The Raj: India, 1890-1920

Scope and Content

A collection of 126 family photographs, with an undated linking narrative illustrating personal matters and giving an account of the Raj. The typescript describes the association of the author's family with India from the 1890s, when her grandparents, the Wrenches, were in the country, up to her father's retirement. The final chapter, 'The end of 300 years in India' reflects on Indian independence.
The photographs were taken by Redmond, Aileen and Hubert Burke, and others. Some are apparently originals; others are modern copies. They are not captioned, but are described in the narrative.
Of the photographs Burke wrote: 'The people who took these photographs did not know that they were recording a way of life that was unique and so soon to vanish for ever. Nor that in the casual snaps of each other, of their houses, rooms, work and play there would be background detail of intriguing interest to future generations. Such obsolescence as a punkah to cool a room, a tiger's skull on a mantelpiece, a box for calling cards - these are hallmarks of an era as surely as are the starched ruffs of the first Elizabethans. Here, among the very earliest wildlife photographs ever taken anywhere in the world can be traced the dawn of the idea of the conservation of wildlife.
Some of the negatives of these pictures were given to me by my family over the years while I was writing my autobiography Jungle Child and other stories and articles about India. Twelve invaluable albums which contain much information as well as the older pictures and others, of which no negatives now exist, were all at one time thrown on a rubbish heap as being of no further interest. They were rescued and here are some of the contents.'

Administrative / Biographical History

Norah Aileen Burke was born in Bedford on 2 August 1907. She went to India at an early age, where her father was a Forest Officer, and lived there until 1919, when she returned to England on her father's retirement. Her books include 'King Todd', 'Jungle Child', 'Jungle Picture' and 'Hazelwood'.

Access Information

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

Acquisition Information

Presented by Norah Burke (Miss Walrond) in 1971.


Includes index.

Other Finding Aids

Y3022FFFF, MSS 22 V

Donald H. Simpson, ed., 'The manuscript catalogue of the library of the Royal Commonwealth Society' (London, 1975), p. 60. A descriptive list of the photographs is stored with the volume.

A catalogue of the collection can be found on ArchiveSearch.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

The photographs are in good condition, but as they have been secured in place by sellotape on the backs of the pages, this has led to some damage on the facing pages.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright rests with the author.


For an account of Miss Burke's life in India from 1909 until her father's retirement see: Burke, Norah (1956), 'Jungle child', London: Cassell. The book covers similar ground to this volume, but takes a different approach to it.

Additional Information

This collection level description was entered by SG and RAS using information from the original typescript catalogue.

Burke, Norah Aileen, b 1907, novelist