Emperor Maharajah Runjit Singh 11

This is a letter from Maharajah Ranjit Singh, the Sikh Emperor who was an astonishing figure in history, to Alexander Burnes. It is in the John Murray collection in the National Library of Scotland. I suspect the second part is a covering letter.

There is no translation, and the very small number of scholars who have looked at it evidently have no idea what it says. The NLS have it down as being in Urdu, though I would have thought Persian more likely.

I hope there are no copyright issues with my publishing the images, though frankly it is not doing much good sitting untranslated in a folder in a box in the NLS. Of course, I am yet again hoping that some of my astonishingly erudite readers will be able to help me get a translation. If we can work out a translation, I will give it to the NLS to insert in the folder.

I have now finished with my archive research in the NLS on Burnes, and I should say it has been an absolute delight. The staff have been infinitely helpful and patient, and put up with my failure ever to manage to use the right coloured form. Moreover I felt welcomed at registration and was not faced with the extraordinary inquisition I got at the British Library, demanding my reasons to want to view the material.

And I shall particularly miss the delicious soup in the cafe.


Burnes’ policy recommendation was that, on the death of Ranjit Singh, most of his more recent conquests of Muslim lands – including Kashmir and Peshawar – should be returned to Muslim rule under Dost Mohammed of Afghanistan. A strong Muslim state would provide the necessary buffer between UK and Russian territory. He was of course overruled in favour of the invasion of Afghanistan and the British annexation of the Sikh Empire and of Scinde.

You would have to be a pretty full-on Indian nationalist not to see that Burnes’ proposal would have saved much

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11 thoughts on “Emperor Maharajah Runjit Singh

  • Yonatan

    The British Library near Euston? Awful place in comparison to the real BL once at the BM. The online item search and request system is a p.o.s. The setting is a sort of shopping mall. The whole place feels like the management are grooming it for privatisation.

  • alexno

    It looks like Persian. The text doesn’t have the special symbols of Urdu. And all the words I can read are Persian/Arabic.

    Unfortunately I’m not that good on manuscripts.

  • Guest

    “The whole place feels like the management are grooming it for privatisation.”
    And then onto the elite auction rooms, so favoured by the rich!. It all comes down to what is and is not classed as national treasures, an “independent committee” will determine that. Once all is sold, the empty buildings will be sold off to property and land speculators, its the Tory way.
    “The final act Of any government is to loot the nation”.

  • CheebaCow

    Craig you are right about the second document, it is a covering letter. It’s definitely Persian. This is the translation I got:
    “Kazem says;
    It looks like you’re writing a letter.
    Would you like help?
    * Get help with writing the letter
    * Just scribe the letter without help”

  • Azra

    The two page one is the letter, it is in Persian, written in the very old style of writing, I doubt you will find many who can translate it, unless someone who has studied Persian literature. If you could not find anyone to translate, I am happy to send a copy of it to Iran and see if it can be translated.
    I could make out the signature, it is signed :
    Your Old Servant Mirza Agha something.. Was the name of Raj, Mirza Agha? or he had secretary by that name who wrote the letter??

  • John Goss

    If you haven’t bought a copy yet of “The Catholic Orangemen of Togo” I urge you to do so, and when you do make sure you get it signed. A humble and honest confession on page 71 may shed some light on the above letters. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office was downsizing and some Unison representatives seeking information had come across a whiteboard with details of where these cuts were likely to take place. Unfortunately it was thought to be in some kind of code.
    “In fact, it was in plain English – it was just that they could not decipher my very bad handwriting!”
    The signature on my copy of “The Catholic Orangemen of Togo”, is I am convinced, in the same hand as the above letters, and no more resembles Craig Murray than Ranjit Singh of Mickey Mouse. I suspect forgeries!

  • Quelcrime

    This is not entirely on topic.
    One of the refreshing things about Taiwan is that, being out of the loop on so much international bollox, it manages to be a very pleasant place from the pov of the sort of bureaucratic frustration you met at the BL. For example, you can carry liquids on domestic flights, and to get into the national library in Taipei you need two things; a photograph, and your name (you tell them, they believe you). Having said that, I suspect they have their own bureaucratic quagmires for people who actually live there, and the weather is unfit for human consumption.

    In a French public library, if you don’t have proof of address you sign a declaration of honour and they accept it. Yes, the French still believe that a member of the public has a sense of honour, where the British assume everyone is a criminal. It colours your day and in time probably your life.

  • Clydebuilt


    Treat a man like a king and he becomes a king

    Treat a man like someone who will mug, thieve and riot……

    yeah you got it

    Life in the UK as we witness it….

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