James Tod book launch

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Florence D’Souza taking questions after her lecture

On Wednesday, 6 April we were delighted to host the launch of Knowledge, mediation and empire: James Tod’s journeys among the Rajputs (Manchester University Press), by Florence D’Souza. Florence gave an introduction to the subject of her book, analysing Tod’s role as an officer of the East India Company and as a mediator of knowledge about north-western India, a region which was little known to British and European audiences in the early nineteenth century.

Tod was very interested in genealogy as well as topography and other subjects, and Florence charted the development of Tod’s studies and his career in India which formed the background for his two volume Annals and antiquities of Rajasthan (1829-32).

Florence’s lecture was followed by a discussion and reception.

James Tod

James Tod left India in 1823. The Royal Asiatic Society was founded in London in the same year, and Tod was the Society’s first Librarian. Tod donated his collection of Indian manuscripts to the Society the year after his return; much of Tod’s own research was based on this collection. These manuscripts are still a major part of the Society’s collection, and new records for the manuscripts have recently been added to our online catalogue by Kathy Lazenbatt, one of Tod’s successors as the Society’s Librarian.

Tod MS 34 f16
Kālikācāryakathānaka, RAS Tod MS 34 f16
Pṛthvīrāja-rāsau, RAS Tod MS 120, full page miniature

Tod commissioned a large numbers of paintings and drawings when he was in India, some of which were used as the basis for illustrations in the Annals. Many of the artworks in Tod’s collection are now at the RAS, presented to the Society by Tod’s executors after his death.

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Portrait of Rana Bhim Singh of Udaipur, on horseback accompanied by attendants, RAS Tod 063.027
“Maharana Bheem Sing of Oodipoor”. Redrawn in England from the Indian miniature, this was used as the frontispiece for vol. I of Tod’s ‘Annals’. RAS Tod 037.001