Posted on: 8 January 2014

Digital Rare Book:
A series of photographic illustrations, with descriptive letterpress, of the races and tribes of Hindustan
Edited by J. Forbes Watson and John William Kaye.
Published by India Museum in London - 1868

Read Book Online:

During the administration of Lord Canning, from 1856 to 1863, the interest which had been created in Europe by the remarkable development of the Photographic Art, communicated itself to India, and originated the desire to turn it to account in the illustration of the topography, architecture, and ethnology of that country.

There were none, perhaps, in whom this interest was awakened more strongly than in Lord and Lady Canning. It was their wish to carry home with them, at the end of their sojourn in India, a collection, obtained by private means, of photographic illustrations, which might recall to their memory the peculiarities of Indian life.

The great convulsion of 1857-58, while it necessarily retarded for a time all scientific and artistic operations, imparted a new interest to the country which had been the scene of, and to the people who had been the actors in these remarkable events. When, therefore, the pacification of India had been accomplished, the officers of the Indian Services, who had made themselves acquainted with the principles and practice of photography, encouraged and patronized by the Governor-General, went forth, and traversed the land in search of interesting subjects.

In this way the design soon exceeded the dimensions of a mere private collection, but Lord Canning felt that its importance was sufficient to warrant official sanction and development, and, therefore, placed the matter in the hands of Mr. Clive Bayley, his Home Secretary. Some of the more important results appear in the present work.

The photographs were produced without any definite plan, according to local and personal circumstances, by different officers ; and copies of each plate were sent home to the Secretary of State for India in Council.

After a time, it appeared that a sufficient number of illustrations had been received from various parts of India, fairly to represent the different varieties of the Indian races. The negatives remained in India ; but from the plates sent home it was easy to produce fresh negatives, the prints of which might be multiplied to any extent. The Secretary of State in Council sanctioned this operation, and the work was executed by Mr. W. Griggs, at the India Museum, under the superintendence of Dr. Forbes Watson.

In many cases some descriptive account of the tribes represented accompanied the photographs sent from India. These varied greatly in amplitude and value. But on the whole it may be said that they were sufficient to constitute the basis of the sketches contributed by Mr. John R. Melville, Colonel Meadows Taylor, Mr. Kaye, Dr. Forbes Watson, and others. These sketches do not profess to be more than mere rough notes, suggestive rather than exhaustive, and they make no claim to scientific research or philosophic investigation. But although the work does not aspire to scientific eminence, it is hoped that, in an ethnological point of view, it will not be without interest and value.

Photograph of Rajpoots from Delhi in India, taken by Shepherd and Robertson in c. 1863. This image of a group of four men, armed with shields, swords and muskets, is reproduced as illustration no. 199 in volume IV of John Forbes Watson's The People of India (1869). The accompanying text states, "The group photograph shows a party of Chohan soldiers armed in the native manner. The figure on the right has a broad shield at his back, which is slung over his left shoulder, and can be disengaged in a moment. It may be of rhinocerous hide, or of raw bullock or buffalo hide, pounded and cast, as it were, in a mould, which is nearly as strong. The central figure is a matchlock man; the other two ordinary swordsmen. Every Rajpoot is a master of his weapons, and most of them perform daily gymnastic exercises, of a difficult and arduous character, to an advanced period of life."

Copyright © The British Library Board

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Could volume 3 be downloaded?

FB is not accepting this particular download link. Please click on the 'read online' link and choose 'i' on the top-right to find the pdf link.

Rajpoot Soldiers armed with lock stock barrel guns, sword and shields

The race classification by Forbes Watson & Kaye in these books, fed into the Martial race vs Non-Martial race classification undertaken by British India, post 1857. These books are from 1868. Worth exploring Forbes Watson & Kaye's thoughts/influence on Arthur de Gobineau school of Aryan race theory too. Twisted anthropology ( see wiki -> )