William Wilson Hunter
|Sir William Wilson Hunter|
15 July 1840|
Glasgow Scotland, UK
|Died||6 February 1900
Oaken Holt, England, UK
|Institutions||Indian Civil Service
University of Calcutta
|Alma mater||University of Glasgow|
Sir William Wilson Hunter KCSI1 CIE2 (15 July 1840 – 6 February 1900) was a Scottish historian, statistician, a compiler and a member of the Indian Civil Service, who later became Vice President of Royal Asiatic Society.3
William Wilson Hunter was born on 15 July 1840 in Glasgow, Scotland, to Andrew Galloway Hunter, a Glasgow manufacturer. He was the second son, among his fathers three sons. He started his education in 1854 at the 'Quaker Seminary' at Queenswood, Hampshire, after a year he joined, the Glasgow Academy.
He reached Bengal Presidency in November 1862 and was appointed assistant magistrate and collector of Birbhum, in the lower provinces of Bengal, where he began collecting local traditions and records, which formed the materials for his publication, entitled The Annals of Rural Bengal, a book which did much to stimulate public interest in the details of Indian administration. He also compiled A Comparative Dictionary of the Non-Aryan Languages of India, a glossary of dialects based mainly upon the collections of Brian Houghton Hodgson, which testifies to the industry of the writer but contains much immature philological speculation. In 1872 he brought out two attractive volumes on the province of Odisha and its far-famed temple of Jagannath.
In 1869 Lord Mayo, the then governor-general, asked Hunter to submit a scheme for a comprehensive Statistical Survey of India. The work involved the compilation of a number of local gazetteers, in various stages of progress, and their consolidation in a condensed form upon a single and uniform plan. There was unhappiness with the scope and completeness of the earlier surveys conducted by administrators such as Buchanan, and Hunter determined to model his efforts on the Aini-i-Akbari and Description de L'Egypt. Hunter said that "It was my hope to make a memorial of England's work in India, more lasting, because truer and more complete, than these monuments of Mughal Empire and of French ambition."4
He embarked on a series of tours throughout the country,4 and he personally supervised the accounts produced for Bengal (20 volumes, 1875-1877) and Assam (2 volumes., 1879).5 The statistical accounts, covering the 240 administrative districts, comprised 128 volumes and these were condensed into the nine volumes of The Imperial Gazetteer of India, which was published in 1881.4 The Gazetteer was revised in later series, the second edition comprising 14 volumes published between 1885 and 1887, while the third comprised 26 volumes, including an atlas, and was published in 1908.
Hunter adopted a transliteration of vernacular place-names, by which means the correct pronunciation is ordinarily indicated; but hardly sufficient allowance was made for old spellings consecrated by history and long usage. Hunter's own article on India was published in 1880 as A Brief History of the Indian Peoples, and has been widely translated and utilized in Indian schools. A revised form was issued in 1895, under the title of The Indian Empire: its People, History and Products.
Hunter later said that
Nothing is more costly than ignorance. I believe that, in spite of its many defects, this work will provide a memorable episode in the long battle against ignorance; a breakwater against the tide of prejudice and false opinions flowing down upon us from the past, and the foundation for a truer and wider knowledge of India in time to come. Its aim has been not literary graces, nor scientific discovery, nor antiquarian research; but an earnest endeavour to render India better governed, because better understood."4
In 1882 Hunter, as a member of the governor-general's council, presided over the commission on Indian Education; in 1886 he was elected vice-chancellor of the University of Calcutta.
In 1887 he retired from the service, was created KCSI, and settled at Oaken Holt, near Oxford. He arranged with the Clarendon Press to publish a series of Rulers of India, to which he himself contributed volumes on Dalhousie (1890) and Mayo (1892). He had previously, in 1875, written an official Life of Lord Mayo, in two volumes. He also wrote a weekly article on Indian affairs for The Times.
But the great task to which he applied himself on his settlement in England was a history upon a large scale of the British Dominion in India, two volumes of which only had appeared when he died, carrying the reader barely down to 1700. He was much hindered by the confused state of his materials, a portion of which he arranged and published in 1894 as Bengal Manuscript Records, in three volumes. A delightful story, The Old Missionary (1895), and The Thackerays in India (1897), a gossipy volume which appeals to all readers of The Newcomes, may be regarded as the relaxations of an Anglo-Indian amid the stress of severer studies.
In the winter of 1898–1899, in consequence of the fatigue incurred in a journey to the Caspian and back, on a visit to the sick-bed of one of his two sons, Hunter was stricken down by a severe attack of influenza, which affected his heart. He died at Oaken Holt on 6 February 1900.
- A comparative dictionary of the languages of India and high Asia: with a dissertation. Based on the Hodgson lists, official records, and mss, Published by Trübner and co., 1868. 
- Annals of Rural Bengal, Published by Smith, Elder & co, 1870.
- The Imperial Gazetteer of India, 1881, Vol 1–267
- Hunter, William Wilson, Sir (1893). A Brief history of the Indian peoples (20 ed.). Oxford : Clarendon Press.
- A Brief History of the Indian Peoples, Oxford. 1897. ISBN 81-206-1881-5.
- Hunter, William Wilson, Sir (1907). History of India: From the first European settlements to the founding of the English East India company (Vol. 6). London, Grolier society.
- Hunter, William Wilson, Sir (1906). History of India: The European struggle for Indian supremacy in the seventeenth century (Vol. 7). London, Grolier society.
- A Statistical Account of Assam, (2 Vols), (Ist edition 1879), 1998, Spectrum Publications. ISBN 81-85319-91-X.
- The Indian Musalmans, (Ist edition 1871), 2002, Rupa & Co. ISBN 81-7167-690-1.
- The Marquess of Dalhousie, (Ist edition 1894), 2007, Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 1-4326-5732-1.
- State Education for the People in America, Europe, India, and Australia: With Papers on the Education of Women, Technical Instruction, and Payment by Results. Published by C. W. Bardeen, 1895.
- The Thackerays in India and Some Calcutta Graves. Henry Frowde, London, 1897. ISBN 1-299-03799-2.
- Orissa, 2002, Adamant Media Corporation. ISBN 1-4021-8960-5.
- William Wilson Hunter, Rulers of India: Albuquerque . ISBN: 1230000096057.
- General Preface The Imperial Gazetteer of India 1909.
- Obituary Notice — Sir William Wilson Hunter Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Published by Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 1900. page vii.page 393.
- Life of Sir William Wilson Hunter, by Francis Henry Skrine, Longman, London, 1901.
- Marriott, John (2003). The other empire: metropolis, India and progress in the colonial imagination. Manchester University Press. p. 209. ISBN 978-0-7190-6018-2. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
- "Hunter, Sir William Wilson". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/14237. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
- Mittal, Satish Chandra (1996). India Distorted: A Study of British Historians on India 2. M.D. Publications. p. 170. ISBN 9788175330184.
- The Imperial Gazetteer of India — 1909 edition
- Sir William Wilson Hunter This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Sir William Wilson Hunter, K. C. S. I., C. I. E. The Geographical Journal, Vol. 15, No. 3 (Mar., 1900), pp. 289–290