that any woman suffering from baldness was probably a descendant of syphilitics – a condition as advisable enough to conceal as baldness itself.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the tide of opinion was turning, on men’s wigs at least, with various fashion publications, including the Hairdresser’s Weekly Journal, tacitly owning that hairpieces made to cover masculine baldness should perhaps be recognised as a necessity, rather than a vanity. In the case of female baldness, however, the taboo was carried through well into the end of the century, with the need for a wig still a secret to be kept firmly under one’s hat.

Julia Armfield
Former Intern, Printed Historical Resources  

Further Reading:

John Woodforde, The Strange Story of False Hair (London: 1971)

Victoria Sherrow, Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History (Connecticut: 2006)

The Letters of Queen Victoria: A Selection From Her Majesty’s Correspondence ed. Arthur Christopher Benson (London: 2009)


16 August 2013

Fear no more the heat of the sun

When the Royal Commission on the Sanitary State of the Army in India began to gather evidence in 1861, the distinguished scientist and former army surgeon Julius Jeffreys was an important witness. Jeffreys had given much thought to improving the health of the troops. To the commissioners, he expounded his designs for barracks, tents, metallic cloth, thermometers, wells, and headgear.


Two pictures of the solar hat
IOR/L/PARL/2/143 p. 179  Noc

For soldiers in India, the great risk to health was heat. Jeffreys introduced the prototype of his ‘solar hat’. Made of stiffened felt, whalebone, and pleated horsehair cloth, the hat was designed tall to keep the sun’s rays far from the head, and tiered to allow the wearer to move smoothly through high winds. A system of flexible inner bands, cords, and pegs made the hat adjustable. On long marches, Jeffreys advised, the hat might be worn ‘loose’, to be tightened in an instant if an enemy appeared (see left and right illustrations). Ventilation was a special feature. Holes around the top brim allowed currents of air to sweep into the hat, round its inner chambers, and out again through holes in the brim below.

The commissioners received these explanations with interest. One of their number, William Farr, raised doubt only once, when told that the downward pressure on the wearer’s brow was balanced perfectly by the upward pressure to the top of his head. Still, Farr noted, it was a lot of pressure.

The hat seems to have remained in prototype. But a tropical helmet that Jeffreys designed was widely adopted. Neither was Jeffreys’ understanding of air convection ever in doubt.  His serious interest in the subject had already led to the medical invention which made him well known: the respirator.

Antonia Moon
Lead Curator, post-1858 India Office Records

Further reading
Royal Commission on the Sanitary State of the Army in India: Report (London, 1863) (India Office Records reference IOR/L/PARL/2/143)
Julius Jeffreys, The British Army in India: its preservation by an appropriate clothing, housing, locating, recreative employment, and hopeful encouragement of the troops (London, 1858)

13 August 2013

Babes in Arms

In the context of the military history of the East India Company, what would you imagine is meant by the term 'Minor cadets'?  Unmemorable junior officers who failed to distinguish themselves on any field of battle?  Wannabe soldiers who fell foul of an entry regulation concerning minimum height?
The term relates to a practice which flourished very briefly in India in the last quarter of the eighteenth century.  As a privilege and reward for loyal service, in August 1777 the Company decided to authorize the appointment of the sons of officers and surgeons to cadetships in its armies.  The Directors in London did not foresee quite how this would be interpreted, with a number of fathers having their male offspring marked down as cadets before they could even walk or talk.  Lt.Col. Thomas Higgins of the Bengal Army, for example, had his son Edward granted a cadetship on 1 September 1783 when the boy was sixteen days old; Major Thomas Whinyates followed his example on 23 November that year with his son George, who had been born on 31 August, following in the footsteps of Major William Sands, whose eldest son William was appointed on 18 April 1782 aged four months and twelve days. Surgeon John Stormonth and Lt. Col. William Tolly had their sons appointed several days before their baptisms, in 1782 and 1780 respectively.  Mr. Showers saw his sons Nathaniel and Samuel given cadetships on the same day, 20 March 1780, before either boy had reached the age of six.

Baby in cradle hanging from a tree branchBaby in a cradle hanging from a branch  11646.h.32 Images Online  Noc

The names and brief personal details of no fewer than 116 such minor cadets are given in  V.C.P. Hodson's List of the officers of Bengal Army.  In many cases Hodson tells us what happened to the cadets when they reached adulthood.  Robert Achmuty, Henry Gahagan and Warren Jackson perhaps disappointed their fathers by choosing careers in the law, whereas Henry's elder brother Frederick became a writer in the Madras Civil Service. Charles Hampton opted for the less martial attraction of running an indigo works in Berhampore.  Others did embark on military careers - Thomas Gibson, Robert Kelly and John Maclean all entered the Madras Army, and Emilius Smith served in the British Army's 36th Regiment of Foot, dying of wounds in October 1801.

