Chapter-1 : Sources for Studying Modern Indian History

Sources for Studying Modern Indian History:

  • Archives:Primary source documents like government records, East India Company papers.
  • Official Records:Track administrative decisions and policymaker mindsets.
  • European Records (17th-18th C):Portuguese, Dutch, French records for economic and political insights.
  • Memoirs, Biographies, Travel Accounts:Offer personal perspectives on history (18th-19th C).
  • Newspapers & Journals (18th C onwards):Valuable information on Indian society.
  • Other Sources:Oral traditions, creative literature, paintings.


Archival Materials for Modern Indian History

Four Categories:

  • (i) Central Government Archives (National Archives of India)
  • (ii) State Government Archives
  • (iii) Records of Intermediate/Subordinate Authorities
  • (iv) Judicial Records

Central Government Archives:

  • National Archives of India (New Delhi): Covers various aspects of modern Indian history.
  • Departmental Records: Organized by branches (revenue, political, military, etc.).
  • Survey of India Records: Information on geography, socio-economic conditions.
  • Public/Judicial/Legislative Department Records: Insights into social, religious policies, and education.
  • Home Department Records: Deal with political and nationalist movements (esp. post-1907).
  • Reforms Office Records: Useful for studying constitutional developments (1920-1937).

State Government Archives:

  • Former British Indian provinces
  • Erstwhile princely states incorporated after 1947
  • Foreign administrations (other than British)
  • Captured Indian powers’ archives (e.g., Lahore Kingdom)

Examples of State Archives:

  • Peshwa Daftar (Pune): Valuable source for Maratha history.
  • Rajasthan State Archives (Bikaner): Archives of princely states like Jaipur, Jodhpur.
  • Jammu and Kashmir State Archives: Documents on Dogra rule since 1846.
  • Other Princely State Archives: Gwalior, Indore, Bhopal, Rewa, Travancore, Cochin, Mysore, Kolhapur.

Archives of Three Presidencies:

  • Bengal Presidency:Partial records from post-Plassey period in National Archives of India and West Bengal State Archives.
  • Madras Presidency:Records from 1670 onwards, documenting rise of British power in South India.
  • Bombay Presidency:Archives in Maharashtra Secretariat Record Office for studying Western India’s history.

Archives of Other European Powers:

  • Portuguese:Goa archives (1700-1900) hold information on Portuguese possessions in India.
  • Dutch:Records in Madras Record Office (Cochin, Malabar) and West Bengal State Archives (Chinsura).
  • French:Archives transferred to Paris before relinquishing settlements in India (Chandernagore, Pondicherry).
  • Danish:Records transferred to Copenhagen upon selling Tranquebar and Serampore. Remaining Danish records (1777-1845) in Madras Record Office.

Judicial Records:

  • Madras Record Office:Mayor’s Court archives from 1689 (earliest available judicial archives).
  • Calcutta High Court:Records from 1757 for Mayor’s Court and Supreme Court of Bengal.
  • Maharashtra Secretariat Record Office:Archives of Bombay Mayor’s Court (1728), Recorder’s Court, and Supreme Court.
  • Content:Court proceedings, minutes, wills, probates, letters of administration (genealogy, social conditions, economics).

Published Archives:

  • Parliamentary Papers:Excerpts from East India Company and Government of India records, reports, debates.
  • Indian/Provincial Legislatures:
  • Weekly Gazettes & Legal Collections:Published by central/provincial governments.

Private Archives:

  • Nehru Memorial Museum and Library:Papers of nationalist leaders, Indian National Congress records.
  • Banks, Businesses, Chambers of Commerce:Archives for studying economic changes.

Foreign Repositories:

  • British Museum & India Office Records (London):East India Company documents, Board of Control records, Secretary of State/India Council records, personal papers of British officials.
  • Archives Nationales, Paris & French Ministerial Archives:Records on French possessions and socio-political conditions.
  • Rijksarchief (Netherlands), Copenhagen (Denmark), Lisbon (Portugal):Dutch East India Company, Danish, and Portuguese archives.
  • Pakistan Archives (Lahore, Peshawar, Sindh):Regional history, India’s relations with neighboring countries.


