Untold lives blog

22 posts categorized "Africa"

25 July 2022

Hadge Biram: A Restoration Renegade

In the early modern period, the Ottoman Empire was a Mediterranean powerhouse, and a source of both fear and envy throughout Europe.  Daring Maghrebi corsairs filled printed books, plays, and romanticised ballads.  Many Britons, attracted by promises of opportunity and freedom, made the Maghreb their permanent home, converted to Islam and adopted local customs.  Several achieved great notoriety in Britain, blackened by insinuations of backsliding treason as ‘renegades’, but valued for information, assistance, and entertainment.  There was Yusuf Rais/John Ward (c.1553-1622), English privateer turned Tunisian corsair, who starred in Robert Daborne’s A Christian turn’d Turk (1612) and a slew of swashbuckling ballads and pamphlets.  A poor British woman captive, renamed Lella Balqees, married Moroccan Sultan Mawlay Isma’il (r. 1672-1727), and held influence over their Anglo-Moroccan diplomacy for decades.  In 1704, double convert Joseph Pitts (c.1663-c.1735-39) wrote the first description in English of Mecca and Medina from the inside.

A Restoration English map of North Africa  showing Tunis  Tripoli  and CairoA Restoration English map of North Africa, showing Tunis, Tripoli, and Cairo. Richard Blome, A generall mapp of the coast of Barbarie (London: for Richard Blome, 1669). British Library C.39.d.2. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

But these famous examples obscure many British converts who lived more marginal and stable lives, like merchant Hadge Biram (Hajj Bayramı).  We know about him from only a few letters exchanged with English merchants in Tunis and Tripoli, but these letters powerfully illustrate the everyday tensions converts experienced.  Named for the festival surrounding the hajj pilgrimage, Hajj Bayramı lived in Cairo as a Muslim from at least 1679.  Thomas Baker, British consul in Tripoli, called him ‘our Countryman at Cairo’, and trusted him to pass on letters to British merchants in Istanbul, mediate trade in velvet, wire, and scarlet cloth, and procure ‘two fine Damaskeen Barrells’ for Baker’s musket.

In 1692, Bayramı wrote to Thomas Goodwyn, British consul in Tunis, to recommend 21-year-old Edward Allen, ‘a god sevel Lad & bred a marchant &…Capable for al marchandes’ in Cairo on his uncle’s recommendation.  Disappointed to find ‘no English Christians to pas his time with hm’, Allen was ‘mad to meet wth English men’ and hoped to come to Tunis instead. Biram apologised for not replying to several letters Goodwyn sent him three years earlier, swearing it was ‘not ungratefulnes nor unnaturall forgetfulnes of my Cuntrymen’ but lack of reliable ships to carry them, and invited Goodwyn to do business with him.

A second letter centred on the ordinary merchant courtesy of passing on news.  Bayramı transmitted a French take on an Anglo-French naval battle, mentioning his friendly correspondence with Goodwyn’s close associates Horsey and Nelthorpe in Livorno, and asked whether the deposed James II had invaded England as planned, and whether the long-running Algerian-Moroccan war continued.  Finally, six years later, Goodwyn’s colleague James Chetwood recommended sending a cargo of lead to ‘old Honest Hagi Biram’, who would sell it for them ‘wthout any more adoe’.

For the English in Ottoman Tunis and Tripoli, Bayramı was a contradiction.  A countryman, apparently trustworthy, courteous, and interested in English news; yet Allen found his religion excluding, and Goodwyn apparently never accepted Bayramı’s commercial cooperation.  He was both an insider and an outsider: neither fully English, nor fully Ottoman, a renegade, yet not fully lost or disconnected.

Nat Cutter
University of Melbourne

Further Reading:
For letters about Hadge Biram, see The National Archives, Kew, FO 335/1/32, FO 335/2/3, FO 335/3/2, FO 335/9/8, FO 335/9/10, FO 335/13/1.

