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Completing “Our Stock of Geography”, or an Object “Still More Sublime”: Colin Mackenzie's Survey of Mysore, 1799–1810

  • Peter Robb


To facilitate & promote all enquiries which may be calculated to enlarge the boundaries of General Science is a Duty imposed on the British Government in India by its present exalted situation & the discharge of that Duty is in a more especial manner required from us when any material addition can be made to the Public Stock of useful knowledge without involving considerable expence.… [T]his desirable object will never be attained unless it shall be made the Duty of some Public Officer properly qualified for this Service to collect information & to digest & publish the results of his researches.



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1 Proceedings of the Governor-General (Public Department), 26 July 1804; see below, note 12. The specific reference here was to information on Indian fauna.

2 The essay was originally a talk given at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and later at St Antony's College, Oxford. I am grateful to participants for their comments. I am pleased to acknowledge that many of my ideas here evolved in discussions with andrew Grout, and on the basis of materials he has collected on geology in India. Thanks are also due to the staff at the National Archives of India, to the London School of Oriental and African Studies for financial support, to Janet Marks for typing, and, for their help during my research in New Delhi, to K. N. Malik and to Dr Olivier Guillaume and his staff at CSH, French Cultural Centre. The paper is based upon letter books and other surveying papers held in the National Archives of India, New Delhi, which describe the evolution of surveying under Colin Mackenzie. The letter books include both fair copies and drafts with emendations in Mackenzie's own hand; in selection and arrangement they appear as a record deliberately framed for posterity by Mackenzie, expressing his concern for records. My account is a report on work in progress; though I hope to introduce further materials and more detail in a larger format, it is worth making this available now, as other sources and comparisons may enrich the story but seem unlikely to change its main oudines. There are two main letter books, and many other related papers in the Survey of India Memoirs collection. The full citation for the first book is M130B “Public & Official Letter Book of the Superintendent of the Mysore Survey, 1799 to 1803”, Survey of India Memoirs M6, 1800–10; cited hereafter as “LBI”. The second letter book, commencing 13 April 1803, has the reference M131B, “Mysore Survey: Official and Public Letterbook (Colin Mackenzie), 1803–9”, Survey of India Memoirs MI8; it will be cited as “LB2”. Other references to the Memoirs (hereafter “SI”) will be cited (mostly) with two numbers, the first taken from the manuscript and the second, if different, being the catalogue number at the National Archives of India; initial letters (“M” for Memoir, “RP" for Report, and so on) indicate the sub-sections of the collection's short-list. Spelling and punctuation have been slightly modernized in the quotations.

3 Foucault, M., Discipline and Punish, tr. Sheridan, Alan (Harmondsworth, 1977), p. 202. Also relevant to the paper is his History of Sexuality, tr. Hurley, Robert (Harmondsworth, 1976), pp. 135–45, and The Order of Things. An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (tr. of Les mots et les choses; London, 1970). See also Adas, Michael, Machines as the Measure of Men. Science, Technology and Ideologies of Western Dominance (Delhi, 1990).

4 Obviously this is related to anderson, B., Imagined Communities. Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London, 1991), especially ch. 10. The implied impact is not only on objective conditions for the idea of the “national” (institutions, language, communications, economic changes), but also on the subjective (ideologies, understandings, common experience); thus it does affect the view from below or from the colonized as well as from above or from Europe; see Hobsbawm, E., Nations and Nationalism since 1780 (Cambridge, 1972), pp. 912.

5 By his own account he joined the service in 1783, and was attached to the Nizam of Hyderabad's subsidiary force in April 1792, chiefly to improve the geography of the Deccan, operations which he carried on “without Salary or Establishment for 6 Years till 1798”, interrupted only by expeditions (the seige of Pondicherry, June 1793 to February 1794; expedition against Colombo, October 179s to September 1796; inspection of Guntur and northern forts, September 1796 to January 1797; “expedition designed against Manilla”, June 1797 to May 1798; campaign in Mysore, January 1799); see Mackenzie, to Buchan, , 10 September 1806, LB2.

6 Contrast this argument with the stress on personal and political advancement and pragmatism (including interesting suggestions on Wellesley's motives) in Vicziany, Marika, “Imperialism, botany and statistics in early nineteenth-century India: the surveys of Francis Buchanan (1762–1829)”, Modem Asian Studies, XX, 4 (1986); this discusses Buchanan's botanical survey of Mysore, while underestimating Mackenzie's. The extent to which Mackenzie's work in Mysore provided a template may be doubted – there are competing claims not only for Buchanan(-Hamilton) but for James Rennell, appointed Surveyor-General in Bengal in 1767, for William Lambton, and for later innovators in revenue surveys. But the argument seems to be clinched by the (intended?) denouement of Mackenzie's letter books, his “Memorandum on the expediency of applying the remaining Establishment of the Mysore Survey to assist a General Statistical Investigation of the Provinces dependant on the Government of Fort St George”, Madras, 22 February 1809, LB2, and also by his “General Report on the State of the Surveying Department”, “Official Duties of the Surveyor–General” and other regulations in SI M37. I argue that what changed after 1809 was not so much the range, methods and functions of surveying as its generality and institutionalization; similar goals seem to have been in mind from the start, at least for Mackenzie.

