Tag Archives: India

Clarendon Archive: The School Empire-Tour

Between 1926 and 1939, the School Empire-Tour Committee, an offshoot of the Church of England Council of Empire Settlement, organised a series of Empire tours for British public school boys that started with a trip to Australia in 1926 [1], and ended with a tour of Canada in 1939. In between, these tours took groups of young men to South Africa, New Zealand, East Africa, the West Indies, and (twice) to India, and the family archive of the Earls of Clarendon in the Bodleian Library contains what might be a uniquely complete record of one of these India tours.

The Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) collections at Cambridge University Library hold most of what survives of the School Empire-Tour Committee’s records since most were destroyed when the headquarters of the RCS, then known as the Royal Empire Society, was bombed in 1941. The surviving records include some minute books, reports, correspondence, lists of tours and their participants, and an album with group photographs – but little else, which makes the existence of this small collection in the Clarendon archive a particular treasure.

Lord Hyde's list of souvenirs to buy in India, overlaying his packing list, 1929

Lord Hyde’s list of souvenirs to buy in India, overlaying his packing list, 1929 [click to enlarge]

In the winter of 1929-1930 Lord Hyde, the 23 year-old son and heir of the 6th Earl of Clarendon, acted as the unpaid advance agent for the Committee’s first tour of India, for 27 mainly English public school boys (25 English and 2 from Edinburgh and Duns in Scotland) [2]. The Clarendon archive includes Lord Hyde’s tour memorabilia, photographs, his typed tour report with many useful suggestions for future tours (not least ‘One great thing to avoid…is an early start; the boys sleep like logs’), and even a list of clothes to pack, including ‘trousers, grey flannel’ and ‘ties, black evening’ [3].

It also includes a letter from the Hon. Margaret Mary Best, the Honorary Secretary and beating heart of the School Empire-Tour Committee, commenting in enthusiastic red ink that ‘SOME OF THE DIARIES ARE VERY INTERESTING’, a tantalising reference to what was likely a pile of travel diaries from the boys who participated, subsequently lost in the bombing. She also thanks Lord Hyde for arranging lectures for the party to help them understand what they were seeing, and the papers include notes on Hindu gods and a short ‘Outline of the History of Hindustan, 1000-1761’ (typed on P&O writing paper, so possibly a last-minute research effort, or a relic of lectures offered on the long voyage) as well as numerous printed guides, mainly from the Archaeological Department of H.E.H. The Nizam’s Government, Hyderabad.

The ten week tour was both extensive and exclusive, announced in advance in the newspapers, and well supported by local government officials. Included in the collection is a seating plan for a 9 December 1929 luncheon for the boys at Government House in Calcutta and a souvenir sports programme [4] for an event celebrating the arrival of Maharani Cinakuraja Saheb Scindia, president of the council of regency of the princely state of Gwalior (now in Madhya Pradesh), at Baroda (now Vadodara in Gujarat) on Saturday 1st February, 1930. The sports programme featured a variety of sports, including an elephant race and multiple types of wrestling, with the names of the wrestlers also listed.

An information pamphlet about Darjeeling, from the Indian State Railways publicity department, c. 1929

An information pamphlet about Darjeeling, from the Indian State Railways publicity department, c. 1929

Aside from official events, the group, who travelled for much of their journey on a special passenger train with ‘Empire School Tour’ emblazoned on the side, followed a busy itinerary drawn up by the India Office, staying at private homes, schools, colleges and state guest houses along the way. The official itinerary is not included in the papers but the tour took in some of the tourist highlights of central and northern India, right up to the Himalayas and the frontier with Afghanistan. Lord Hyde kept picture postcards of the Ellora Caves and Daulatabad Fort (in Maharashtra, not too far from Mumbai), as well as Darjeeling in the far north of India, plus a guidebook to the holy city of Varanasi, then called Benares (and, intriguingly, three postcards of Ceylon, although it is unlikely that they sailed to Sri Lanka) as well as colourful timetables and memorabilia produced for tourists by Indian State Railways. Lord Hyde also took some highly evocative photographs, with shots of landscapes and temples and forts (and, of course, the Taj Mahal) as well as group photos of young men in shorts and sun helmets and numerous snaps of the animals they hunted along the way. (Hyde was particularly keen that shooting should be allowed on all future tours: ‘I am quite convinced that without the shooting, the tour might have been regarded as purely an educational one and therefore rather a drudgery’.) [5]