Barker, Andrew. A true and certaine report of the beginning, proceedings, ouerthrowes, and now present estate of Captaine Ward and Danseker, the two late famous pirates. London: William Hall, 1609. Available on Early English Books Online (EEBO) through the British Library.
Cutter, Nat. ‘Grateful fresh advices and random dark relations: Maghrebi news and experiences in English expatriate letters, 1660-1710’. Cultural and Social History (2022). Available online through the British Library.
Cutter, Nat. ‘“Grieved in my soul that I suffered you to depart from me”: Community and Isolation in the English Houses at Tunis and Tripoli, 1679-1686’. In Keeping Family in an Age of Long Distance Trade, Imperial Expansion and Exile 1550-1850, edited by Heather Dalton, 169-89. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020.
Daborne, Robert. A Christian turn’d Turke: or, The tragicall liues and deaths of the two famous pirates, Ward and Dansiker. London: Nicholas Okes for William Barrenger, 1612. Available on Early English Books Online (EEBO) through the British Library.
Dervla Laaraichi, Saoirse. ‘The Adventures of Helen Gloag in Morocco’, Untold Lives blog 30 May 2022.
Matar, Nabil. Britain and Barbary, 1589-1689. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2005. British Library Document Supply m06/.10725.
Nixon, Anthony. Nevves from sea, of tvvo notorious pyrats War the Englishman, and Danseker the Dutchman. London: Edward Allde for N. Butter, 1609. British Library General Reference Collection G.7343
Pitts, Joseph. A true and faithful account of the religion and manners of the Mohammetans. Exeter: Phillip Bishop and Edward Score, 1704. British Library General Reference Collection 1048.b.19.
Pennell, C.R. ed. Piracy and diplomacy in seventeenth-century North Africa: the journal of Thomas Baker, English Consul in Tripoli, 1677-1685. Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1989. British Library General Reference Collection YC.1992.b.5589.
The seamans song of Captain Ward the famous pyrate of the world. 1609. Available on Early English Books Online (EEBO) through the British Library.


This blog post is the last of a collaborative series with Medieval and Early Modern Orients (MEMOs).  On the last Monday of every month, both Untold Lives and MEMOs' own blog have featured a post written by a member of the MEMOs team, showcasing their research in the British Library collections.  Follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #BLMEMOS. 

 

19 July 2022

Life in Khartoum between Hicks and Gordon

A small collection of letters reveals the military career of a little-known British officer in Sudan in the late 19th century and his swift rise following a disastrous expedition.

The British Government was drawn into a war in Sudan by the bankruptcy of the Egyptian government in 1878.  The remaining shares of the new Suez Canal were bought up by the British to stabilise Egyptian debt. The British majority control of the canal gave them power over Egypt, effectively transforming it into a client state.

This intervention coincided with the rise of the self-proclaimed Mahdi, Muhammad Ahmed ‘ibn Abdullah, in Sudan, who declared war with Egypt in 1881.  With British support, the Egyptian ruler, Khedive Tewfik, launched an offensive to take back Sudan in 1883, appointing Colonel William Hicks as commander.

Head and shoulders portrait of William HicksColonel William Hicks from Charles George Gordon, Gordon and the Mahdi, an illustrated narrative of the war in the Soudan, etc (1885) Digital Store 9061.f.9 BL flickr

Henry de Coëtlogon, a retired Major from the Indian Army, received an appointment in Hicks’ staff and the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  His time in Sudan is recorded in a series of intimate letters to his wife which are now available to view at the British Library (Add MS 89463).

Head and shoulders portrait of Henry de CoëtlogonColonel Henry de Coëtlogon from Charles George Gordon, Gordon and the Mahdi, an illustrated narrative of the war in the Soudan, etc (1885) Digital Store 9061.f.9 BL flickr

The letters detail how the Army travelled by boat and camel down through Egypt into Sudan to establish their base in the city of Khartoum.  From there de Coëtlogon joined an expedition to confront the rebels in spring 1883, including a skirmish near Aba Island on 29 April 1883, before the force returned to Khartoum to wait out the monsoon season. 

For his involvement in the preparations for the return to hostilities, de Coëtlogon was promoted by Hicks to the full rank of Colonel.  However, the General chose to leave de Coëtlogon in Khartoum to maintain their base and patrol the Nile, while the main force marched on the Mahdi in September 1883.

After over a month in the desert, Hicks’ force was led into a waterless wasteland and ambushed on 5 November 1883.  Nearly the whole force was killed, leaving de Coëtlogon as the only British Officer remaining of the original Army.

Hearing the news, de Coëtlogon stopped patrolling the river and instead began reinforcing Khartoum’s walls and recalling garrisons from the surrounding forts.  He continued strengthening his position and drilling his troops for several months, all the while fearing an imminent attack, until the British government voted to send General Charles Gordon to relieve him.

