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15 August 2022

Sources for Indian Independence and the creation of Pakistan

This month sees the 75th anniversary of the partition of pre-1947 India and the creation of the modern states of India and Pakistan.  The British Library holds a wealth of resources relating to these events.

Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru & Mr M.A. Jinnah  walking together in the grounds of Viceregal Lodge Simla, 11 May 1946.Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru & Mr M.A. Jinnah, walking together in the grounds of Viceregal Lodge Simla. 11 May 1946. British Library Photo 134/2(28) Images Online

India Office Records:
These are the official records of the India Office, the British Government department responsible for the administration of pre-1947 British India.  Created in London or received from India as part of the normal business of government, for example correspondence or copied reports, they complement the huge collections of official records in archives in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Front cover of Top Secret Report on the Punjab Boundary Force Front cover of Top Secret report on the Punjab Boundary Force  1947-1948 IOR/L/WS/1/1134 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The most significant series for the study of independence and partition are:

• Fortnightly reports: Governors, Chief Commissioners and Chief Secretaries 1937-1948, and British High Commissioners and Deputy High Commissioners 1947-1950 (IOR/L/PJ/5/128-336).
• Public & Judicial Collection 117: law and order, 1933-1947 (IOR/L/PJ/8).
• Transfer of Power Papers 1942-1945 (IOR/L/PJ/10).
• Indian Political Intelligence files, 1913 to 1947 (IOR/L/PJ/12).
• Files on political and constitutional development, 1916-1947 (IOR/L/PO/6).
• Private correspondence: printed series and file copies, 1914-1947 (IOR/L/PO/10).
• Political papers and correspondence with Provincial Governors and their Secretaries, 1936-1948 (IOR/R/3/1/1-178).
• Records relating to Gandhi and the Civil Disobedience Movement, 1922-1946 (IOR/R/3/1/289-370).
• Files of the Bengal Governor’s Secretariat, 1936-1947 (IOR/R/3/2/1-86).

Map of pre-partitiion India from Mountbatten's last report showing which parts became PakistanMap of pre-partitiion India from Mountbatten's last report showing which parts became Pakistan IOR/L/PJ/5/396/15 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

India Office Private Papers:
These collections of papers differ from the official records through being created or kept by individuals, families or organisations separate from government.  They provide alternative perspectives on official business and insights into individuals’ lives, and include significant collections relating to independence and partition. To take just a few examples:

• Secretaries of State for India, such as Sir Samuel Hoare (Mss Eur E240) and the Marquess of Zetland (Mss Eur D609).
• Viceroys, such as the 2nd Marquess of Linlithgow (Mss Eur F125), Lord Wavell (Mss Eur D977) and Earl Mountbatten of Burma (IOR Neg 15538-67).
• Provincial Governors, such as Sir Maurice Hallett (Mss Eur E251) and Sir Francis Mudie (Mss Eur F164).
• Permanent Under-Secretaries of State for India, 1920-1948 (Mss Eur D714).
• Military men, such as Major John McLoughlin Short, Civil Liaison Officer to the Sikh community 1940-42, and Personal Assistant to Sir Stafford Cripps during Cabinet Mission to India 1946 (Mss Eur F189).
• Indian political leaders and supporters of independence such as Gandhi (several small collections), Mahomed Ali Jinnah (IOR Neg 10760-826), and Sir Fazl-i-Husain (Mss Eur E352).
• The struggle for freedom during the last three decades of British rule in India was the backdrop to the lives of many British families in India.  Not surprisingly, it often features in memoirs, journals, diaries and letters home found in numerous small collections of private papers.  For example: a letter, dated 26 Sept 1947, from Freda Evelyn Oliver, wife of the Deputy Commissioner of Bahawalpur State, describing her family's journey from Simla to Bahawalpur during the disturbances following partition (Mss Eur A168).

Map showing the partition of Punjab Map showing the partition of Punjab IOR/L/WS/1/1134 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The Library holds a mass of other source materials for the study of independence and partition, including photographs and newspapers.   There is a wonderful collection of Indian publications banned or ‘proscribed’ by the British Government as they were considered seditious or liable to incite unrest.  In addition, one of the most fascinating resources the British Library holds is the Oral History collections, allowing researchers the ability to hear the voices of the people who lived through those momentous times.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
The Transfer of Power, 1942-7: Constitutional Relations between Britain and India, edited by Nicholas Mansergh, 12 vols. (London, 1970-1983).

