19th century

Charge of HM 14th Light Dragoons at the Battle of Ramnuggur

The Battle of Ramnagar which took place between British and Sikh forces during the 2nd Sikh War (1848-1849) incurred great losses for the British. Fought on the banks of the river Chenab in Punjab on 22 November 1848, the battle had resulted in an unambiguous victory for the Sikh forces. Yet, this engraving which depicts… Read more »

Northern India including the Presidency of Calcutta

This is a decorative, mid-19th century map of Northern India drawn and engraved by J. Rapkin (vignettes by A. H. Wray & J. H. Kernot) and published in John Tallis’s Illustrated Atlas (London & New York: John Tallis & co, c.1851). The Illustrated Atlas, published from 1849 to 1853, was the last decorative world atlas.… Read more »

Europeans in India: From a Collection of Drawings by Charles D’Oyly

‘The European in India; from a collection of drawings by Charles D’Oyly, Esq. engraved by J.H. Clark and C. Dubourg; with a description by Captain Thomas Williamson; accompanied with a brief history of ancient and modern India…by F.W. Blagdon Esq.’ is a collection of English colour plates about colonial life in India, with plates after… Read more »

Vorder Indien

This map, Vorder Indien, depicts the various European territories in India in 1857. British territories are marked in light red and French and Portugese territories in white. Colour is important in communicating ideas on a map, but the use of it is more recent. For long, maps were made in black ink and printed on… Read more »

The Costume of Hindostan

East India Company was a highly influential force in Britain by the end of the 18th century. It was fabulously wealthy, and the British leaders were among its stockholders. Naturally, then, there was curiosity among the ordinary Britons about the people in a faraway land whose politics and culture was suddenly part of the national… Read more »

Illustrations to Oriental Memoirs

The first wave of European immigrants included sailors, emissaries, merchants, and the armed forces, people who could seize the land; the next wave included physicians, cartographers, botanists, and naturalists, people who could research it. In the hope of finding new medicines and new sources of revenue, they studied Indian plants, and created or commissioned thousands… Read more »

Flowers of the Bombay Presidency

Flowers of the Bombay Presidency offers fascinating insights into the botanical beauty of the western states of India in the 1880s, with 202 illustrations of Indian flowers and plants in watercolour painting. Nearly all of the paintings are supplemented by a handwritten pencil inscription with the name of the flower (often in Latin with the… Read more »

Travels among the Todas

In the 19th century, there was great excitement among western anthropologists about the discovery of a ‘primitive’ tribe deep in the misty heart of the Nilgiris. The Todas are a pastoral community of Dravidian origins and among the earliest outsiders who landed to document them was William E Marshall, Lieutenant-Colonel in the Bengal Staff Corps.… Read more »

East India Company, Quarter Anna

“It was not the British government that began seizing great chunks of India in the mid-eighteenth century, but a dangerously unregulated private company headquartered in one small office….” In his 2019 book ‘The Anarchy’, this is how William Dalrymple describes the East India Company—the only trading company in the world to mint its own currency.… Read more »

Madan Singh, Silver Nazarana Coin of Jhalawar Mint

Nazrana were limited-edition novelties minted not as currency, but as gifts to a superior or souvenirs to mark special occasions. A Nazarana was crafted simply to be presented with all the pomp and circumstance at the giver’s disposal. This is a silver one minted in the name of Queen Victoria by Madan Singh; coins like… Read more »

Means of Transport and Music and Dance

This print is from Auguste Racinet’s “Le Costume Historique,” (Paris, circa 1880).  Auguste Racinet’s ‘Le Costume Historique’, published in France between 1876 and 1888, was the most extensive costume study ever attempted for its time. The six-volume work is highly peculiar in its details and attempts to cover the history of style from around the world,… Read more »

Visiting Lala Deen Dayal’s India

In the mid-1870s, an Indian engineer emerged as an unlikely documentarian of both the British Raj and princely India. The story of Lala Deen Dayal is tied to the fortunes of Hyderabad and its flamboyant sixth Nizam

The Fort of Bala Hissar, Kabul

John Burke was an Irish photographer who took some of the earliest photos ever of Afghanistan. Employed as a tradesman in his homeland, he applied to the British Army to work as an official photographer; he’s best known for his work during the second Anglo-Afghan war. Later, he travelled to Afghanistan at his own expense,… Read more »

Gol Gumbad, Bijapoor

A keen amateur photographer and a member of the Bombay Photographic Society in 1854, Colonel Thomas H Biggs actually had a pretty serious day job. He joined as an officer of the Bombay Artillery in 1841 and was later made captain. In 1855, the Bombay government commissioned him to document the architectural and archaeological sites… Read more »

Frederik VI, 10 Cash Copper Coin of Tranquebar Mint

This is a X kas or 10 Cash coin of Indo-Danish extraction. Relic of an empire we don’t often mention when we talk about colonial rule in India. The Danes made an official appearance in these parts after the monarch of Denmark, King Christian IV signed a charter for the establishment of the Danish East… Read more »