Head and shoulders portrait of General Charles GordonGeneral Charles Gordon from James Smith, A Pilgrimage to Egypt: an account of a visit to Lower Egypt (1897) Digital Store 010095.ee.2 BL flickr

Following Gordon’s arrival in Khartoum in February 1884, de Coëtlogon was swiftly dismissed.  The collection even includes a letter from Gordon to de Coëtlogon, dated 20 February 1884, which praises his work and promises, with characteristic confidence and some hubris, 'you may rest assured that you leave a place which is as safe as Kensington Park'.

By mid-March the city was surrounded by the Mahdi’s forces, and a siege began which would last 317 days.  Eventually, on 26 January 1885, the walls were breached and Gordon killed.  Meanwhile, Henry de Coëtlogon had returned to Egypt and received an appointment in the police force.

Matthew Waters
Manuscripts Cataloguer

Further reading:

Papers of Henry de Coëtlogon
Gordon,Charles George (1833–1885), army officer | Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

 

30 May 2022

The Adventures of Helen Gloag in Morocco

Helen Gloag’s story is a remarkable tale of adventure and changes in fortune, which saw her cross the world to embrace a wholly new life in royalty.

Born on 29 January 1750, in Perthshire, Scotland, Helen was the daughter of a blacksmith.  Growing up motherless, she bristled under her authoritarian father and small-town life.  At the age of 19 she decided, like many other Scots in this period to start a new life, setting sail with a group of friends for the New World.

However, she never reached her destination.  Instead, her ship was captured by Barbary pirates and redirected to Morocco, where Helen was sold into slavery.  We know few specifics of what happened next, other than that she was taken to Algiers and bought by a wealthy Moroccan merchant to be gifted to the then Sultan Sidi Muhammad ibn Abdullah (c.1710-1790).

What was it about Helen that allowed her to gain such favour and rise above others in the Sultan’s harem?

Historians of the period have argued her flame-red hair and pale skin had much to do with it.  But it must have been more than merely her appearance that enabled Helen to gain such favour and become the Sultan’s principal wife as these features are not just associated with Scottish peoples and the ports of Morocco had been for long over a century a meeting place of all nationalities and peoples.  Whatever it was in her personality that drew her to the attention of the Sultan was powerful in its influence and is credited as a reason for the change in the temperament of the Sultan in his attitude towards slaves and his adoption of a more moderate approach to the use of raids on European merchant ships and enslaving those onboard.

Stage of Dorset Garden Theatre set for ''The Empress of Morocco (1673)Stage of Dorset Garden Theatre set for ''The Empress of Morocco (1673), image courtesy of Yale University Library Digital Collections

Through letters Helen sent back to her brother that seem to have been circulated, and visits to the Moroccan court by English delegates, British society learnt of Helen’s story and her influence on the Sultan to be more tolerant of Europeans, Jews, and others.  Over the previous centuries, Britain had had increasing contact through piracy, trade, and embassies with Morocco in particular and through consistent dramatisations of their history, such as Elkanah Settle’s Empress of Morocco (1698) all the way back to the sixteenth century in The Battle of Alcazar (1594).

Life took a drastic turn for Helen once again following the death of the Sultan in 1790.  Although she was the principal wife, the son of another member of the harem seized power.  This put Helen and her two sons in grievous danger as the new Sultan sought to kill off any threats to his consolidation of power.  Her sons were killed before she managed to meet with a British convoy to bring her back to Britain, and it is suspected that she too was killed in the succession upheaval.

Helen’s story and life journey are one left in mystery but should be remembered for how it displays the global contact Europe had with the rest of the world, particularly Africa.

Saoirse Dervla Laaraichi
Doctoral Student at The Shakespeare Institute

Further reading:
Read the whole play The Empress of Morocco for free on Google Books.

Learn more about the world into which Helen stepped through the MEMOs (Medieval and Early Modern Orients) blog series.

See a depiction of a Barbary pirate; the likes of which captured Helen.

This blog post is part of a collaborative series with Medieval and Early Modern Orients (MEMOs). On the last Monday of every month, both Untold Lives and MEMOs' own blog will feature a post written by a member of the MEMOs team, showcasing their research in the British Library collections. Follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #BLMEMOS.

