James Tod

Birth: 1782


James Tod (1782-1835), colonel, Indian diplomatist, born at Islington on 20 March 1782, was the son of James Tod (b. 1745), and Mary, the daughter of Andrew Heatly, a Scotsman, settled in Rhode Island. In 1798 his uncle, Patrick Heatly, procured him an East Indian cadetship, and, after a course of instruction at Woolwich, he proceeded (March 1799) to Bengal, where he was posted to the 2nd European regiment, his commission bearing date 9 Jan. 1800. Volunteering for service with Lord Wellesley's projected expedition to the Moluccas, he served for a short time with the marines on board the Mornington.

Appointed on 29 May 1800 lieutenant in the 14th Bengal infantry, he went up country; and in 1801, when stationed at Delhi, was ordered to survey an old canal in the neighbourhood. In 1805 he was attached to the escort sent with Graeme Mercer, envoy and resident at Sindhia's court. While travelling with the maharaja's camp, and afterwards from 1812 to 1817 when it remained at Gwalior, he was constantly engaged either in surveying or in collecting tographical information. In 1815 he submitted a map to the governor-general (Lord Hastings), in which for the first time the term 'Central India' was applied to the collection of native states now under the Central India agency.

Rajputana was also included in the area of his researches. 'Though I never,' he wrote, 'penetrated personally further into the heart of the Indian desert than Mundore ... my parties of discovery have traversed it in every direction, adding to their journals of routes living testimonies of their accuracy, and bringing to me natives of every t'hul from Bhutnair to Omurkote and from Aboo to Arore. The journals of all these routes, with others from Central and Western India, form eleven moderate-sized folio volumes' (Annals of Rajasthan, ii. 289). Most of his extra salary was spent in paying his native explorers. In October 1813 he was promoted captain, with command of the resident's escort; and in October 1815 the resident, Richard Strachey, nominated him second assistant.

When Lord Hastings, in 1817, began operations against the Pindharis, Tod's local knowledge became invaluable. He had already sent in reports on the Pindharis and plans of a campaign, and on volunteering for service was sent to Rowtah in Haraoti, where he organised and superintended an intelligence department, which in the governor-general's opinion 'materially contributed to the success of the campaign.' He also induced the regent of Kotah to capture and surrender to the British officers the wives and children of the leading Pindhari chiefs.

In 1818, after the chiefs of Rajputana had accepted the protective alliance offered to them, Tod was appointed by the governor-general political agent in the western Rajput states, and was so successful in his efforts to restore peace and confidence that within less than a year some three hundred deserted towns and villages were repeopled, trade revived, and, in spite of the abolition of transit duties and the reduction of frontier customs, the state revenue had reached an amount never before known. During the next five years Tod earned the respect of both the chiefs and the people; and was able to rescue more than one princely family, including that of the ranas of Udaipur, from the destitution to which they had been reduced by Mahratta raiders.

Bishop Heber, who travelled through Rajputana in February 1825, was told that the country had never known prosperity till Tod came, and that every one, rich or poor, except thieves or Pindharis, loved him. 'His misfortune,' Heber added, 'was that, in consequence of favouring native princes so much, the government of Calcutta were led to suspect him of corruption, and consequently to narrow his powers and associate other officers with him in his trust, till he was disgusted and resigned his place.' 'They are now,' said Heber, 'satisfied, I believe, that their suspicions were groundless.' But ill-health was the reason assigned for Tod's retirement in June 1822, though it did not prevent his journeying to Bombay by the circuitous route described in the volume of 'Travels in Western India,' published after his death.

He left Bombay for England in February 1823, and never returned. The remainder of his life was mostly spent in arranging and publishing the immense mass of materials amassed during his Indian career. He also acted for a time as librarian to the Royal Asiatic Society, before which he read several papers on his favourite subjects. On 1 May 1824 he was gazetted major, on 2 June 1826, lieutenant-colonel, being retransferred to the 2nd European infantry, and on 28 June 1825, he retired from the service.

Thenceforth he lived much on the continent, and in 1827 visited Count de Boigne, Sindhia's old general at Chambéri. In September 1835 he purchased a house in Regent's Park, and on 16 Nov. following, while transacting business at his banker's in Lombard Street, was stricken with apoplexy, from which he never recovered. He died on 17 Nov. 1835, aged 53. On 16 Nov. 1826 he married the daughter of Dr. Clutterbuck, a London physician, by whom he had two sons and a daughter.

Tod published, besides archaeological papers in the Royal Asiatic Society's 'Transactions' and a paper on the politics of Western India, appended to the report of the House of Commons committee on Indian affairs, 1833: 1. 'Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, or the Central and Western Rajpoot States of India,' London, 1829-32, 2 vols. 4to; a second edition was published at Madras in 1873, and a popular edition at Calcutta, s.d. 2. 'Travels in Western India, embracing a Visit to the Sacred Mounts of the Jains,' London, 1839, 4to, with an anonymous memoir of Tod.

[Tod's works cited above; R. A. S. Journal, vol. iii. p. lxi. (1836); Asiatic Journal, 1836, p. 165.]


Stephen Edward Wheeler, Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 56. pgs. 424-425.

Books & Publications

Book Title Date
Travels in Western India (1839) Travels in Western India 1839
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