Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Elliot, Henry Miers

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896621Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 17 — Elliot, Henry Miers1889Stanley Lane-Poole

ELLIOT, Sir HENRY MIERS (1808–1853), Indian civil servant and historian, was the third son, one of the fifteen children, of John Elliot, colonel commandant of the Westminster volunteers, by a daughter of J. C. Lettsom, M.D. Born in 1808 he was educated from the age of ten at Winchester school, and destined for New College, Oxford; but the demand of the East India Company for civilians beyond the numbers regularly trained at Haileybury tempted him to try for an appointment in their service, and he was the first of the 'competition wallahs' to pass an open examination for an immediate post in India. His oriental languages as well as his classics and mathematics proved so good that he was even placed by himself in an honorary class (1826). He was assistant successively to the couector of Bareilli, the political agent at Dehli, and the collector of the southern division of Muradabad; secretary to the Sudder board of revenue for the North-West Provinces; and (1847) secretary to the governor-general in council for the foreign department. In this capacity he accompanied Lord Hardinge to the Panjab and drew up an admirable memoir on its resources. As foreign secretary he also visited the western frontier with Lord Dalhousie, on the occasion of the Sikh war, and negotiated the treaty with the Sikh chiefs relative to the settlement of the Panjab and Gujarat, and received the K.C.B. for his services (1849).

Throughout his official career he had devoted his leisure to study. At a very early period he conducted a magazine at Mirat which contained many valuable articles on Indian subjects. With a view to assisting the projected official 'Glossary of Indian Judicial and Revenue Terms,' he published in 1845 at Agra his 'Supplement to the Glossary,' which is rightly described by Professor H. H. Wilson as 'replete with curious and valuable information, especially as regards the tribes and clans of Brahmans and Rajputs.' A second edition appeared in 1860. His chief work, however, was the 'Bibliographical Index to the Historians of Mohammadan India,' in which he proposed to give an analysis of the contents and a criticism of the value of 231 Arabic and Persian historians of India, but of which he only lived to publish the first volume (Calcutta and London, 1849). Failing health compelled him to seek a change of climate, and he died on his way home at Simon's Town, Cape of Good Hope, 20 Dec 1853, aged 45. He married the daughter of W. Cowell, formerly judge at Bareilli.

Elliot left behind him manuscript collections which were placed in the hands of competent scholars for publication. His historical researches bore fruit in the 'History of India as told by its own Historians,' edited by John Dowson [q. v.], 8 vols. 1866-77, with a 'Sequel,' edited by Sir E. C. Bailey [q. v.], 1886; and it is not too much to say that this magnificent work for the first time establishes the history of India during the Mohammedan period on a sure and trustworthy foundation. Elliot's 'Memoirs of the History, Folklore, and Distribution of the Races of the North-West Provinces' also found an editor in J. Beames, 2 vols. 1869.

[Memoir in vol. i. of the History of India as told by its own Historians, pp. xxviii-ix; notice by Professor H. H. Wilson in Waller's Imperial Dict. of Univ. Biography; Gent. Mag. new. ser. vol, xli.]

S. L. P.