Wednesday, 29 December 2010

'Sentence - to be shot to death with musquetry'

A date for your diary:

Saturday, 15 January 2011 at 14.00:   Hedley Sutton (British Library) will present a paper to the Central London Branch of the Historical Association entitled " 'Sentence - to be shot to death with musquetry': crime and punishment in early nineteenth century India". 

Venue:  Wolfson Room, Institute of Historical Research at Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1 (nearest Tube: Euston Square). There will be a small admission charge for non-members of the H.A. 
Hedley Sutton
British Library

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Royal Asiatic Society Library Temporary Closure

The RAS library will be open for the first week of January 2011 and then closed from 10th January for about 3 months while essential building work is done. This will necessitate the library collections being put into store and inaccessible for this period.

Other Society activities, including the SAALG Conference on 28th January 2011, are not affected.

For further information or an update on the progress of the building work, please contact the librarian Kathy Lazenbatt on or 020 7391 9424.

Royal Asiatic Society Lectures

The following lectures will be held in the New Year at the Royal Asiatic Society, 14 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HD:

The Apu Trilogy: Satyajit Ray and the Making of an Epic

by Dr. Andrew Robinson (University of Cambridge)

Thursday 13 January 2011, 6pm.

Migrants, Slums and the Construction of Citizenship in Gandhi's Ahmedabad
by Tommaso Bobbio (Royal Holloway)

Wednesday 26 January 2011, 6.30pm

Please note that this is one of two RAS Student Series lectures that evening, the other being on a Japanese topic.

Lectures are free of charge and all are welcome.
RAS web site:

Monday, 29 November 2010

Access to rare 20th century South Asian pamphlets

An inventory of the South Asian Pamphlets Collection at Duke University has been published online.  The majority of the pamphlets were published between 1950 and 2000, but a few date from the 1920s-1940s.   They were acquired through the Library of Congress South Asia Cooperative Acquisitions programme (SACAP). 

Arranged by country of publication, they number over 7,500, with the highest number (177 boxes) originating from India, 58 boxes from Pakistan, 15 boxes from Bangladesh and 8 boxes from Nepal.  Smaller collections are held for Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

The majority of pamphlets were published by organizations or agencies and cover agriculture, the arts, economic development, education, industry and commerce, international relations, politics and government, religion and philosophy, rural development, tourism and women. 

The pamphlets may be scanned on request to service remote research requests. For further information, see:

Monday, 15 November 2010

Borderlands: the SAALG Winter Conference

Kandyan chief
(Royal Asiatic Society)
Kandyan chief & wife
(Royal Asiatic Society)
(Royal Asiatic Society)
A date for your diary!  This winter's South Asia Archive and Library Group conference will be hosted by the Royal Asiatic Society on Friday 28th January 2011.  On the theme of Borderlands we have presentations on early photography at the Raj's margins (Burma and Sri Lanka) from Andrew Jarvis (University of Cambridge), 19th century travellers' tales from the Himalayas from Dr Richard Axelby (SOAS), and a personal account of working in local Burmese archives from Dr Mandy Sadan (SOAS).  There will also be an opportunity to view treasures from the Royal Asiatic Society's own collections, and hear a presentation from Burzine Waghmar (SOAS) on his linguistic research.

For further information and to book your place, please email Helen Porter at the Royal Asiatic Society.

Monday, 1 November 2010

WWII elephant rescue : archive footage released

TV, radio and newspapers are today reporting the story of 'Elephant man' and tea planter, Gyles Mackrell, following the release on the University of Cambridge's YouTube channel of a short documentary film chronicling an epic rescue mission.

Amid the chaos of the British retreat from Burma early in 1942, Mackrell mounted an operation to save refugees trapped by flooded rivers at the border with India, using the only means available to get them across - elephants.  His story is recreated from his diary, papers and cinefilms held at the University's Centre of South Asian Studies in Cambridge.

For more information, please see the University's press release or contact the Centre's archivist, Dr Kevin Greenbank.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Liberté : a talk on Noor Inayat Khan GC (1914-1944)

Thursday 11th November 2010, 6:30 pm, Winstanley Lecture Theatre, Trinity College, Cambridge.

Liberté ; a talk on Noor Inayat Khan GC (1914-1944) by Shrabani Basu, author of Spy Princess: the life of Noor Inayat Khan.

Noor was an SOE agent in the Second World War. She was the first woman radio operator to be infiltrated into occupied France and helped the Resistance. She was betrayed, captured and executed in Dachau Concentration camp. Britain posthumously awarded her the George Cross.

