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John Briggs (Founders and Guardians of The Asiatic Society of Mumbai)

John Briggs (Founders and Guardians of The Asiatic Society of Mumbai)
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John Briggs (Founders and Guardians of The Asiatic Society of Mumbai)

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Item Code: NAP409
Author: Prabha Ravi Shankar
Publisher: Indus Source Books
Language: English
Edition: 2017
ISBN: 9789385509155
Pages: 78
Cover: Paperback
Other Details: 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
weight of the book: 115 gms
Back of the Book

An attempt is made in this monograph to study the life and work of John Briggs (1785-1875), who was not only a good soldier but also an able administrator with a vision. He worked for the settlement of Khandesh, especially of the Bhils, and rendered useful service as Resident of Satara. He was chiefly responsible for setting up Mahabaleshwar as a sanatorium for the British officers of the Bombay Presidency.

Back in England in 1835, Briggs denounced Dalhousie's Doctrine of Lapse and his rapacious policy of annexation and correctly predicted its disastrous consequences. Briggs was not only an able officer but also an indefatigable student of Eastern languages, history and science. He wrote many books, pamphlets and articles, the most famous being the English translation of Ferishta's book, Tarik-i-Ferishta, and History of the Rise of Mahomedan Power in India Till the Year 1612 in four volumes. He published the Land Tax of India, one of the earliest protests against some forms of British misrule in India. He also wrote a useful pamphlet entitled Letters Addressed To a Young Person in India Calculated To Afford Instruction For His Conduct In General And More Especially In His Intercourse With The Natives, which served as an excellent guide for young men entering the army or as writers in the East India Company's service. Briggs had significant artistic talent and had donated paintings to the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. He was a sincere friend of India.

Dr. Prabha Ravi Shankar has served as a senior college lecturer in reputed colleges affiliated to the University of Mumbai and also as Associate Professor in the Department of History, S.N.D.T. Women's University. She is teaching at the Centre for Post Graduate Studies in one of the affiliated Colleges of the University.

About the Author
Dr. Prabha Ravi Shankar served as a senior college lecturer in reputed colleges affiliated to the University of Mumbai and as Associate Professor in the Dept. of History, S.N.D.T. Women's University. She is teaching at the Post Graduate Centre for History in an affiliated college of the University. She was awarded the Pandit Sethu Madhavrao Pagdi Fellowship from the Department of History, University of Mumbai (2003), the Senior Research Fellowship from the ICHR, New Delhi (2008), and an Associateship at the IIAS, Simla, (2014). She has presented many research papers in national and international seminars, both in India and abroad. She had also delivered many special lectures on invitation. Her research areas include the socio-political history of Modern India, the Indian National Movement and Mahatma Gandhi. Her publications include British Committee of the Indian National Congress, 1889-1921, New Delhi, 2011, G.A. Natesan and National Awakening, New Delhi, 2015, and a monograph in the series of Founders and Guardians of the Asiatic Society of Mumbai, jointly authored with Prof. J.V. Naik entitled The Jervis Brothers: George Risto Jervis & Thomas Best Jervis (Mumbai, 2014). She is currently working on Mahatma Gandhi and Henry and Millie Polak.


During his tenure of six years as President of the Asiatic Society, Dr. Aroon Tikekar took several initiatives with a view to resuscitating the culture of research and scholarly studies focused on Mumbai, Maharashtra and Western India. The project for bringing out Monographs of about 100 pages on the Founders and Guardians of the Asiatic Society occupied a pivotal place in his vision. He was a scholar who was deeply interested in the 19th century India. It was his firm conviction that the Asiatic Society had contributed substantially to 'intellectualizing Mumbai' under the leadership and inspiration of a group of scholars who could be truly called the Founders and Guardians of the Society. He had a grand plan for publishing Monographs on 26 such outstanding personalities. He encouraged research scholars associated with the Society to undertake the writing of these Monographs and guided them about the resource material, particularly the material which was available in the Library of the Asiatic Society itself. He had explained that "during two centuries and more of its fruitful existence, its members have made pioneering and lasting contributions to many fields of higher enquiry, philosophical as well as empirical. Much of this contribution has been recognized and lauded by the world of scholarship in India and outside. However, there were some scholars associated with the Society whose significant contribution to various fields such as iconography, numismatics, epigraphy, geology, geography, folk-lore and allied subjects has remained unknown or underestimated. The yields of their intellectual labour deserve to be brought to light".

