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113 posts categorized "South Asia"

15 November 2018

From Switzerland to Hackney via India - a patient at Pembroke House Asylum

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I recently came across the 1851 census return for Pembroke House Asylum in Hackney.  This was a private mental health asylum in Mare Street where the East India Company placed patients from amongst its servants and their families.

HackneyHackney in 1840 from G W Thornbury, Old & New London vol 3 (London, 1897)

On 31 March 1851 there were 109 patients under the care of Dr Walter Davis Williams, his mother Martha, six male ‘keepers’, two nurses, and  a team of  sixteen domestic staff.   98 men and 5 women were described as East India Company invalids, pensioners, or servants.  Their places of birth have an interesting distribution:

• Ireland 65
• Scotland 16
• England 14
• Wales 2
• India 2
• Channel Islands 1
• America 1
• Switzerland 1
• Unknown 1

The presence of 65 Irish men would appear to be a reflection of the Company’s policy of recruiting large numbers of private soldiers in Ireland.

My eye fell upon the patient born in Switzerland – a widow aged 33 with the initials ‘M.A.M.’.   I was able to identify her as Maria Augustina Martin in the Pembroke House case book preserved in the India Office Records.

MulhouseMulhouse in Alsace from Charles A Grad, L'Alsace; le pays et ses habitants (Paris, 1889)


Maria Augustina Martin was born in Mulhouse in the Alsace region and worked there as a dressmaker.  She married and had a baby.  After both her husband and child died, she worked as a servant in Berne.  She then became nurse to the daughters of Madras Army officer Clements Edward Money Walker and his wife Eliza Anne: Julia Rosa born in India in 1845 and Eliza Anne born in Switzerland in 1847.

Maria travelled to Madras with the Walker family.  In December 1849 she was admitted to the General Hospital behaving in a very excited and incoherent manner.   In January 1850 she was transferred to the Madras asylum.

MadrasX108(49) Madras from William Simpson's India: Ancient and Modern (1867)

The East India Company believed that patients with mental health problems should be removed as soon as possible from the heat of India to give them the best chance of recovery. So Maria was sent to England and admitted to Pembroke House on 22 September 1850.  She was described as being ‘of somewhat spare habit and phlegmatic appearance’.  The supposed cause of her mania was the Indian climate. The East India Company paid for her treatment - she told Dr Williams that she had no friends in Switzerland who might help her.

The case notes for Maria show that she continued to have attacks of agitation, and that the staff found it difficult to understand what she was saying when she was upset because of her accent. She used to walk up and down the garden shouting.

In July 1855, Maria began to suffer from bowel problems. There are very detailed notes of the treatments administered to her by Dr Williams.  Sadly nothing helped and by 23 July it became obvious that she was dying. Williams ‘ordered a little brandy but she only took one spoonful when she sank back & died very calmly’.  A post mortem examination was carried out six hours later.  Dr Williams recorded the cause of death as chronic mania for seven years and obstruction of the bowels for five days. He gave her age as 34. On 25 July Maria was buried at the church of St John of Jerusalem in South Hackney.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/K/2/31 Pembroke House admission register 1845-1861
IOR/K/2/36 Pembroke House case book 1849-1867

 

08 November 2018

Journey to India of Randolph Marriott, East India Company Servant

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A recent acquisition to the India Office Private Papers gives an interesting account of the voyage to India of a new employee of the East India Company.  Randolph Marriott joined the Company as a writer, and his papers include his journal of the journey to India in 1753, which complements the official ship's journal in the India Office Records.

Mss Eur F722 - JournalIndia Office Private Papers Mss Eur F722

Marriott was a passenger on board the ship Portfield, which sailed from Gravesend on 22 January 1753, bound for Bengal, then a six month voyage, arriving on 25 July 1753.  Along the way, Marriott kept a brief but entertaining account of what he saw on board the ship.  The journal clearly shows the dangerous nature of such voyages.  Only a few days into the voyage on 4 February, Marriott reported that the boatswain had been ‘very much hurt by the Capstone falling on him’, and on 23 February they buried the corpse of Mr Gent, the purser, who it appeared had been ill when he came on board.  There were three more deaths over the course of the voyage.

