Nathaniel Wallich's correspondence
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110 files of documents have been selected from the India Office Records and Private Papers held at the British Library. A sample page and associated reference details can be selected for view by the Explore function. (The full version of each document will be available. These will be accessed through a PDF link at the bottom of each page. Please be aware some of these files are quite large and may take a while to view.)
The India Office Records are the archives of the administration in London of the pre-1947 government of India. They comprise the records of the East India Company (1600-1858), the Board of Control or Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India (1784-1858), and the India Office (1858-1947). The official records are supplemented by collections of private papers relating to India and South Asia, many created by the administrators themselves. For information about the official records and the private papers, see the web pages of the British Library.
The records here relate mainly to Wallich’s tenure as Superintendent of the Calcutta Botanic Garden. Whether in post at Calcutta or away on expedition, Wallich copiously documented his activities in the letters which he exchanged with his superiors. As part of the recording processes of the Indian government, copies of this correspondence were routinely sent back to the administration in London. There, the Board of Control would approve or amend the East India Company’s decisions after requisitioning all relevant documents on the subject. Among the files compiled for the Board are many on botanical, agricultural, and forestry matters. Topics discussed in this selection include: Wallich’s employment and career; the daily administration of the Calcutta garden, with lists of plants received and despatched; expeditions to Nepal, Oudh, Burma, and Singapore; the garden’s library; Wallich’s period of leave in England; the work of the Plantation Committee and the Tea Committee, and the expansion of the garden to include a medical garden and a teak plantation. Private papers include letters from William Carey to Henry Colebrooke recommending Wallich for the post of Superintendent, and from William Moorcroft to Wallich reporting on botanical discoveries in Kashmir.
To set the archives in context, this selection also includes material from related periods and places. There are documents on the foundation of the Calcutta Botanic Garden in 1787 and on its evolution over the following century. There are records on the gardens established at Bangalore, Saharanpore, Dapuri, and Samulcotta. The scholarly Annals of the Royal Botanical Gardens began publication in 1887, and there are finely-illustrated books in this series written by Joseph Hooker and George King.
Individual highlights are: annual lists of trees and plants introduced to the garden between 1790 and 1795; a summary drawn up by Wallich of his own career, designed to persuade his superiors to grant him leave of absence, and three plans of the Calcutta Botanic Garden dated 1816, 1843 and 1846, which show radical changes in the garden’s design.
Some of the individuals mentioned are: Andrew Berry, William Carey, Henry Colebrooke, Edward Gardner, George Govan, Benjamin Heyne, Brian Houghton Hodgson, Robert Kyd, Charles Lushington, John McClelland, Charles Metcalfe, William Moorcroft, William Roxburgh, and John Forbes Royle.
This selection has been created from record series which, being designed for administrators and not historians, do not yield up their contents easily. The project has built upon investigations carried out for Science and the Changing Environment in India 1780-1920 (British Library: 2010). This is the first time, however, that the series have been researched to identify all material about a single individual.