The five year project envisaging publication of at least 25 such Monographs became a part of the Society's 'Five Year Plan'. Though the initial schedule of publication could not be maintained, 13 Monographs have been brought out so far as listed below:

1. Edward Moor by Dr. Mridula Ramanna.
2. John Faithfull Fleet by Dr. Leela B. Jois and Dr. Purnima Srikrishna.
3. Sir George Birdwood by Dr. Vijaya Gupchup.
4. Alexander Kinloch Forbes by Mr. Deepak Mehta. 5. The Jervis Brothers — George Risto Jervis & Thomas Best Jervis, by Prof. J. V. Naik& Dr. Prabha Ravi Shankar.
6. Sir James Mackintosh (1765-1832) Founder of the Literary Society of Bombay (1804) by Ms. Mrinal Kulkarni.
7. William Erskine (1773-1852), Secretary of Bombay Literary Society by Dr. Usha Thakkar.
8. Rev. P. Anderson (1816-1857); the author of The English in Western India by Dr. Louiza Rodrigues.
9. W.E. Frere (1811-1880), President of both the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (BBRAS) as well as the Bombay Geographical Society by Dr. Usha R. Vijailakshmi
10. Dr. George Buehler (1837-1898): Philologist & Epigraphist by Ms. Vaishali Karmarkar.
11. Dr. George Buist (1805-1860) by Dr. Aroon Tikekar
12. William Henry Sykes (1790-1872) by Dr. Sonali Pednekar
13. Peter Peterson (1847-1899) by Dr. Namrata Ganneri
The implementation of the Plan received a sudden set-back when Dr. Aroon Tikekar passed away on 19th January, 2016. This was a cruel blow to the members of the Society and to the large circle of his friends and admirers. It was clear that in the absence of Dr. Tikekar, the stewardship of the project would have to be entrusted to a group rather than an individual. Accordingly, the Society constituted a Committee with Dr. Usha Thakkar as the Chairperson and Dr. Mridula Ramana, Mr. Yogesh Kamdar and Prof. Mangala Sirdeshpande, as the members. The Committee was to complete the unfinished task because that would be the best way of paying homage to the memory of Dr. Tikekar. The Committee has toiled to motivate the scholars who were assigned the work of certain Monographs. By maintaining a constant follow-up the Committee has been successful in getting 5 Monographs to the stage of publication. The Committee deserves thanks for its endeavours and good wishes for its efforts to get more and more Monographs completed so as to fulfill the vision of Dr. Tikekar.


In this monograph entitled 'John Briggs' (1785-1875), I have attempted to study the talented and ambitious Scotsman John Briggs more as a scholar-administrator and friend of India than as an imperial symbol. Besides the primary sources available from Maharashtra State Archives, Pune Archives and the Asiatic Society of Mumbai, I have made use of the Briggs Private Papers available in the Bodleian Library at Oxford and some material from the Royal Asiatic Society of London.

Major Evans Bell, his friend and contemporary, wrote Memoir of General John Briggs of the Madras Army with Comments on Some of his Words and Work, London, 1885, using some of the autobiographical writings of Briggs. More than a century later, Arvind Deshpande published a book entitled John Briggs in Maharashtra: a Study of District Administration under Early British Rule (New Delhi, 1989). The present monograph studies the work of Briggs as an administrator with a vision, his contribution to the discovery of Mahabaleshwar as a hill sanatorium, his vigorous protest against Dalhousie's policy of annexation, and his scholarly and literary pursuits both in India and in England.

I am grateful to the late Dr Aroon Tikekar, general editor of this series of monographs of the Asiatic Society and former President of the Society, for his encouragement. I am very thankful to Mr Sharad Kale, the President of the Asiatic Society, for entrusting me with the task of writing this monograph. I would like to express my gratitude to Professor Usha Thakkar and Dr. Mridula Ramanna, for their critical comments and suggestions. I am very thankful to Professor Mangala Sirdeshpande and Mr. Yogesh Kamdar for their support.

I wish to express my profound sense of gratitude to Professor David Taylor, former Director, ISMC, AKU, London, and currently Associate Professor, who offered his critical opinion on many issues and for helping me to collect valuable sources from the libraries in London. His advice to look at the subject from various angles proved to be of great help. I am also very much indebted to the eminent writer and biographer, John Malcolm of Australia for his generosity in lending me his notes on the family tree of John Briggs that helped me understand a rather long and complicated family history of Briggs. While conducting his own research, Malcolm was kind enough to explain to me the connection between Briggs and Sir John Malcolm more clearly and for providing me his valuable advice at all times. I thank Edward Weech of the Royal Asiatic Society of London and also Smith of the Bodleian library in Oxford for assisting me with materials for this research.

I would like to convey my gratitude to Professor J.V. Naik, a Guru in the true sense of the term, and a reputed historian, especially on the social history of Maharashtra, under whom I had the privilege of learning history. His enthusiasm for perfection has always been an inspiration. I am equally grateful to Professor Mariam Dossal for her support and encouragement. I express my sincere thanks to the staff of the Asiatic Society of Mumbai, the Maharashtra State Archives, the University of Mumbai library and the S.N.D.T. Women's University. Mumbai, for their kindness and assistance. Lastly I express my thanks to my family members and my mother , in Particular, for her blessings.


Foreword iv
A Note from the General Editorix
ILife Sketch1
IIAn Administrator With A Vision6
IIIWork In India and Englain23

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