Scottish Orientalists and India

Scottish Orientalists and India

The Muir Brothers, Religion, Education and Empire

Avril A. Powell


Boydell Press



A detailed assessment of how Western thinking about India developed in the nineteenth century, focusing on the exceptionally full lives of the scholar-administrator Muir brothers.
Structured around the lives and careers of two Scottish scholar-administrator brothers, Sir William and Dr John Muir, who served in the East India Company and the Raj in North-West India from 1827-1876, this book examines cultural, especially religious and educational attitudes and interactions during the period.
The core of the study centres on a detailed examination of the brothers' seminal works on Vedic and Islamic history and society which, researched from Sanskrit and Arabic sources, became standard reference works on India's religions during the Raj. The publication of these works coincided with the outbreak of the Indian Uprising of 1857, on the nature of which William's correspondence with his brother and others allows some reconsideration, especially in respect of Muslim participation. Powell also examines the response of Indian Muslim scholars, particularly of Sir Saiyid Ahmad Khan, to William's critiques of Islam and the brothers' patronage of Oriental scholarship, comparative religion and education during their long retirement back in their native Scotland. The study contributes to current debates about the Scottish contribution to Empire with particular reference to India and to cultural issues.

AVRIL A. POWELL is Reader Emerita in the History Department at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.


October 2010
11 black and white, 2 line illustrations
336 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
The Worlds of the East India Company
ISBN: 9781843835790
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press
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Table of Contents

Scottish Beginnings: Commerce, Christianity and Schooling
Preparation for Empire: Haileybury College
Religion: Evangelicals in North-West India
Education: Engagement with Pandits, 'Ulama and their Pupils
The Making of the Orientalist Scholares
Original Sanskrit Texts and The Life of Mahomet
Hiatus: 1857 and its Lessons
Contestation: An Indian Response on Religion and Civilization
Symbiosis: Education and the Idea of a University
Retrospective from late Nineteenth-Century Edinburgh


(A) fascinating and extremely rich study (and) a highly readable work (which) goes a long way towards highlighting the complex intranational dynamics within the 'British' Empire. SCOTTISH STUDIES NEWSLETTER, no. 42, Autumn 2013

The book is an outstanding example of sound and engaging historical scholarship. CANADIAN JOURNAL OF HISTORY, Autumn 2013

Powell has contributed significantly to our understanding of British rule in South Asia and also to the global history of Christianity in the modern world. AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW

A highly valuable contribution to the so called Orientalist/liberal - Anglicist/utilitarian debate of the late 1820s and the 1830s. (...) Without doubt the book deserves great scholarly attention and a prominent place on the shelves of academic libraries. H-SOZ-U-KULT

This is a welcome study. readers will walk away with a nuanced understanding of the intellectual climate in the British Raj during its heyday. JOURNAL OF BRITISH STUDIES

A first-class piece of research to which scholars will refer for years to come. JOURNAL OF THE ROYAL ASIATIC SOCIETY


Highly recommended. CHOWKIDAR

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