REVIEW – The British & The Sikhs– Discovery, Warfare & Friendship

The book will appeal to both a casual reader and serious student of history

REVIEW – THE BRITISH & THE SIKHS – DISCOVERY, WARFARE & FRIENDSHIP C1700-1900
by Inderjeet Singh*

About the Author

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Gurinder Singh Mann belong to my neighbouring city of Leicester and is well known among the Sikh circles as a co-author on two books on Sri Dasam Granth. For the past few years, Gurinder has been working diligently on Sikh Museum Initiative as its Director and researched on numerous Sikhs relics and artefacts in UK. The initiative in 2017 came to limelight when they used 3d modelling to recreate one of the plates from the body armour of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. The body armour commonly known as Charaina or four mirrors was patterned to bring out the glory of this important historical item. Of the late, he has been busy in organising the exhibition(s) Anglo Sikh Wars: Battles, Treaties and Relics successfully at Newarke Houses Museum, Leicester.

The Book

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Recently Helion & Company have released Mann’s third book, The British and the Sikh Discovery, Warfare and Friendship c1700-1900. Unlike other books on British & Sikhs which either deal with the Sikhs participations in World Wars or Sikh contribution in Indian freedom struggle against British, this book focuses on the period prior to these developments. Both became regional powers in Indian sub-continent after the collapse of the Mughal Empire and eventually clashed when the Sikhs kingdom remained the only independent entity neighbouring to India held by British East India Company.

The front cover depicts the victory march of Sardar Baghel Singh, outside Red Fort in Delhi in 1783 and two British officers overlooking the Sikhs. A chapter is devoted on this extraordinary event in the history of Sikhs. The book starts with a very interesting chapter, ‘Dr Cole & Guru Gobind Singh’. Dr Cole is said to have treated the wounds of tenth Master sustained during the attack by a Pathan at Nanded in 1708. The author has used good all-round references to build the argument. A very well written chapter which could have easily found a place in a reputed journal.

The next chapter is the eyewitness account of two British officers in relation to the execution (considered a martyr by Sikhs) of Banda Singh Bahadur & 700 Sikhs at Delhi in 1716. The following chapter is based on account written by Charles Wilkins, the great orientalist and Sanskrit expert who visited Gurdwara Sahib at Patna, the birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh & one of the five Takhts (throne or seat of authority) of Sikh religion.

Most readers will be unaware about Dr Layden’s translations of Sikh manuscripts. In 1813 the Christian missionaries were given the approval and could operate and very soon we had the first Punjabi translation of Bible. Sadly, following the demise of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839, the Sikh empire could not endure the conspiracies and intrigues of courtiers which led to the First Anglo Sikh War (1845-46) and then Second Anglo Sikh War (1848-49). Subsequently Punjab was annexed by the British East India Company. The author has listed the relics looted by the East India Company following the annexation of Punjab. The power of the Nihangs was crushed as they were opposed to the British even during the times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. However, the Cis Sutlej Sikh States (Patiala, Jind, Nabha & Faridkot) found British a useful ally from 1809 against Lion of Punjab, Maharaja Ranjit Singh. All these topics are covered in respective chapters.  The author briefly reviews the gifts given to the British royals by these Sikh States. The Sikhs started to get recruited in British Indian Army and author examines the role in revolt of 1857.

The beauty of the book is that it will appeal both a casual reader and serious student of history. The chapters are well referenced but are not overly onerous in vocabulary and style to discourage non-academic readers. The appendices on various treaties signed and important letters during this period are a useful addition.

The 172 pages book has 8 colour and 23 black and white images along with excellent paper quality which enhances the reader’s experience. It is highly recommended and is available in UK & rest of the Europe on Helicon website at a reasonable price of £16.95 on:
https://www.helion.co.uk/military-history-books/the-british-and-the-sikhs-discovery-warfare-and-friendship-c1700-1900.php?
USA and Canada customers can obtain the book from:  https://www.casematepublishers.com/the-british-the-sikhs.html#.XsUFi2hKhhE or Amazon.

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*The reviewer is based in Nottingham, UK and author of the book, Afghan Hindus & Sikhs – History of a Thousand Years.

Inderjeet Singh

The author is a Nottingham (UK) based amateur historian with a keen interest in Punjab and Sikh history. He writes regularly for Sikhnet and runs a blog.

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