7 Phillimore, R. H., Historical Records of the Survey of India, II, 1800 to 1815 (Dehra Dun, 1950); see for example p. 9, attributing to Lambton the “boon of a great trigonometrical survey” and stating that before him “no scheme [was] ever put into action for a continuous progressive survey of the whole country”; Lambton was indeed a surveyors' surveyor. For Mysore see chapters VII and VIII, pp. 91–121. See also vols. I (1945) and II (1954).

8 Matthew Henry Edney, “Mapping and empire: British trigonometrical surveys in India and the European concept of systematic survey, 1799–1843” (PhD dissertation, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1990). Edney provides a fine study of the general question of the surveys and their significance, and an account of the legacy of Mackenzie and others, but follows Phillimore in giving prominence to Lambton; while agreeing on the symbolism of surveying and “showing the flag”, I seek to modify Edney's opposition of Mackenzie and topographic surveys (= utility) to Lambton and geodesy through triangulation (= inutility), pp. 439–41 and passim. See also his Mapping an Empire. The Geographical Construction of British India, 1765–1843 (Chicago, 1997), published since this paper was written.

9 Dirks, N., “Colonial histories and native informants: biography of an archive”, in Breckenridge, C. and van der Veer, P. (eds.), Orientalism and the Postcolonial Predicament. Perspectives on South Asia (Delhi, 1994), pp. 279313. Dirks has also discussed Mackenzie in “Guiltless spoliations” in Asher, C. B. and Metcalf, T. R., eds, Perceptions of South Asia's Visual Past (New Delhi, 1995).

10 Berthon, Simon and Robinson, andrew, The Shape of the World. The Mapping and Discovery of the Earth (Chicago, 1991), pp. 136–8.

11 See also Edney, , “Mapping”, pp. 454–92, for a discussion of concepts of space (one, however, not fully specifying the distinctive elements and applications of British ideas). Other issues – the use of Indian informants, the nature of indigenous concepts, the role of Mackenzie in discoveries on Indian religion, or the construction of ideas of caste and society – will not be considered here; some have been discussed in the other works cited in these notes.

12 The phrase “our Stock of Geography” comes from Mackenzie to Lt Capt. Johnstone, John, Bombay Engineers, 25 August 1800, LBi; but many similar phrases are found in the letter books, notably “the Improvement of Indian Geography” (Mackenzie to George Buchan, Chief Secretary to Government, Fort St George, 18 October 1808, LB2). On “completion” (of history as well as geography) – signifying, I believe, confidence in the unity and comprehensibility of all knowledge, the possibility of describing and measuring everything – see especially Mackenzie, to Buchan, , 28 February 1804, LB2: “Investigations … in the Geographical Line in the different provinces of India may contribute to the General Design”. Compare the epigraph to this essay (note 1 above) which was copied in the letter books with a circular on fauna from Major Wilkes, Acting Resident, Mysore, 26 July 1804, LB2, and also included the following: “The Knowledge hitherto obtained in Europe respecting certain branches of the Natural history of the Continent of India & of the Indian Isles, is defective notwithstanding the progress which has been made within the last twenty years in the prosecution of Scientific enquiries connected with the Manners, Produce & Antiquities of this part of Asia …” and “The Governor General entertains a confident persuasion that with the facilities which we now possess for the Collection of Accurate Information from every part of India, the Natural History of the Quarter of the Globe may be gready improved without involving the necessity of any material charge on the Public Resources…”. See also note 29 below. Similarly, for a brief account on flora for this early period, see Desmond, Ray, The European Discovery of the Indian Flora (Oxford, 1992), pp. 3980.

13 Major W. Lambton, “A Memoir containing an account of the principal operations of the Survey carried out in Mysoor in the year 1801, and explaining the general principles on which it has been conducted” [1802], with Lambton, to Chamier, John, Chief Secretary, Government of India, 23 February 1802, SI M14.

14 Mackenzie of course represents that new mode of inquiry and taxonomy, the different range of what it was possible to think, discussed in Foucault, The Order of Things.

15 Irshick, E., Dialogue and History. Constructing South India, 1795–1895 (Berkeley, 1994), p. 1. Note, however, p. 28; it will be argued here to the contrary that there were limits, imposed by his own close direction and record-keeping, especially in technical rather than historical aspects, to Mackenzie's dependence on the “field work and the assumptions of local non-European assistants”.

16 van der Veer, P., “The foreign hand: orientalist discourse in sociology and communalism” in Breckenridge and van der Veer, Orientalism, p. 25.

17 D. Ludden, “Orientalist empiricism: transformation of colonial knowledge” in ibid., p. 252.

18 See Dirks, “Colonial histories”. One difficulty is that Dirks's proposition is itself essentialising, of “colonial” and “Indian”, though those categories are diverse and contain many and sometimes parallel strands.

19 Mackenzie, to Lt Col. Barry Close, Resident, Mysore, 20 March 1800, LBi and compare ibid., to Col. Arthur Wellesley, commanding in Mysore, 18 July 1799, referring to “Surveys which will now be so desirable, of our new acquisitions in Mysore” (emphasis added) and to the “utility of employing a person” with “experience of the most eligible mode of executing the duty”.

