Nature and Scope


Drawing upon the wonderfully rich and diverse manuscript collections of the National Library of Scotland this resource will be of great value to all those teaching or researching into the History of South Asia between the foundation of the East India Company in 1615 and the granting of independence to India and Pakistan in 1947. The material comprises diaries and journals, official and private papers, letters, sketches, paintings and original Indian documents containing histories and literary works.

To enable wider access to this important and unique material we have created a resource which will allow users to explore the material in a variety of ways.

The documents can be browsed in several ways; by manuscript reference, theme and date order. Each document within the resource has a detailed description providing background and biographical information. To enable users to search and browse with ease across the whole collection each document has been indexed in detail with topics, places and names.

From a detailed study of the material and history we have identified the following thematic areas by which to group the documents, providing a useful starting point for research and a further way in which to approach the material:

These introductions have been written by Dr. Crispin Bates, Dr. Kim Wagner, and Dr. Andrea Major (School of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh) to provide historical context.

Additional features of the project include:

  • Biographies of key figures featured in the documents.
  • An image gallery displaying the many wonderful paintings, illustrations and sketches in the collection - an enjoyable feature and a useful tool in the classroom.
  • A detailed chronology dating from 1600 and the granting of the Royal Charter to the East India Company through to 1947, independence and partition.
  • An advanced search page incorporating Boolean functionality for more detailed and refined searching.
  • An external links page with links to relevant websites to facilitate further research.


Scope of the Collection

In 1617, Britain signed a treaty with the Mughal Emperor to permit the East India Company to establish ‘factories’ or trading posts in cities such as Mumbai (Bombay) and Kolkata (Calcutta). Over the next 240 years this trading relationship became a political relationship as the ‘Company’ gained control over Bengal and other territories as a result of successive wars. The uprising of 1857 prompted a further change, as India came under direct rule from the British Government, a situation which lasted until 1947, when – after a prolonged nationalist struggle – India and Pakistan were granted independence.

Especially strong for the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries this collection will be of particular interest to historians studying:  

  • The British Indian Empire; government, administration and politics.
  • The relationship between Britain and the British Indian Empire. 
  • The relationship between the British Indian Empire and Indian Princely States.
  • The Mysore and Maratha wars and other conflicts.
  • The role of the Scots in India.
  • The Indian Uprising.
  • Trade and Agriculture.

This complex and fascinating history is brought to life through the large and diverse South Asian holdings of the National Library of Scotland.

This collection weaves the story of India and Empire through the writings of Governor-Generals, Commander-in-Chiefs, Indian Princes, soldiers, traders, missionaries, explorers, historians and authors of literary works, indigo farmers and tea and coffee planters.


With thanks to our consultant editor Dr Crispin Bates, Professor of Modern and Contemporary South Asian History at the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh.

“Drawing upon the unique manuscript archives of the National Library of Scotland this project provides a fully searchable online resource for studying the relationship between Britain and the British Empire in India in which the Scots played a unique and central role as traders, generals, missionaries, Viceroys, Governor-Generals and East India Company officials. It will be a great practical benefit to both students and professional historians.”

Dr Crispin Bates

Dr Crispin BatesSave