List of necessaries for a cadet
 First necessary - a cot!    Necessaries for a Cadet  X 1186(n) Noc

Possibly prompted by the establishment of the Board of Control in 1784 to rein in corruption in India,  the Company decided to reverse this aspect of its recruitment policy. Minutes dated 2 May 1786 stated:
We have hitherto as an indulgment to our Military Officers tolerated the appointment of their Infant Sons as Minor Cadets; but as We have great reason to believe this indulgence has been much abused and we are thereby put to great expense, We have come to the determination to put a stop thereto, and ... expressly forbid any such appointment in future ...
The pill was sweetened somewhat by the next sentence:
Whenever you wish to interest yourselves for the Sons of deserving Officers your recommendation of them to the Court of Directors will be properly attended to.
The closing of this loophole and the creation of the Board of Control did not end the favouritism embedded in the system as members of the Board as well as the Company Directors were permitted to nominate cadets until 1858, although the minimum age went up from fifteen to sixteen at the end of 1808.
Hedley Sutton
Asian & African Studies Reference Team Leader  Cc-by

 Further reading

Appendix C of part IV of V.C.P. Hodson's List of the officers of Bengal Army (1947), Asian & African Studies Reading Room OIR355.332

More on Hodson's List: Bengal Army officers - names, nationalities, fatalities and a phantom


09 August 2013

Settling Scores: Property Confiscation after the Indian Mutiny

The great popular uprising against British rule in India in 1857/58 commonly known as the Indian Mutiny, almost succeeded in sweeping Britain from its most prized Asian possession. The voluminous papers contained in the India Office Records relating to the Mutiny, record the turmoil the uprising brought about in the British Indian administration. The papers also record the aftermath, when scores were being settled and those Indians who remained loyal to the British were rewarded, often with property confiscated from those who had rebelled.

The storming of Delhi'Storming of Delhi' from The Campaign in India 1857 - 1858 (London, 1859)  Images OnlineNoc

Among the Public Department papers relating to the Mutiny are lists of confiscated property which had belonged to those accused of being rebels. The lists generally give the names and residence of the rebels, particulars of charge and sentence, details of the property confiscated, and recommendations about how it should be disposed of.

Here are a few examples from a list of 210 cases of confiscated property in the District of Meerut, North Western Provinces:

Dhan Singh, a Jemadar with the Cantonment Police, aided the men of his village of Panchlee in plundering the Government station, for which he was executed and his property confiscated.

Rao Kishen Singh was a Kotwal (police officer) of Meerut. When the outbreak occurred he fled from his village of Rewaree and went to Delhi, where it was believed he had been killed. His property consisting only of some pots and pans and clothes was confiscated.

Abdul Lateef Khan was charged with rebellion and harbouring rebels and mutineers, and carrying on a treacherous correspondence with the ex-King of Delhi. He was sentenced by a Military Commission to transportation for life and confiscation of all his property. It was recommended that his house in Meerut city, valued at 1,000 rupees be given to Jhan Tirhan Khan and Sirdar Bahadur as a reward for their faithful services during the siege of Delhi.

The list does not just detail cases of individuals, but whole villages were held accountable. The inhabitants of the village of Jumalpoor were charged with the plunder of Government property from the Canal and closing the road to the village of Bhagput. It was attacked and burnt by British troops, with several proprietors being hung and the whole village confiscated.

The men of the village of Bhopoorah drove out the Government Sowars who had been sent to collect revenue. They then collected by beat of drum the surrounding villages. Bhopoorah was burnt by British troops, and the rights to the land given to a local Zemindar as a reward for his readiness in furnishing supplies to British troops.

The men of the village of Koondhera were charged with the murder of Lieutenant Willoughby and 4 other British officers who were refugees from Delhi. George Willoughby of the Bengal Artillery was one of the men responsible for blowing up the powder magazine at Delhi to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. Five men from the village were hung and the whole village confiscated.

John O’Brien
Post 1858 India Office Records    Cc-by

Further Reading:

Coll 121, Lists of confiscated estates in the Meerut District before the amnesty, with related correspondence, May 1858 to January 1859 [IOR/L/PJ/3/1081 No.113/2]

Christopher Hibbert, The Great Mutiny (London, 1978)


06 August 2013

Cooking with worm-eaten mushrooms

In a previous post we dipped into a scrapbook belonging to Sir Charles Marsh (1735-1805) to show a programme from the Reading Music Festival of 1787.  Here we are featuring a booklet found in the scrapbook - ‘Receipts on sundry occasions which belonged to Miss Addams’.  There are recipes for potted hare, pickled pigeon, stewed carp, seed cake, gingerbread, currant wine, curry, pilau, 'green peas soop', and lip salve.

Here is Miss Addams’s recipe for ketchup which bears little resemblance to today's tomato variety:

‘Take a Quantity of Large Mushrooms   Peel 'em & cut out all the worm eaten then Break them to Peices with your hands very well in a large Pan & strow a good quantity of Salt all over them & let ‘em stand a night & a day, then put it all into a saucepan, & let it stew gentley about a quarter of an hour then put in 5 or 6 Anchovies   when they are desolved take it of & strain it through a sieve & squeese as much out as you can with the back of a spoon   then put the Liquor into a Sauce-pan with a good quantity of what spice of all sorts you like best & some Rockem bowl & give it a boyl up together & when cold Bottle it & Cork it with Spice & Rockem Bowl in & tye a piece of Bladder over it.  you must be Perticularly careful that Pots sauce-pans & bottles be very dry’.

Ketchup originated from a Chinese sauce named ‘koe-chiap’ or ‘ketsiap’ made from pickled fish. Before tomato ‘catsup’, ‘catchup’ or ketchup became popular there were many different varieties: for example mushroom as favoured by Miss Addams, cucumber or cranberry.

Advertisement for tomato catsup Advertising leaflet 1881  Online Gallery  Noc

If this has inspired you to experiment with some more old recipes, here is one for mango chutney taken from Isabella Mary Beeton’s The book of household management.

Mango chutney recipe
Images Online     Noc

Bon appétit!

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records   Cc-by


Further reading:
IOPP/MSS Eur C426 Sir Charles Marsh's papers
Isabella Mary Beeton, The book of household management (London, 1892)
Reading Music Festival 1787