The stated reason for these tours was to interest the boys in the country ‘with a view to their settling in the country’, with the implication that they were being introduced to the dominions that they might administer one day, and indeed one of the boys’ activities was to stay with District Officers in the Punjab to see how the District was managed [6]. Hyde himself came from a family with a long history in the British government and imperial administration. His father, the 6th Earl of Clarendon, was Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs and Chairman of the Overseas Settlement Committee from 1925-1926, and kept a keen eye on the inaugural School Empire Tour to Australia. In December 1929, as Lord Hyde and the boys were starting their India tour, the 6th Earl was selected to be the next Governor General of South Africa. Lord Hyde himself, however, never reached those heights. He died in a shooting accident in South Africa on 27 April 1935, aged 28.


A menu from the Langham Hotel, 10 Oct 1930

A strange, Indian-inspired menu from the Langham Hotel, 10 Oct 1930, featuring ‘Filet de Sole Ganges’ and ‘Haricots Verts au Ghee’, perhaps from a tour reunion meal [click to enlarge]

Footnotes

[1] The director of the first Australia tour, Rev. G.H. Woolley, V.C., M.C., wrote about it in his autobiography Sometimes A Soldier in 1963.

[2] ‘Public school’ means, confusingly enough, an elite private school. The Duns boy, and top of the alphabetical list of tour participants, was J.S. Arbuthnot, of Wedderburn Castle. He was then at Eton but was better known latterly as the Conservative M.P. Major Sir John Sinclair-Wemyss Arbuthnot (1912-1992).

[3] As well as a list of Hyde’s baggage, including ‘1 bag of golf clubs’ and ‘1 cinematograph camera in black case’. Sadly no film survives.

[4] The programme is written in Marathi, with thanks to Emma Mathieson, the Bodleian’s Modern South Asian Studies Librarian, for the translation.

[5] A post-tour letter to Hyde from Dr. M.J. Rendall, the Chairman of the School Empire-Tour Committee, suggests that ‘Drink’ [of some sort] was a problem on the tour, and that the ‘experience of this Tour may lead us to modify our instructions’. Lord Hyde was also clear that he wanted the boys to be better selected for future tours, so it wasn’t an entirely happy holiday. (This was also true of the original Australia tour: one boy had to be sent home early for joy-riding and crashing a £1000 car [Simpson, D (ed.) (1978), ‘The spirit of a lion and the appetite of a robin: Margaret Best and the School Empire Tours’, The Royal Commonwealth Society, Library Notes, New Series no. 226, p.2.])

[6] Although, as Hyde points out, if this was made explicit in India ‘I very much doubt if you would get any co-operation with the Indian schools, for their great object seems to be Indianisation’ and so broadening minds and promoting mutual sympathy was given as the justification instead, although Hyde was sceptical that sympathy had been achieved on either side.

These papers, of the Earls of Clarendon of the second creation, are currently being catalogued and will be available to readers in 2022. This work was funded by the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Friends of the National Libraries, and the Friends of the Bodleian.

 

John Hungerford Pollen: Family

This is the last in a series of five blog posts to mark the bicentenary of John Hungerford Pollen whose archive has recently been acquired by the Bodleian Libraries.

