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Books > History > William Erskine (Founders and Guardians of The Asiatic Society of Mumbai)
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William Erskine (Founders and Guardians of The Asiatic Society of Mumbai)
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William Erskine (Founders and Guardians of The Asiatic Society of Mumbai)
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About the Book

An attempt is made in this monograph to explore the life and research work of William Erskine (1773-1852), the first Secretary of the Literary Society of Bombay (later the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society of London and now the Asiatic Society of Mumbai). His discerning mind and accomplished pen have left an indelible mark in the world of scholarship about the Mughul period of India's history. His translation (in collaboration with John Leyden) of the original text Memoirs of Zehir-Ed-Din Muhammed Baber was published as early as in 1826. His monumental work, A History of India under the two first sovereigns of the House of Taimur: Baber and Humayun, was posthumously published in two volumes in 1854. The articles written by Erskine between 1813 and 1821 and published in the Transactions of the Literary Society of Bombay were hailed by scholars as works of exceptional literary merit. The turmoil and crisis in his personal life did not obstruct his passionate research, which he continued with steadfast determination and devotion. The bust of Erskine, placed in the foyer of the Asiatic Society of Mumbai, appears to be the only lasting testimony to his tenacious pursuit of scholarship—seeking knowledge for the sake of knowledge, away from fame and fortune.

Usha Thakkar is the President, Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sangrahalaya, Mumbai, and former Professor and Head, Department of Political Science, S.N.D.T. Women's University, Mumbai.

About the Author

Dr. Usha Thakkar is President, Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sangrahalaya, Mumbai. She retired as Professor and Head, Department of Political Science, SNDT Women's University, Mumbai. She has done postdoctoral research at the University of Chicago on Fulbright Fellowship and at Cornell University on Sr. Fulbright Fellowship and at York University (Canada) on WID Fellowship from the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute. She was also Visiting Fellow at Sheffield City Polytechnic, UK. She has been Vice-President, Asiatic Society of Mumbai, and also of Banasthali Vidyapith (Deemed University for women), Rajasthan.

Her research areas includeindian Politics, Bombay/Mumbai, Women's Studies, and Gandhian Studies. She has presented papers at many national and international conferences and has contributed to many prestigious journals. Her publications include Understanding Gandhi (co-editor), Zero Point Bombay: In and Around Horniman Circle (co-editor), Culture and making of Identity in Contemporary India (co-editor), Women in Indian Society (co-author), Politics in Maharashtra (co-editor), Kautilya's Arthashastra (co-author) and Women's Studies Series (in Gujarati, co-editor).

Introduction

The life of William Erskine, covered by the layers of two centuries, is distant and yet not so. His bust placed in the foyer of the Asiatic Society of Mumbai attracts the casual attention of the visitors. The veterans coming to the Society and the historians know him as an excellent scholar and the first Secretary of the Literary Society of Bombay.

Dr. Aroon Tikekar has conceptualized an impressive series of publications on the Founders and Guardians of the Asiatic society and some of us were involved with this work since its inception. The idea of writing about these known, unknown and little known personalities has been both captivating and educative. When I decided to write about William Erskine, I did not know much about his fascinating life and work. As I got drawn to his scholarly work and his important contribution to the Society, various facets of the subject started unfolding. What is striking about his accomplishments is the fact that his quest for knowledge that ignited in India never ended. The turmoil and crisis in his personal and professional life did not obstruct his passion for research which he continued with steadfast determination and complete devotion despite financial strain. This attempt to trace his life and research has been a rewarding experience.

Chapter 1 in this monograph gives an outline of the life-sketch of Erskine. Coming to India from Scotland in 1804 changed the course of his life. Though his professional life suffered a severe setback in India forcing him to go back, the research interest developed here became the driving force in his life. Chapter 2 focuses on his contribution to the Society. He was one of the founding members of the Society and as the first Secretary, was involved in all the activities of the Society in its early phase. Chapter 3 provides the details of the case of fraud and embezzlement filed against him, and the judgement of Sir Edward West. Chapter 4 describes his monumental contributions: translation of Memoirs of Zehir-Ed-Din Muhammed Baber (with Leyden) and A History of India under the two first sovereigns of the House of Taimur: Baber and Humayun. Chapter 5 presents an over view of his scholarly of two articles published in the three volumes of the Transactions of placed in the Literary Society of Bombay and glimpses from his diaries. Attracts the A brief evaluation at the end is the concluding part of the monograph.

This monograph has been possible mainly because of constant encouragement and support of Dr. Aroon Tikekar. He has been generous with his ideas, time and archival materials. The Asiatic I am grateful to him for his guidance and support that was since its available at all the stages of the writing of this monograph.

I thank the Asiatic Society of Mumbai for giving permission and to consult the digitized version of the minutes of the Literary Erskine, I Society of Bombay. I am also thankful to the staff of the Society, and especially Mr. C. G. Mane and Mr. Joseph Victor, 3ntribution for their help. I thank Dr. Prabha Ravishankar for procuring unfolding. Some valuable material for the monograph, and the scholars le fact that and friends at the Asiatic Society of Mumbai for fruitful discussions.

