Total Pageviews

Popular Posts

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Men Who Ruled Malabar

Malabar came under British rule in 1792, although it was only in 1800 that a proper administrative structure was put in place, after a prolonged period of turbulence. It constituted an important district under the Madras Presidency and covered the area of the present districts of Kasaragod, Kannur, Wayanad, Kozhikkode, Malappuram and Palakkad.

Malabar under the British enjoyed a long line of able and benevolent administrators who tried to introduce many social reforms long before these were sought to be implemented in their home country.  An instance is the abolition of slavery. The abolitionist movement under William Wilberforce was facing opposition in Britain and his bill had been defeated in the British Parliament in 1791. But the anti-slavery movement had influenced the British civil servants in Malabar considerably and the Joint Commissioners, Duncan and Botham who were deputed to establish British administration in Malabar had ordered the abolition of all forms of slave trade here. It took another 40 years for Britain to abolish slavery.

The sentiment affected not just civil servants of the Company. Captain Lachlan Macquarie had just moved into Calicut in 1794 as part of the Regiment which was fighting Tipu and later Pazhassi. He had settled down with his young bride, Jane in the beautiful bungalow which he had named Staffa Lodge. (There is no trace of this bungalow now in Calicut). He had picked up two slaves from Cochin to help his new bride set up home in Calicut. But, Jane persuaded him to set them free and even enrolled the two slaves in a parish school in Bombay.  Macquarie later on rose to become the first Governor of Australia and is remembered as the ‘Father of Australia’ for his measures to rehabilitate convicts.

Another British administrator who worked to abolish slavery in Malabar was Thomas H Baber, the Sub Collector of Tellicherry, better known for his success in eliminating Pazhassi Raja and his loyal soldiers. Baber’s fight against domestic and agrestic slavery in Malabar saw him give evidence before a Parliamentary Committee. He had serious differences with his superiors on many matters of policy and did not mince words.  He had the welfare of the people at heart and had repeatedly protested against the unjust revenue assessments made by East India Company against poor farmers. It was more than a 100 years later, in 1907, that the British Government officially acknowledged that its land revenue policy in Malabar was flawed!

William Logan (Courtesy Wikipedia)
Conolly who was the Collector in the 1840s was another administrator with vision and commitment to the welfare of the people. His strategy to deal with the communal disturbance might have cost him his life, but he will be remembered for his pioneering effort to cultivate teak and for planning a waterway from Payyoli to Mathilakam in Trissur District – what is known today as the Conolly Canal. The introduction of railways around the time the canal was being completed had eclipsed its importance. But with the increasing fuel price and the eco-friendly nature of water transport, Conolly’s plans are bound to be re-visited.

William Logan was not only a brilliant administrator but a painstaking chronicler of Malabar’s history. His contribution to bringing about peace in strife-torn Malabar is as valuable as his effort in compiling important papers relating to British affairs in Malabar (1879) and his monumental Malabar Manual ( 1887).

Logan’s successor in office Evans was also a chronicler as well as a hard-working administrator. To him is attributed the statement: ‘Give me a car and no wife, I shall manage two districts!’ Innes, his collaborator in writing the Malabar Gazetteer, was another illustrious administrator of Malabar.

Sri P.K.Govindan who worked in the Malabar Collectorate for many years has narrated his experience with ICS Collectors of Malabar in his delightful book of the same name.  He describes the kind and generous disposition of H.H.Carleston, ICS Sub Collector who would fine a poor rustic accused of boot-legging and would pay the fine from his own pocket to avoid the poor man being sent to jail for 3 months.  Once Carleston was travelling from Malappuram to Calicut when his car knocked down a pedestrian near the Kallai bridge. He not only ensured that the victim got prompt medical attention, but kept sending him some money regularly for his period of disability, even after Carleston had been posted out of Malabar.

The last of the British Collectors of Malabar was Bouchier, ICS, CIE, a person of high integrity. Govindan quotes an instance: while proceeding home on leave, the Collector wanted to take some local handicrafts. He visited Quilandy and wanted to purchase the beautiful finger bowls made of coconut shells which is still a popular item among tourists. Bouchier insisted that the entire transaction take place in the presence of the local Tahsildar and that he be charged the full price. Bouchier was on leave on the day India won Independence and did not return. Govindan concludes, quoting Gandhiji, ‘You may hate British imperialism, but not the Britishers’.

(Originally published in the Hindu, Calicut Edition on 30 January 2012. The original can be accessed here)


  1. Yes Britishers were not bad. They were kind too.

  2. Along with great administrators there were some learned English Judges who established a strong foundation for Judiciary.
    Hope CKR will enlighten us with some of his deep studies in this regard.