This week’s blog posts on John Hungerford Pollen would not be complete without mentioning one very important aspect to Pollen’s life: his family. As we have seen, in September 1855, Pollen married Maria LaPrimaudaye in Woodchester Priory, Stroud, Gloucestershire. Maria was likewise interested in the decorative arts and, in later life, would become an expert in lace, publishing Seven centuries of lace in 1908. Maria looked back at their relationship a few years later and neatly summed up their characters:

I have often thought that my husband’s high-mindedness and singleness of purpose, together with a most resolute will, and almost incredible indifference to pain, discomfort or any of the minor troubles of life, clearly show the likeness to his Roman ancestor, just as my natural levity and high spirits and over-sensitiveness to trifles are excused, I hope, by my French descent. (1)

  J.H. Pollen, sketch of Maria Pollen, 10 Nov 1862, sketchbook (left) and photograph of Maria Pollen, n.d., by unknown photographer, photograph album (right), Bodleian Libraries, Pollen archive, currently uncatalogued

In 1858, the Pollens moved to 11 Pembridge Crescent, Bayswater, which became their London home for the rest of their married life. They were to have ten children all together, two girls and eight boys (2):

  • Anne Gertrude Mary Pollen (1856-1934)
  • John Hungerford Pollen (1858-1925)
  • Walter Michael Hungerford Pollen (1859-1889)
  • Anthony Cecil Hungerford Pollen (1860-1940)
  • Francis Gabriel Hungerford Pollen (1862-1944)
  • George Charles Hungerford Pollen (1863-1930)
  • Margaret (‘Daisy’) Winifred Pollen (1864-1937)
  • Arthur Joseph Hungerford Pollen (1866-1937)
  • Stephen Hungerford Pollen (1868-1935)
  • Clement Hungerford Pollen (1869-1934)

The children frequently appear throughout Pollen’s sketchbooks, one of which is dedicated to ‘Babies 1866’.

    

J.H. Pollen, sketches of Francis Gabriel Hungerford Pollen (‘tell me about the wolf’), 22 April 1866 and Anthony Cecil Hungerford Pollen, 7 December 1866, sketchbook, Bodleian Libraries, Pollen archive, currently uncatalogued

J.H. Pollen, sketch of Anne Gertrude Mary Pollen, 8 October 1876, sketchbooks, Bodleian Libraries, Pollen archive, currently uncatalogued

Between 1871 and 1875, to keep costs down, John and Maria decided to take their children abroad to be educated. They spent five years living in an old house in Munster, Westfalia, where the children could have a good Catholic primary education more cheaply than could be found in England. When the youngest child (Clement) was six years old, the family permanently moved back to England and divided their time between London and Newbuildings, the house in Sussex they rented from Pollen’s good friend Wilfred Scawen Blunt. Maria would look back very fondly to the happy and content years when all the family were together at Newbuildings:

…to my children love of home and all that that word means is signified by the word ‘Newbuildings’ and none other… (3)

Newbuildings Place, one mile north of Dragons Green, West Sussex, seen from the east, 2016, originally posted on Wikimedia Commons by Antiquary (CC BY 4.0)

Back in England, the boys went on to study at Newman’s Oratory School in Edgbaston, Birmingham. Pollen’s eldest son and namesake, John Hungerford, became a Jesuit priest and historian. He was asked to draw together the history of the order in England and is consequently credited with being a key person in the history of the order’s archives. His brothers Anthony Cecil and George Charles also entered the priesthood: Anthony became a noted composer and George, who had a keen interest in chemistry and geology, became a Fellow of the Geological Society.

Walter became a soldier and became ADC to Lord Ripon, Viceory of India between 1883 and 1884 (when Pollen was Lord Ripon’s private secretary). Walter became part of the Survey of India Department between 1884 and 1887, though he was invalided out due to fever. He returned to the east in 1888 and became Survey Officer to the Lushai Expedition in early 1889, but died of fever in Chittagong in March that year. Stephen likewise became a soldier and also served as ADC to two successive Viceroys in India (Lord Lansdowne and Lord Elgin) before serving in the South African campaign. Francis became a naval officer who fought in the war in Sudan between 1884 and 1885. He became part of the Naval Brigade in the Gordon Relief Expedition in Burma in 1886. Both Francis and Stephen retired in 1902, but returned to service during the First World War. Arthur struck out a different career to his siblings, training as a barrister and becoming a businessman, inventor and journalist. Anne, who published a memoir of her father in 1912, entered a religious community and became a nun.