Gandhi and Civil Disobedience: Documents in the India Office Records 1922-1946 by Amar Kaur Jasbir Singh (London, 1980).

Indian Independence Collection Guide

Publications proscribed by the Government of India: a catalogue of the collections in the India Office Library and Records and the Department of Oriental Manuscripts and Printed Books, British Library Reference Division, edited by Graham Shaw and Mary Lloyd (London: British Library, 1985).

Oral History collections relating to independence and partition: Oral histories of migration, ethnicity and post-colonialism - scroll down to the section on ‘British rule in India’.

Titles of English language Indian newspapers are listed on the Explore the British Library catalogue, and British newspaper reports can be found online by searching the British Newspaper Archive.

Collections in the UK on Indian Independence and Partition

 

11 August 2022

Living on a reduced income in 1868

In April 1868 Charlotte Francis Laing sent a petition to the India Office for financial assistance.  She had been reduced from affluence to ‘extreme penury’ when the failure of the Bank of Bombay took away her income from a holding of 180 shares.

Newpaper article about the collapse of the Bank of BombayArticle about the collapse of the Bank of Bombay - Bombay Gazette 27 April 1868 British Newspaper Archive 

Mrs Laing stated that she was the daughter of civil servant William James Turquand, and the widow of surgeon William Christie Laing.  Both men had served the East India Company in Bengal.  Her late husband had subscribed to the Bengal Military Orphan Society for 23 years, but had ceased pay into the fund after his retirement in 1848, believing that his private means were ample for the future provision of his family.  He had died in November 1861.  Mrs Laing asked for her seven children aged between nineteen and ten to be taken onto the Orphan Society books because she was now left with just a small widow’s pension to support them.

Hoping that the suspension of dividend payments was only temporary, it was some time before Mrs Laing had realised the need to reduce her way of living to a ‘pauper scale’.  She had now moved into a 'mean house' in a poor quarter of Crediton in Devon at a rent of £17 per annum.  Although ’always hitherto accustomed to all the refinements of an English gentlewoman’s life’, she now could not afford to keep servants, except a little girl, and was reduced to performing with her own hands ‘the chief drudgery and menial service of my house’.  The family could only afford to eat animal food on alternate days and Mrs Laing had gradually sold everything of value she possessed, even clothing.  She had had to remove her daughters from school and deprive them of education at the most important period of their lives.

Finance Committee decision on the petition of Charlotte Francis LaingFinance Committee decision on the petition of Charlotte Francis Laing - British Library IOR/L/F/2/335 no.1111 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

An official noted on the petition that Mrs Laing received an annual pension of £225 from the Bengal Military Fund.  A reply was sent saying that the rules did not permit the children to be admitted to the Orphan Fund, and the Secretary of State regretted that he was unable to sanction any grant to Mrs Laing from the Indian revenues. Ten years earlier, the directors of the East India Company might have responded to such a petition by making a donation as a gesture of goodwill, but in 1868 Mrs Laing encountered the new department of state operating within strict rules of governance.

Three years later, at the time of the 1871 census, Mrs Laing was living at Cowick Barton in Devon with four of her children: William Alexander Gordon, 21, who became a surgeon; Gordon Hammick, 18; Ellen Sydney, 16, and Kate Mary Christie, 12.  Charlotte Maria, 20, was working as a governess in Camberwell, Surrey.  Cordelia Margaret Frances, 10, was a scholar at Wilton House in Hackney, East London.  She and Kate also became teachers. I believe that Edward Turquand Gordon, 14, was serving an apprenticeship in the Merchant Navy.  In 1878 he enlisted as a gunner in the Royal Artillery and was stationed in India for ten years.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Library IOR/L/F/2/335 no.1111 Petition of Charlotte Francis Laing 28 April 1868
The Bombay Banking Crisis 

 

09 August 2022

Sanitary technology at East India House and the India Office

In a previous post, we looked at issues of sanitation at the Fort William Garrison in Bengal, which included a description and plan for new urinals.  This is not the only reference to urinals in the India Office Records and Private Papers.  The East India Company was also concerned with improvements in sanitation closer to home.  In 1851, the Company headquarters was East India House in Leadenhall Street in the City of London, a building that had been remodelled and extended at the end of the 18th century.  By 1851, in light of new sanitary technology, improvements were required.  A report from the Clerk of Works recommended that the urinals near the General Court Room be upgraded.  They needed to be enlarged and fitted 'with enamelled slate Partitions, with the doors acting to throw a jet of water each time it is used'.  The Clerk had done his research, having viewed the urinals at the House of Lords and at the City of London Club House, but in his opinion by far the best design was those in use at the South Eastern Railway Station (London Bridge) and these he proposed be replicated at East India House.  The bill for the works, presented at a Finance and Home Committee Meeting on 18 February 1852, was for £64 16s.