20 Mather to Alexander, Read, 6 June 1799, LBi. On Read and the revenue survey in Baramahal, see Beaglehole, T. H., Thomas Munro and the Development of Administrative Policy in Madras, 1792–1818 (Cambridge, 1966), pp. 1234.

21 Read to Harris, Lt Gen, 9 July 1799, LBi.

22 Mackenzie to Close, 9 November 1799, LBi. See also Mackenzie to Capt. Johnson, 7 July 1800, and to Col. Montresor, 28 July 1800, LB 1. On the support of Thomas Munro, then Collector of Kanara, for a survey for revenue purposes, see also Mackenzie to Close, 5 September 1800, LBi. See Beaglehole, , Munro, pp. 4454 and 71–2, for Munro's revenue surveys in Kanara and the Ceded Districts.

23 Mackenzie, to Close, 9 November, and also 6 December 1799, LBi.

24 Mackenzie, to John, Mather, Asst. Surveyor, 20 February 1800, LBi.

25 Mackenzie, to Close, 9 November 1799, and see Mackenzie, to [Col. Fitzpatrick?], 5 January 1800, LBi.

26 Foreign and Secret Proceedings, Fort William Consultations, 27 July 1764, p. 214; compare 2 January and 19 March 1764 and passim (National Archives of India).

27 Buxar occasioned the grant by the Mughal Emperor to the East India Company of the diwani (revenue-collecting right) and hence effectively territorial control, in eastern India; Nandakumar, long thought an unreliable if rich ally, was hanged for forgery in 1775 – “the last vestige of native statesmanship in Bengal”, according to Keene, H. G., History of India (London, 1893), i, p. 234, or perhaps the first in a long series of instances in which British colonizers showed their distrust of their Indian agents and resolved to reduce their reliance upon them. For other views of Indian “untrustworthiness” see Benjamin Heyne, “Cursory Remarks on a Tour to Hyderabad in 1798”, SI (M160) M3, and Lt John Warren, “Memoir and Registers of the Pargunnah of Colar, Oosscotta and Jungamcotta in Mysore, 1800–01 and 1802”, SI (M115) Mil. Contrast these and Dirks's “Colonial histories”, pp. 309–10, with Mackenzie's expressed trust in the integrity of Letchmia, C. V., Principal Interpreter to the Mysore Survey, and his welcome of other assistants; to Letchmia, 13 and also 19 july 1805, LB2.

28 Select Committee papers, Fort William, , 14 October 1766 (Graham, to Verelst, Henry, 30 September 1766), p. 205; and 27 September 1766 (Verelst to Col. Richard Smith), pp. 189–90 (see note 26.)

29 Kohli, Sita Ram, ed., Fort William-India House Correspondence. Military Series, XXI (1797–1800), National Archives of India (1969), pp. 153–4. On 9 May 1797, the Court of Directors in London, ostensibly to supply the indefatigable John Bruce (appointed Company historiographer jointly with Robert Orme until the latter's death in 1801), was clearly desirous of information about processes of change in India and seeking ammunition with which to defend the Company's record; the Court had called for data on “chronology, geography, government, laws, political revolutions, the progressive stages of the useful arts, manufactures, science, and of the fine arts, and particularly in the former and present state of internal and foreign trade”. In 1798, responding on a specific matter but in a manner which had general implications, the Court recommended the Governor General to investigate “the geography and natural production of the hills, the languages, manners, custom, arts, laws, traditions, religions, or mythological tenets, objects of worship, superstitious practices, tempers and disposition of the various communities which occupy the hilly countries” and the affinity between them and the plains people. See Gupta, P. C., Fort William–India House Correspondence. Public Series, XIII (1796–1800), National Archives of India (1969), 9 05 1797 and 25 May 1798. Gupta claims the response to these calls was disappointing, but this overlooks the rapid financial retrenchment on one hand, and, on the other, the massive contributions of Mackenzie and others, and the subsequent history of colonial information-gathering.

30 See for example Mackenzie to Jones, Wm., Treasurer, Fort St George, 7 August 1800, and to Gordon, H., Paymaster, Mysore, 7 August 1800, and to josiah Webbe, Resident, Mysore, 17 July [1802], LBi. Later see also Mackenzie to Cecil Smith, Civil Auditor, Fort St George, 1 August 1805, to Smith, J., Military Payments Officer, 31 July 1806, and to Lord Bentinck, Wm., Govemor-in-Council, Fort St George, 16 July 1806, LB2. (Beaglehole, , Munro, p. 150, claims Webbe, the influential Chief Secretary in Madras in 1800, did not take up his appointment as Resident in Mysore; certainly Peele, J. H. was sometimes acting Resident, and yet Mackenzie frequently wrote to Webbe as Resident, 18011804.)

31 Mackenzie to Webbe. 5 November 1799, LBI.

32 Mackenzie to Close, 6 December 1799, LBI. See also “Letters of Major Lambton, W. to the Government of India regarding the Trigonometrical Survey Operations in Mysore [18011802]”, SI (M489) M14.