Marriott describes one particularly hair-raising accident and the dramatic rescue that followed.  On Wednesday 4 April 1753, at 11 in the morning, John Ross, the doctor’s servant accidentally fell overboard, and was in grave danger of being drowned.  Some quick thinking crew members threw a coop containing some ducks over the side, and the cooper Edward Welsted jumped over board and helped the stricken servant onto the coop.  He then held on to him until a boat was hoisted out and brought them both back in alive.  The servant was somewhat bruised by the fall but Marriott reported him to be ‘in a fair way of recovery’.  Happily, the ducks also survived the experience. 

F722 - Servant falls over boardIndia Office Private Papers Mss Eur F722

The cooper Edward Welsted again features in the journal, when on the night of 22 May he was put in irons for disobeying and striking the 4th Mate, Mr Edward Altham, and behaving in an insolent and mutinous manner.  Further potentially very serious consequences seemed to have been averted, as Marriott recorded that the next day the cooper was taken out of irons upon his asking pardon of all the officers on board.

Marriott also reported on the sea life he spotted from the ship, mostly whales and sharks.  He described in his journal catching a shark on 31 March, which he said can be caught using ‘a line about the thickness of a penny cord, & a hook 4 or 5 inches long, & ¼ of one round. The bait is a bit of pork or beef’.

F722 - A Narrative of EventsIndia Office Private Papers Mss Eur F722

Marriot served with the Company in India until 1766, when he resigned following a dispute with his employers. He arrived home in England on 16 June 1767. During his time in India, he compiled a volume of documents which gave a narrative of the events over that period, including a description of the battle of Plassey and a list of those held in the Black Hole of Calcutta. 

F722 - Black Hole of CalcuttaIndia Office Private Papers Mss Eur F722

John O’Brien
India Office Records

 

Further Reading:
Papers of Randolph Marriott (1736-1807), Writer in the East India Company's service, Bengal 1753-1767 [Reference Mss Eur F722]
Journal of the Portfield by Commander Carteret Le Geyt, 17 Nov 1752-29 Jul 1754 [Reference: IOR/L/MAR/B/609C]

 

 

30 October 2018

The 1918 influenza pandemic in India

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‘Nearly every household was lamenting a death, and everywhere terror and confusion reigned.’

This year marks the centenary of the 1918 influenza pandemic. Of all countries, India was the worst afflicted. Perhaps as many as 17 millions died, in two waves of disease that swept the land in May and October.

Official documents in the India Office Records record the outbreak, progress, and aftermath of a disease for which no one was remotely prepared. Northern, Central and Western India suffered the most. The files bring together reports of sanitary commissioners from across the country, such as this despatch from the Punjab:

Image 1 (Punjab) IOR/L/E/7/949

The commissioner of Bombay noted the terrifying speed of contagion:

Image 2 (Bombay)IOR/L/E/7/949

Popular treatments included quinine, hot whisky, and aspirin.  They had no effect. Of more value were practical measures: those taken by the commissioner of Madras were typical:

Image 3 (Madras)IOR/L/E/7/949

Once the epidemic had passed, the officials considered what they might have done differently. The general mood was defeatist. If America and Europe had failed to halt the epidemic, what hope had a country like India? Without a marked improvement in living conditions, it was clear that India would remain vulnerable to future outbreaks of the disease.

There was a solitary cause for satisfaction: the heroic behaviour of communities and individuals. In their thousands, members of the public, community leaders, and government servants had stepped forward to give practical and financial help:

Image 4 (cert)Mss Eur F534/143 ‘Certificate of thanks issued to George Dick, barrister’

 

Image 5 (Delhi) IOR/L/E/7/949, ‘Report from Health Officer, Delhi, on outbreak in Calcutta’

Without this remarkable surge of support locally, the commissioners agreed that the calamity nationally would have been even worse.

Antonia Moon
Lead Curator, Post-1858 India Office Records

Further reading:
India Office Records -
IOR/L/E/7/949 (‘Influenza’, 1919)
IOR/P/10595 (India Medical Proceedings, 1919)

David Arnold, ‘Disease, Rumor and Panic in India’s Plague and Influenza Epidemics, 1896-1919’, in Empires of Panic: Epidemics and Colonial Anxieties, ed by Robert Peckham (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2015), pp. 111-29.

