Sources of History

How, When and Where of Class 8

Source of History

Administration Produce Records

One important source is the official records of the British administration. Every instruction, plan policy decision, agreement, investigation was clearly written up. This produced an administrative culture of memos, notings and reports.

Steps taken by the British

  1. The British set up record rooms attached to all administrative institutions. The village tahsildar's office, the collectorate, the commissioner's office, the provincial secretariats, the lawcourts-all had their record rooms.
  2. Specialised institutions like archives and museums were also established to preserve important records.
  3. Letters and memos that moved from one branch of the administration to another in the early years of the nineteenth century can still be read in the archives.
  4. Documents were carefully copied out and beautifully written by calligraphists.
  5. By the middle of the nineteenth century, with the spread of printing, multiple copies of these records were printed as proceedings of each government department.

Surveys Become Impotant

The practice of surveying also became common under the colonial administration. The British believed that a country had to be properly known before it could be effectively administered. In the villages, revenue surveys were conducted.

The effort was to know the topography, the soil quality, the flora, the fauna, the local histories, and the cropping pattern - all the facts as seen necessary to know about to administer the region. From the end of the nineteenth century, Census operations were held every ten years.

These prepared detailed records of the number of people in all the provinces of India, noting information on castes, religions and occupation. There were many other surveys- botanical surveys, zoological surveys, archaeological surveys, anthropological surveys, forest surveys.

What Official Records Do Not Tell

Official records tell us what the officials thought, what they were interested in, and what they wished to preserve for posterity. These records do not always help us understand what other people in the country felt, and what lay behind their actions.

For that we have diaries of people, accounts of pilgrims and travellers, autobiographies of important personalities, and popular booklets that were sold in the local bazaars. As printing spread, newspapers were published and issues were debated in public.

Leaders and reformers wrote to spread their ideas, poets and novelists wrote to express their feelings. To understand how history was experienced and lived by the tribels and the peasants, the workers in the mines or the poor on the streets is a more difficult task.

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