Drawings of Trees and Plants on the Malabar Coast

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection which bears the bookplate of Brigadier-General Alexander Walker of Bowland consists of some 280 pencil drawings of trees on the Malabar Coast, India. A few of the drawings are partly coloured.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Malabar Coast is the name given to the 845 kilometres (525 miles) long stretch of the south-west coast of India, from Goa state in the north to the southern tip of the peninsula at Kanniyakumri (Cape Comorin), primarily in Kerala state and North Karnataka state. It is a narrow coastal plain bounded by the Western Ghats, and monsoon rains make it a fertile rice-growing region. The Malabar Coast was the scene of trade struggles in the 16th and early 17th centuries between the Portuguese and their European and Indian rivals. In the late 17th century British traders gained control of the region.

The defeat of the Portuguese in India by the East India Company in 1612 had won it trading concessions from the Mughal Empire. It then acted as an agent of British imperialism in India from the early 18th century to the mid-19th century.

While in his mid-teens, in 1780, Alexander Walker (born 12 May 1764) was appointed as a cadet in the service of the East India Company. In 1782 he became an ensign and in the same year took part in campaigns against the forts of Haidar Ali Khan (also spelled Hayder Ali, the father of Tipu Sahib, or Tippoo) on the Malabar Coast. Walker was also present at Mangalore during the siege by Tipu and its subsequent surrender in January 1784. In 1788, after a period in enemy hands, and after taking part in an expedition to the north-west coast of America undertaken by the Bombay government, he was made a lieutenant and was sent with the expedition to relieve the Rajah of Travancore in 1790. In 1791, he was an adjutant.

On the conclusion of this stage of the war against Tipu, a commission was nominated to regulate the affairs of Malabar, and Walker was appointed as an assistant. On the arrival in Malabar of General James Stuart (d. 1793), commander-in-chief of the army in Bombay, he became his military secretary. In 1797, Walker was made captain, and the same year he became quartermaster-general of the Bombay army with the rank of major. In 1799, he took part in the last war against Tipu and was present at the fighting at Seedaseer and at the siege of Seringapatam (also spelled Srirangapatan, and also known as Shrirangapattana) during which Tipu Sahib was killed.

In 1800, Walker was sent to the Mahratta states with the intention of pacifying and reforming the region and the Mahratta confederacy. Discontent in Baroda culminated in the insurrection of Mulhar Rao in 1801, though this was put down by 1802. In June 1803, Walker was appointed political resident at Baroda and he succeeded in establishing an orderly administration there. His career continued in India, and he attained the rank of lieutenant-general in 1808. In 1810 he returned to Britain, doubtless to his estate of Bowland in Edinburgh and Selkirk, and he retired from service in 1812. Ten years later in 1822 he was called back from his retirement to the government of St. Helena which was under the administration of the East India Company. There he had the rank of brigadier-general. While in St. Helena, he improved the island's agriculture and horticulture. Brigadier-General Alexander Walker died in Edinburgh on 5 March 1831.

Conditions Governing Access

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Bequeathed in 1895 by Hugh Francis Clarke Cleghorn (1820-1895), M.D., and Conservator of forests in Madras (1820-1895). Cleghorn Bequest. Transferred to Gen. 2018-2019 from Xf.1.42/1-2 in June 1977, Accession no. E77.21.

Note

The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol.20. Ubaldini-Whewell. London: Smith, Elder and Co. 1909. (2) For detail about the Malabar Coast: Seltzer, Leon E. (ed.). The Columbia Lippincott gazetteer of the world. Morningside Heights, N.Y: Columbia University Press, 1962. (3) For detail about the East India Company: The new encyclopaedia Britannica. Micropaedia. 15th ed. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., 1991.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.

Related Material

In India, Walker had acquired a collection of Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit manuscripts which was presented to the Bodleian Library in 1845 by his son, Sir William Stuart Walker, K.C.B.

Subjects

Geographical Names