 

25 October 2018

The East India Company and Marine Society boys

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Jonas Hanway’s Marine Society is perhaps best known for its pivotal role in supplying the Royal Navy during manpower crises in the 18th century, ridding London’s streets of vagrant and delinquent boys, putting them to good use for the nation.  A lesser known aspect of the Society’s work is the apprenticeship of boys to merchant vessels; over 25,000 were sent to sea in this manner 1772-1873.

Marine Society BMBritannia seated at the foot of a statue of charity inscribed 'Marine Society', as a woman at left brings two poor children towards her, and members Jonas Hanway, John Thornton and William Hickes stand at right with another boy. After Edward Edwards (1774). Image courtesy of the British Museum.

By the 1820s merchant supply was the main endeavour of the charity, and the East India Company was the biggest and most important employer for the Society.  Between 1786-1858, over 2,000 boys were supplied for trade expeditions or the Bombay Marine (later the Indian Navy).  The East India Company became de facto patrons, contributing generous donations; their relationship first began during the Seven Years war, as a letter of March 1757 from the Society to the Company illustrates, thanking them for £200.

Marine Society 1IOR/E/1/40 ff. 160-161v

The first batch of 42 boys were apprenticed on 5 December 1786, to the ships Locko and Melville Castle for five years.  Boys were generally apprenticed for between four and seven years, or sometimes contracted for the voyage only; because the Company were taking large numbers of boys at a time, the Society granted exemptions from their usual strict requirement for a formal apprenticeship.  This did not mean that those boys only had a short-term experience with the Company though; an informal arrangement was effected whereby a boy could return from the voyage and board the Society’s training ship until their next assigned voyage. 

The Society did try to monitor the fate of the boys.  A letter to the Company dated 1 October 1805 castigated '…sixty-six of the Boys sent from this Office into the Grab Service of the Honorable Company in 1801 are omitted in the return dated Bombay 1st January 1805, and to request that they [the Court of Directors] will be pleased to give orders, that the necessary information may be obtained as early as possible, the Friends of the Boys being under great anxiety at not having an account, as they were promised, and had reason to expect'.
 

Marine Society 2IOR/D/160 ff. 64-66

One of the missing boys never returned.  Patrick Connelly was a destitute thirteen year old from Ireland when he presented at the Society’s offices looking for a better life.  He was placed on board the Northampton for five years, but sadly drowned near the end of his term on 26 May 1805.  A certificate was provided to the Company: 'This is to Certify that Patrick Connelly was sent by this Society to the Honorable East India Company’s Grab Service, he went to India in the Northampton in 1802 and was drowned 26 May 1805'.
 

Marine Society 3IOR/D/165 f 89

However, for some boys the risk of death was a gamble that ultimately paid off.  Fourteen-year-old George Byworth, son of a Lambeth watchmaker, went out to the East Indies in the Scaleby Castle in March 1823, and by eighteen was Third Officer on the Lord Lyndoch.

Caroline Withall
British Library Research Affiliate @historycw

Further reading:
IOR/E/1/40ff 160-161v  Letter from Marine Society to East India Company 24 March 1757
IOR/D/160ff 64-66 Letter from Marine Society to East India Company 1 October 1805
IOR/D/165 f 89  Certificate concerning Patrick Connelly 24 November 1808

 

23 October 2018

A unique appeal from four Indian schoolgirls

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Whilst working on the collection of Thomas William Barnard Papers (Mss Eur C261), I found a fascinating letter dating from 1923.  It was sent to Captain Barnard of the Indian Medical Service by four poor girls at a school in Pudukad. The letter is elaborately decorated with a border of stamps from India, Canada, Newfoundland, New Zealand and Austria.

  IMG_0968Mss Eur C261/5/5

The letter reads:

Jesus Mercy.
The good God rewardeth even a cup of Cold Water given in His name to one of His little ones.
O.J. Annie, Mary, Catherine and Elizabeth. Poor Students. Chemgaloor, Pudukad Post, Malabar

Most Honred Sir,
We, four poor student girls (Mary and Catherine are orphans) most respectfully and humbly beg to state that we are in great difficulties and distress. We are badly in need of food and Clothes. We are promoted to our new class. We have not got new books. We most humbly pray you will be kind enough to send us some help. We pray you will not refuse our humble prayer. Thanking you in anticipation, we beg to remain

Yours most obedient and humble servants.
O.J. Anne and others
22.6.1923

Can any of our readers shed light on the authors of this appeal?