J.H. Pollen, sketch of family at Newbuildings, 27 August 1880, sketchbook, Bodleian Libraries, Pollen archive, currently uncatalogued

In the days before his death, Pollen celebrated his 82nd birthday together with his family in Pembridge Crescent, having lived long enough to see the foundation stone being laid for the new Victoria and Albert Museum over three years earlier.(4) Whilst Pollen’s career was certainly varied, his interest for art, design, and architecture never wavered and his steadfast commitment to his religious faith, his friendships, and his family never failed. The final word in his daughter Anne’s memoirs of her father was left to Sir George Birdwood:

From Anne Pollen, John Hungerford Pollen, 1820-1902 (London, 1912), p.388.

-Rachael Marsay


References

1) A note on Newbuildings by Maria Pollen, 1914, unpublished, Bodleian Libraries, Pollen archive, currently uncatalogued.
2) According to Anne Pollen, a further child, the Pollen’s youngest son Benjamin Hungerford Pollen, died an infant in 1875. Anne Pollen, John Hungerford Pollen, 1820-1902 (London, 1912), p.372.
3) A note on Newbuildings by Maria Pollen, 1914
4) Anne Pollen, John Hungerford Pollen, p.369.

John Hungerford Pollen: Friendships

Today marks the bicentenary of John Hungerford Pollen’s birth. This is the fourth in a series of five blog posts to mark the bicentenary of John Hungerford Pollen whose archive has recently been acquired by the Bodleian Libraries.

One constant theme throughout John Hungerford Pollen’s life was the ease with which he made friends and the long term commitment that came with Pollen’s friendship. In return, Pollen was offered several life-changing opportunities and we have already seen in this blog series how John Henry Newman and William Makepeace Thackeray both influenced the direction of Pollen’s career. In today’s blog post, we will see how two other friendships changed the course of Pollen’s life.

George Frederick Samuel Robinson, 1st Marquess of Ripon and 3rd Earl de Grey, by George Frederic Watts, oil on canvas, 1895, NPG 1553 © National Portrait Gallery, London (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

In 1867, Pollen resigned his post at the South Kensington Museum when he was invited to become private secretary to Lord Ripon (1827-1909). Ripon was a fellow Catholic convert and became one of Pollen’s closest friends in later life. In 1880, Ripon was appointed Viceroy of India, a position he was to hold for four years. Though Pollen remained in London during most of this period, he visited India towards the end of the Viceroyalty in 1884. Whilst in India, Pollen commissioned exhibits for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886 and also advised the Maharaja of Kuch Behar [Cooch Behar] on the decoration of his palaces.

J.H. Pollen, sketches of Delhi, 17 November 1884 and of elephants, sketchbooks, Bodleian Libraries, Pollen archive, currently uncatalogued

In 1902, Lord Ripon wrote of Pollen:

To me, he was a very dear friend, whose association with me had made me intimately acquainted with all the qualities of his admirable character; so gentle, and yet where matters of principle were concerned so firm… so perfect a gentleman and so good a man, that he won not only the sincerest respect, but the truest affection of all who knew him. (1)

The poet and writer Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (1840-1922) was a longstanding friend of Pollen’s wife’s family, the LaPrimaudayes, having first made their acquaintance as a child in Italy in 1852; after his marriage to Maria LaPrimaudaye, Pollen also became one of Blunt’s good friends. Anne, Blunt’s wife, was the daughter of William King, 1st Earl of Lovelace, and the Hon. Augusta Ada Byron (the pioneering mathematician now known more familiarly as Ada Lovelace). The Blunts owned Newbuildings Place in Sussex and in 1875 they leased it to the Pollen family who had by now expanded their brood to ten children.