Contents

  A Note from the General Editor vi
  Introduction viii
I Life-sketch 1
II Erskine's Contribution to the Society 10
III The Case Against Erskine 19
IV Erskine's Books 31
V Articles and Diaries Written by Erskine 50
VI Evaluation 75
  Notes 79
  Bibliography 86

 

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William Erskine (Founders and Guardians of The Asiatic Society of Mumbai)

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About the Book

An attempt is made in this monograph to explore the life and research work of William Erskine (1773-1852), the first Secretary of the Literary Society of Bombay (later the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society of London and now the Asiatic Society of Mumbai). His discerning mind and accomplished pen have left an indelible mark in the world of scholarship about the Mughul period of India's history. His translation (in collaboration with John Leyden) of the original text Memoirs of Zehir-Ed-Din Muhammed Baber was published as early as in 1826. His monumental work, A History of India under the two first sovereigns of the House of Taimur: Baber and Humayun, was posthumously published in two volumes in 1854. The articles written by Erskine between 1813 and 1821 and published in the Transactions of the Literary Society of Bombay were hailed by scholars as works of exceptional literary merit. The turmoil and crisis in his personal life did not obstruct his passionate research, which he continued with steadfast determination and devotion. The bust of Erskine, placed in the foyer of the Asiatic Society of Mumbai, appears to be the only lasting testimony to his tenacious pursuit of scholarship—seeking knowledge for the sake of knowledge, away from fame and fortune.

Usha Thakkar is the President, Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sangrahalaya, Mumbai, and former Professor and Head, Department of Political Science, S.N.D.T. Women's University, Mumbai.

About the Author

Dr. Usha Thakkar is President, Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sangrahalaya, Mumbai. She retired as Professor and Head, Department of Political Science, SNDT Women's University, Mumbai. She has done postdoctoral research at the University of Chicago on Fulbright Fellowship and at Cornell University on Sr. Fulbright Fellowship and at York University (Canada) on WID Fellowship from the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute. She was also Visiting Fellow at Sheffield City Polytechnic, UK. She has been Vice-President, Asiatic Society of Mumbai, and also of Banasthali Vidyapith (Deemed University for women), Rajasthan.

Her research areas includeindian Politics, Bombay/Mumbai, Women's Studies, and Gandhian Studies. She has presented papers at many national and international conferences and has contributed to many prestigious journals. Her publications include Understanding Gandhi (co-editor), Zero Point Bombay: In and Around Horniman Circle (co-editor), Culture and making of Identity in Contemporary India (co-editor), Women in Indian Society (co-author), Politics in Maharashtra (co-editor), Kautilya's Arthashastra (co-author) and Women's Studies Series (in Gujarati, co-editor).

Introduction

The life of William Erskine, covered by the layers of two centuries, is distant and yet not so. His bust placed in the foyer of the Asiatic Society of Mumbai attracts the casual attention of the visitors. The veterans coming to the Society and the historians know him as an excellent scholar and the first Secretary of the Literary Society of Bombay.

Dr. Aroon Tikekar has conceptualized an impressive series of publications on the Founders and Guardians of the Asiatic society and some of us were involved with this work since its inception. The idea of writing about these known, unknown and little known personalities has been both captivating and educative. When I decided to write about William Erskine, I did not know much about his fascinating life and work. As I got drawn to his scholarly work and his important contribution to the Society, various facets of the subject started unfolding. What is striking about his accomplishments is the fact that his quest for knowledge that ignited in India never ended. The turmoil and crisis in his personal and professional life did not obstruct his passion for research which he continued with steadfast determination and complete devotion despite financial strain. This attempt to trace his life and research has been a rewarding experience.

Chapter 1 in this monograph gives an outline of the life-sketch of Erskine. Coming to India from Scotland in 1804 changed the course of his life. Though his professional life suffered a severe setback in India forcing him to go back, the research interest developed here became the driving force in his life. Chapter 2 focuses on his contribution to the Society. He was one of the founding members of the Society and as the first Secretary, was involved in all the activities of the Society in its early phase. Chapter 3 provides the details of the case of fraud and embezzlement filed against him, and the judgement of Sir Edward West. Chapter 4 describes his monumental contributions: translation of Memoirs of Zehir-Ed-Din Muhammed Baber (with Leyden) and A History of India under the two first sovereigns of the House of Taimur: Baber and Humayun. Chapter 5 presents an over view of his scholarly of two articles published in the three volumes of the Transactions of placed in the Literary Society of Bombay and glimpses from his diaries. Attracts the A brief evaluation at the end is the concluding part of the monograph.

This monograph has been possible mainly because of constant encouragement and support of Dr. Aroon Tikekar. He has been generous with his ideas, time and archival materials. The Asiatic I am grateful to him for his guidance and support that was since its available at all the stages of the writing of this monograph.

I thank the Asiatic Society of Mumbai for giving permission and to consult the digitized version of the minutes of the Literary Erskine, I Society of Bombay. I am also thankful to the staff of the Society, and especially Mr. C. G. Mane and Mr. Joseph Victor, 3ntribution for their help. I thank Dr. Prabha Ravishankar for procuring unfolding. Some valuable material for the monograph, and the scholars le fact that and friends at the Asiatic Society of Mumbai for fruitful discussions.

Contents

  A Note from the General Editor vi
  Introduction viii
I Life-sketch 1
II Erskine's Contribution to the Society 10
III The Case Against Erskine 19
IV Erskine's Books 31
V Articles and Diaries Written by Erskine 50
VI Evaluation 75
  Notes 79
  Bibliography 86

 

Sample Pages




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