Plan A - diagram for fitting up urinalsPlan A included in IOR/L/SUR/6/6, ff.259-265: Account submitted for fitting up 2 sets of urinals 25 April 1884 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In 1858 the India Office took over from the East India Company, and the newly formed Government department moved in 1867 into a purpose built building in Whitehall designed by George Gilbert Scott.  By 1883, plans were put forward to improve the sanitary fittings, and approval was sought for initial works to be carried out on urinals in both the basement and on the second floor, as an ‘experiment’.  It was agreed that the basement was problematic, being the area 'where there is the most difficulty in securing careful usage', and as such required urinals proposed in Plan A, with a continuous water flow.  For the second floor urinals, where 'sufficient care and cleanliness in the use of the urinals can be depended on', plan B was to be used which employed an overflow system into a slate channel.  Again, the Clerk of the Works had done his homework, and Plan B was based on a similar system employed at the Bank of England.  The refurbishment was considered 'a great improvement as to cleanliness, and that [the urinals]… can more easily be kept in order and in good repair', and as such funds were authorised for works to be extended throughout the building.  In 1885, the total costs of the project were reported as £473 5s 9d compared to the original estimate of £450.

Plan B - diagram for fitting up urinalsPlan B included in IOR/L/SUR/6/6, ff.259-265: Account submitted for fitting up 2 sets of urinals 25 April 1884 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

It is interesting to note that the sanitation works at the India Office included improvements in water re-use.  Waste water from the hydraulic lift system was stored in a cistern and was used for flushing both WCs and urinals.  But when the lifts were used frequently, the cistern achieved capacity and the excess water literally went down the drain at Charles Street.  Changes to the pipes and plumbing were put in place to move more of the waste water around the building and so use more of it for flushing.

On a final note, for anyone interested in researching sanitation and sanitary conditions in our records, it is always useful to search using a variety of contemporary terms.  Think ‘lavatories’ and ‘privies’ as well as ‘urinals’.  You never know what you might find.

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further Reading:
IOR/L/SUR/1/1, ff.117-118: Finance & Home Committee 16 April 1851. Alterations to Urinals.
IOR/L/SUR/1/1, f.157: Finance & Home Committee 18 February 1852: New urinals.
IOR/L/SUR/6/6, ff.259-265: Account submitted for fitting up 2 sets of Urinals for the India Office and recommendations for fitting up others, 25 April 1884, includes plan A and plan B.
IOR/L/SUR/6/7, ff.5-6: Accounts submitted for fitting up urinals and altering supply pipes to Lavatory basins in the India Office 16 March 1885.

 

04 August 2022

Soldiers’ gardens in India

There were two kinds of soldiers’ gardens in British India: regimental and company.  Regimental gardens were worked by the men for fixed rates of pay, or by local people under supervision, and they supplied vegetables for the military commissariat department or the local market.  They were situated at a convenient distance from the barracks.  Company gardens were worked solely by the soldiers for their own amusement and benefit, and they were located in the immediate vicinity of the barracks.

Plan of proposed site for a soldiers’ garden at Rangoon 1850s

Plan of proposed site for a soldiers’ garden at Rangoon, surveyed by John Richard Magrath, Madras Artillery, 1850s - British Library IOR/W/F/4/2648/172549 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

All proceeds from the sale of produce from a regimental garden were paid into a fund managed by a committee of three officers.  Working expenses were drawn from the fund – repair of tools, well gear, or walls and fences; seeds; pay for Indians to work the well.  The balance was divided between the soldiers working in the garden in proportion to their skill and industry, and the produce of their labour.  Annual accounts were accompanied by a statement giving full information about the working of the garden, the number of men employed, and the effect on their character.

