The Papers of Samuel Davis

Scope and Content

"Unpublished Description of Bootan, by Samuel Davis Esq. F.R.S., 1783". An account of his findings in Bhutan when Warren Hastings assigned him as Draftsman and Surveyor on Samuel Turner's Mission to Bhutan and Tibet. Davis was unable to enter Tibet with the others and so spent his time making drawings and notes of Bhutan. The account covers topics such as landscape and cultivation as well as Davis' interactions with the Rajah.
Leather bound handwritten journal, 38cm x24cm, the cover boards are loose from the spine. 119 written pages.

Administrative / Biographical History

Samuel Davis was born in the West Indies where his father was Commissary General. After his father died he returned to England with his mother and siblings. He became an East India cadet in 1778, and sailed for India aboard the Earl of Oxford, arriving in Madras in 1780. In 1783 Warren Hastings assigned him as Draftsman and Surveyor on Samuel Turner's Mission to Bhutan and Tibet, but unable to enter Tibet he remained in Bhutan for the duration of the Mission.
On his return he was appointed Assistant to the Collector of Bhagalpur and Registrar of its Adalat Court. There he met William Jones and they became good friends, Davis also becoming a member of the Asiatic Society founded by Jones. He subsequently became Collector of Burdwan, a town in the Bengal Presidency, and from 1795-1800 was Magistrate of the district and city court in Benares. He continued in civil posts in India until his retirement in 1806 when he returned to England via St. Helena. He was elected as a Director of the East India Company on his return.
While in Burdwan, Davis married Henrietta Boileau and they had four sons and seven daughters. The eldest son, John Francis Davis, became the second Governor of Hong Kong. Davis died on 16 June 1819 at Birdhurst Lodge near Croyden in Surrey.

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

It is not recorded in the Donations Register when the journal was presented to the Society. However extracts from this journal were read to the Royal Asiatic Society on 20 February 1830 by the author's son J.F. Davis, and published by him under the title, "Remarks on the Religions and Social Institutions of the Bouteas, or Inhabitants of Bhoutan, from the Unpublished Journal of the Late Samuel Davis, Esq. F.R.S. &c", Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 11 (1830), p. 491-517. This, along with writing in the book, would suggest the donation was in 1830.

Archivist's Note

This material was catalogued by Nancy Charley, RAS Archivist, in 2019.

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

The material was created by Samuel Davis. It came into the possession of his son, John Francis Davis who, according to a comment written in the journal, presented it to the Society in 1830.

Related Material

Within our Library Collections we have a 1813 edition of "Bija ganita or, The algebra of the Hindus" by Bhāskarācārya, Edward Strachey and Samuel Davis. We also have a copy of "Views of Medieval Bhutan: The Diary and Drawings of Samuel Davis 1783" by Michael Aris, London, 1982. This used extracts from John Francis Davis' 1830 article in creating the book, but he did not have access to the complete journal. The article can also be seen within our Transactions.

Geographical Names