Shrabani Basu published her biography of Noor Inayat Khan in 2006 and has since been campaigning for a personal memorial for Noor. Following an Early Day Motion in Parliament signed by 34 M.P.s and a signature campaign backed by Shami Chakrabarti and Gurinder Chadha, she got the go-ahead last month to install a bust of Noor Inayat Khan in Gordon Square, near the house where she lived. The permission was granted by the University of London, which owns Gordon Square. It will be the first memorial to an Asian woman in Britain.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Royal Asiatic Society Lectures

The RAS in London is hosting the following two lectures:

Ghulam Ali Khan and the Delhi School of Painters, 1770-1857
by Yuthika Sharma (Columbia University, New York)
Wednesday 13 October 2010, 6.30 pm.

Colin Mackenzie's Adventures in India (1784-1821)
by Dr. Jennifer Howes (British Library)
Thursday 11 November 2010, 6pm.

All are welcome, free of charge, no need to book.
Each lecture will be followed by a reception.

Royal Asiatic Society
14 Stephenson Way
London NW1 2HD.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

South Indian painting at the British Museum

Thursday 21 October 2010
South Indian painting at the British Museum
18:30 Stevenson Lecture Theatre

Anna Dallapiccola, University of Edinburgh, will speak about two different co-existing South Indian painting traditions - the Company paintings made for European clients in the 19th century, and the vibrantly painted narratives used by local storytellers.

£5, concessions £3
Book tickets through the British Museum Ticket Desk on +44 (0)20 7323 8181 or in person, daily 10:00-16:45.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

World History and Digital Scholarship conference

Henson Collection. Jubbal, India, c. 1915. © CSAS
29 October 2010

A one-day conference addressing the role played by digital humanities in the history curriculum and in inter-disciplinary research projects.

Organised by The Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge.
Venue: Adrian House, Burrell’s Field, Trinity College, Cambridge.

For registration (until 25 October 2010):
For further information:

Prof. Elizabeth Edwards (University of the Arts London)
Prof. Chris A. Bayly (University of Cambridge)

Dr Kevin Greenbank (CSAS, University of Cambridge)
Dr Lee Grieveson (Centre for Intercultural Studies, UCL)
Susanne Hammacher (RAI, London)
Nico de Klerk (Film Instituut Nederland)
Dr Sean Lang (Anglia Ruskin University)
Dr Mathew Mead (University of the Arts London)
Dr Annamaria Motrescu (CSAS, University of Cambridge)
Dr Heather Norris-Nicholson (Manchester Metropolitan University)
Susannah Rayner (SOAS, London)
Dr Susan Whitfield (British Library, London)

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Indian Hemp Drugs Commission

Harding-Simpole is a publishing house which specialises in books which are often difficult to find.Some of these will be reprints that are rare or impossible to obtain through the usual channels.
In association with the National Library of Scotland, they have published a facsimile reprint of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission report of 1893-94.
This report is the most comprehensive study on the effects of cannabis use ever undertaken. 1,455 witnesses were cross-examined in 86 meetings in 36 cities throughout India.

This reprint includes including rare photographs of cannabis cultivation, production and consumption.
There are some fascinating case studies: “[When] he [a soldier in the 13th Regiment] went on leave and lost some relations from cholera … he took to immoderate smoking, which resulted in madness …he was a raving maniac – violent, obstreperous.”
Anyone studying narcotics will find this work compelling, especially as it appears that the same debates still rage now, for example: should the use of cannabinoids for medicinal purposes be approved?

“It has been clearly established that the occasional use of hemp in moderate doses may be beneficial; but this use may be regarded as medicinal in character.”

This publication is also available on Amazon and at the National Library of Scotland.

Securing the future of elephants in India

Photo by James Gaither (Flickr, Creative Commons)
The Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, has recently published a
report by the Elephant Task Force, titled: Securing the Future for Elephants in India.(August 31, 2010). The report is available online in pdf format at:

The report includes chapters on monitoring systems, securing elephant corridors, poaching, the care of captive elephants, mitigating the human-elephant conflict and recommendations on governance and law.

Friday, 10 September 2010

South Asians Making Britain 1858-1950 Interactive timeline launched

An interactive timeline relating to the South Asian contribution to Britain from 1858 to 1950 has just been launched on the Guardian's website at

This timeline has been produced in collaboration with the Making Britain project.

Tackling stereotypes and reconfiguring the nation’s understanding of how South Asians have helped shape Britain, the Making Britain project reveals and celebrates the unsung contribution of South Asians to Britain 1870-1950

Further details of the Making Britain project are available at

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Open Cambridge, Open Libraries

Image credit: Centre of South Asian Studies
University of Cambridge
The Library at the Centre of South Asian Studies in Cambridge will be open to the public on Saturday 11th September from 10 am - 1 pm.

