Posted on: 1 June 2016

Digital Rare Book:
A Narrative of the late transactions at Benares
By Warren Hastings (1732-1818)
Published J.Debrett, London - 1782

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Warren Hastings painted by Johann Zoffany, 1783–1784.

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I doubt if 1 in a 100 modern Englishmen could tell you who he was. Hastings is buried in a very remote and rustic churchyard in Gloucestershire - the tomb is simply marked ' Hastings ' --- with no ostentation or ornamentation (at his own request).... The Daylesford Estate , where W.H. lived for 30 years after his return from India (d.1818 ) is now owned by Lord Bamford --- founder of JCB -- a British company that, perhaps ironically, continues to conduct a great deal of its trade with the subcontinent ...

In Calcutta, India we all remember him. We have a whole big govt. colony named Hastings.

The U.P. state tourism government financed a restoration study of Warren Hastings's house at Chunar on the Ganga (Mirzapur district), from where he attacked Varanasi , just 8 months back. The study & restoration is being undertaken so that a hotel company (Neemrana) can turn it into a private heritage-hotel & not incur losses on its investment ! ( )

Hastings House, Calcutta now ( )

RE: Hastings House / Hastings Hotel / Hastings colony etcetera and so on .... Interesting - and rather serves to illustrate how the name ' Warren Hastings ' is better remembered ( if not always fondly !) in India than it is in contemporary Britain. Perhaps this is really not very surprising, and is in some respects only fitting, when one recalls that W.H. spent most of his adult life on the subcontinent (30+ years) and held an abiding fascination for Indian society and culture - the study of which he did so much to encourage. The lengthy trial that Hastings faced on his eventual return to Britain not only bankrupted him, it so badly tarnished his reputation that he was unable to pursue a career in domestic British politics - as would have been expected - and he simply faded away into the obscurity of a rural retirement. Only towards the end of his very long life were some steps made towards his rehabilitation within ' polite society ' (he was made a privy councillor to the Prince Regent/ George IV). If Hastings had been able to take on a role within the British political establishment of his times, perhaps his name would be better recalled in the U.K. of today. It is also worth noting that no comprehensive biography of Hastings has been written since the 1950s -- and it is surely high time that one was produced -- perhaps, in due course, such a work is more likely to emerge in India, rather than in Britain ???

Yes, Hastings is very much a subject of interest here in India. The work to revise the British historian's perspective on Indian history has finally begun. For doctoral work though, most Indian students still end up in universities outside India, because of the funding available there. Here is one recent thesis on Hastings ( not a biography) by a graduate from Delhi. ( )

Thank you for forwarding the link Mr Mathur : " Myth, Language and Empire : The EIC and the Construction of Modern India 1757-1857 " --- an admirably big, bold and broad subject to approach for a dissertation / thesis in this day and age -- when the general trend of academic study is toward ever narrowing fields of specialisation. A great deal of modern scholarship has become so narrowly defined and niche, in fact, that a lot of hard work and honest toil on the part of students is rendered practically meaningless and/or irrelevant as a direct consequence … just words for the sake of words, with no really useful ideas or insights contained therein. Interesting that the young author of this tract is based at the University of Ontario. The colleges and universities of the West are , as you point out, home to many thousands of Indian students – as well as many Indian academics and research assistants. I think , if memory serves (I would have to look up the exact figure) there are between 20 and 25 thousand graduate and post-graduate students from India studying at British universities at any one time – an exchange that can only be beneficial to both of the countries involved, surely ? Sadly, these numbers are in decline partly because American universities seem to generate a greater appeal in youthful Indian minds these days, and partly as a result of the UK’s current misguided immigration policy – but this might be opening up another one of your “ can of worms” ! The study of all aspects of Indian culture is well established in Britain - the history has a long history - if you will allow a weak pun. That the first professorship of Sanskrit was established at Oxford as long ago as the 1830s, is but one example. This scholarly interest is one aspect of our symbiotic Anglo-Indian relationship that has roots stretching all the way back to the curiosity of Warren Hastings and the other leading ‘ orientalists’ of the late 18th and early 19th centuries - and has continued apace ever since. If the conclusions or perceptions of previous generations of “ British historians” might now be seen as outdated, or misguided and in need of ‘ revision ‘ then - so be it – let’s get about it and start ‘ revising ‘ in earnest – but this is , I should point out, a process that has already been ongoing at British universities for more than fifty years. So long as historical ‘ revisionism ‘ is conducted in a spirit of genuine inquiry, or is seen as a necessary measure for setting the scholarly record straight, then I for one am all for it – it is only when this process is driven by alternative political ,cultural or nationalistic agendas (as I’m afraid often seems to be the case in modern India ) that it should become a matter for concern.

