Papers of William Pettigew

Scope and Content

Personal papers of William Pettigrew connected with the Manipuri language and other local dialects.

Administrative / Biographical History

Reverend William Pettigrew was born on 5th January, 1869 at Edinburgh, Scotland. He was an Educationist and Scottish-British Christian Missionary. William Pettigrew was bought up in a deeply religious Anglican family, he attended Bible camp every week and it was at Bible camp where he found his passion for Missionary work. It was at Livingstone College Leytone, England where he received his medical missionary education and also underwent training at the Ardington Aborigines Training School.

During the First World War William Pettigrew served in the Army as a Captain. Due to his work for the advancement of public interest in India the British Monarch honoured him with the medal 'Kaiser-I-Hind', which translates to 'Emperor of India'.

In 1890 William Pettigrew arrived in Calcutta (now Kolkata), India, working under the Ardington Missionary. He was accompanied by three other Missionaries and a Doctor, they were received by Reverend and Mrs Dalmasna and together they worked among the Bengalis. During his work among the Bengalis William Pettigrew started to gain better understanding of the Christian religious denominations and converted to Baptist Protestant denomination. It was Reverend Wright Hayna who baptised William Pettigrew into the Baptist Faith.

The Manipur Massacre happened in 1891, at the time William Pettigrew was working with the Baptist Missionary in Dacca. However after hearing about the massacre he prayed fervently to go and work in Manipur, this was made impossible by the Manipur Political Agent at the time. As he was so inspired to work in Manipur, William Pettigrew travelled to Silchar in 1892 to learn the Manipuri Language and was fortunately permitted to carry out his Missionary work in Manipur on 6th February, 1894. The first course of action William Pettigrew took was to open a Primary School in Chingama and enrol 50 students, he also began working under the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society.

However upon his arrival in the plain region of Manipur (Imphal), William Pettigrew was not permitted to preach Christianity. This resulted in William Pettigrew spending two years learning and writing Meitei Primers, Grammar, Basic Arithmetic and English-Benglai-Manipur Dictionary. Thereafter in the Singjamei Colony, William Pettigrew set up his second Primary School, which is now known as Pettigrew Junior Higher Secondary School.

Amongst many of William Pettigrew's achievements the most outstanding is his translation of the New Testament in Tangkhul dialect of Ukhrul, which was published in 1926 making it the only Holy Bible published in tribal language of Manipur. For his extensive work in scripture translations, William Pettigrew was honoured as a member of the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1928 and then elected as a member of The Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1930. His other literary achievements include 'Manipuri (Mitei) Grammar with Illustrative Sentences' and 'Tangkhul Naga Grammar and Dictionary (Ukhrul Dialect) with Illustrative Sentences'.

It was on March 1933 William Pettigrew completed his Missionary work in Manipur and returned back to England and ten years later on 10th April 1943 he passed away.


The Papers of William Pettigrew were found in no original order, and were thus arranged according to the type of material in the following order:

  • Notes on Manipuri Language
  • Official Papers
  • Notes on a language and dialects

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 books and manuscripts were donated by Mrs Pettigrew in May 1943.

Archivist's Note

These papers were arranged and catalogued in February 2017 by Ali Ahsan, RAS Volunteer, under the supervision of Nancy Charley, Archivist, Royal Asiatic Society.

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.

Related Material

The books listed here by William Pettigrew can be found in the Royal Asiatic Society Library Catalogue . Manipuri (Mitei) Grammar with Illustrative Sentences by William Pettigrew. Allahabad: Pioneer Press, 1912. RAS shelf mark 23G.

Tangkhul Naga Grammar and Dictionary (Ukhrul Dialect) with Illustrative Sentences by William Pettigrew. Shillong: The Assam Secretariat Printing Office 1918. RAS shelf mark 23G.

Geographical Names