Come and view photographs, artwork and home movies shot in India 1911 - 1956, and listen to archive recordings in which men and women reflect on events and issues they experienced during that period.

Many other libraries and buildings will be open too for the Open Cambridge weekend - For a full listing see:

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Discover how South Asians shaped the Nation, 1870-1950

New online database launched
Discover how South Asians shaped the Nation, 1870-1950
This exciting new database provides online information on over 450 South Asians in Britain from 1870 to 1950, the organizations they were involved in, their British connections and the major events in which they participated.
Designed as an interactive tool, it offers engaging and innovative search and browsing options, including a timeline, location maps, and web diagrams modelled on social networking sites which highlight South Asians' interactions and relationships in Britain at the time.
The database also provides information on selected source materials, bibliographical references and archive details for researchers interested in the South Asian presence in Britain and will be an invaluable research tool.
Each entry points to the focus of the ‘Making Britain’ research project, emphasising the connections between South Asians and Britons that took place in Britain itself during this period, and offers an exciting window on South Asian contributions to British life.
Working in partnership with the British Library, ‘Making Britain’ is a project led by the Open University in collaboration with Oxford University and King’s College, London. The project’s main aim is to highlight the impact on Britain of the presence of a South Asian diasporic community in the period 1870-1950.
The Making Britain database is launching at the conference ‘Bharat Britain: South Asians Making Britain, 1870-1950’ at the British Library Conference Centre on 13-14 September 2010. For further information please visit:
The database can be accessed free of charge through the British Library’s ‘Asians in Britain’ research page:


Company paintings

Miniature painted on mica (© Cambridge University Library,
RCS collections)

The SAALG website now hosts a link to the excellent paper presented by Dr Crispin Branfoot at SAALG's Oxford conference on 1st July 2010 - Professions and processions in 19th century South India: a Company album in the SOAS Library.  It also includes a related article by Dr Branfoot published in Orientations, November 2007: Painting processions, social and religious landscape of Southern India in a "Company" album.

Together the papers provide a fascinating picture of Company painting in India.

Dr Branfoot is Senior Lecturer in South Asian Art and Archaeology at School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

Friday, 3 September 2010

News from the Ancient India & Iran Trust

The Ancient India and Iran Trust newsletter has been relaunched as Indiran, and the Spring/Summer 2010 issue is now available for download in pdf format at

The Trust is to be congratulated on this impressive publication, which opens with an obituary of Raymond Allchin, a legend in South Asian archaeology, and includes an interview with Christine van Ruymbeke on Persian poetry, an article on the conservation of Asian vultures and a report on their recent conference on Sri Lanka.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Science and environment in India 1780-1920

The India Office Records in the British Library document the activities of the English East India Company and the British administration of India from 1600 to 1947. This guide makes a great part of this material relating to science and the environment material newly accessible via sign-posted routes into the archives and detailed lists of the principal records. It also gives the historical and archival context of the documents, outlining the British involvement in science in India and explaining how the records are organised.

The guide is arranged into the following sections: plant and botanic gardens; agriculture; forests and forestry; animals and animal husbandry; geology; meteorology; health and disease; irrigation and water control; communications and the built environment; ethnography; landscape and topography.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Online access to Ashmolean Museum's Islamic art

Islamic and Asian art at the Ashmolean Museum
(Copyright Ashmolean Museum)

SAALG members who visited the Ashmolean as part of this summer's SAALG conference, will be especially interested in Eastern Art Online, a project of the Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art at the University of Oxford. It provides online access to the Ashmolean Museum's Eastern Art department collections with special focus on the stories the objects have to tell.

Bharat Britain conference, 13 and 14 September 2010

Bharat Britain: South Asians Making Britain 1870-1950

Conference Dates: Monday 13 and Tuesday 14 September 2010
British Library Conference Centre, St Pancras, London

Uncover and examine South Asian participation in literary and intellectual networks, art movements, and activist groupings during this under-explored period of Britain’s multicultural history.

Held in partnership with the British Library, the Making Britain conference will explore the formative contribution South Asian writers, activists and intellectuals made to shaping Britain’s literary, political and cultural life in the period 1870-1950. In so doing, it will highlight the research of the collaborative three year interdisciplinary research project Making Britain: South Asian Visions of Home and Abroad, 1870-1950, funded by the AHRC from 2007-2010 and linking the Open University with the Universities of Oxford, London and SALIDAA (South Asian Literature and Arts Archive).