Julian Craig I agree 100% with the last para of your statement above. We do not want to end up from one tainted version to another tainted one. PS: provided the first one was tainted at all.

Re: " from one tainted version to another " ... ^^ Precisely ( and summed up in considerably fewer words than I was able to manage -- three cheers for economy of expression !) had summed up everything "very well" ...I was just adding my vote.

Many good points, Julian. In my decade of living in Europe, I saw so many Europeans of Eastern Indic thought & now having come back to India, am surprised at how many urban Indians are completely westernized in their work/life philosophy ( even though they practice old Indian religious rituals). Yes, it is a good thing that at a time when most of the countries trend towards electing rightist parties, the relevance of nationalism itself is reducing all over the world. You make an important observation about our era of narrow specializations. That is a global problem. You go to hospitals anywhere & you have to hunt for a generalist doctor who knows all body parts. West or East, many thinkers of the past warned us about the dangers of bifurcating Science & Arts. Da Vinci wrote about it & even in Newton’s day, the two streams were Mathematics & Arts, not “Science” as a subject by itself. Today, the reward system of specialization has become completely aligned with economic growth & it is often mistaken as meritocracy. Knowledge workers with polymathic competencies in multiple disciplines are much needed but few, partly because there is no career path/economic ladder visible for “comprehensivists” ( eg. Buckminster Fuller) today. The result is that a whole lot of higher educated people across urban/modern cities see economic growth as more important than any spiritual/religious/knowledge seeking growth. ( This of course, is perceived as the key western work/life philosophy vs eastern work/life philosophy difference.) Here , we get into one of the primary questions of philosophy – “ what is the purpose of life ? “. Its not “history” but the subject of “philosophy” which sits atop the hierarchy of subjects (in the western epistemology of “knowledge” ). Therein lies the key issue which impedes the research of ancient India – all subjects, including history. All the US & European universities (& most of the Indian universities too, since they still follow the English education system) do NOT include the works & names of Indian philosophers under their departments of “Philosophy”. 3000 years of outstanding Indian literature ( Sanskrit, mostly) is ignored because Plato, Socrates, Seneca, Russell & other white-skinned thinkers are considered so sacrosanct that they shouldn’t be compared to their contemporaries like Panini, Nagarjuna, Bhartrhari, Dinnaga, Gangesa, BK Matilal & other brown-skinned thinkers. Even today, to study the Indian philosopher/thinker’s works, the US & European universities direct you to their Departments of Comparitive Religious Studies, Philology & even Indology. I specifically mention BK Matilal because he taught at Oxford much of his life (in Eastern Religions Section, All Souls College) & has written extensively about how essential it is to bridge this gap, not just for Indian history but for the larger good of world philosophy/mankind. The impact is manifold – Indian logic unlike western logic (rooted in mathematics), is rooted in Sanskrit language grammar. Without knowing Sanskrit, Indian logic & thereby Indian philosophy, is tough to grasp. Unlike its contemporary languages, Sanskrit is man-designed & methodical down to its phonetics & the arrangement of its alphabet/akshara, almost like a modern language written for computer programming. Another aspect is epistemology, Indian ( sanskritic – Buddhist, jain, hindu etc.) philosophy has a lot of research for over 2500 years on it. “Western” epistemology has barely 300 years of evolution mainly centered on Diderot’s work on the encyclopaedia. Apart from Logic & Epistemology, the third key distinction in western & Indian philosophy, is the recognition of “consciousness”. Instead of debating this & analysing the tomes of Indian texts on the subject, western Philosophy academia continue to block the entire body of knowledge by labelling it “Religious” texts. Most of India’s large volumes of literature is in Sanskrit, and its just been surfaced-scratched in terms of its discovery in Indian, US & European academia. One of the key reasons is that each of the old texts can’t really be classified into one subject, the way academia operates today. (Translation immediately leads to a loss, but it’s the only way ahead in an English language obsessed academia). Take for eg. – the Vishnudharmattora purana, while much of it is a Vishnu religious text, its third section is the amazing “ Chitrasutra” or “the String of instructions on how to paint” . Look deeper & its not just India’s first art instruction rules but in its instructions on colours & related painter & viewer moods/behaviour, it goes deep into the modern subject of “Cognitive Sciences”. No point in reading too much into the large flow of Indian (high income families) students into US & Europe academic institutions. Some 30,000 to UK in an year is a statistical blip when 1 million Indians turn 18 years of age, each month. Instead of the needed 12 million new jobs per year in India, we are barely creating 0.1 million in India, in a good year. Anyways just 35 million out of India’s current working population of 480 million today, have a formal (contractual) job. Those young Indians who come out to study & incur these high expenses in a high GDP location will naturally focus primarily on their livelihood/job opportunity in the country where they come to study. Of course, rightist governments in high-GDP locations will first focus on the economics of those who elect them than the interest of these foreign students. Each person who votes of course, has a decision to make – is his/her economic interest more important than protecting some human value/dignity for a person from another land, whom you don’t even know ? In the journey towards “Right Livelihood” though, the middle path between material heedlessness & seeking higher knowledge, is a balance which is not just for the privileged born in high-GDP countries to make but for all citizens in non-conflict zones everywhere, whose basic needs of food/shelter are covered. There was a lot of focus on this middle-path & right-livelihood aspect in ancient Indian texts/philosophies. This is mostly being passed down orally through allegory & metaphors of stories & song (often religious), not formal education/academia, in India. All religions including Islam & Christianity in India blend these local stories & song. That forms the Indian culture. The downsides of historical revisionism through politics & nationalistic agendas are real but they’ve always been so. Your fear of revisionism through an alternative cultural agenda though, are misplaced. Very long response to your comment. My apologies. But I thought I should share some views on the crux of the matter since you appear to have so much faith in these formal institutions of learning. Unless the academic world (US, European & Indian universities) stops ignoring Indian philosophy, a lot of ancient Indian knowledge locked inside Sanskrit texts, will not surface. Some work has begun in this direction, in India but there is negligible ability in academic institutions to peer review such work. Not because of the lack of Sanskrit language understanding but because of lack of understanding of Indian philosophy, particularly logic & epistemology. A sudden revamp of the Indian education system (on the lines of Hebrew introduction in a new Israel) relying on a misplaced understanding of the merits of Sanskrit language, is also what many revisionists desire. Unlikely that such a move will ever go through politically because so much of ethnic pride is linked to local languages.

