Papers of James Low

Scope and Content

"Journal of a Mission to the Government of some of the Lower Provinces of Siam". A handwritten unbound manuscript of 94 sides describing James Low's Mission to the Rajah of Ligor in 1824. The manuscript is dated 1824 but there is a postscript explaining the main purpose of the mission, dated 1 January 1846. The manuscript bears many alterations and annotations. These Papers are not the same as the article, "Extracts from the Journal of a Political Mission to the Raja of Ligor in Siam. By Capt. James Low, M. N. I. and M. A. T. C.", published in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, July 1838.

With the manuscript are photocopies of printed articles. These are:

  • Report on Lieutenant Low's Public Mission to His Highness the Rajah of Ligor, pp.1-11, unknown source.
  • Journal of a Public Mission to the Rajah of Ligor, pp.12-21, incomplete, unknown source.

Administrative / Biographical History

James Low was born in 1791 at Causland in Scotland. Low graduated from Edinburgh College and was then nominated for a cadetship in the East India Company's Madras Army in 1812. He was accepted and embarked from Portsmouth on the East Indiaman, Astell, which reached Madras in July 1812. During the first five years, Low acquired military competencies and language skills. In May 1817 Low was appointed Adjutant, and then promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in August of the same year. In January 1819 Low moved to the East India Company's settlement in Penang and spent the rest of his career in and around the Straits of Malacca. In 1820 he was given command of the Penang Local Corps until the corps was disbanded in 1827.
Low's mission to Siam was the second undertaken, following John Crawfurd's first mission that was mainly concerned with resolving the legal status of Penang. This second mission of 1824 under Low's command was prompted by the British declaration of war on Burma. Its aim was to enlist the support of the Raja of Ligor, who was in command of most of the Siamese territories on the west coast of the peninsula including Kedah, for the planned British move up the Irrawaddy river. Low described the events of the mission in a report on his Public Mission to His Highness the Rajah of Ligor, and in more detail in his Journal of a Public Mission to the Rajah of Ligor. Low also produced a map of Siam, Cambodia and Laos.
After his mission to Ligor, he was posted to Tenasserim where he produced more maps and landscape drawings. In 1826, Low was promoted to Captain and was sent on other missions to the Malay state of Perak. Shortly after, he was appointed Superintendent of Lands in Province Wellesley in Penang, a post he held until 1840 when he was made Assistant Resident of Singapore. He finally retired in 1845 but returned to Edinburgh only in 1850, where he died just two years later.

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 unknown how these Papers came to be with the Royal Asiatic Society.

Archivist's Note

These papers were 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

These papers were probably created by Low Some other material from Low was presented to the Society in 1835. However as these items bear a second date of 1846, it is not possible that they were presented at the same time.

Related Material

These papers were found with artworks made by James Low and the Chinese or Thai artist, 'Book Khan'. These artworks were intended for Low's "History of Tennasserim". Further details of these and other items by Low can be found on our Library Catalogue .

Personal Names