33 Chamier, John, Chief Secretary, Political Department, Fort St George, to Mackenzie, 10 November 1801, LBI.

34 Mackenzie, to Chamier, , 27 December 1801, LBi. In his “View of the State of the Mysore Survey on 1st October 1803”, SI (M129) RP2, he wrote of the “changes that have since proved so detrimental to the Progress”, attributable to “The nature of the Design being probably misunderstood at home”, and resulting “naturally” in “a momentary damp on the spirits of persons who looked for a different notice of a work of some difficulty”. He made representations on his own account to Buchan, 21 October 1803; see also 13 July 1807 and (to “Chief Secretary”) 29 July 1808, LB2.

35 See his attempt to recruit Lt Morrison as a new assistant in place of Warren; to Chamier, , 18 June 1802. Morrison (or Morison) was appointed on 6 July. See “Present State of the Distribution of the Surveyors on the Establishment of the Mysore Survey, 1 September 1802”, LBi.

36 Mackenzie, to Webbe, 22 February 1803, to Adjutant-General, Madras Army, 9 March 1803 (re orders of 17 February), and to Peele, Acting Resident, Mysore, 4 April 1803, LBi.

37 See for example Mackenzie, to Webbe, 21 November 1802, LBi, and to Buchan, , 21 October 1803 and 27 November 1805, LB2.

38 Mackenzie, to Maj. Merwick Shawe, Private Secretary, Governor-General, 1 May 1804, LB2.

39 Dirks, , “Colonial Histories”, pp. 285–6. On the original scope see Mackenzie, to Close, 9 November 1799, LBi. There was adjustment (see below) but still many an occasion when Mackenzie pressed himself, or his assistants, for additional information in a readily usable form. Once, remarkably, seeking data on production, animals, commerce and history, he wrote that government “from the liberality of the Establishment furnished have ajust claim to the exclusive results of the work”; to Mather, 14 November 1805, LB2.

40 “Memorandum shewing the reduction of Expence of the Mysore Survey to 1st February 1809” with Mackenzie, to Buchan, , 23 February 1809, LB2.

41 Mackenzie, to Shawe, 25 June 1805, LB2. Presumably approbation covered pecuniary recompense; Mackenzie expressed appreciation “as well as for the recommendation at the same time to Lord Wm. Bentinck [Governor at Madras] in a manner equally grateful to my feelings as jusdy commanding my sincere acknowledgements”. Later, emboldened, Mackenzie would write to the Madras Chief Secretary (Buchan), 29 July 1808, LB2, that the “utility of combining an extensive Investigation with a Geographical Survey, the principle I believe is generally approved of; & its application to British India in general esteemed useful; & what has been already effected may remove any early doubts of its practicality”.

42 Mackenzie, to Close, 6 December 1799, LBi.

43 Ibid., 24 October 1800. He urged caution from the start. See also Mackenzie, to Mather, 26 June 1801, LBi, and 17 August 1804, and to Resident at Mysore, 16 September 1803, and 30 January 1804, LB2. Note, in the last, that his concern was partly to avoid “irritating the minds of the Natives by multiplied vexatious requisitions” outside the needs of the survey: his assistants had their own passions too. See also his problems with his military escort (Mackenzie, to Close, n and 27 March 1801, and to Maj. Kennett, 11 March 1801, LBi) and his advice against involvement in local disputes (over a boundary in a cornfield, to Close, 21 October 1800, LBi) or revenue questions (to Gowan, G., Collector, Bilghee, 3 February 1806, LB2). On the other hand, note the many reports of ready support from local assistants and officials, such as in [Mackenzie, ] to Close, 23 May 1800, Mackenzie, to Close, 3 December 1800, and to Peele, Head Assistant to Resident, Seringapatam, 25 May 1801, LBi.

44 Mackenzie, to Lt Thos. Arthur, 30 December 1803, and to Webbe, 30 December 1803, LB2. See the ban, prompted by the Mysore diwan, on inquiries into the number of females in households; Peele to Mackenzie, , 9 March 1803, and Mackenzie, to Mather and Arthur, 16 March 1803, LBi, to Peele, 15 September 1803, to Arthur, 30 December 1803 and 13 April 1804, and Arthur to Mackenzie, 4 February and 3 March 1804, LB2. See also Edney, “Mapping”, pp. 448–50, which this paper somewhat qualifies.

45 Mackenzie, to Arthur, , 30 January, 27 February, 9 and 27 May and 15 September 1804, LB2. Compare a similar accusation against Mackenzie, which he denied; to Peele, , 25 May 1801, LB 1.

46 Mackenzie, to Arthur, , 13 July and 8 August, and Arthur to Mackenzie, 20 July 1805, LB2.

47 Mackenzie, to Close, 14 October 1801, LBi. Earlier he had expressed his “fullest confidence” that Close would “resist any indirect attempt to separate what was designed to be carried on, on so liberal a footing, in concert, I mean the Statistical Enquiry in particular”; to Close, 21 October 1800, LBi. See also Edney, “Mapping”, pp. 200–4, for a discussion of Mackenzie's changing attitudes to Lambton, which may well be relevant here.