 

27 January 2022

The 1914 United Missionary Exhibition 'Other Lands in Leicester': a global and colonial aspiration

In April 1914 the newly built De Montfort Hall in Leicester hosted a United Missionary Exhibition.  ‘Other Lands in Leicester’ was described as ‘A picturesque and vivid representation of work in many lands’.  The exhibition was deliberately fixed during Easter week, between 6 and 16 April, as this is the most important celebration for the Christian religion, and this period must have been thought of as ideal for attracting visitors from all over the country and engaging more volunteers.  The aim was to educate and inspire the public about missionary work abroad.

Advert for ‘Other Lands in Leicester’ at the De Montfort Hall in April 1914Leicester Daily Post, Thursday 19 March 1914, The British Newspaper Archive.

Missionary exhibitions aimed to bring different fields of activity together in one city.   Visitors could tour the colonised world without travelling, through the convenience of a settled exhibition organized by comfortable explanatory pavilions.  In the ethnographic and anthropological museums emerging at the beginning of the 20th century, it was common practice to collect and reframe objects based on colonial contemporary categories.  Material culture circulated in international exhibitions, which emerged around the 1840s and lasted until the 1960s, albeit with substantial changes due to mutations in ideology, politics, and taste after the Second World War.  Both museums and these events played a crucial role in shaping knowledge around the relationship between Britain and Empire through the use of material culture, and therefore the history of collections and taste is closely linked with the objects arrived in Europe through colonial missions abroad.

The concept of a standalone exhibition of missionary objects began with the first independent missionary exhibition organised by the London Missionary Society in 1908 with the name ‘The Orient in London’.  This – and ‘Africa and the East’ the following year, still in London - set the pattern for other exhibitions in Europe and the United States.  These were events to display and sell objects produced before and after the arrival of missionaries.

But what was the idea behind such huge object-based lessons?

While the broader public participated in missionary exhibitions for elements of spectacle, amusement, and exoticism, the Church wanted to show the success of missionary work in converting local population to Christianity, and therefore justify the cost of the Empire and raise funds for further missions.

In ‘Other Lands in Leicester’, three different ecclesiastical institutions – the Baptist Missionary Society, the London Missionary Society, and the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society - gathered together to show their union and will in achieving the goal of the evangelization of the Empire.  This ‘union’, which saw no major divisions between different branches of the Christian Church, might be considered as the will to foster an imperial civilising mission toward ‘the heathens’.   An article inThe Leicester Mail  clarifies that the exhibition’s scope was ‘Not merely the show, but the coming into contact with the nations that would be represented’.

Plan of the Hall at the United Missionary Exhibition in Leicester 1914Plan of the Hall at the United Missionary Exhibition. It is possible to see evocative sections dedicated to the display of a Chinese Tea Garden, a Congo Village, or a Malagasy Market. The Exhibition Herald, 3, February 1914,  The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland, box 4D56/91.

But who decided the narrative in the representation of those nations?  How could missionary exhibitions be neutral if they were imperial institutions that conveyed a religious, artistic and political message?

Around 1200 stewards were hired at Leicester with the purpose of explaining the exhibits to the public.  This suggests that objects were used as a means to educate visitors in Leicester about their global place, and to illustrate the national progress and religious success of Christianity through missions.

Maria Chiara Scuderi
AHRC PhD researcher – University of Leicester

Further reading:
Leicester Daily Post, Thursday 19 March 1914, The British Newspaper Archive.
The Leicester Mail, Thursday 4 March 1913, The British Newspaper Archive.
The Exhibition Herald, 1, October 1913, The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland, box 4D56/91.
The Exhibition Herald, 3, February 1914, The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland, box 4D56/91.
Corbey, R., Weener, F., K., 2015, ‘Collecting while converting: missionaries and ethnographics’, Journal of Art Historiography, 12, pp. 1-14.
Filipová, M., 2016, Cultures of International Exhibitions 1840-1940. Great Exhibitions in the Margins, London: Routledge.
Groten, M., 2018. ‘Difference Between the Self and the Heathen. European Imperial Culture in Dutch Missionary Exhibitions, 1909–1957’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 47,3, pp. 490-513.
Hasinoff, E. L., 2011, Faith in Objects. American Missionary Exposition in the Early 20th century, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Jacobs, K., Knowles, C., Wingfield, C., 2015, Trophies, Relics and Curious? Missionary Heritage from Africa and the Pacific, London: Sidestone.
Longair, S., McAleer, J., 2012, Curating Empire, Museums and the British imperial experience, Manchester: Manchester United Press.
McAleer, J., Mackenzie, J., M., 2015, Exhibiting Empire. Cultures of display and the British Empire, Manchester: Manchester University Press.

