India Raj and Empire: Manuscript Collections from the National Library of Scotland
India Raj and Empire is a digital collection of unique manuscript sources from the National Library of Scotland from 1615 through 1947. First-hand accounts from journals and diaries document events including the foundation of the East India Company and the independence of India. Letters and reports from government, military, and business officials provide further insight into this significant historical period for India.
Sources for this review include information publicly posted or obtained directly from the publisher, data collected by CRL staff and members, and examination of the digital collection when possible. Other sources are noted where cited.
Historic connections between India and Scotland go back many centuries. An exhibition illustrating these connections, Tea and Tigers: Stories of Scotland and South Asia, opened at the National Library of Scotland (NLS) in 2007, highlighting through private correspondence, journals, and diaries the lives of Scottish people who traveled to and lived in the Subcontinent. These NLS manuscript collections provide a particular perspective on British colonial history, and the newly published online full-text database entitled India, Raj & Empire (IR&E) brings this important primary source material to light for historians and historiographers.
The IR&E consists of the manuscript collections of the National Library of Scotland relating to South Asian history between 1615 and 1947. Locales include India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Malaysia, and Singapore.
The following types of materials are among the collections digitized in the IR&E: diaries, journals, private as well as official papers, letters, sketches, paintings, and other original documents related to Indian history and literature. Sources include the East India Company, government documents, and papers of British military officers and civil servants in India.
- Since the source items are manuscripts (with no OCR), there is no full-text searching available. All searches are based on extensive item-level metadata records including fields for title, source, description, theme, topics, places, and names.
- Options for simple and advanced search are provided. Simple search provides a basic single search box. Advanced search allows the user to put together a potentially unlimited number of search strings linked by Boolean operators AND, OR, or NOT. From the advanced search, the user can also limit search results by date range, material type (e.g., inclusion or exclusion of visual materials), and word-stemming options. A further useful function is the ability to use a pull-down menu for narrowing the search to specific listed sets of thematic topics pre-selected by the editors. One also can browse the collections under “search topics” by use of a large, clickable set of topic descriptors.
- Brief record results sets from searches or browses can be exported as plain-text files. Individual record results are formatted for compatibility with citation management applications, allowing export of selected records to Refworks or Endnote.
- The document viewing interface is reasonably user-friendly: the user can click on an item in the result set of a search or browse, which pulls up the full bibliographic record and metadata, with links for opening the image browser and page-turner for this document. There is also a very handy link for downloading the entire document as a PDF, or downloading individual page images as PDFs from within the page-turner.
- An “additional information” link goes to a screen of information about the particular sub-collection (e.g. the Stuart Stevenson Papers) from which the given item was drawn.
- Although it takes a bit of unintuitive digging, the user can eventually find an image gallery of paintings, illustrations, and sketches from the collections, which can be organized into a customized selection to present as a slide show; this feature may be particularly helpful for teachers.
Arrangement of Documents
IR&E collections are arranged in three ways: manuscript reference, theme, and date order. Examples of themes include:
- The East India Company: Government and Administration c.1750–1857
- Agriculture and Trade c.1750–1857
- Society, Travel and Leisure c.1750–1857
- The Mysore and Maratha Wars
- Indian Uprising 1857–58
- The Raj:British Government and Administration of India after 1858
- Agriculture and Trade after 1858
- Society, Travel, and Leisure after 1858
- India: Literature, History, and Culture
Under “Search topics” (which is used as a browsing tool or limiter for advanced searches, as above), there is a longer listing of several dozen topics in alphabetical order, ranging from (to name a few): accounts, agriculture; correspondence, cultural; East India Company; Dutch East India Company; French East India Company; health; Indian Uprising of 1857–58; literature; trade; trial; and sports. Documents and brief biographies of Indian personalities such as Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan, as well as British administrators and military officers such as Lord Wellesley, Lord Cornwallis, and Sir Achibald Campbell, are included under “Key topics.”
Strengths and Weaknesses
Overall, India, Raj and Empire presents an interesting cache of content representing Scotland’s unique angle on South Asian history, distinct from that of other British sources. As primary sources, this material needs to be supplemented substantially by consulting other complementary sources of greater depth. The IR&E has broad and interesting coverage, but the scope of its thematic collections lack depth and “critical mass” for doing advanced research. On the other hand, one can cherry-pick items from this collection that would be useful in teaching general South Asian history courses. Through the IR&E, undergraduate students can be introduced to an intelligible methodology for finding and making use of primary sources on relevant topics. The content is deployed through a fairly simple interface that does not require any advanced searching skills in order to get relevant results.
Glossary and chronology sections (from the East India Company through 1948) provide contextualization for the archive that might be helpful in teaching beginning students of Indian history.
There is a one-time purchase price with tiers based on FTE & Carnegie Classification. Hosting is free for the first five years; 5 percent of purchase price is payable every five years after that.
Following the acquisition of Adam Matthew Digital and Adam Matthew Education by SAGE in early October, 2012, Adam Matthew issued a statement indicating that all existing contracts will remain between Adam Matthew and its partners, not transferred to SAGE. They have also posted details clarifying the status of licensing arrangements for the retention of digital materials and ongoing access to collections. Questions regarding Adam Matthew products, including licensing questions, will continue to be directed to the Adam Matthew team.
Direct from Publisher
|Subjects covered||History, law, government, British colonial rule of India, the British East India Company, urban history, agriculture, trade wars|
|Geographic coverage||South Asia, specifically India, as well as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Malaysia, and Singapore|
|Content types||Manuscripts: correspondence, maps, records, sketches, and diaries|
|Source formats||paper copies|
|P||Digital collection launch date||2008|
|P||Browser compatibility||IE7+ Firefox, Safari|
|P||Authentication options||IP (username and password for trials)|
|P||Archiving solution – master files||Portico|
|P||Archiving solution – derivative files||Available on DVD or similar format upon request|
|P||Availability in web discovery tools||N|
|P||Open URL target||Y for secondary sources referenced|
|P||Federated searching, z39.50||N|
|P||Local host option||Y|
|P||Full text displayed||Y|
|P||Color images||Y- all relevant visuals (>1%) with text-textbased|
|P||Search full text||Y|
|P||Advanced search (fielded)||Y|
|P||Search within results||N|
|P||Limit results by dates and/or document types||Y|
|P||Display highlighted search terms||Y|
|P||Display snippet -- search term in context||N|
|P||Relevance sorting||Y by default|
|P||Print page||Y via PDF|
|P||Print full document||Y via PDF|
|P||ILL||See Point II of license agreement cites fair use provision|
|P||Restrictions on use||Academic/Fair use only|
|Publisher / Distributor||Adam Matthew Education|
|url; contact email||www.amedu.com|
|Related product(s)||Archives Direct|
|P||Multiple year payments option||N|
|P||Hosting charges||Y (5% of purchase price every five years [first five year period free])|
|P||List of purchasers available||N|
|P||Sample license available||Y (www.amdigital.co.uk/license)|
|P||MARC records purchase fee||N|
|P||Price tier basis||FTE & Carnegie Classification|