Robert Sewell (historian)

Anglo-Indian historian

Robert Sewell (1845–1925) worked in the civil service of the Madras Presidency during the period of colonial rule in India. He was Keeper of the Madras Record Office and was tasked with responsibility for documenting ancient inscriptions and remains in the region, As with other British administrators of his type at that period, his purpose was not scholarly but rather to bolster administrative control by constructing a history that placed British rule as a virtue and a necessity rather than something to be denigrated. Portrayal of historic factionalism among local figureheads and dominion by alien despots would, it was thought, enhance the perception that only the British could rescue the country from its past.

QuotesEdit

A Forgotten EmpireEdit

  • 'The third day saw the beginning of the end. The victorious Mussulmans had halted on the field of battle for rest and refreshment, but now they had reached the capital, and from that time forward for a space of five months Vijayanagar knew no rest. The enemy had come to destroy, and they carried out their object relentlessly. They slaughtered the people without mercy; broke down the temples and palaces, and wreaked such savage vengeance on the abode of the Kings, that, with the exception of a few great stone-built temples and walls, nothing now remains but a heap of ruins to mark the spot where once stately buildings stood. They demolished the statues, and even succeeded in breaking the limbs of the huge Narasimha monolith. Nothing seemed to escape them. They broke up the pavilions standing on the huge platform from which the kings used to watch festivals, and overthrew all the carved work. They lit huge fires in the magnificently decorated buildings forming the temple of Vitthalaswami near the river, and smashed its exquisite stone sculptures. With fire and sword, with crowbars and axes, they carried on day after day their work of destruction. Never perhaps in the history of the world has such havoc been wrought, and wrought so suddenly, on so splendid a city; teeming with a wealthy and industrious population in the fun plenitude of prosperity one day, and on the next seized, pillaged, and reduced to ruins, amid scenes of savage massacre and horrors beggaring description' The loot must have been enormous. Couto states that amongst other treasures was found a diamond as large as a hen's egg, which was kept by the Adil Shah.'
    • Robert Sewell, A Forgotten Empire, New Delhi reprint, 1962, pp. 199-200. Quoted in S.R.Goel, The Calcutta Quran Petition (1999) ISBN 9788185990583
  • Early in A.D. 1366 the Sultan opened his first regular campaign against Vijayanagar. Originating in an after-dinner jest, it ended only after such slaughter that Firishtah computes the victims on the Hindu side alone as numbering no less than half a million.
    • quoted also in K.S. Lal, Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India (1973)

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