 

25 November 2021

‘So Long’ from King Naimbanna II - Manuscripts from an 18th Century African King

Within the Clarkson Papers there are a number of volumes relating to the settlement of Freetown, Sierra Leone, from 1791 onwards.  These were explored in a series of Untold Lives blogs called The Lives and Letters of the Black Loyalists.   We return to these papers to explore a number of fascinating folios of correspondence between John Clarkson and King Naimbanna II.

King, or Obai, Naimbanna II (1720-1793) was a leader of the Koya Temne Kingdom on coast of Sierra Leone.  Agents of the Sierra Leone Company negotiated with Naimbanna in 1788 and persuaded him to sign over some of his land for the Company’s settlement.  Naimbanna later stipulated that the deal had been negotiated too hastily and should not have been given consent.  A digitised version of this treaty is available to view via the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme.

When John Clarkson arrived in Freetown at the end of 1791 he made a conscious effort to engage with Naimbanna as the local leader.  Documents from his papers show that collaboration was deemed essential in order for the new settlement to succeed.


Instructions from abolitionist Thomas Clarkson to his brother John  the Governor of Freetown  to ‘ingratiate yourself with Naimbanna and his secretary Elliot’Instructions from abolitionist Thomas Clarkson to his brother John, the Governor of Freetown, to ‘ingratiate yourself with Naimbanna and his secretary Elliot’. Add MS 41262A, f.65. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

A note from John Clarkson to King Naimbanna inviting him to dine with him and explaining he has a letter for him from his son  12 May 1792A note from John Clarkson to King Naimbanna inviting him to dine with him and explaining he has a letter for him from his son, 12 May 1792. Add MS 41262A, f.105. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

A working relationship was established, as the documents below illustrate.  Naimbanna gave these folios to John Clarkson when the governor was due to depart Sierra Leone for England at the end of 1792.

First of two folios from King Naimbanna to John Clarkson  described as ‘His gift to Mr Clarkson on taking leave’ 23 December 1792
Second of two folios from King Naimbanna to John Clarkson  described as ‘His gift to Mr Clarkson on taking leave’  23 December 1792Two folios from King Naimbanna to John Clarkson, described as ‘His gift to Mr Clarkson on taking leave’. 23 December 1792. Add MS 41262A, ff 211-214. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

These fascinating folios stand out among Clarkson’s papers.  They are described as prayers or good luck charms.  Written in Arabic, they consist of scraps of sentences from the Koran that the author hopes will protect the bearer on his journey.  Other notes present with these papers describe the folios as badly written, but despite this criticism from Clarkson’s contemporaries, these letters are important historical documents in their own right.  They illustrate Naimbanna’s cautious engagement with the new settlement and his relationship with its governor Clarkson.

Naimbanna engaged diplomatically with the new settlement believing it could offer certain benefits.  He backed the original abolitionist mission of its founders, aimed to benefit from a proliferation of trade and sought out specialist education for himself and his sons.  Naimbanna sent his children abroad to experience different educations in different parts of the world.  His son Prince John Frederic would travel to England in 1791 to receive an education under the sponsorship of abolitionist and activist, Granville Sharp.

Announcement of the death of Prince Naimbanna  Bury and Norwich Post  1 January 1794Announcement of the death of Prince Naimbanna, Bury and Norwich Post, 1 January 1794. British Newspaper Archive.

With this openness and pragmatism of approach, Naimbanna hoped to both take advantage of the opportunities the new colony could open for the Kingdom, whilst retaining power as the rightful leader of the region.  However, cordial relations would not last.  Naimbanna died in 1793 as did his son, Prince John Frederic, whilst in transit back from England.  Successive Temne dynasties fought with neighbouring communities in an effort to consolidate their lands, but ultimately these lands were taken by the British in the latter half of the 19th century.  The British made Sierra Leone a British protectorate in 1896 and despite the Temne revolts in 1898 they would govern until Sierra Leone gained independence in 1961.