Key speakers include:
Humayun Ansari, Elleke Boehmer, Antoinette Burton, Santanu Das, Susheila Nasta,
Nayantara Sahgal, Shyama Perera, Meera Syal and Rozina Visram

By focusing on the presence in Britain of South Asians in 1870 - 1950, and on the numerous modes in which they inflected ideas of Britishness and laid the ground for the construction of new multiple identities, the Making Britain conference seeks to heighten awareness of the breadth and depth of South Asian contribution to British culture.

Conference Price:
Single-Day Standard Fee including lunch: £ 60.00
Two-Day Standard Fee including lunch: £120.00

A limited number of 50 concessionary places per day are available:
Concessions (students/unwaged) Single-Day Fee including lunch: £20.00
Concessions (students/unwaged) Two-Day Fee including lunch: £35.00

Or contact: Heather Scott, Project Co-ordinator ‘Making Britain’, The Ferguson Centre, Faculty of Arts, Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes

Monday, 2 August 2010

A hot night in Bengal

Banyan tree with Hindu shrine at Gaya, Bihar. Coloured aquatint by T. Daniell, 1796 (Wellcome Library, Creative Commons)

If you haven't yet read this Sunday's posting on the Wellcome Library's blog, I can promise you an entertaining read!  Chris Hilton quotes from an East India Company letterbook for Dinapore District, dating from 1840-1841, which is currently undergoing conservation in the Library.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

This Friday's Conference

Do hope as many of you as possible will join our SAALG summer conference at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies this Friday, 2nd July.  We have an exciting programme of lectures and visits on the theme of Arts and Crafts.  Speakers include Dr Hassan Abedin, Dr Crispin Branfoot, Dr Renate Dohmen, Emma Martin and Dr Andrew Topsfield, who will be giving a gallery talk and tour of Indian collections in the recently refurbished Ashmolean. For the full programme, please refer to Jan Usher's post of 25th May.
If you haven't yet replied, but wish to attend, please email me a.s.a.p. The cost is £20, including lunch.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Indian botanical art in Edinburgh

55 botanical drawings made for the forest conservator Hugh Cleghorn are being exhibited for the first time at Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. The exhibition is part of a series of drawings made by Indian artists for Scottish East India Company surgeons.
It runs until the 4th July; admission is free.

(photo credit: Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh website)

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Coriander and saris - India Week at Clare Hall, Cambridge, 3-11 June 2010

Clare Hall, Cambridge is hosting a week of Indian cultural activities, including lectures, exhibitions, poetry, plays, dance and music...see India Week at Clare Hall, Cambridge for the full programme.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

SAALG Summer Conference, Oxford

Our 83rd conference will be held on Friday, 2nd July 2010, at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, George Street, Oxford, OX1 2AR.


10.45 - 11.00
Arrival and meet in Seminar Room (our meeting room for the day)
(Refreshments will be available in the adjoining Common Room)

11.00 - 11.30
Welcome talk by Dr Hassan Abedin (Development Officer, OXCIS)

11.30 – 12.00
Professions and processions in 19th century south India: a ‘Company’ album in SOAS Library by Dr Crispin Branfoot (SOAS)

12.00 – 12.45
Pleasures of Leisure? Painting with colour and light in British India by Dr Renate Dohmen (University of Louisiana)

12.45 - 14.00
Brief business meeting followed by lunch and networking
(Lunch will be served in the adjoining Common Room)

14.00 - 14.10
Walk to Ashmolean Museum in Beaumont Street. Enter Museum and assemble in the exhibition gallery: Royal Elephants from Mughal India.

14.15 - 15.30
Gallery talk by Dr Andrew Topsfield (Keeper, Eastern Art, The Ashmolean) and tour of adjoining new Eastern Art Paintings Study Room

15.30 - 16.00
Return to OXCIS and enjoy refreshments in the Common Room

16.00 - 16.45
Charles Bell’s collection of ‘curios’: an archive of the Anglo-Tibetan encounter, 1900-1935 by Emma Martin (Head of Ethnology & Curator of Asia Collections, National Museums, Liverpool)

If you would like to attend, please contact Jan Usher, Secretary,

See you there!