The military works services ensured a sufficient water supply to irrigate the gardens.  Cattle were used to work the wells.  The ordnance department supplied garden implements at set rates.

Commanding officers submitted annual requisitions for flower and vegetable seeds to the superintendents of botanical gardens at Saharanpur, Calcutta, and Poona.  The superintendents made notes on the cover of each package of seeds – name, quantity, month for sowing.  Seed potatoes were supplied free of charge by the army commissariat.

Cash prizes for soldiers’ gardens were awarded by the government according to a scale laid down in army regulations.  The distribution was treated as a fête and a holiday for the men.  A band played and the regimental school’s children attended.  Officers were told to make a point of being present at the distribution of prizes.

When new troops moved into the barracks, regimental and company gardens were inspected, and the cost of any necessary repairs to surrounding walls, fences or tools was paid from the garden fund.  The incoming corps had to purchase the fruit trees and any crops in the ground.  One week before the march of regiment, the commissariat officer employed native gardeners to keep up the gardens.  The gardeners were discharged a week after the arrival of the new corps.

Full instructions for the cultivation of gardens in India, both in the hills and on the plains, were contained in a pamphlet written by the superintendent of the government botanical garden at Saharanpur.  Commanding officers could buy the pamphlet at the cost of one rupee per copy.

Gardens for native troops might also be sanctioned at newly occupied trans-frontier stations and remote places lacking local supplies of fresh vegetables.  In these cases, the government gave a grant of money to purchase land, tools, stock the garden with seed, and pay the wages of a mali for one year.  Commanding officers were responsible for these gardens being managed as self-supporting after the first year.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Library, IOR/L/MIL/17/5/633 Army Regulations India Vol XII Barracks (1900)

 

02 August 2022

Papers of John Frederick Macnair

A new acquisition to the India Office Private Papers has recently been catalogued and is available to researchers in the British Library’s Asian & African Studies reading room.  This is the papers of John Frederick Macnair, a partner in the firm of Begg, Dunlop & Co.

John Frederick Macnair was born on 9 August 1846 at Gourock in Scotland to James Macnair (1796-1865) and Janet Rankin (1810-1889).  In 1891, he married Veronica Charlotte Pugh (1867-1969), and they had three children: James (born 1892), John (born 1895) and Veronica (born 1902).  He died on 12 March 1908 at Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

Letter home to England Letter home to England  - Mss Eur F752/1 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Begg, Dunlop & Co were managing agents in India with interests in a range of commodities such as tea, tobacco and indigo.  There is much in the collection relating to Macnair’s work with the firm, including accounts and information on tea estates, and tobacco and indigo concerns in which the firm had an interest.  Between 1870 and 1893, Macnair was based in Calcutta and the collection contains three of his copy letter books detailing his business correspondence, but also includes a few personal letters to his family in England.  In one letter to his sister Lilla, dated 17 May 1872, he roughly sketched the veranda of his house, and described the view: 'We look over the tank to the Post Office and can just see the masts of the ships & steamers in the river'. 

Letter expressing disappointment at not getting leave Letter dated 28 September 1875 expressing disappointment at not getting leave - Mss Eur F752/1 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Life in India was often not easy, and in a letter of 28 September 1875 to his employer, he expressed his disappointment at being refused leave: 'I did not think my absence would cause much inconvenience and it is a rather sore disappointment to me having to make my mind up for another twelve months in this country but I suppose there is no help for it.  After having been five years in B.D.& Co’s I feel it would be foolish for a present disappointment to throw away future prospects in the firm, though these may be remote, by a resignation now'.

Private Account BookPrivate Account Book - Mss Eur F752/13 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The collection includes his personal account book for 1877 to 1883 giving details of what he spent his money on in order to keep up the lifestyle of a British businessman in India at that time.  It lists subscriptions (hockey club, Daily Englishman newspaper, London Missionary Society), dinner and billiards at the Bengal Club, fees for the Calcutta Golf Club, carriage hire, servants wages, charitable donations, etc.