48 Ibid., 24 August 1800. Mackenzie had made a plan of the fort while confined there by “banditti”, weather and ill-health.

49 Mackenzie, to Maj. Gen. Dugald Campbell, 19 December 1800, LBi.

50 Mackenzie, to Lord Clive, Governor, Fort St George, 24 October 1800, LBi.

51 Mackenzie, to Col. Agnew, Adjutant-General, 17 October 1802, LBi.

52 Mackenzie, to Col. Wellesley, 23 October 1802, LBi.

53 Mackenzie, to [Fitzpatrick], 5 January 1800, LBi.

54 These boys (who were “Native” – that is, India-born – but European or Eurasian; Phillimore calls them “country-bred”) had been trained at a school attached to the Madras observatory, founded by the marine surveyor, Michael Topping (1747–96); see Phillimore, , Historical Records, pp. 2 and 34iff. From the Company perspective, its purpose no doubt paralleled that of schools at Kidderpore and Alipore, established by the Company's Fund, set up by Major-General Fitzpatrick for the maintenance and education of the orphans of European officers and men of Bengal Army; see Kohli, , Correspondence, xxi, p. 515n. Mackenzie had always envisaged employing boys on his survey for reasons of economy and training; see Mackenzie, to Clive, , 24 October 1800, LBi.

55 Mackenzie, to Chamier, , 27 December 1801, LBi. This was approved. See also ibid., 15 and 27 January 1803, and Mackenzie, to Warren, and to Mather, 6 February 1802, LB 1.

56 Mackenzie, to Jones, Wm., 25 March 1802, and to Chamier, , 12 March 1802, LBi.

57 Mather to Mackenzie, , 11 June 1805, LB2. See also Mackenzie, to Mather, 13 June 1805.

58 Mackenzie, to Mather, 14 September 1803, 20 May and 26 August 1804, and to Buchan, , 9 September 1804, and Mather to Mackenzie, , 20 May and 26 August 1804, and to Buchan, , 9 September 1804, and Mather to Mackenzie, , 20 May and 26 August 1804 (two copies), LB2. See also Mackenzie, to [Warren], 15 June 1808, LB2: “altho” my friends could not think I acted rashly or harshly yet consideration of what was said here then … could not but make me hesitate; altho' in justice to the rest the same causes never occurred with any other [apprentice surveyor]”. Ross was later re-employed in the Tank department in Madras; Phillimore, , Historical Records, p. 343.

59 Mather to Mackenzie, 11 June, and Mackenzie, to Buchan, , 18 June 1805, and to Wilkes, , 30 August 1806, LB2.

60 Mackenzie, to Mysore Resident, 16 September 1803, to Mather, 6 and 19 March, to Summers, James and Lantwar, Wm., 8 July, and Mather to Mackenzie, 25 August 1806, LB2.

61 See Mackenzie, to Clive, , 12 July 1803 (“Second General Report on the Mysore Survey, 1803”), SI (M129) RP2, and also to Buchan, , 18 June 1805, LB2.

62 Mackenzie, to Buchan, , 10 September 1806 and also 3 March 1807, LB2.

63 Mackenzie, to Chief Secretary, I August 1816, “General Report on the State of the Surveying Department at Fort St George, 30 April 1816”, SI (M561) RP3. See also Mackenzie to [Warren], 15 June (particularly praising Ward and Hamilton, “& if errors have occurred in others I am willing to forget it in their subsequent better conduct”), and to Chief Secretary, 29 July 1808, LB2. Edney seems to be slightly mistaken in his assessment here, and on Mackenzie's attitude to Indians and indigenous knowledge (discussed below); see “Mapping”, pp. 458–61.

64 Other purposes were to bring information “into one collected view”, and to avoid “losing the benefit of the gradual but considerable tho' slow reform”, and “keeping up the Method by which this advantage was obtained”; “General Report on the State of the Surveying Department at Fort St George”, 30 April 1816, SI (M561) RP3. Also see ibid., passim, but especially Mackenzie, to Chief Secretary, 26 September 1816 (second letter of that date); and “Draft of Regulations proposed for the surveying operations at Madras by the late Colonel Mackenzie in 1811”, SI M37. The Trigonometrical Survey was kept distinct for a time – Mackenzie, ever the politician, did not press me point – in deference to the importance of Lambton's work in establishing the base line for the geography of the peninsular, and possibly (judging from his reports) from respect for his technical knowledge and insistence upon standards, or at least for occasions when he demonstrated his inability to express himself in plain language. In this he may be contrasted interestingly with Mackenzie. See above, note 13.