Sketch of Ashley Combe, Porlock, Somerset (house belonging to Ada Lovelace), 1851, sketchbook, Bodleian Libraries, Pollen archive, currently uncatalogued

In 1886, Pollen became caught up with Blunt’s campaign for Home Rule in Ireland and when Blunt stood as a Liberal at Kidderminster, Pollen accompanied him during his election campaign (like Blunt’s other attempts to sit for Parliament, it was unsuccessful). Things were, however, to take a serious turn in October 1887 when Blunt chaired an anti-eviction meeting in Woodford in Galway which had been expressly banned by Arthur Balfour, the Irish chief secretary. Blunt was subsequently arrested and tried at Portumna, receiving a sentence of two month’s imprisonment with hard-labour. Pollen was there throughout the trial and Blunt would later remark that Pollen ‘was a very staunch friend to his friends’. (2)

Wilfrid Scawen Blunt by Alexander Bassano, albumen carte-de-visite, circa 1870, NPG x1375 © National Portrait Gallery, London (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

The Pollens rented Newbuildings until 1889, when relations between the two families irretrievably broke down (Blunt’s daughter Judith had accused Pollen’s sixth son, Arthur Joseph Hungerford Pollen, of over-familiarity). Nevertheless, the friendship between Blunt and Pollen appears to have transcended even this disagreement.

J.H. Pollen, sketch of Newbuildings, May 1882, sketchbook, Bodleian Libraries, Pollen archive, currently uncatalogued

Tomorrow’s blog post is the last in this series and will focus on those closest to Pollen: his family.

-Rachael Marsay


References

1) Anne Pollen, John Hungerford Pollen, 1820-1902 (London, 1912), p.325.
2) Ibid, p.346.

Eton College, a journey to India, and wartime Britain: Personal stories from the Opie Archive

The Archive of Iona and Peter Opie, at first glance, is an archive of professional papers, covering the folklorists’ extensive research on childlore, games and play from the 1950s through to the 1990s. Researchers looking at the history of childhood, and at even at how the ‘world of children’ was observed and documented, will no doubt find a rich resource in the children’s original papers, as well as in the Opies’ working files, their professional correspondence, and the notes for, and drafts of, the Opie publications from The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes to The People in the Playground.

What is probably less well known is the fact that the archive also includes a significant proportion of personal papers and correspondence – the personal archive of Peter Opie, covering his own childhood and teenage years, his years at Eton College, his early career as an author, his time serving in the Army, and the early years of starting a family and finding his vocation of collecting books and researching childhood folklore. These personal papers, which focus on the 1930s-1950s, include correspondence with friends and relatives, diaries and scrapbooks, personal documents, photographs and memorabilia. Another sequence comprises the raw material, notes, and drafts for Peter Opie’s early autobiographical books, short stories and other writings.

An aspiring writer: Drafts for Peter Opie’s first book ‘I Want To Be A Success’, early 1938.

Continue reading

Lord Southborough papers now available

Francis Hopwood, first Baron Southborough

Francis Hopwood, first Baron Southborough, MS. Photogr. c. 185, fol. 56

The archive of the civil servant Francis Hopwood, first Baron Southborough (1860–1947), has now been catalogued and is available in reading rooms in the Weston Library.

Trained as a solicitor, Southborough had a fascinating career in the public service. The consummate civil servant, he worked at the Board of Trade, the Admiralty, and the Colonial Office when the British Empire was at its territorial peak. A skilled negotiator who was involved in public affairs at the highest level, he (among many other duties) served as secretary of the Select Committee investigating the botched Jameson Raid (1895-96), was entrusted with a secret peace mission to Scandinavia during World War I, and was elected as secretary of the Irish Convention which attempted to resolve the “Irish Question” following the Easter Uprising of 1916.

