Cover detail from a study of Dabhoi antiquities
A study of Dabhoi
View larger cover

The National Library of Scotland's India Papers collection is unique in Scotland, and there is only one similar to it in the UK (British Library). It includes publications of the central (Imperial) government and of many Indian states, most but not all of which came under British rule. (Items published by the India Office can be found among the British official publications.)

The great majority of the collection dates from between the post-Mutiny re-organisation of the Indian government and Indian independence in 1947.


How the papers were acquired

Most of the collection was deposited in the Library under a scheme administered by the India Office, or published in the UK on behalf of Indian governments and acquired by the Library under the terms of the Copyright Act. Some items were donated, and others purchased. In particular, there are composite volumes assembled by George Smith and Joseph Owen, and also some books acquired as part of the Minto Papers (the 1st Earl having been Governor-General of India, 1807-1813, and the 4th Earl was Viceroy from 1905-1910).

The collection comprises over 4,000 volumes on a huge variety of subjects, including:

  • The East India Company
  • British government in India
  • Agriculture
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Arts
  • Courts martial
  • Development
  • Economics
  • Education
  • Environmental sciences
  • Geography
  • Geology
  • History
  • Human rights
  • Industry and trade
  • Languages
  • Medicine
  • Military history
  • Politics
  • Religion
  • Science and technology
  • Sociology
  • Travel.

Medical volumes online

You can access full text medical volumes from the India Papers collection in the Medical History of British India web feature. These are rare official documents relating to India in the 19th and 20th centuries.


Enquiries about the India Papers

You will find the collection listed in the main catalogue. If you have any questions about the collection, please email the India Papers Curator.

The India Papers collection is just part of the most significant South Asian collection north of Cambridge.


From the collection: Indian Hemp Drugs Commission report

Detail from photo of bhang drinkers
Bhang drinkers.
View full photo

Controversy about cannabis use is not a modern phenomenon: in 1893 the British government charged the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission with examining the extent of the use and cultivation of 'ganja' in colonial India. The resulting eight-volume report is one of many fascinating items in the India Papers collection.

James Mills, a prominent historian based at Strathclyde University, used the Library's collection in researching his book 'Cannabis Britannica: Empire, trade and prohibition' (Oxford University Press, 2003). He also wrote specifically about the photographs contained in the commission's report in an article which appeared in the spring 2004 edition of Folio.


Useful links

South Asia Archive and Library Group (SAALG)
SAALG was formed in 1967, and consists of representatives of libraries, archives and other UK institutions with a degree of specialisation in South Asia studies. The group is concerned with the acquisition and use of books, manuscripts and archival materials, co-operative projects and developing knowledge of South Asia. It holds a twice-yearly conference.

Mutiny at the Margins
The website for Edinburgh University's 'Mutiny at the Margins' project has a special list of National Library resources relating to the Indian Uprising of 1857. Visit the library and museum holdings page for details.


Official Publications Collections page