Click here to skip to content

Asians in Britain: Professionals, Entrepreneurs and Princes

Within the European manuscripts - papers of viceroys, administrators, civil servants and military personnel - are contained references to individual Indians. There are also a few private papers of some Indian personalities, e.g. MSS EUR F 165 is the Cornelia Sorabji Collection

Cornelia Sorabji (1866-1954)

Sorabji, a Parsi convert to Christianity was a law student at Somerville Hall at Oxford. As the first ever woman to study law at a British university, and when the Bar was not even open to females, she had to struggle to be allowed to take the BCL examinations with the men:
"The difficulty about my schools was favourably settled the evening before I went in and settled far beyond my hopes - for I had a special decree and I could write in the schools; so that though the schools are not public, my exam was official."

Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917)

The papers of William Digby, MSS EUR D 767 have a file of correspondence between Digby and Dadabhai Naoroji, an early Indian nationalist, three times elected president of the Indian National Congress and the author of the economic critique of colonialism, Poverty and UnBritish Rule (1902). Naoroji lived in England for over 20 years. He was the first Indian nationalist to be elected to British Parliament.

Shapuji Saklatvala (1874-1936)

Saklatvala, a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, was elected MP for Battersea in 1922 and 1924-29. A small collection of papers deposited by his daughter Sehri, are contained in MSS EUR D 1173, the Saklatvala Papers.

Sake Dean Mahomed (1759-1851)

Dean Mahomet

The travels of Dean Mahomet. Published in Cork, 1794 [BL: 1507/1395] © The British Library Board.

After service in the East India Company's Bengal Army Dean Mahomed settled in Britain in 1784. In Ireland, where he first settled, he married Jane Daly, and published his book of 'Travels'. In Brighton he established the Indian Therapeutic Massage at his Vapour Baths and rose to become George IV's Shampooing Surgeon. His books provide biographical details of his life in India and Britain.

Princes

Maharaja Duleep Singh (1838-1893)

Maharaja Duleep Singh (1838-1893)

Maharaja Duleep Singh (1838-1893) Engraving by TL Atkinson, London 1882 [BL: P1435] © The British Library Board.

The exiled Maharaja of the Punjab, Duleep Singh lived in Britain from 1854 to 1886. He was a favourite of Queen Victoria and lived in the splendid country house Elvedon Hall in Suffolk. In 1886, he had a dispute with the British Government after his attempts to have his annual salary raised and to regain the possession of the Koh-i-Noor diamond were refused by the India Office. He left England and eventually died in Paris in 1893. Two of his daughters were active in the Suffragette Movement. IOR L/P&S/18D contains papers relating to his financial settlement and affairs.