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further reading:
Mss Eur C261/5/5 – unique appeal for a donation from girls attending a school in Pudukad, 22 June 1923.

 

11 October 2018

An Irish soldier in India

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In July 1859 Gunner Richard Scott wrote a letter to his father from Poona.  Scott was about to return to Britain after fighting with the Bombay Horse Artillery in the Indian Mutiny or Rebellion.  He wrote of his military experiences and asked for help in finding employment.

  Poona 1871Street scene in Poona by John Frederick Lester (1825-1915) c.1871 WD3549 No. 18

Richard Scott enlisted at his home town of Dublin on 24 August 1857 for twelve years’ service with the East India Company.  Scott was 5 feet 7⅛ inches tall, with brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. His age is given as twenty but records point to him being just seventeen, suggesting that he was joining the army without parental consent.  This is borne out by his letter home.

  Scott letter L MIL 5 365IOR/L/MIL/5/365 no.473 Noc

 ‘Dear Father
Altho I never wrote to let you know of it I suppose you are aware that I am a soldier in the East India Company’s forces.  I would have written long since to let you know how I was getting on, but from the time I landed in the Country up to the present I could not be shure if I wrote would I ever live to receive an answer.  All the fiting is now over and we are just returned to quarters after being out on field service for nearly 18 months.  The Troop to which I belong has been engaged several times with the rebels but I came off unhurt through it all and strang to say, altho we often were obliged to take the field against overwhelming numbers, our small forse always came off victorios.

Dear Father I suppose you are aware that by a late Act of parliment the East India Company’s Troops are disbanded that is all that wish to take their discharge can have it and all those who wish to stop in the country can Remain as they are, their former service will count for them.   I have taken my discharg & come what will of it for I do not like the country, And perhaps I would never get the chace of leaving it again. Dear Father I cannot expect that you will do any thing for me when I go home again, but I will be in a very poor condition when I land, I will be left in London without one penny in my pocket and who have I to look to except you, if you can spare it Dear Father send me a few pounds that will keep me some time an buy me a suit of clothes And shurly you have interst enough to get me a situation with some Gentleman.  I would go as a groom, I have been Riding horses since I joined the service both in the Military style and the other way.’
 

Lucknow after Mutiny IWMAftermath of the Siege of Lucknow by Felix Beato  © IWM (Q 69821)

 Scott was given a certificate of discharge from the Bombay Regiment of Artillery on 1 October 1859 ‘being unwilling to serve in HM Indian forces’ after the disbandment of the East India Company armies.  Sadly he died of dysentery on 26 October 1859 at sea on board the Hope on his way home.  His father John sent his letter to the India Office in 1863 with an application for payment of Lucknow Prize Money.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/MIL/9/23 Recruitment register Dublin 1855-1858
IOR/L/MIL/12/282 f.1369 Discharge certificate for Richard Scott 1859
IOR/L/MIL/5/365 nos.473, 1793, 2491 – enquiries about soldiers

09 October 2018

Hungary Water for Missionaries?

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In November 1764 the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge wrote to the Court of Directors of the East India Company for permission to send a number of ‘sundry items’ out to their missionaries in India on the ships sailing that season.  The Society sent out various supplies to their missionaries each year and their lists often included unexpected items such as the Four Cheeses in Lead and a Harpsichord sent out in 1762 and featured previously on Untold Lives.

The 1764 list of sundry items included the surprising entry of two bottles of Hungary Water.  Hungary Water, also often known as “The Queen of Hungary’s Water” was one of the first alcohol based perfumes to be produced in Europe and was primarily made with rosemary.   It was the most popular fragrance and remedy in Europe until the development of Eau de Cologne in the late 18th Century.  The water has many myths associated with it, the most common one being that it was named after the Queen of Hungary who used it and at age 70 was believed to have looked so youthful a 25 year old Duke asked for her hand in marriage believing her to be of a similar age.

Hungary waterAdvertisement for Hungary Water in Homeward Mail from India, China and the East 9 June 1857

Hungary Water was most commonly used as a cure-all beauty tonic and was believed to help maintain a youthful appearance and beauty.  It was also considered to have health benefits when digested including to improve strength and eyesight and to dispel gloominess.  The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge presumably sent it to their missionaries for the health benefits, rather than to maintain their youthfulness and beauty.