65 Mackenzie, to Heyne, 8 October 1799, 23 December 1800, 13 February, 25 June and 15 July 1801; to Close, 23 and 24 December 1800, 27 June, 19 and 24 July, and 14 October 1801; to Webbe, 20 May 1800, LBi; to Buchan, , 3 March 1807, LB2. See also Heyne, “Cursory Remarks”. Heyne, a Dane, was a significant figure in the European botanic exploration of India – see Desmond, , Indian Flora, esp. pp. 41–3 – though he so disappointed Mackenzie, whose problems continued. Asst. Surgeon J. G. Leyden was appointed in Heyne's stead to provide medical aid and to deal with botany and mineralogy; he took sea leave on health grounds in 1805 and then accepted a “better appointment” without informing Mackenzie, who then proposed Dr Evans for the medical work (which he had been undertaking already from February 1802, health being a persistent worry for the surveying teams); see Mackenzie, to Leyden, 13 July 1804, and to Capt. Morrison, Dpty Secy, Military Board, and to Keble, G. G., 22 December 1807, and Leyden to Mackenzie, , 12 April 1805, LB2.

66 Mackenzie, to Webbe, 21 November 1802, LBi.

67 See for example Mackenzie, to Mather, 10 March 1801, LBi, and 17 August 1804, LB2. See also “Second General Report... 1803”, SI (M129) RP2.

68 See Mather to Mackenzie, 11 November, Mackenzie to Webbe, 21 November, and to Chamier, 23 November, to Mather, 25 December, and Webbe's statement to the Governor-in-Council with Webbe to Mackenzie, , 12 December 1802., LBi. Mackenzie had also proposed Mather for health reasons as head of a “kind of Seminary of Practical Survey” on the coast: he was another casualty of the cut-backs; to Clive, , 24 October 1800, LBi.

69 See Mackenzie, to Mather, 7 and 25 May and 3 July 1806, LB2.

70 Mather to Mackenzie, , 16 (two letters) and 22 June 1806, LB2. Mather succeeded in retiring to England, with his pension secured, but was drowned in 1808 during a sea-passage to Aberdeen; see the biographical notes in Phillimore, Historical Records.

71 Mackenzie to Mather, 20 June and 18 September, to Buchan, 26 June, and to Wilkes, , 26 June and 30 August 1806, LB2. An element in Mackenzie's hostility may have been concern that he would be blamed for the deterioration in Mather's health; he was quick to insist to Buchan that he had always permitted medical leave, and “regarding some parts of Mr. Mather's correspondence which do not appear to breathe the most respectful spirit I consider it incumbent on me to observe that to the inattention he alludes to I am a Stranger”. Mather's “disrespect” has not survived in the record.

72 Mackenzie, to Bentinck, 16 July 1806, and to Adjutant-General, Fort St George, and to Lt Gen. Sir Craddock, J., Commander-in-Chief, 30 December 1806 (with enclosures), LB2. Ward's application was successful; see also his “Descriptive Memoir (and register of villages and triangles) in Neelgeery Mountains”, Coimbatore, SI M89.

73 Mackenzie, to Mather, 6 March 1806, LB2.

74 Mackenzie, to Close, 9 November 1799, LBi. See also Edney, , “Mapping”, pp. 209–14.

75 Mackenzie, to Clive, 24 October 1800, and to Close, 24 March 1801, LBi.

76 Mackenzie, to Close, 28 February 1800, and see also to Clive, 24 October, and to Warren, 4 june 1801, LBi.

77 See, for example, Mackenzie, to Wellesley, and to Montresor, 28 July 1800, LBi, and to Clive, 12 July 1803, SI (M129) RP2. Facility in languages, he reported to Clive, was necessary for “Satisfactory Investigation and access to the sentiments of the people as well as to that Knowledge derived from a ready intercourse”, so that “to do justice to the work a respectable Establishment of Linguists, or a more than common association of talents in one person joining a competent knowledge of several languages to a fidelity, accuracy & vigour of mind superior to common prejudices, were a necessary aid” – qualities he found in K. V. Letchmia (see below, note 132).

78 See, for example, Mackenzie, to Buchan, , 18 June 1805, LB2. He identified ten necessary languages: “Tamil, Canara, Tellinga, Maratha, Moori, Toolver, Coorgee, Sanscrit, Kalla Canara, English”.

79 Mackenzie, to Close, 21 January 1800, LBi, and see above, note 43.

80 Mackenzie, to Clive, 24 October 1800, LBi. Of course, as well, “the intervals of the rainy Season are as valuable to a Surveyor in laying down his Plans and arranging his materials as that of actual measurement in the field”; to Col. Barclay, , 22 September 1800, LBi.

81 For example, Mackenzie, to Warren, 5 September 1800, LBi.

82 Mackenzie, to [Fitzpatrick], 5 January 1800, LBi.

83 A convenient summary of the preparation of the base line may be found in “Memoir of the Operations & Method followed in carrying on the Survey of the Boundary & Northern Provinces of the Mysore Dominions … 1800and 1801”, 25 May 1803, SI (M129) RP2.

84 Mackenzie, to Warren, 21 January 1800, LBi.

85 See for example Mackenzie, to Warren, 5 September 1800, and to Mather, 22 January 1803, LBi.

86 On Goa, see Mackenzie, to Close and to Resident at Goa, 23 May, to Johnstone, 25 August and 4 October 1800, LBi, and “Memorandum from Major Mackenzie to Col. Keith” (at Goa), 10 February 1806, LB2. Edney, “Mapping”, suggests that Mackenzie extended his remit by stealth.

