Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The private and semi official papers, correspondence and journals of Mountstuart Elphinstone (1779-1859), Bengal Civil Service from 1795, Assistant to Resident at Poona 1801-1804, Resident at Nagpur 1804-1808, Envoy to Afghanistan 1808-1809, Resident at Poona 1811-1817, Commissioner for territories annexed to Bombay 1817-1819, and Governor of Bombay 1819-1827.

The collection was originally numbered by a box number system. It has now been renumbered in a simple numerical sequence from 1 to 483. When ordering, the shelfmark should be given in the form of Mss Eur F88/1, Mss Eur F88/2 etc. A key list of the old and new numbers is available on request for researchers wishing to follow up a reference from the old system.

The original arrangement of the collection was confusing in places and a limited re-arrangement was been undertaken, for example, to bring together all the journals which were previously widely separated and arrange them in date order. For this reason, the list begins with No. 25, instead of 1, and in places, is not in numerical order.

The collection has been divided into the following series:

  • Series 1 Mountstuart Elphinstone: Journal, 1801-1859, and miscellaneous papers (1801-1859)
  • Series 2 Mountstuart Elphinstone: Chiefly private correspondence with friends and relatives (1776-1859)
  • Series 3 Mountstuart Elphinstone: Private and semi-official letters and papers, chiefly on Indian affairs (c 1811-1829)
  • Series 4 Mountstuart Elphinstone: Private and semi-official letters, chiefly on Indian affairs (c 1811-1829)
  • Series 5 Mountstuart Elphinstone: Private letters, chiefly on Indian affairs (1820-1827)
  • Series 6 Mountstuart Elphinstone: Draft Answers to Letters (1815-1827)
  • Series 7 Mountstuart Elphinstone: Official references, recommendations and applications for appointments to Indian service (1816-1827)
  • Series 8 Mountstuart Elphinstone: Papers relating to his publication, 'The History of India' (1765-1843)
  • Series 9 Mountstuart Elphinstone: Draft minutes as Governor of Bombay (c 1819-1829)
  • Series 10 Mountstuart Elphinstone: Papers relating to his mission to Kabul 1808-1809; and other papers relating to the history of Afghanistan and Central Asia (c 1808-1815)
  • Series 11 Mountstuart Elphinstone: Indian Papers (1799-1859)
  • Series 12 Mountstuart Elphinstone: Miscellaneous home papers from c1831; and accounts and bills, 1808-1859 (1808-1859)

The correspondence within Series 2 comprises a large part of the collection. Items within the files in this series have been re-arranged in date order to make it more user-friendly for people wishing to view part of this collection. Broadly speaking, files within each series follow a date order.

Upon arrival in India, Elphinstone was appointed assistant to the Resident at Poona in 1801 and was involved in the Battle of Argaon and the siege of Gawlior (see journal Mss Eur F88/360). He published two books, ‘An account of the kingdom of Caubul and its dependencies in Persia, Tartary, and India; comprising a view of the Afghaun Nation, and a history of the Dooraunee Monarchy’ (London, 1815) and ‘The History of India’ (London, 1841). The first he wrote while in India due to the large amount of material he obtained and collected as Envoy to Afghanistan. Files relating to both can be found within the collection, in Series 10 and Series 8 respectfully.

Elphinstone retired from the Governorship of Bombay in 1827 and returned to Britain via the overland route, after an absence of over 30 years. He spent the remainder of his life as a gentleman scholar, despite being offered the Governor-Generalship of British North America and other prestigious posts but continued to correspond often and frequently to numerous friends and relatives.

Conditions Governing Access

Unrestricted

Not Public Record(s)

Acquisition Information

Deposited on permanent loan and subsequently purchased., 31 March 1957

Related Material

Mountstuart Elphinstone wrote two books which were published - ‘An account of the kingdom of Caubul and its dependencies in Persia, Tartary, and India; comprising a view of the Afghaun Nation, and a history of the Dooraunee Monarchy’ (London, 1815) and ‘The History of India’ (London, 1841). His biographer, Sir Thomas Edward Colebrooke, wrote in two volumes, the 'Life of the Honourable Mountstuart Ellphinstone' (London, 1884). The following are examples of published work available on Mountstuart Elphinstone, which may be of use and interest: Sir John William Kaye's 'Lives of Indian Officers' (London, 1904), John Cotton's 'Mountstuart Elphinstone' (Oxford, 1892), Sushma Varma's 'Mountstuart Elphinstone in Maharashtra, 1801-1827 : a study of the territories conquered from the Peshwas' (Calcutta, KP Bagohi, 1981), RD Choksey's 'Mountstuart Elphinstone: the Indian years, 1796-1827' (Bombay, GR Bhatkal, 1971), and PK Ghosh's 'Mountstuart Elphinstone's embassy and Poona affairs, 1811-1818' (Lucknow, Bharat Press, 1977). Mountstuart Elphinstone correspondended frequently with his nephew John Elphinstone, 13th Lord Elphinstone, whose collection of papers can be found in Mss Eur F87.