Jessica Gregory
Curatorial Support Officer, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further Reading:
Lives and Letters of the Black Loyalists, Parts 1-4.
Ijagbemi, E. A. 'THE FREETOWN COLONY AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF ‘LEGITIMATE’ COMMERCE IN THE ADJOINING TERRITORIES', Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, vol. 5, no. 2, Historical Society of Nigeria, 1970, pp. 243–56.
Kup, A. P. 'John Clarkson and the Sierra Leone Company', The International Journal of African Historical Studies, vol. 5, no. 2, Boston University African Studies Center, 1972, pp. 203–20.
.

08 June 2021

A Scandalous Annotation Part II: George Francis Grand

In a previous post we explored the story of Catherine Grand, whose marriage to George Francis Grand at Chandernagore on 10 July 1777 is recorded in the Bengal Parish Registers.  We know from the annotated entry that Catherine married the famous French politician Talleyrand, but can we find out more about her first husband?


Title page of Narrative of the life of a gentleman long resident in IndiaTitle page of Narrative of the life of a gentleman long resident in India Google Books

We can piece together much of Grand’s life, not least because he wrote Narrative of the life of a gentleman long resident in India.  George Francis (sometimes François) Grand was born sometime after 1750, son of Jean Jacques (John James) Grand, a merchant from Lausanne, Switzerland, and his wife Françoise (Frances) Elizabeth Le Clerc de Virly.  He was educated in Lausanne and apprenticed in London, before entering a military cadetship to Bengal in 1766.  He achieved the rank of Captain, but resigned his military service in March 1773 owing to ill-health and returned to England.  In 1775, through the auspices of family members, Grand was nominated for a writership with the East India Company and sailed again for India, arriving in Bengal via Madras in June 1776.

Grand met and courted the teenage Nöel Catherine Werlée (sometimes Verlée or Varle) at Ghireti House, the home of Monsieur Chevalier, Governor of the French Settlement at Chandernagore.  According to George’s account the couple were blissfully happy after their marriage.  By the end of 1778 however, Catherine’s liaison with the politician Philip Francis had been revealed (amid secret night-time assignations, ladders over walls, and scuffles with servants), and the couple were mired in scandal.  Despite her protestations, George effectively banished his wife and successfully sued Francis in court for ‘criminal conversation’ or adultery.  He was never to see his wife again.

Despite the scandal revealed by the Court case, Grand was appointed as Collector of Tirhut and Hajipur in 1782, probably as a result of his acquaintance with Warren Hastings.  Whilst in Bihar, Grand promoted and invested heavily in indigo manufacture. In 1788 he was appointed Judge and Magistrate in Patna.  However, he was warned by the East India Company that he had to give up his indigo concerns.  His failure to do so led to his eventual removal from the Company’s service, much to Grand’s chagrin.  His appeals to the Company unsucessful, he left India for good in 1799.

Having returned to Europe, Grand certainly visited Paris.  However, he states categorically that he did not see his divorced wife Catherine.  There appears to have been contact though: in 1802, Grand was appointed to a position with the Dutch Government at the Cape of Good Hope.  His position appears to have been procured at the behest of Catherine, and with the influence of Talleyrand.  It certainly removed George Francis far away.  After experiencing some initial hostility at the Cape, Grand had to content himself with a vague position consulting on matters relating to India trade.  By 1806, under the British Government, he was appointed Inspector of Woods and Lands. 

View of the Cape of Good Hope from the sea with sailing ships in the foregroundR . Reeve, View of the Cape of Good Hope, 1807. British Library Maps K.Top.117.116.f Images Online 

Grand married for the second time in 1804 to Egberta Sophia Petronella Bergh (1781-1839) of Oudsthoorn.  He died in Cape Town in January 1820.   In his book he writes: ‘You know the sequel – happy in my second choice of a partner,  I upbraided not the worldly opportunity lost.  May you be blessed in the like manner, should it ever be your lot to deplore as I did the cruel separation which forced me from the first’.