Southborough also worked closely with members of the British royal family and royal household, and was involved with the acquisition and cutting of the famous Cullinan Diamond, resulting in nine principal gems, two of which (known as the Great Star of Africa and the Second Star of Africa) today form part of the Imperial State Crown and the Sovereign’s Sceptre With Cross. The archive also includes a box of letters from Princess Louise and a typescript account (attributed to Princess Louise) of life in the royal household under Queen Victoria.

The general correspondence is also fascinating, and the archive includes letters from characters as diverse as the fervent naval reformer Admiral Lord Fisher and the author Edith Wharton. There are also significant tranches of letters from Southborough’s close colleague Winston Churchill (they worked together in the Admiralty); the South African prime ministers Louis Botha and Jan Smuts; Bernard Forbes, Lord Granard, corresponding about Irish affairs and the conduct of the Dardanelles Campaign in World War I; and Wiliam Humble Ward, Lord Dudley, while he was governer of Australia.

The archive is astonishingly rich and has a very wide range of research potential, not least for students of British political history.

The ‘Tribal Medicine Project’ (Part 2)

In this post I would like to draw attention to some correspondence in the Tribal Medicine Project file with Dr. Sue Chowdhury, a Health Adviser in Oxfam’s Health Unit from 1986-1990. There is a memo dated 1st June 1988 from Dr. Chowdhury to David de Pury in which she lists the positives and negatives of the Tribal Medicine Project. One of the most interesting things about the memo is that it shows Oxfam was conscious of developing an approach to traditional medicine. Chowdhury writes: ‘In summary, I think this is an interesting project; […] For my personal interest, I would be grateful if I could see full documentation of the study as I am trying to look into issues of Oxfam support for traditional medicines’.
Indeed, Chowdhury went on to write a ‘Review of Oxfam’s involvement with traditional medicine’ dated February 1989. A summary of this report states:
Oxfam has funded projects involving traditional medicine for many years. There have been attempts in the past to discuss traditional health in relation to Oxfam’s funding criteria. To arrive at a better understanding of the kind of work Oxfam funds in this area, this paper concentrates on a review of existing projects.
In total Dr. Chowdhury’s report reviews 36 projects from Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The Tribal Medicine Project is mentioned on page 8:
Dr. Sue Chowdhury, 1989, page 8 (Bodleian Libraries, Oxfam Archive)
From the report, and the earlier memo, it is clear that Dr. Chowdhury is in favour of the integration of traditional and allopathic (‘western’) medicine; she cites China as an example of where this has been successful. She also importantly recognises that for some people traditional medicine is the only form of primary health care that they have access to, often because it is cheaper. Therefore, it is vitally important for Oxfam to identify and work with traditional practitioners, for example a ‘Traditional Birth Attendant’ (TBA).
The Field Directors’ Handbook, first published in 1985(Bodleian Libraries, Oxfam Archive)
This point is reiterated in The Field Directors’ Handbook: An Oxfam Manual for Development Workers (4thed., 1990) which has a section relating to ‘Alternative Health systems’. It states that an estimated 70-90% of all ‘self-recognised episodes of ill-health’ are treated either at home or by using ‘traditional/alternative healers’. It advises field staff to ‘find out about these alternatives, and wherever possible to integrate them into primary health care and social development programmes’.
Throughout the short time that I have been working on the archive, the sheer variety and range of projects that Oxfam has funded never ceases to amaze me. I didn’t imagine I would come across anything to do with alternative medicine, but I have been impressed by the thoughtful and sensitive way in which Oxfam has approached this subject.