Receipts for goods purchased Receipts for goods purchased - Mss Eur F752/19 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In the early 1890s, Macnair moved back to England, and settled in Newcrofts, in Hillingdon, West London.  The collection contains fascinating material on the contents of his house giving a glimpse into how late Victorians decorated and furnished their homes.  This includes inventories of the effects and furniture in 1898, and correspondence with local builders, such as Fassnidge & Son on extensive works to improve and maintain the building.  There is also a collection of receipts from a wide array of retailers of furniture, fabrics and homeware, along with antiques dealers and carriage manufacturers.  Many of the receipts are elaborately illustrated to best advertise their business, such as for Samuel Withers, Borough Carriage Works; W E Ellis, a Scarborough net merchant; and Oetzmann & Co, cabinetmakers.  There is also a wonderfully detailed receipt from George Wright & Co, manufacturer of billiard tables, listing everything a Victorian gentleman would want for his games room.

Receipt for Billiard TableReceipt for Billiard Table - Mss Eur F752/19 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
The papers of John Frederick Macnair are searchable on Explore Archives and Manuscripts Mss Eur F752.

Begg, Dunlop & Co 

 

27 July 2022

Luncheons at the India Office

In May 1867 newspaper advertisements invited tenders for the supply of luncheons at the new India Office in Whitehall.

Advertisement inviting tenders for the supply of luncheons at the new India Office in Whitehall May 1867Advertisement inviting tenders for the supply of luncheons at the new India Office in Whitehall - Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser 18 May 1867 British Newspaper Archive 

The tender of Frederick Eneas Nicholes was accepted in July.  Nicholes signed an agreement on these terms: 
• The purveyor would be provided with a kitchen, coals, gas, and furniture, but not with plate, linen, glass, cutlery, earthenware, or cooking utensils.
• A room would be set apart for ‘the exclusive use of gentlemen on the establishment of the India Office’ where they could be supplied with refreshments instead of in their own rooms.
• The purveyor would have use of the kitchen and luncheon room between the hours of 9am and 5pm, checking that the fires and gas were put out before handing the keys to the housekeeper.
• A tariff of prices was to be hung in the luncheon room.
• Items supplied were to be of the best quality, well cooked, and served with 'civility, cleanliness and punctuality'.
• No smoking was permitted in the luncheon room and kitchen.
• Everything was to be paid for at the time of delivery.  No charge was to be made for waiters, but an additional penny could be charged for the use of the tray, cloth etc where luncheons were supplied in officials’ own rooms.
• The purveyor was to supply a luncheon for every meeting of the Council of India at a charge of 4s a head, exclusive of wine, beer etc.
This contract could be terminated by either side at two months’ notice.

Scale of charges for each item in the India Office luncheon room 1867Scale of charges in the luncheon room agreed in 1867  - IOR/L/F/2/324 No. 1841  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence


Nicholes also signed up to a scale of charges for the following menu items:
• Soups, gravy, vermicelli
• Mutton broth
• Beef tea
• Mutton chop
• Rump steak
• Joints of beef, mutton, lamb, pork, veal, braised beef, ham
• Hashed mutton
• Rump steak pudding
• Kidney pudding
• Sausages
• Pork chop
• Veal cutlet
• Sandwiches
• Fish as in season
• Oysters
• Potatoes, asparagus and other vegetables
• Salads, plain and dressed
• Tart or pudding
• Tea, coffee
• Rolls, biscuits, buns, slices of bread
• Cheese
• Butter
• Eggs
• Porter, draught stout, ale, stout
• Lemonade, soda water, ginger beer, seltzer water
• Port, sherry, brandy.

Nicholes started work as purveyor on 1 September 1867, but  unfortunately the refreshment rooms had not been finished in time.  In October Nicholes submitted an account of his losses totalling £104 – provisions spoiled and having to be destroyed by the lack of a larder; lack of income because the coffee room was not completed; wages for extra staff; breakages and loss from the non-completion of the pantry; extra washing.  The India Office decided that his claim was fair and granted him £100 in compensation.

In April 1868 Nicholes informed the India Office that his net profit from September 1867 to February 1868 was only £82 10s 3d.  This was inadequate since he had invested £1,000 in the concern, including wine.  He was awarded £100 per annum as compensation.

However Nicholes said he was unable to continue as purveyor on that allowance.  The India Office would not sanction an increase and in September 1868 gave notice that Nicholes’s engagement as purveyor would end on 25 March 1869.  Nicholes appealed for the decision to be reversed, but to no avail.  He was given a testimonial that his services had been very satisfactory.