Lesley Shapland,
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further reading:
George Francis Grand, Narrative of the life of a gentleman long resident in India (Cape of Good Hope, 1814). Available via Google Books 
H.E. Busteed, Echoes from Old Calcutta (Calcutta: Thomas Spink & Co., 1888). Chapter VIII: Madame Grand. Available online via Google Books 
C. E. Buckland, Dictionary of Indian Biography (London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co, 1906).
IOR/N/1/2 Bengal Baptisms, Marriages, Burials (1755-1783), f. 275.
IOR/H/207 Bengal Revenue Papers, pp. 299-319: Papers relative to the appointment of George Francis Grand to the management of Tirhoot.
IOR/H/80 Case papers, memorials, and petitions, (13) pp. 283-7: Memorandum relative to George Francis Grand, Judge of Patna, 18 Sep 1800.
Various references to Grand can be found in the papers of Sir Philip Francis (Mss Eur C8; D18-25; E12-47; F5-17; G4-8).
Letters from Grand to Warren Hastings can be found in Add MS 28973-29236 Official and Private papers of Warren Hastings.

 

08 March 2021

Mūzah bint Aḥmad Āl Bū Sa‘īd - The Protector of Muscat

In early 19th century Oman, one of the Imam of Muscat’s trusted advisors was a woman – his paternal aunt, Mūzah bint Aḥmad Āl Bū Sa‘īd.

9 April 1832: Muscat was in disarray.  Reuben Aslan, the East India Company’s agent in the city, wrote to his superior, Samuel Hennell, Resident in the Persian Gulf, that citizens on the city’s outskirts had retreated inside its walls for protection, the markets had closed and the people were ‘in the greatest terror’ (IOR/F/4/1435/56726, f. 242v).  The Imam of Muscat, Sayyid Sa‘īd bin Sulṭān Āl Bū Sa‘īd, was in East Africa furthering his colonial projects in Zanzibar.  He had left three relatives in charge.  One of them – Sa‘ūd bin ‘Alī bin Sa‘īd, Shaikh of Barka – had imprisoned the other two in his fort at Barka.  Together with the Shaikh of Al Suwayq, Shaikh Sa‘ūd then launched an attempted takeover of the Imam’s territories along the Al Bāţinah coast, situated to the west of Muscat.

The town of Muscat photographed in the late 19th centuryThe town of Muscat photographed in the late 19th century. Photo 355/1(44) [Public Domain] 

Amongst this chaos, the Imam’s respected and influential aunt, Mūzah, took charge as interim leader.  On receiving the news of her great nephews’ imprisonment, Mūzah took action, requesting British support and writing an urgent letter to the Imam.  She began recruiting troops and reinforcing Muscat’s defences by distributing gunpowder and shot to the city’s fortresses.  She dispatched three envoys to Barka to find out more information on Shaikh Sa‘ūd’s plans and sent reinforcements to Muḥammad bin Sālim Āl Bū Sa‘īd’s fort at Masnaah, against which Shaikh Sa‘ūd and the Shaikh of Al Suwayq had launched a siege.

Letter written by Muzā to the Governor of BombayHeading to the letter written by Muzā to the Governor of Bombay [Mumbai] requesting support, 8 April 1832. IOR/F/4/1435/56726, f. 235v [Crown copyright]

Within a few weeks, Mūzah’s actions bore fruit.  The EIC’s agent in Muscat provided updates in further letters on 24 and 27 April, writing that Shaikh Sa‘ūd’s siege at Masnaah had proved unsuccessful and that, thanks to ‘…the courage of the Imaum’s [sic] aunt, Muscat is in perfect peace’ (IOR/F/4/1435/56727, f 545v).

Whilst the eventful spring of 1832 is recorded in the IOR/F/4 papers, further research shows that this was not Mūzah’s first time defending her family’s territory and control.  Mūzah first became well known thanks to her role in helping to secure power for Sayyid Sa‘īd and his brother Salim in 1806 (Ibn Ruzayq, Arab.D.490, pp. 266-283).  Emilie Ruete, Sayyid Sa‘īd’s daughter, went further and referred to Mūzah as his regent for the first few years of his reign (Ruete, pp. 159-162).  In fact, Ruete claimed that Sayyid Sa‘īd was able to develop his colonies in East Africa because of the peaceful realm in Oman which Mūzah handed over to him (Ruete, p. 162).  The revenue from East Africa, including the Indian Ocean Slave Trade, formed a significant part of Sayyid Sa‘īd’s wealth and power.

Primary sources which mention Mūzah are sparse and, to date, little else has been written about her in English or Arabic.  Projects, like the BLQFP, which provide the time and resources for cataloguing to an intermediate level, help influential women who operated in patriarchal societies, such as Mūzah, to be brought to light.

