Back to Scots Menu

  4.20 'A Journey from Madras through the countries of Mysore, Cananara and Malabar'  

© Anne Buddle
'A Journey from Madras through the countries of Mysore, Cananara and Malabar'; London, 1807.

Reprinted Bombay 1988, for the Asian Educational Services. Vol II, p. 8 Plate XV 'The Seringapatam Ox.'

FRANCIS BUCHANAN, later Francis Buchanan Hamnilton 1762-1829

orn in Callander, Perthshire, (15 Feb. 1762) Francis Buchanan completed his studies in medicine at Edinburgh University (1783), and was then employed as a surgeon on board a man-of-war. Ill health forced him to leave this post, but in 1794, he obtained the post of surgeon with the Bengal Establishment of the East India Company. His missions to Burma and the Andaman Islands, to Nepal (1802) and Bengal (1807/09) included significant research and publications on botany, the fishes of the R.Brahmaputra, the history of Nepal, and a statistical survey of Bengal. In 1814, he was appointed Superintendant of the Botanical Garden, Calcutta, but returned to Scotland the following year, and subsequently inherited his mother's Bardownie estate. On the death of his elder brother. Buchanan added his mother's name, Hamilton, to his own in recognition of this inheritance.

In the Mysore context, Buchanan's great contribution was his 3 volume survey of Tipu's kingdom, over which the British assumed control in 1799. The Governor General, Lord Wellesley, instructed Buchanan to investigate and document the agriculture, cattle, farms, crops, mines, minerals and mineral springs, manufacturers and manufacturers, climate and seasons, trees and forests, the inhabitants and their religions, currencies and customs. In addition, Wellesley noted: 'It would be eligible to have either models or drawings made of any description of machinery which may not have been seen by you in these parts of India.' Buchanan plotted his route with the maps of Majors Crauford and Rennell, and information was sought from that great surveyor, Col. Mackenzie. 'I regret exceedingly that I did not receive it in time to allow me to avail myself of the numerous geographical improvements it contains, ' wrote Buchanan.

At Bangalore, Buchanan described the fort, palace and 'extensive gardens' made by Haidar and Tipu, but was also reminded of the desperate position of Lord Cornwallis during the Third Mysore War: 'his marches from Bangalore may everywhere be traced by the bones of cattle, thousands of which perished through fatigue and hunger.' At Seringapatam, 'the peaceful bullock was returning to his useful labour,' although there was little evidence of any attempts to improve the breed, and buffaloes were more useful for carriage. They carried 320 lbs.a day, while bullocks managed only 206lbs. The farmers too had become poorer. In Haidar's time (1765-1782), a rich farmer might own 12 ploughs and 48 oxen: by 1800, farmers in the environs of Seringapatam owned only 4 ploughs and 2 oxen. The place had 'a most dreary, ugly appearance, for naked rock and dry mud walls are the predominant features,' Buchanan wrote. He also offers a few thoughts on why Tipu died where he did, near the Watergate; he mentions the European commodities which had been introduced to the capital, including broad cloth, looking glasses; watches and laid paper, and he conversed with Purniya, formerly Tipu's Chief Minister, and subsequently installed by the British to look after the infant Raja of Mysore.

On his travels, Buchanan mentions a number of fellow Scots, including Major Macleod; a Mr Campbell, making jagory into sugar in the Caroor area; Capt Graham trying to establish standards for weights and measures. At Sri Permaturu, near Madras, he noted a 'large extent of pasture which may be compared to the moors of Scotland,' and at Kaveripura ,'fences built of loose stones in a manner similar to the sheep dykes of Galloway.' He published an engraving of the colossal image of Gomita Raya at Sri Belagola, first recorded by Mackenzie, but admits, 'This I was not able to visit, owing to an infection that attacked my eyes the day before and rendered the light almost intolerable. I sent my painter and interpreter to inspect the hill....... Sir Arthur Wellesley who has visited the place lately thinks the drawing rather more clumsy that the image.'

When 'A Journey from Madras through the countries of Mysore, Canara and Malabar' was published in 1807, the 'Edinburgh Review and Critical Journal (Oct. 1808) was critical: 'The work before us is a journal....... nowhere is one subject fully discussed,' or 'our author possessed no means of communication with the natives but through an interpreter.' In conclusion however, it is acknowledged that Buchanan 'has rendered an essential service to the Indian historian' and his book 'will remain an interesting and valuable publication relating to a country scarcely known in Europe.' The Asian Education Services certainly recognised this in 1988, when they published a complete facsimile of Buchanan's work, including all the engraved plates.

back to top of page



© Copyright 2000 The National Galleries of Scotland.
All rights reserved. All trademarks recognised.