Great thanks a lot enlightened I support your views

Crumbs !! Thank you for the extensive and rather complex feedback, Mr Mathur – plenty of ideas in there to be explored and ‘unpacked’. I’m afraid to say (or type) that many of your observations concerning the salient points of ancient Indic philosophy/ philology etc. are largely lost upon me – and go sailing in a stiff breeze far, far over my simple head. These are matters of which I, understandably, have only a limited knowledge (and, to be honest, only a limited interest) and so perhaps it is for other more learned members of the RBSI fraternity to respond to them at greater length. Suffice to say – now that an active dialogue between East and West (however vague and ill defined) exists surrounding many of these subjects, via many institutions and organisations, we can all surely welcome such a positive and constructive development. As to the other, broader issues that you raise, I will confine myself, if I may, to a few brief remarks in response : ------------ Re: " ... the relevance of nationalism itself is reducing all over the world. " I would have to say that I disagree with you. ' Nationalism ' - or certainly a crude form of political/ patriotic populism - is very much on the rise, certainly in Europe and in Russia -- some would say in India too ! -------------- Re: “No point in reading too much into the large flow of Indian (high income families) students into US & Europe academic institutions.” I did not mean to overemphasize the importance of this exchange to a country with a vast population in excess of 1.2 billion people (or whatever it is these days) – many of whom receive only a cursory education at best -- but the numbers involved are negligible in my opinion. I was, however, somewhat off the mark with my suggestion that 20-25,000 Indian students are educated at British universities every year – in fact the numbers have dropped considerably – to between 10 -15 thousand per annum over the course of the last five years. By way of contrast, the UK accepted 58,000 students from China in 2014 alone – make of these shifting priorities, in a geo-political context, what you will. However, while the number of Indian students in Europe may be in decline, their numbers are rising steeply in the United States – 194,000 in 2015 – an increase of 30% on the previous year (see ‘The Times of India’ 29.04.16). Essentially, if these levels are maintained, the US will be educating somewhere in the region of 2 million of your countrymen and women every decade! Of course, as you rightly point out, not all of these students will ever return to India to work or make a contribution there – many will be seduced by the higher wages/ living standards that the West has to offer – and so the ultimate impact of India’s ‘best & brightest’ being educated abroad has to be weighed up in this light. ________________ Re: “Instead of the needed 12 million new jobs per year in India, we are barely creating 0.1 million in India, in a good year.” This is the real dilemma that India will face in the 21st century and beyond. For every stride forward that she takes in a variety of fields – be it infrastructure, education, environmental protection, health provision etcetera – she will always be in danger of all development being set back or crushed under the staggering weight of simple demographics.... But let us not wallow in Malthusian gloom – rapid population growth has its benefits as well as its drawbacks. How to find a balance or what the solution to this conundrum will be, only time will reveal. ----------------------------------- Re: “ … since you appear to have so much faith in these formal institutions of learning.” This , I can assure you, is not really the case. My own direct experience of the academy has left me well aware of its many shortcomings. I would say though, that on the whole, a university education remains the best way of broadening one’s horizons and improving one’s ‘ life chances ‘( a ghastly expression !) Anyway - we seem to have drifted some distance away from the topic of ' Warren Hastings ' - not that it really matters, I suppose - these ' Facebookian' threads often seem to develop a life of their own. Best Wishes etc & c.

I meant to say that relevance of nationalism is decreasing even though nationalism itself is on the rise. I agree with you. Certainly on the rise in India too. The relevance is decreasing because of internet access, globalization & inter-dependencies of country economics. For eg. Central bank heads/Elected politicians in most countries can no longer buy their currencies to control their currency rates vis-a-vis USD or Renminbi or Euro. Interbank traders of Global private banks control that. Also, OPEC ..... And yes, on Nationalism & Academia, do note that Rabindranath Tagore created a Global University in Santiniketan, India called "Vishwa Bharati" , with a specific purpose of teaching the value of Global citizenship over Nationalism. His related essay on "Nationalism" , is noteworthy.

Just a drop of ' nationalism ', in the wrong hands, can be a dangerous thing. Never add it to your drink ! In Europe we are all absolutely petrified by its long shadow - and with good reason - this continent has been reduced to ashes twice in the past 100 years as a result of its unchecked rise. That is not to say that a love for one's own country is in any way unhealthy - good, old fashioned patriotism is perfectly natural and harmless - but ' nationalism ' is patriotism elevated to the level of idolatry - and breeds fanaticism and violence. The form of ' nationalism ' that exists in modern India is of an unusual kind - in a global context - based as it is, primarily in notions of religious purity and/or exceptionalism (the Hindutva brigade et al) - but fortunately, the democratic tradition seems robust enough in India to withstand their fulminations.

Woah...!! You guys have certainly drifted away from W.H. I was gone just a day, but seems like a month. Just came back to state I had finally started reading that thesis by Nida.....and wanted to mention, she makes a good start and am hopeful she will enlighten me some, but here is thesis of its own to read...! Once again, RBSI, I find myself short of time to keep up with your material.....which is a good sign though :)