  3. DR.Oliver Noone has sent the following comment:Dear C K R , Yes, they are British but the interesting fact is that almost all of them are either Irish or Scotish and not English!! Suffered under the yolk of English Imperialism where by, in a systamatic way, the social structure of those countries were destroyed, they felt a comaredie with the poor Indians.

    1. Sorry to say that you are wrong .Was William Wilberforce English ?

    2. Sorry to say you are wrong. Was William Wilberforce not an English ?

    3. Yes. William Wilberforce was a native of Yorkshire.

  4. yes, an interesting summary. i had been hunting for a picture for HV Conolly, no luck. perhaps they have it in the archives, i tried with HVC's family, they dont have was such an illustrious family..

  5. Sorry, Maddy. Even I have been looking for a portrait of HVC. One has to try in the India Library, London.

  6. It is said that Calicut found in 1034 AD , the 18th century saw the emergence of Hyder Ali of Mysore, who captured Kozhikode in 1766 and much of the northern Malabar Coast

  7. ISLAMIC SLAVERY IS MORE CRUEL- then western slavery-(17 reasons)
    1-In western (trans Atlantic)slave trade the total number of slaves were 11 crores while in Islamic (trans Saharan)slave trade that number is more than 20 crore(almost double)-so which is more cruel?

    2- In western (trans Atlantic)slave trade lasted only 300 years while in Islamic (trans Saharan)slave trade lasted 1350 years(1000 year more)- so which is more cruel?

    3- In western slave trade 2 out of 3 were men for agricultural work while in Islamic slave trade two out of 3 were women & children for sexual exploitation- so which is more cruel?

    4- In western slave trade mortality rate was only 10% while in Islamic slave trade it is 80 - 90 % - so which is more cruel?

    5- In western slave trade ,slaves consist of a minority of western society while in Islamic slave trade slaves consist of 20% of population in 1609(in Ottoman Empire)- so which is more cruel?

    6- In western slave trade there was no cruelty like castration (forcefully removing sexual organs) while in Islamic slave trade castrated slaves were in high demand by Muslim world-- so which is more cruel?

    7- western slave trade started 1526 & stopped in 1850 while in Islamic slave trade flourished in the time of Muhammad & went on until 1981 (Mauritania- the last Muslim country criminalized slavery in 2007 & old photographs and news reports of slave market near Haram in Mekha are there in -1960's), even after UN agreement- so which is more cruel?

    8- In western slave trade most of the decedents of slaves still alive today while in Islamic slave trade most of the decedents died& few survived now.- so which is more cruel?
    9- In western slave trade Muslims nations were directly contributed & it was inspired by Muslims slave traders while in Islamic slave trade was forced to end by the west - so which is more cruel?
    10- In western slave trade- slave did not do organized rebellion while in Islamic slave trade, the cruelty of ISLAM made organized rebellion of black people called ZANG rebellion under the leadership of Ali Ibin Muhammad (Ad 869) resulted in the massacre of more than five lakh black Africans ,even in the so called golden age of ISLAM - so which is more cruel?

    11-There are historical events , when the west took weapon against the slavery (the bombardment of Algiers in 1816)) but there is no single Incident in which Muslims took weapon for the freedom of slaves,In the entire history-So which is more cruel?

    12- In western slave trade,in most cases the west bought slaves either from African tribal leaders or from Arab merchants (means... they did not fight just for the slaves) and while in Islamic slave trade Muslims fought for the slaves . So which is more cruel?

    13- In western slave trade Europeans came as armatures while in Islamic slave trade Muslims were not professionals but masters of slavery - so which is more cruel?

    14 - The enslavement of Africans by Muslims ended only when Europeans colonized them while The enslavement of Africans became stronger when Muslims colonized them- So which is more cruel?
    15-The first international agreement which encouraged slavery was not made in western slave trade while It was made in Islamic slave trade by Khalif Ummer called BAQT agreement (based on this agreement country Makuria was forced to send 360 high quality slaves to newly formed Muslim Egypt,Every year) and it lasted for 600 years .So which is more cruel?

    16- In western slave trade was not based on any gods command (In fact Holy Bible says- whoever steals a man &sells him and anyone found possession of him put to death Exodus:21-16) while in Islamic slave trade was based on Quran & sunnah of Muhammad (Muhammed had more than 40 slaves) -so which is more cruel?

    17-It is fabricated theory that ISLAM regulated the existed slave trade of 7th century because Jews had more liberal laws for slaves than Muslim (Ex:Jews freed their slaves after every 7th year- sabbath year with gifts)


Powered by Blogger.