87 Mackenzie, to Close, 24 October 1800. LBi.

88 Mackenzie, to Close, 15 March 1801, LBi.

89 Mackenzie, to Mather, 28 April, and to Warren (stipulating one English mile to an inch), 5 September 1800 LBi.,

90 Mackenzie, to Close, 31 October, and see also 24 December 1800, LBi.

91 Mackenzie, to Warren, 17 June and 13 November 1800, and to Mather, 18 January, 10 March and 18 September 1801, LBi.

92 Mackenzie, to Mather, 10 March 1801, LBi.

93 Mackenzie, to Warren, 21 January 1800, and also to Mather (on comparisons), 18 January 1801, and to Francis Buchanan (on authenticity), 5 July 1800, LBi.

94 Mackenzie, to Clive, , 24 October 1800, LBi.

95 Mackenzie, to Close, 24 October 1800, LBi.

96 Mackenzie, to Webbe, and to Clive, , 24 October, to Arthur, 14 December 1800, and to Morrison, 7 October 1802, LBi. The initial sketch plan would be compiled from “various authorities” (to Lambton, 7 December 1800, LBi); see an example with Mackenzie, to Superintendent, Surveying School, 2 May 1807, LB2.

97 Mackenzie, to Webbe, 21 November 1802, LBi.

98 See for example the memoirs, statistical accounts, registers and reports of “Zillah Madura” (1800) SI (M67) M9; “Nugger or Bidenoor” (M123) M7; “the Province of Adwany and Siringapatam of district Tadamurry, Tandaputree” etc. (M21) M17; “Colar, Oosscotta and Jungamcotta in Mysore” (1800–2) (Mi 15) MII; also “Canara” (1806–7) (M142C) M22; and “Neelgerry Mountains” Coimbatore M89.

99 Mackenzie's first suggestions for storing the materials, which he had “arranged … under distinct heads for facility of reference”, seem to have been to Webbe, 24 October 1800, LBi. See also to Johnson, , 7july 1800, LBi.

100 Mackenzie, to Clive, , 24 October 1800, andpatfim, LBi. See also above, note 64.

101 Mackenzie, to Close, 14 October 1801, LBi. See also Mackenzie, to Heynes, , 23 December 1800, to Wellesley, , 23 October 1803, and to Buchan, , 13 July 1803, LBi.

102 For example, see Mackenzie, to Buchan, , 13 July 1803, LB2.

103 Mackenzie, to Buchan, , 13 July 1803, LBi and LB2, and to Chief Secretary, 26 September 1816, SI (M561) RP3.

104 Mackenzie, to Close, 9 November 1799, LBi; also to Buchan, , 10 September 1806, LB2.

105 Mackenzie, to Clive, , 24 October 1800, and also to Close, 31 October 1800 (envisaging training by practice for older recruits), to Webbe, 22 February 1803, LBi (his borrowing of two young men from Mather, “rather with a view to improving their Stile of drawing”), and to [Warren], 15 June 1808, LB2.

106 Mackenzie, to Buchan, , 18 June 1805, LB2. See also Mackenzie's sharp and detailed marginal criticisms of a report from Warren, to Buchan, , 1 December 1806, LB2. (Even when Warren referred to Mackenzie's “valuable & important Survey”, Mackenzie retorted “it were but an indulgence of justice to allow him [Mackenzie] the common privilege … to present his own work”.) Warren – Jean-Baptiste, Comte de Warren (1769–1830) – was himself a remarkable figure; an aristocratic refugee from France after 1791, he returned there in the 1820s; see Phillimore, Historical Records, biographical notes.

107 Mackenzie, to Close, 14 October 1801, LBi, and to Shawe, 25 June 1805, LB2.

108 Mackenzie, to Close, 24 October 1800, LBi.

109 Mackenzie, to Close, 24 November 1800, LBi. On degrees and limits of ecological determinism, see David Ludden, “Archaic formations of agricultural knowledge in south India”, in Robb, P., ed., Meanings of Agriculture: Essays in South Asian History and Economics (Delhi, 1996), pp. 3564.

110 See for example Mackenzie, to Donigan, Michael, “Native Sub-Assistant”, 28 April 1807, LB2.

111 See his speculation about similarities between Ceylon and southern India, when asking Francis Buchanan to collect information on Jains and Buddhists; to Buchanan, , 25 May 1800, LBI.

112 He would not have had the experience which so impresses modern visitors to Hampi, after much excavation and restoration, but – to give his actual words – he considered that the remains of the ancient capital of an “Extensive Empire” promised “the advantages of tracing on the Spot … some notices of those Institutions which still influence] the local Customs & Manners of the various Classes”; “Second General Report on the Mysore Survey 1803”, Mackenzie, to Clive, 12 July 1803, SI (M129) RP2. His curiosity and list of points for attention were commonplace (see note 29 above), but his execution and receptiveness were exceptional.

