William Edward Frere (1811-1880), brother of Sir Bartle Frere, Governor of Bombay, was a Civil Servant who arrived in Bombay in 1830. He began his career as Principal Collector of Surat, and he moved from there to serve the Sudder Diwani Adalat Courts in various parts of Bombay Presidency before moving to Bombay as Judge of the Sudder Diwani Adalat Court. He was a voracious reader, and was a collector of all things antique, and of value. He developed a deep interest in studying the historical dynasties of India, especially of the Kshatrapa dynasties. He spent his leisure hours examining coins of the little known dynasties. His knowledge of Arabic and his working knowledge of Indian languages, including Pali, helped him in these studies. In Bombay be resumed his membership in the Asiatic Society and soon became its President. During his Presidency, the Asiatic Society became known for its research work in coins and in Indology. He became the President of the Bombay Geographical Society in 1862, and within two and a half years, be strengthened its finances, increased memberships, and also got the necessary permissions for many of its projects. Before leaving India, he appointed Dr. Bhau Daji as the Vice President of the Asiatic Society, breaking an unstated rule that only Europeans could be office-bearers! His Presidency was a period of revival for the Asiatic Society and a golden period for the Bombay Geographical Society.
About the Author
Dr. Usha R Vijailakshmi's passion is to research on the migration of Historical Communities in India. Her Doctoral research was on 'Migration of Tamilians to Karnataka from 850-1350: Study of Political and Socio-Economic Aspects. It was based on the study of both Tamil and Kannada epigraphs. Her post Doctoral research was on 'the Migration of Marathas to Tamilnadu and its impact on the Maratha Diaspora She recently completed a project on 'Tracing the Intra-City Migration in the City of Mumbai through the study of Hindu Temples'. She is Associate Professor, working with Patkar-Varde College, University of Mumbai and is the recognized research guide of the University of Mumbai. She is one of the members of the Management Council of the Asiatic Society, Mumbai. She is in the Editorial panels of national and international journals. So far, she has conducted one national conference and two International symposiums. She has published about 16 research articles in national and international journals.
William Edward Frere (1811-1880) was a civil servant who came to India when he was nineteen years old and remained in the Bombay Presidency till his retirement. Through his hard work he rose to the position of Judge of the High Court of Bombay. He became a member of the Governing Council of Bombay in 1858 and was an influential member of the local society. But what distinguished him from other civil servants of his time was his abiding interest in the study of history, art, religion and cultural beliefs of nineteenth century western India. He was especially interested in the field of numismatics and spent all his free time in cleaning and examining coins. When he became the President of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, he used this skill to revive the fortunes of the Society, which at that time was going through a lean patch both financially as well as in terms of committed researchers. Singlehandedly, he turned the Asiatic Society into the most favored centre for coin examination and numismatic studies and made the government chose it as a natural choice for numismatic studies in the entire Presidency. His dedication, efficiency, and affability won him many friends, which included the wealthy merchants of Bombay. The government showed its appreciation by making him a member of the Governing Council. The Bombay Geographical Society chose him as its President with the hope that he would show the same zeal in turning its fortunes and replicate the success he had achieved at the Asiatic Society. He did not disappoint. When he finally left the shores of Bombay, the members of both the societies expressed their gratitude to him and he was remembered by them for a long time after his demise.
I have divided the chapters in the following way: Chapter I dwells on William Edward Frere, the person, Chapter II on The Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society and W.E. Frere, Chapter III on The Bombay Geographical Society and W.E. Frere and in Chapter IV I have analyzed the contributions of William Frere.
I take this opportunity to profusely thank Dr. Aroon Tikekar, the General Editor of this project for constantly encouraging me and guiding me to complete the work! I thank the Asiatic Society, Mumbai and its office-bearers for allowing me to consult the minute hooks, and journals of both BBRAS and BGS. I wish to acknowledge here that I gained immensely from the online sources that I referred. I would like to thank Indus Source Books for publishing this monograph, and lastly, I would like to thank my daughter Ms. Vaishali for helping me type the draft.
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