Reliving and retracing Francis Buchanan’s 200 year old journey to figure Southern India..

This is as good a project as any to understand economic and social history in Southern India. The lessons can obviously be applied elsewhere as well:

With the fall of Tipu Sultan in 1799, the East India Company consolidated their control over erstwhile Mysore. As part of the process, they appointed Francis Buchanan, a Scottish physician and geographer, to survey parts of southern India, for which he traversed through lengths and breadths of southern India collating information, statistics, oral-histories on a range of physical, political, cultural, social and economic subjects.

Buchanan did this journey from 24-Apr-1800 to 5-Jul-1801 with his team. They travelled a distance of some 4000 km with 20-25 kms everyday. They halted at some 300 locations. Later he prepared a 3 volume based on his journeys whose title says it all:

JOURNEY FROM MADRAS THROUGH THE COUNTRIES OF MYSORE, CANARA, AND MALABAR,
FOR THE EXPRESS PURPOSE OF INVESTIGATING THE STATE OF AGRICULTURE, ARTS, AND COMMERCE; THE RELIGION, MANNERS, AND CUSTOMS; THE HISTORY NATURAL AND CIVIL, AND ANTIQUITIES,

IN THE DOMINION OF
THE RAJAH OF MYSORE, AND THE COUNTRIES ACQUIRED BY THE HONOURABLE EAST INDIA COMPANY IN THE LATE AND FORMER WARS, FROM TIPPOO SULTAN.

Now a team of scholars have decided to retrace and relive the journey and bring back memories!

With this repository of information in hand, we decided to retrace Buchanan’s Journey more than 200 years later.

We have travelled extensively in the footsteps of Buchanan, talking to people about their lives and livelihoods, taking photographs of dilapidated monuments and landscapes, recording vanishing occupations, writing research articles and even making few documentary films based on his work. The project is far from complete and as we continue our travels along Buchanan’s route, we will share our experiences from our own explorations. 

The journey is being supported by FAIR:

FOUNDATION TO AID INDUSTRIAL RECOVERY (FAIR) is a charitable society, registered in 1973 with the objective of bringing together teachers and researchers from a wide spectrum of subjects to help understand the process of development and change and to provide professional inputs to under-managed sectors in the economy. The provision of managerial practices and knowledge to these sectors of the economy was imparted with the ultimate objective that it would be for the benefit of society at large and the less fortunate within our society in particular

FAIR has a distinguished board of scholars and practitioners who have helped the organization’s researchers and staff in completing assignments. Many of the Directors of FAIR have been associated with management and social science education and are visiting faculty at some leading institutions in the country. Over the years FAIR has produced over 500, published and unpublished, policy reports and research papers for governmental and non-governmental organizations as well as for international donor agencies. Studies carried out by FAIR’s research team have also been published in leading international journals like the Journal of Human Development & Capabilities, Journal of International Development, Journal of Solid Waste Technology and Management, Environment and History, Global Environment and several others.

BUCHANAN’S JOURNEY has been launched by FAIR under the direction of Sashi Sivramkrishna (Ph.D. Economics – Cornell University, USA) and Dr. Preeta Nath (Ph.D. – Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi) who have brought together their strong academic background and research in economics, sociology, history and environmental issues with a passion for documentary filmmaking and the media

The objective of BUCHANAN’S JOURNEY is to utilize the advances in audio-visual and communication technology in imparting education on development issues to a wide audience. To FAIR, understanding development and change must draws upon history, the social and management sciences and only then can we begin thinking about relevant and professional policy interventions. To produce such relevant material, BUCHANAN’S JOURNEY will utilize textual and audio-visual materials like research papers and articles, augmented reality and documentary films as well as photographs and graphics.

The website is already a visual treat especially the map at the home page which shows the journey. There is more stuff here. Most of the places Buchanan visted and were once thriving barely exit.

This is quite a project both in terms of depth and breadth. Amazing and hope the authors write their own volume on Buchanan’s journey!

Update:

Prof Sashi in this op-ed tells us what goes behind this project. Not mundane at all

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