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India Tracts: Major J. Browne's Report on the Jungle Tarai People of South Bihar during 1774-1779

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Item Code: HAP620
Author: Edited By Hetukar Jha
Publisher: Kameshwar Singh Darbhanga Sanskrit University, Bihar
Language: English
Edition: 1996
Pages: 230
Other Details 10x6.5 inch
Weight 582 gm
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Book Description

The house of Darbhanga needs no introduction. It is known for having been presided over successively by those who were not only able administrators but also eminent pandits Promotion of learning and patronage of culture and social welfare carried a value of their prime concern. The last scion of this house. Maharajadhiraja Kameshwar Singh (1907-1962) tried his best to maintain the tradition of the family during his lifetime After his death, his wife. Maharanidhirani Kamsundari Devi, the only surviving member of his family. formed a trust, Maharajadhiraja Kameshwar Singh Kalyani Foundation, to carry on the obligation of the house even after the house has practically lapsed in history The Foundation has been active in pursuing its objectives as effectively as possible.

It is in this context that the attention of the Foundation was drawn to those old and rare books which throw much light on the socio-cultural and economic conditions of the people of Bihar Such books are not generally available to the scholars working on this state and region. Besides these books, the historical records lying in the various private archives are also not easily accessible to research scholars These materials, if brought out in print would hopefully, be used in the studies conducted from the points of view of social sciences in historical perspective. The Foundation decided to undertake this task in order to serve our state of Bihar and launched a project of publications under Kameshwar Singh Bihar Heritage Series. The present work India Tracts, has been brought out in this series.


The Indian encounter with Europe and more specifically that with the British, has produced many revealing accounts of what the Englishmen believed they saw as administrators and soldiers. Among those accounts concerned with life and society in Bihar, few if any are dated earlier than the India Tracts reproduced here as the second volume in the Kameshwar Singh Bihar Heritage Series. The document was originally published in 1788. That part of the Tracts included in this publication is a description of the Jungle Tarai districts, "their revenues. trade, and government; with a plan for the improvement of them."

While James Browne, a Captain in the Light Infantry writes as the author and participant observer of this account, it is useful to recall that the tract was written as a report at the specific request of Warren Hastings. I make the point by way of suggesting that whatever his flaws as a colonial policy maker and administrator. Hastings India experience also brought with it an insatiable Interest and curiosity about India as a place and a people. The point is not simply that the Browne account of the Jungle Tarai was initiated by Hastings, but that in the process Hastings may well have been responsible for initiating a genre of administrator accounts and reports, continuing as it happens, for a full 170 years from the 1777 date the India Tracts was compiled to the day of freedom and independence in 1947. Much of this literature emerged from the fertile minds of the author administrators themselves to be sure, but that some of its earliest manifestations as in the present instance, happened during the time of Hastings and at his insistence is a coincidence which cannot be ignored.

The remarkable good fortune of historians of North India and more particularly of Bihar itself, is that the literature that emerged from the minds of scholar administrators in this region over these nearly two centuries, is as rich and varied as that for any other part of the subcontinent. Browne of course makes no claim to scholarship is his report or in his submission letter to Hastings, a fact which neither diminishes the value of his observations about the Jungle Tarai nor what the report tells about the mind of Browne as an Englishman in a foreign land. The fact is that Browne was there and we know that he was an Englishman in the service of the East India Company.


Captain Browne's India Tracts is now made available again in print after more than two centuries of its first publication in 1788 in London. I am greatly Indebted to late Prof. K.K. Datta who was kind enough to lend me a typescript copy of the India Tracts. I also made several attempts at different places to obtain the original publication, but could not succeed. However, my pursuit was rewarded with success when I finally located the volume in the British Library. London, and got a photo copy of the original work published in 1788. I express my deep appreciation and sincere thanks to the authorities of this Library.

The original work of Captain Browne is entitled "India Tracts. Containing a Description of the Jungle Terry Districts, Their Revenues, Trade, and Government with a Plan for the Improvement of Them. Also An History of the Origin and Progress of the Sicks. On considerations of space and economy the part dealing with the history of the origin and progress of the Sikhs has been excluded from this edition.

Browne's treatise on the Jungle Tarai and its inhabitants appears to be the first anthropological and socio-economic study relating to any part of India and as such it assumes a unique importance. An attempt has been made below to consider a number of aspects, events, facts, and other relevent matters for a better understanding of the overall situation and condition of the tribal community inhabiting the Jungle Tarai.

In undertaking this task I was much encouraged by Prof. Hetukar Jha, a sociologist. My discussions with him on some aspects of the tribal society was extremely helpful. However, I am solely responsible for the opinions, conclusions, and errors, if any, in the Introduction. I express my thanks to the staff and members of the Bihar State Archives, and its Director, Shri T. S. Sinha for the assistance and cooperation they extended while consulting the archival materials preserved there.

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