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PREFACE OF THE EDITOR.
In the Preface to the History of British India, Mr. Mill has claimed for himself the merits of patient and laborious investigation, and of original and independent judgment. The claim is substantiated by his work. His history is remarkable for extensive and diligent research, and for opinions which are peculiar either to the author, or to the school of which he was a distinguished disciple.
Whilst, however, the historian of British India has derived the facts which he relates from numerous and diversified sources of information, and has investigated those sources with undeniable industry and unquestionable talent, it is not to be imagined that his labours have in every instance been rewarded with success, or that he has left nothing unexplored. He has himself taken pains to guard against such an expectation, He acknowledges that his opportunities of consulting published authorities were sometimes transient and precarious, that in some things, the unpublished documents of which he had need were not accessible to him; and that in the latter portion of his work, which may be regarded as almost contemporary history, he was in want of much personal information which he believed to exist, and which might have rendered his narrative richer, and perhaps more accurate in matters of detail. To supply in some degree the
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omissions, and to correct the inaccuracies which have arisen from these causes, as far as additional materials supply the means, is one of the objects of the present publication. Many of the documents, and much of the personal information which Mr. Mill desiderated, have been given to the public since he wrote, and various valuable works, comprehending periods and transactions of which he treats, have furnished facilities for clearly understanding, and definitively appreciating much that was dark and doubtful at the date of his inquiries. Of these publications, it is sufficient here to specify the works of Sir John Malcolm, the biographies of Clive and Munro, and the Indian portion of the despatches of Marquis Wellesley and the Duke of Wellington.
Besides the defects occasioned by incomplete materials, the History of British India presents inaccuracies both of fact and opinion, which have arisen from the author's imperfect knowledge of the country, and unacquaintance with any of the languages spoken in it. He has taken great pains to prove that these deficiencies are of no consideration, and that his never having been in India, and his possessing but a slight and elementary acquaintance with any of the languages of the East, are to be regarded rather as qualifications than disqualifications for the task which he had undertaken. His arguments are ingenious: they will carry conviction but to few. It is true that residence in a country, command of its dialects, conversancy with its literature, are but humble elements in the formation of the historical character; but they are elements, and cannot be discarded without injury to the consistency and completeness of the whole. It is also true, that there are many circumstances in the position of the servants of the East India Company, which are unpropitious to the developement and cultivation of the talent and knowledge requisite to constitute a historian of India; but, although these circumstances may counterbalance, in the individuals themselves, the benefits derivable from personal observation, they do not therefore invalidate the reality of those benefits, or render local knowledge altogether valueless. It may be without reservation conceded, that no one person of the many who have been engaged in official duty in India, or who have earned distinction as oriental scholars, has yet brought to the attempt to write a history of India the same degree of fitness as Mr. Mill; yet it cannot but be felt, that had Mr. Mill himself passed but a short time in the country, or been but moderately versed in any department of its literature, his history would have been exempt from many of those blemishes by which its perfectness is now impaired, and its utility diminished.
Personal knowledge of a country, and especially of India, possesses one great recommendation, of which Mr. Mill does not seem to have been aware. It secures one important historical requisite, of the want of which his pages present many striking examples. It enables the historian to judge of the real value of that evidence to which he must have recourse for matters that are beyond the sphere of his own observation. Mr. Mill justly argues that it is only by combining the observations of a number of individuals, that a comprehensive knowledge of any one subject can be acquired, and that in so extensive and complicated a