Papers of Francis Buchanan-Hamilton

Scope and Content

These are handwritten manuscripts of the statistical surveys undertaken by Francis Buchanan-Hamilton within the districts of Dinajpur (Bangladesh and India), and Puraniya (Purnia), Shahabad, Bhagalpur , Runggopur, Patna and Gorakhpur in India. Each survey consists of 2 or 3 foolscap volumes. These were rebound in the 1990s.

Administrative / Biographical History

Dr Francis Buchanan, later known as Francis Hamilton or Francis Buchanan-Hamilton, was a Scottish physician who made significant contributions as a geographer, zoologist, and botanist while living in India. He was born at Bardowie, Scotland, and studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, graduating in 1783. He also studied botany. He first served on merchant ships to Asia and then joined the Bengal Medical Service in 1794. Buchanan's training was ideal as a surgeon naturalist for a political mission to the Kingdom of Ava in Burma under Captain Symes. The Ava mission set sail on the Sea Horse and passed the Andaman Islands, Pegu, and Ava before returning to Calcutta. Subsequently Buchanan-Hamilton was asked to survey South India. He conducted a survey of Mysore in 1800 and a survey of Bengal from 1807-1814.

For the survey of Bengal he was asked to report on topography, history, antiquities, the condition of the inhabitants, religion, natural productions (particularly fisheries, forests, mines, and quarries), agriculture (covering vegetables, implements, manure, floods, domestic animals, fences, farms, and landed property, fine and common arts, and commerce (exports and imports, weights and measures, and conveyance of goods). His conclusions were made into a series of reports, of which these papers are the manuscripts. He also collected and described many new plants in the region, and collected a series of watercolours of Indian and Nepalese plants and animals, probably painted by Indian artists, which are now in the library of the Linnean Society of London.

He succeeded William Roxburgh to become the superintendent of the Calcutta botanical garden in 1814, but had to return to Britain in 1815 due to his ill health and in the same year he inherited his mother's estate and in consequence took her surname of Hamilton, referring to himself as "Francis Hamilton, formerly Buchanan" or simply "Francis Hamilton". However, he is variously referred to by others as "Buchanan-Hamilton", "Francis Hamilton Buchanan", or "Francis Buchanan Hamilton". From 1815 until 1829 he was Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh replacing Dr William Roxburgh.


The material was arranged chronologically.

Access Information

Open. Please contact the archivist using the email address given here. The archive is open on Tuesdays and Fridays 10-5, and Thursdays 2-5. Access is to any researcher without appointment but it will help if an appointment is made via phone or email. Please bring photo ID.

Acquisition Information

The acquisition was from the East India Company and from Henry Thomas Colebrooke.

Archivist's Note

The material was catalogued by Nancy Charley, RAS Archivist, in 2020.

Conditions Governing Use

Digital photography (without flash) for research purposes may be permitted upon completion of a copyright declaration form, and with respect to current UK copyright law.

Custodial History

In the Catalogue of English Manuscripts (RAS Collections Archive), opposite p.78, there is a note to say that "A manuscript copy in fourteen folio volumes of the Statistical Reports drawn up by Dr Buchanan Hamilton on the districts of Puraniya, Shahabad, Dinajpur, Bahar and Patna, Gorukpore, Runggopur, and Bhagalpur, in the province of Bengal,has been deposited in the Library of the Society, for the use of the members, by the liberality of the Hon. Court of Directors of the East India Company".

However this catalogue on p.78 and the Register of Donations for 4 November 1826, report that Memoirs on Dunajpur, Ringgopur and Puraniya were given to the Society by Henry Thomas Colebrooke.

Related Material

Printed versions of the statistical reports were produced. Some of these are available in the Library Collections. More details cane be found in the Library Catalogue .

Geographical Names