Tea and Tigers: Stories of Scotland and South East Asia
The long relationship between Scotland and South Asia, from colonial times through Indian independence and up to the present day is examined in a new exhibition to be officially opened today (5 July) by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh at the National Library of Scotland (NLS) in Edinburgh.
2007 is the anniversary of several major landmarks in the history of India: it is 250 years since the Battle of Plassey, when British rule in India was consolidated through military action, 150 years since the Indian Uprising, when this rule saw serious challenge, and 60 years since Indian independence was finally gained.
'Tea and Tigers: Stories of Scotland and South Asia' looks at the historical role of Scots in India, including traders, engineers, doctors, missionaries, politicians and explorers using a wealth of private correspondence, journals and diaries as well as paintings and sketches, written and produced by Scots who travelled to and lived in India. Individuals used in the exhibition will range from minor civil servants to Governor-Generals and Viceroys, from humble traders to company heads, from private soldiers to company commanders, and their attitudes to India range from aloof superiority to deep and loving involvement.
Exhibition curator Jan Usher said: 'By highlighting the story of Scotland's involvement with India, its history and complexity, we hope to contribute to an awareness of present-day Scottish-Indian relations and to encourage a deeper understanding of Scotland's South Asian communities.'
The visit by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh comes exactly 51 years and a day since he and Her Majesty The Queen opened the Library's building on George IV Bridge, and National Librarian Martyn Wade said: 'We are honoured and delighted that HRH The Duke of Edinburgh has agreed to come to the National Library of Scotland to open this wonderful exhibition. We are also very pleased to be playing a part in the celebration of the 60th anniversary of Indian independence.'
Minister for Europe, External Affairs and Culture Linda Fabiani said: 'This wonderful exhibition examines the relationship between Scotland and India over the centuries, through the stories of many Scots who went to India for a great variety of reasons. It is another important collection for the National Library of Scotland which will attract many visitors from home and abroad.'
Stories in the exhibition include:
- Ronald Ross, who won the Nobel prize for medicine after proving the link between malaria and mosquitoes.
- James Esdaile, a physician fascinated by the Indian practise of mesmerism. He carried out a succession of operations on patients who had been placed in a hypnotic state, up to and including amputations.
- Sir Alexander Cunningham, the father of Indian Archaeology who was first able to travel to to the country through a cadetship sponsored by Sir Walter Scott.
- Tom Weir (of 'Weir's Way' fame), who was part of the Scottish Himalayan Expedition of 1952 to what Weir called 'the ultimate mountains'.
- The hunting trips of Lord and Lady Munro: between 1906 and 1910 these outings claimed to have killed an astonishing 11,521 animals.
- A 1793 account of the demise of Lieutenant Munro (no relation), who was taken by tiger while picnicking near Calcutta: 'In a moment his head was in the tiger's mouth, and he rushed into the jungle with him, with as much ease as I could life a kitten.'
The exhibition draws on NLS collections of published material about India. One extensive collection showcased in the exhibition is the Library's India Papers: a collection of official publications published between circa 1850 and 1950, which contains a mass of medical and archaeological material.
In addition, the exhibition contains a high degree of audio-visual material, including a film of the first flight over Mount Everest, sourced from the Scottish Screen Archive [now Moving Image Archive] which has recently merged with NLS. Alongside these will be indigenous artefacts brought back from India by Scots; these include Korans, illuminated manuscripts, copies of the Sanskrit epics, an astrological scroll and paintings.
Interactive elements and hands-on activities will give visitors the chance to explore the themes of the exhibition further and to find out more for themselves.
The NLS material will be supplemented by a number of key objects from around the UK, which are being loaned to the exhibition by institutions such as the V&A, Kelvingrove Museum, and Brighton and Hove Museums.
The final section of the exhibition will focus on the story of Scotland's South Asian communities, from the early visitors to Scotland from India in the 19th century to the present day. Here, photographs by official Edinburgh Mela photographer Douglas Robertson celebrate the vibrancy and diversity of the Scottish Asian community today. This section is supported by the Edinburgh Indian Association.
The exhibition is open from 10am-5pm from Monday to Saturday and from 2pm-5pm on Sundays. It will run until 5 September and admission is free.
National Library of Scotland
George IV Bridge
Tel: 0131 623 3700
4 July 2007