Friday, 7 May 2010

Ancient India & Iran Trust Lectures

Friday Lectures, Easter Term 2010
5pm, 23 Brooklands Avenue, Cambridge, CB2 8BG (


7 May Professor Stanley Insler (Yale University)
The Oldest Zoroastrian Calendar

14 May Dr Sethuraman Suresh (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, Chennai, India)
From Kanchipuram to Kampuchea – A Millennium of Trade and Cultural Exchanges between South India and Cambodia

28 May Dr Rosemary Crill (Senior Curator, Victoria & Albert Museum, London)
The Indian Portrait 1560–1860

4 June Professor Vicente Dobroruka (University of Brasilia)
Hellenistic Political Propaganda and Zoroastrian Oracles

Monday, 3 May 2010

Cambridge Conference on Sri Lanka

Recent research on the cultural history of Sri Lanka will be explored in an all day conference at the Ancient India and Iran Trust in Cambridge on Saturday 15th May 2010.

Please refer to the poster for more details.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Kingsley Martin Memorial Lecture in Cambridge cancelled

I am sorry to report that this Wednesday's Kingsley Martin Memorial Lecture in Cambridge, to have been delivered by Professor Arjun Appadurai of New School University, New York, on the topic: Intimate nation: remembering the Indian National Army, has had to be cancelled. The Centre of South Asian Studies hopes to rearrange the lecture for the Michaelmas Term 2010.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Illustrating India

Dr Jennifer Howes of the British Library has just published Illustrating India: The Early Colonial Investigations of Colin Mackenzie (1784–1821).
It reveals for the first time a mine of unique and fascinating information on pre-colonial and early colonial India. The Mackenzie collection, assembled by Colin Mackenzie, the first Surveyor General of India, between 1784 and 1821, contains the oldest and largest known repository of pictorial documents on the history and culture of India to be gathered by a single European collector.

This book showcases monuments and shrines, sculpture, landscapes, caste groups and social structures as described in late eighteenth and early nineteenth century India. Jennifer Howes’ gripping narrative contextualizes the Mackenzie drawings and provides a broad view of the Indian subcontinent. She presents a graphic account of people and everyday life in Hyderabad and Mysore, along with interpretations of temples and their uses. She also highlights Mackenzie’s investigations at Mahabalipuram, providing unique answers to some puzzling archaeological questions. Most importantly, she shows how Mackenzie’s methods profoundly relied upon information gathered by his Indian assistants.

Besides drawings, Mackenzie collected manuscripts, unpublished letters and maps, and he published articles about his research. Howes includes biographical notes on military draftsmen and copyists who worked for Mackenzie and identifies many unknown artists. Delineating the illustrious career of a determined individual, the author also asks whether Mackenzie could be regarded as an Orientalist.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Anglo-Sikh Heritage Trail - Battlefield Tour


Organised in conjunction with Anglia Battlefield Tours, this trip, on 29th May, will take you on a journey exploring the contribution made by Sikh soldiers during the Great War. Tour details and booking forms available on the ASHT website.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Sri Lanka Library Association

2010 sees the SLLA's golden jubilee, and there are several events to commemorate it throughout the year, culminating in the main ceremony on 6th October, which will be attended by IFLA President Ms Ellen Tise.

Home movies chronicling end of Empire released online

A collection of almost 300 silent films, offering a unique glimpse of life in India and other parts of South Asia during the final days of the British Empire has been released online. The films were shot between 1911 and 1956 on 8 mm and 16 mm reel and cover an astonishing range of subjects of interest to social historians, visual anthropologists and school children. The collection is owned by the Centre of South Asian Studies in Cambridge and may be viewed for free at:

For a taster of the collection, see the University of Cambridge press release, 4th March 2009, which includes a presentation on YouTube, in which the Centre's Archivist, Dr Kevin Greenbank, and Film Archivist, Dr Annamaria Motrescu, talk about this unique collection.

Monday, 1 March 2010

The Quest for Zoroaster

Ursula Sims-Williams, (British Library, and Ancient India & Iran Trust) will be giving a lecture entitled: The Quest for Zoroaster : Thomas Hyde’s (d. 1703) manuscript collection, on Wednesday 10 March 2010, at 5.30 pm in the Morison Room, Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge.

Friends of CUL £2.50, others £3.50. Junior members of the Cambridge University free entrance.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Digital oral history archive launched

Observant Times readers may have spotted two articles by Ben Hoyle on the digital archive of oral history recordings at the Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge, on the 5th and 7th December 2009.

The archive includes over 300 interviews, ranging from 15 minutes to 8 hours long, some are with women, most are in English and date from the 1970s. They cover an enormous subject range - from the popularization of Hindi and question of Hindi as national language of India, to leprosy and surgical rebuilding, and from discussions about Gandhi, the civil disobedience and non-cooperation movements to mass migrations at Partition, to the life of tea planters and forest officers.

The archive is freely accessible over the internet and offers a fresh insight into events in India in the decades preceding Independence.