113 Mackenzie, to Shawe, 25 June 1805, LB2. Note that this echoes an earlier passage referred to above, note 87.

114 Appadorai, Arjun, “Number in the colonial imagination”, in Breckenridge and van der Veer, eds., Orientalism, p. 317. His full phrase is “illusion of bureaucratic control” which he contrasts with quantifications of more direcdy utilitarian purpose. He associates the social, political and intellectual importance of number with modern European knowledge (an issue which might be further explored), and with colonialism the perception and categorization as different of the whole Indian population (and presumably its ecology, customs and history) though European understandings encountered and interacted with powerful indigenous categories. The case of Mackenzie and surveying supports some of this analysis but not without qualification, for example as regards the purposes of data-collection, the appreciation of the otherness of India, the interrogation of information sources (human and non-human), and the shaping of the conclusions and records. This essay addresses mainly these differences rather than the numerous points which reinforce Appadorai's interpretation.

115 Mackenzie, to Close, 24 November 1800, LBi.

116 Mackenzie, to Shawe, 1 May 1804, LB2.

117 Ibid., and copyist's draft and marginal corrections.

118 “View of die State of the Mysore Survey on 1st October 1803”, SI (M129) R.P3.

119 Mackenzie, to Warren, , 23 March 1800 and 24 March 1801, LBi. Nonetheless changes were to be described by the surveyors in their reports.

120 Mackenzie, to Johnstone, , 6January 1801, LBi.

121 Mackenzie, to Warren, , 23 March and 13 November 1800, and 24 March 1801, LBi.

122 Mackenzie, to Close, 5 December 1799, LBi. This helps explain some local sensitivities, as from Koorg; see Mackenzie, to Mysore Resident, 30 December 1803, LB2.

123 “Memorandum on the Limits & Boundaries of the Mysore Partition”, 14 December 1803, bound with LB2. See also Mackenzie, to Close, 24 December 1800, LBi. On “detached villages” see Mackenzie, to Warren, and to Mather, 10 November 1801, LBi.

124 Mackenzie, to Warren, , 13 November, 23 March, and to Mather, 27 December 1800, LBi.

125 See Mackenzie, to Clive, , 24 December 1800, LBi.

126 F. V. Raper, “Field Book of the Survey of South Western frontier of Behar and Bengal, 1813–14”, SI (M240)M6I.

127 “Second General Report …”, Mackenzie, to Clive, , 12 July 1803, SI (M120) RP2; and also to Close, 24 December 1800, LBi.

128 John Warren, “Memoir and Registers of the Pargunnah of Colar, Oosscotta and Jungamcotta in Mysore 1800–01 and 1802”, SI (M115) MII.

129 For a valuable discussion see Ludden, , “Archaic formations”, especially pp. 50–1 and 64–5.

130 “Records of the Baramahal and Salem &c. Districts, Section Ilnd, Geography”, SI M98, vol. 1.

131 See Ludden, , “Archaic formations”, pp. 62–4, on indigenous means of measuring and assessing land, different in dry and in rice areas.

132 See Dirks, “Colonial histories”. Bona was a man of “ingenious conciliatory talents” to whom Mackenzie was deeply indebted. One of his brothers, Letchmia (see above, note 27), who remained in Mackenzie's service after Boria's death in 1802 (Dirks, has 1803), was also, in the words of Wilkes, “a man of singular literary zeal and scrupulous research” and in fact more important to the survey direcdy; Mackenzie, to Buchan, , 29 March 1809, LB2. Compare Mackenzie's accounts of other assistants, to Malcolm, , Resident of Mysore, 5 May 1807, to Chief Secretary, Fort St George, 29 July 1808, and “Memorandum shewing the reduction of the Expence of the Mysore Survey to 1st February 1809”, LB2.

133 “Memoir of the Civil Administration, Police, Commerce & Revenue Management of the Balla Ghaat Camatic from enquiries instituted in 1800 and 1801 and Information Collected for Captain Mackenzie on the Mysore Survey by Cavelly Venkata Boria, Interpreter to the Survey”, 20 March 1802, SI (M129) RP3. The example contrasts with later constructions of Tamil-cum-Vellala to the exclusion of Brahman identity and legitimacy.134 “Records of the Baramahal and Salem &c. Districts …”, SI M98.

134 “Records of the Baramahal and Salem &c. Districts …”, SI M98.

135 Inden, Ronald, Imagining India (Oxford, 1990).

136 Bayly, Susan, “Caste and 'race' in the colonial ethnography of India”, in Robb, P., ed., The Concept of Race in South Asia (Delhi, 1995), p. 162.

137 Chatterjee, P., “Claims of the past: the genealogy of modern historiography in Bengal” in Arnold, D. and Hardiman, D., eds., Subaltern Studies VIII. Essays in honour of Ranajit Guha (Delhi, 1994), and see also Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World. A Derivative Discourse? (Delhi, 1986); Kaviraj, S., “The imaginary institution of India”, in Chatterjee, P. and Pandey, G., eds., Subaltern Studies VII (Delhi, 1993). See also Robb, P., “The colonial state and constructions of Indian identity: an example on the north-east frontier in the 1880s”, Modem Asian Studies, XXXI, 2 (1997).

Completing “Our Stock of Geography”, or an Object “Still More Sublime”: Colin Mackenzie's Survey of Mysore, 1799–1810

  • Peter Robb


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