The ‘Tribal Medicine Project’ (Part 1)

The little girl of the Kirātas, she the little one, digs a remedy, with golden shovels, upon the ridges of the mountains.
(Atharva Veda X.4.14, trans. Whitney, 1905)
Introduction
During the first phase of the Oxfam archive project the team will be appraising and cataloguing ‘project files’ relating to grant support from Oxfam for work in India. Before appraisal, approximately half of the 10,000 boxes in the archive fall under the category of ‘project files’, so it is going to be a mammoth task! The project files contain a wealth of information and will be an invaluable resource for researchers interested in a variety of countries and subject areas.
One project file that has initially caught my attention contains material relating to a grant for the ‘Tribal Medicine Project’ approved on 21 June 1988, which will be the focus of the next 2 posts. The description of the project is as follows: ‘To support additional work in final 3rd phases of a study on tribal medicine […] to train tribal youth in their own health care system; to encourage tribal’s to plant and cherish medicinal plants – for their use and probably also income generating.’ This was a surprising discovery, and reiterated the huge range of projects that Oxfam has funded and been involved with. The projects span categories such as health, agriculture, social organisation, education and humanitarian emergencies.
The Tribal Medicine Project’ (Oxfam reference BIH 091/Q8) was carried out by the Rural Development Association (RDA) in Bihar, in north-east of India. Oxfam has been working in this region since 1951 when a famine in Bihar prompted them to respond to a natural disaster in a ‘developing country’ for the first time. Oxfam awarded the RDA a grant of £3,008 which, in 1988, equated to 74,000 Rupees. This was just one of many grants that Oxfam made to them for a variety of projects.
 
Cash receipt for the first installment (Bodleian Libraries, Oxfam Archive)
The Documents
From the documentation, we know that the principal project investigator was Dr. Kali Krishna Chatterjee. In a detailed summary report written by Chatterjee there is statistical information, such as how many practising ‘tribal medicine men and women’ there were and how many ailments they could treat, as well as information about the efficacy of herbal medicines on particular diseases and illnesses, ranging from malaria to respiratory infections and skin complaints.
Contained in this file there is also a letter addressed to David de Pury (Oxfam’s temporary representative for East India who was based in Calcutta) from the RDA’s Secretary Dipankar Dasgupta dated 15th April 1988. In this letter, Dasgupta mentions an ‘invitation to participate in the “International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences” to be held […] at Zagreb’ for both himself and Dr. Chatterjee. He writes:
This would give us an opportunity to bring into international prominence the rich tradition and prospect of developing tribal medicine as an alternative form of medical culture which will help the poor people to come out from the clutches of the present dominating modern system of medicine.
The letter asks Oxfam to contribute to their travel expenses, and they clearly both attended as their presentations are listed in Abstracts: 12th International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, Zagreb, 24-31 July 1988. We also know, from a budget submitted with the project application, that two anthropologists were employed on the project.
The OED defines ethnobotany as: ‘The traditional knowledge and customs of a people concerning plants; the scientific study or description of such knowledge and customs’. This includes the medical uses of plants, and I think it aptly describes the remit of theTribal Medicine Project.
In an appendix to Dr. Chatterjee’s summary report, the history of Indian traditional medicine is traced back to the ‘Ayurvedic’ system. Ayurvedais the system of traditional medicine native to the Indian subcontinent and a form of alternative medicine. Dr. Chatterjee ends this appendix with a quote, cited in full above, ‘about a Kirāta girl collecting herbal medicines from the ridges of a mountain’. This passage is from the Atharva Veda (or Atharvaveda), one of the four Sanskrit Vedic texts originating from ancient India.
 Atharva Veda 003
MS. Mill 80 Atharva-Veda Samhitā, c. 1840 (Bodleian Libraries, Oriental Manuscripts)
Most importantly in this context, the Atharva Veda is ‘intimately connected to the medical traditions of classical India, and it presents some of the earliest perspectives on the concept of diseases and how to cure them’. The ‘herbal medicines’ the Kirāta girl is collecting are for a remedy against snake bites. It is the 14th stanza of a longer passage about remedies which invoke the white horse of Pedu as it was known as a slayer of serpents. The reference to this classical India text demonstrates how the scientific study of the medical uses of plants can lead to, and arguably requires, a much broader investigation of the medical culture of the people concerned.
In the next blog post I will continue to look at the work of the Tribal Medicine Project in the broader context of Oxfam’s policy on traditional medicine…