Testimonial by Stafford Henry Northcote  Secretary of State for IndiaTestimonial for Nicholes by Stafford Henry Northcote, Secretary of State for India, 4 December 1868 - IOR/L/F/2/345  No. 3191  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Nicholes went on to be purveyor in the refreshment rooms at the Houses of Parliament.

  Recommendation of Parker's Everyone's Sauce by F E Nicholes, purveyor at the Houses of Parliament
F E Nicholes’s recommendation of Parkers’ Everyone’s Sauce – ‘an excellent relish’. Eastern Daily Press 7 October 1874 British Newspaper Archive

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
India Office Finance Committee papers about the supply of luncheons by Nicholes - IOR/L/F/2/321 No.1343; IOR/L/F/2/322No. 1563; IOR/L/F/2/324 No. 1841; IOR/L/F/2/325 No.2066; IOR/L/F/2/335 No. 1110; IOR/L/F/2/345 Nos. 3098 & 3191.

 

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. 

 

21 July 2022

The sale of East India Company maritime commands

The British Library and London Metropolitan Archives both hold collections of papers for James Monro who served in the East India Company’s maritime service in the second half of the 18th century. The documents give a fascinating insight into Monro's professional and personal life, and the use of private trade to accumulate a fortune which would allow him to quit the sea.

Portrait of Captain James Monro by John Downman - three-quarter length, in profile, the sea beyond Portrait of Captain James Monro by John Downman  (1789)  - image courtesy of The British Antique Dealers' Association via Wikimedia Commons

James Monro was the son of Dr John Monro, physician to Bethlehem Hospital.  He began his life at sea in 1766 at the age of just ten years, sailing to Madras and China as servant to Captain William Smith in the East Indiaman Houghton. Captain Smith was his mother’s brother.  Another uncle, Culling Smith, was one of the owners of the Houghton.  Monro made three more voyages with William Smith in the Houghton, as midshipman in 1769-1771; as 5th mate in 1773-1774; and as 2nd mate in 1777-1778.  Monro also sailed as a seaman to the West Indies and Calais, and as mate in two other East Indiamen, the Osterley to Benkulen, and the York to China.

In 1782 James Monro succeeded his uncle William Smith as captain of the Houghton, making four voyages to China and India before resigning and passing the command to Robert Hudson in 1792.  Captains were appointed by the ship owners and approved by the East India Company, and Monro’s correspondence sheds light on this system.

In April 1792, William Smith wrote to his nephew, addressing him as ‘Dear Jim’.  Smith understood that Monro had sold the command of the Houghton for 8,000 guineas, having paid him £4,000 for it.  Although Monro had not promised  him anything, Smith thought he should receive half the profit.  Smith claimed that he could have sold his command at a far higher price, perhaps as much as £7,000, but he had his nephew’s interest too much at heart to consider such offers.  He regretted the ‘disagreeable necessity’ of speaking his mind.

James Monro’s reply began ‘My dear Sir’.  He felt that he was being put in a very unpleasant position, and put forward his side as he would to someone not related.

Monro was away on board the York when it was decided that he should succeed as commander of the new Houghton which was being built to replace Smith’s ship.  On his return to England he was told to pay Smith £4,000. He had no idea that any future demand would be made on him until a chance conversation with his uncle some time later.

Both the East India Company and the owners had been trying to lessen the price given for ships, or to prevent totally the sale of commands.  If they had succeeded, would Smith have refunded part of his £4,000?  Smith had not paid for his own command but had received interest on Monro’s £4,000 for ten years.

Monro had always thought to offer his uncle £1,000 when he sold the command.  He would cheerfully give him 1,000 guineas and nothing more need be said.

Smith replied to ‘My dear James’.  He wished his nephew had told him sooner about the intention to offer £1,000.  This sum satisfied him and he asked Monro to pay it to his banker when convenient.  He hoped this business would make no difference or coolness between them, and closed by sending his best love to Mrs James and the young ones.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Library – India Office Private Papers Photo Eur 488-B.
London Metropolitan Archives - ACC/1063 Records of the Monro family of Hadley, 1673-1905. Letters 45-48 Correspondence between James Monro and William Smith 1792.
Anthony Farrington, A biographical index of East India Company maritime service officers 1600-1834 (London, 1999).
James Monro features in Kate Smith, ‘Anglo-Indian ivory furniture in the British country house’ in Margot Finn and Kate Smith (eds.), The East India Company at Home.