Curstaidh Reid
Gulf History Cataloguer, British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
London, British Library, 'Affairs of the Persian Gulf. Vol: 3'. IOR/F/4/1399/55442
London, British Library, ‘Affairs of the Persian Gulf. Vol:I’. IOR/F/4/1435/56726
Emilie Ruete, Memoirs of an Arabian princess, an autobiography (New York: D. Appleton and company, 1888) 
The Runaway Princess
Hamid ibn Muhammad ibn Ruzayq, History of the imams and seyyids of ‘Oman by Salil-ibn-Razik, from A.D. 661-1856; translated from the original Arabic, and edited with notes, appendices, and an introduction, continuing the history down to 1870, trans. by George Percy Badger F.R.G.S. (London: Printed for the Hakluyt Society, 1871) Arab.D.490

 

21 January 2021

Isabella Keiskamma Frend - a challenging life

Isabella Keiskamma Frend was born 5 July 1829 at Fort Wiltshire, Cape of Good Hope (South Africa).  She was the daughter of Captain Albert Frend, HM 55th Regiment and his wife Ellen, née Last.  Her unusual middle name was taken from the Keiskamma River on which the Fort stood.

 View of the Cape of Good Hope; a tall, peaked mountain on the right with ships in the Table Bay below on the left and Cape Town on the rightView of Cape Town and highlands by F. Jukes published 1794 Maps K.Top.117.116.e.2 Images Online

As an Army family the Frends moved around frequently.  Their first child Ellen was born in Essex in 1815, and their two sons Albert and John were born in Jersey in 1815 and 1819 respectively.  Albert senior and Ellen didn’t marry until 14 August 1820 in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, where their daughter Jane was born in September that year.  The family then travelled to the Cape of Good Hope where daughters Hester Tew (1823), Eliza (1824), Maria (1826) and Isabella herself were all born.  By 1832 the family were in India and their final child, Sarah, was born in Bellary, Madras, on 22 August 1832.

On 12 February 1833 tragedy struck the family.  Albert died in Bellary, Madras, and Ellen, who had set out with her children for Madras intending to return home to England, died on route at Cuddapah on 25 April 1833.  The nine Frend children found themselves orphaned, with only the eldest daughter Ellen already married and in a position to care for her siblings.

Isabella and Sarah were the only two not to remain in India.  They were adopted by Joseph and Emily Clulow and by 1841 were living in St Andrew, Devon.  Joseph passed away shortly afterwards and Emily moved with Isabella and Sarah to Brighton where both girls married.

On 13 August 1852 Isabella married Octavius Child, a Volunteer in the Indian Navy.  The couple had three children: Isabella Emily Sarah born 1853 in Aranjuez, Spain; Georgina Elizabeth born 1855 in Brighton; and Albert Octavius born 1857 in Santander, Spain.  Octavius died in Brighton 9 April 1858 age 31, after just six years of marriage.

Isabella married for a second time on 5 April 1862 in Gloucestershire to widower Francis Lawford, a Captain in the Madras Army.  As well as their children from their first marriages, they had a further three children together: Margaret Frances Isabella born in 1863; Bessie Ellen born 1865, died 1866; and Lionel Francis born in 1867.  Francis died on 28 August 1870, after eight years of marriage.  As a Madras Army Officer he subscribed to the Madras Military Fund Pension scheme.  Following his death not only did Isabella receive an annual pension, but so did all of Francis’s children who at the time of his death were unmarried (in the case of the girls) or under the age of 21 (in the case of the boys).

Isabella continued to live in Gloucestershire and on 15 September 1880 she married for a third time to the Baptist Minister William Millard.  There were no children from this marriage, which lasted for twelve years until William’s death in 1892.

After William's death Isabella was re-admitted to the Madras Military Fund as Captain Lawford’s widow.  Isabella moved to Ilfracombe, Devon where she remained until her own death on 14 September 1902.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records


Further Reading:
IOR/L/AG/3/10/1-2 Registers of subscribers to the Madras Military Fund and their widows and dependents.
IOR/L/AG/23/10/11, Part 2 No. 222 Certificates submitted in connection with Captain Francis Lawford’s subscription to the Madras Military Fund, including his marriage certificate to Isabella Keiskamma Child.
IOR/L/AG/23/10/13A, Part 3 No. 1103 Certificates submitted in connection to Mrs Isabella Keiskamma Millard’s eligibility for re-admission to the Madras Military Fund as the widow of Captain Francis Lawford.

 

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