Biographies, Memoirs & Travel Accounts for Modern India

  • Accounts by travelers, traders, missionaries, and civil servants.
  • Missionaries:Valuable insights into social and economic life (e.g., Bishop Heber’s Journal, Abbe Dubois’s Hindu Manners and Customs).
  • Famous British Travelers:George Forster, Benjamin Heyne, James Burnes, Alexander Burnes, C.J. Davidson, John Butler.
  • Famous Non-British Travelers:Victor Jacquemont, Baron Charles, William Moorcroft.
  • Importance:Supplement official records, offer unique perspectives on history.


Newspapers and Journals for Modern Indian History

  • Essential source for 19th and 20th century Indian history.

Early Newspapers (English):

  • Aimed at Europeans and Anglo-Indians.
  • Examples: The Bengal Gazette (1780), The Madras Courier (1788), The Bombay Herald (1789).

Nationalist Newspapers (Later 19th & 20th C):

  • Edited by prominent figures of the Indian National Congress.
  • Examples:
    • The Hindu, Swadesamitran (G. Subramaniya Iyer)
    • Kesari, Mahratta (Bal Gangadhar Tilak)
    • Bengalee (Surendranath Banerjea)
    • Amrita Bazaar Patrika (Sisir Kumar Ghosh, Motilal Ghosh)
    • Many others across India (Tribune, Hindustan, Indian Mirror, etc.)

Nationalist Publications Abroad:

  • Published by Indian nationalists to inspire patriotism overseas.
  • Examples: Indian Sociologist (London), Bande Matram (Paris), Talwar (Berlin), Ghadar (San Francisco).

Content and Bias:

  • Depict social, political, and economic life in colonial India.
  • Track major events in the freedom struggle (1920s onwards).
  • Need to consider potential bias based on publisher’s viewpoint (pro-British vs. nationalist).

Other Sources for Modern Indian History

Oral Evidence (Oral History):

  • Non-written sources like personal memories.
  • Helps broaden historical scope and confirm findings from other sources.
  • Some historians remain skeptical due to potential inaccuracies of memory.

Creative Literature:

  • Rise of the novel in the late 19th century.
  • Examples:
    • Bankim Chandra Chatterjee (Bengali): Novels like Anand Math (1882) depicting the Sanyasi Revolt.
    • Icharam Suryaram Desai (Gujarati): Hind ane Britanica (one of the earliest Indian political novels).
    • Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam writers: Novels reflecting social experiences.
  • Importance: Provide insights into social realities of the time period.


  • Information on social, economic, political, and cultural life during the colonial period.

Company Paintings (Patna Kalam):

  • Commissioned by the East India Company.
  • Depict scenes and people of the time (trades, festivals, clothing).
  • Popular until photography’s introduction in the 1840s.

Paintings of the 1857 Revolt:

  • British and Indian perspectives on the event.
  • Examples:
    • Relief of Lucknow (Thomas Jones Barker, 1859): Glorifies British heroes.
    • In Memoriam (Joseph Noel Paton): Depicts British women and children as helpless victims.
  • Importance: Reveal worldviews of both sides in the revolt.

Kalighat Paintings (19th Century, Calcutta):

  • Mythological figures and everyday life scenes.
  • Reflected social changes in Calcutta.
  • Satirized social evils of the time.

Art Movements (Late 19th Century):

  • Inspired by growing Indian nationalism.
  • Examples:
    • Nandalal Bose, Raja Ravi Varma (pioneers)
    • Bengal School led by Abanindranath Tagore, E.B. Havell, Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy
  • Focus: Indian mythology and cultural heritage.
  • Importance: Reflect the development of modern Indian art.

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