The Toilet of Flora Title PageThe Toilet of Flora (1775)   Noc


The 1775 publication The Toilet of Flora features a recipe to make what is refers to as ‘Genuine Hungary Water’:

'Put into an alembic a pound and a half of fresh pickt Rosemary Flowers; Penny royal and Marjoram Flowers, of each half a pound; three quarts of good Coniac Brandy; having close stopped the mouth of the alembic to prevent the spirit from evaporating, bury it twenty-eight hours in horse-dung to digest, and distill off the Spirit in a water-bath.

A drachm of Hungary Water diluted with Spring Water, may be taken once or twice a week in the morning fasting.  It is also used by way of embrocation to bathe the face and limbs, or any part affected with pains, or debility.  This remedy recruits the strengths, dispels gloominess, and strengthens the sight.  It must always be used cold, whether taken inwardly as a medicine, or applied externally.'

More recipes from the publication The Toilet of Flora featured in the 2013 Untold Lives blog post Lip Salve and Worms in the Face.

Karen Stapley
Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
J Broughton, Secretary to the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge to Robert James, Secretary to the Court of Directors of the East India Company, Nov 1764. IOR/E/1/46, ff 737-739

 

03 October 2018

‘Lads of true spirit’ – recruiting for the East India Company in Ireland

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Before Robert Brooke of the Bengal Army became Governor of St Helena in 1787, he spent time in his native country of Ireland.  He volunteered to recruit soldiers for the East India Company armies, and then devoted his time to establishing a cotton mill at Prosperous in County Kildare. 

  Recruits BM J 6 47Recruits (1780) - image courtesy of British Museum

The legality of Brooke recruiting men in Ireland on behalf of the East India Company was questioned in the House of Commons by Sir Lucius O’Brien in February 1778.  By way of reply Brooke wrote a paper justifying his activities. Brooke stated that the Company’s charter allowed it to raise men for the defence of their settlements abroad.  The war against America had forced the government to increase the bounty offered to recruits for the King’s Army, causing a sharp fall in the numbers of men volunteering to serve the Company in India.  Therefore the Company had turned to Ireland for manpower to defend its interests in India ‘which may hereafter prove to be the richest Jewell in the British Crown’.

Brooke countered arguments that Company recruitment would thin the population of Ireland with reasons for allowing the ‘temporary Emigration of the Natives’.  He claimed that ‘Idle and dissolute Mechanics will find that Employment of which they were deprived at Home… the Kingdom will no longer wear a face of poverty.. and Ireland will be purged of a riotous Peasantry, that often pass their Lives in beggary, and generally conclude them in Jail’.  The Irish would fight for the British Crown rather than join French or Spanish forces.

He also defended his methods – he did not send out recruiting parties; he did not beat a drum or give arms to any man; he did not lure men with false representations or ply them with liquor; and he did not rob masters of their apprentices.  Instead he placed a series of advertisements in the Irish press aimed at attracting young men ‘desirous of pushing their fortunes abroad’. 

  EIC recruitment Ireland 1779Dublin Evening Press 16 December 1779 British Newspaper Archive

Brooke said that many ‘spirited Lads’ had gone to India as soldiers and returned home with ‘ample Fortunes’.  He claimed that war with France and Spain now gave the prospect of speedy success through prize money.  Boys under eighteen had to have their parents’ permission to enlist. The East India Company ships taking the recruits from Dublin were searched for deserters.

The  registers of East India Company recruits embarking for India give a description of those who enlisted in Dublin during Brooke’s campaign.  The vast majority were recorded as being labourers under twenty years of age.  Very young boys joined as drummers: in 1779 John Hewitson aged 11 and Christopher Hewitson aged 12 sailed together for Bengal on the ship Neptune.

Given the very high risk of death from disease or in military action, many of Brooke’s lads would never have made the return journey from India to Ireland.  But perhaps some did find ‘not only a Road to Station and Honour, but to Wealth also’.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive
IOR/H/139 Papers on the recruitment of soldiers for the East India Company in Ireland 1778
IOR/L/MIL/9/90 East India Company embarkation list 1775-1784