Photozincograph with original outline hand colour, dissected into 18 sections and mounted upon original linen, folding into original marbled boards (Very Good, resplendent original colours, just some light creasing to some panel edges and a mild stain in lower-right corner), 101 x 69 cm (40 x 27 inches).
This an extremely rare revenue survey map of the Broach (today Bharuch) District, of Gujarat, India. It was made under the auspices of Noel Beyts, the Superintendent of Revenue for Gujarat, and is based upon original mapping conducted especially for tax assessment and collection purposes. The map was printed by the Bombay Presidency Government’s press in Poona (Pune) in 1876 and notably features text in both English and Hindustani (the immediate precursor to modern Hindi), and sports original outline colour in resplendent hues made from hand-ground dyes used in the textile industry.
Broach (Bharuch) has since ancient times been one of the wealthiest ports along the west coat of India. The city strategically lies at the mouth of Narmada River, one of the key transport corridors onto the heart of India. The surrounding district was long one of the world’s most productive cotton-growing areas and the Broach is famed for its Bandhani textiles. In addition, the area produces many other cash crops and thrives upon maritime trade. Broach was for many years contested between the Mughal and Maratha empires until it was seized by Britain in 1803.
The present map was made during the first decade of the British Raj, when the new crown regime was embarking upon ambitious efforts to impose a modern, efficient government over the subcontinent, after years of mismanagement by the East India Company. A cornerstone of the Raj was its ability to efficiently assess and collect taxes to support the national civil and military establishments. As the leading source of revenue in India was land taxes, the Raj set up a sophisticated bureaucracy for assessing and collecting these funds. To aid their operations the tax collectors commissioned special, scientifically accurate ‘revenue surveys’ of the lands under their charge.
Gujarat was long considered to be one of India’s most potentially lucrative sources of tax revenue, yet due to the sophistication of its economy and the wily nature of its major landowners, realizing such windfalls traditionally proved elusive. In the 1860s and ‘70s, Noel Bates dramatically reformed the revenue system in Gujarat, collecting the lion’s share of taxes for the first time. The present map would have been used as a critical tool by Bates and his team in Broach, one of the most important collectorates (taxation districts) in the province. The map was printed in both English and Hindi so as to allow it to be used by Bates’ Indian associates, many of whom would not have had a good command of English, or who otherwise preferred to operate in an indigenous language. The map is one of relatively few surviving bilingual maps to have been printed in India during the period.
The photozincographed map embraces the entire Broach District, and shows the jurisdiction subdivided into five talukas (Wágra, Broach, Jambusar, Amod and Ankleswar), being special taxation divisions. The city of Broach is located on the right-centre on the northern bank of the Narmada, along the ‘BB & CIR’ (the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway), a line that upon is completion in 1864 became a boon to the region’s economy. Throughout the map every settlement is named, while the cadastral divisions denote the boundaries of each village, which were considered the basic units used for administration, as well as the purposes of the revenue surveys. Also depicted are all roads and paths, routes that could be used by tax collectors as they made their rounds of the district.
The present map is one of only very few Gujarati revenue surveys to survive, and due to the nature of its printing, colour, and it bilingual text is an uncommonly attractive example of 19th Century Indian cartography.
A Note on Rarity
The present map is exceedingly rare, only a single other example is known to survive, preserved at the British Library. Revenue survey maps tended to be published in only very small print runs for the use of tax collectors and senior crown officials. Moreover, the maps tended to be heavily used in the field, giving them a low survival rate.
The Raj’s Taxation Reform and Revenue Surveys
Financing the civil and military establishment of British India was astoundingly expensive. While the East India Company (EIC) gained considerable revenues from certain commodities and war prizes, the majority of its operating budget came from taxes. While taxation came in many forms, ranging from import and expert duties to domestic levies charged on various products, the most important revenue stream were property taxes. The EIC recruited a sizable bureaucracy whose sole mandate was to assess and collect taxes.
However, properly assessing land taxes required highly accurate maps, which were traditionally in short supply. Accordingly, the EIC undertook monumental efforts to map the country. The Survey of India was founded in 1767 and in 1802 the Survey embarked upon the Great Trigonometrical Survey (GTS) of India, an unprecedented endeavour to systematically map the entire Indian subcontinent to exacting scientific standards. In 1803, the Survey was specifically instructed to collect information relevant for tax collection, integrating it into their cartography. In 1815, the quality and focus of the national surveys was improved upon the consolidation of all state mapping activities under the auspices of the Survey General of India’s Office in Calcutta.
By the 1830s, many problems developed with respect to the interface between the Survey of India’s activities and the tax collection. While many impressive maps were made of regions all across India, and while much valuable information relevant to land taxation was passed on to the appropriate authorities, the process by which the Survey of India and GTS operated did not correspond with the needs of tax assessment. For instance, the Survey often mapped areas vital for military movement, such as mountain passes, before mapping revenue-rich areas of farmland. It also did not help that political jurisdictions often did not correspond to the revenue districts. Moreover, even where good maps were available, many tax collectors proved to be carto-illiterate. These issues dovetailed into the broader reality the EIC’s tax collection apparatus was unevenly skilled; in some areas bureaucrats proved highly competent and efficient, while in other places they were hapless, lazy, and even corrupt. There was no universally applied professional standard, and this came heavily weigh upon the EIC’s overall financial health, as vast sums of taxes remained uncollected each year.
In 1822, the EIC decided that special surveys for tax collection should be made, employing professional surveyors who were to operate separately from the Survey of India’s auspices (although they were expected to cooperate and exchange information with the Survey). This led to the birth of the ‘revenue surveys’, the creation of which was gradually rolled out in the Bengal Presidency and the North West provinces. In 1833, the EIC ordered revenue survey to be executed in all parts of British India. In 1835, they attempted to reconcile political boundaries with the revenue districts, so as to lessen confusion.
While these reforms led to the creation of some excellent revenue maps and major improvements in tax collection in some areas, such progress was not evenly experienced throughout the country. Overall, the tax collection system remained inefficient and many areas were still not covered by revenue maps. This proved to be one of key factors that led to the downfall of Company rule in India, as the EIC came to suffer financial shortfalls even before its rule was fatally discredited during the Indian Uprising of 1857.
In 1858, the East India Company was dissolved and rule of British India was taken over by the crown, creating the ‘Raj’. While a daunting undertaking, the Raj aimed to dramatically improve the Indian bureaucracy, and to implement some of the world’s highest standards for tax collection, service delivery and infrastructure development. While the EIC was a corporate entity saddled with the responsibilities of civil governance, the Raj was a civil government that sought to be profitable.
The Raj recruited thousands of professionally trained British and Anglo-Indian civil servants, who were expected to master local languages and lead cadres of functionaries composed mostly of Indians. Elaborate, yet efficient, bureaucratic systems were put in place, with tight discipline, to ensure that the machinery of government ran smoothly and (relatively) quickly.
Nowhere was the bureaucratic revolution more strongly felt than in the area of tax collection. British India was divided into collectorates and subdivisions (talukas), and at each level a British civil servant was to lead a well-trained (and relatively well-paid) staff of locals to systematically assess and collect revenue. There was little tolerance for sloth and corruption – projected revenue targets were made, and the collectors were expected to meet expectations, otherwise they rightly feared loosing their jobs.
In the 1860s and 1870s dramatically greater resources were given towards the creation revenue surveys. Tax collectors were expected to work closely with professional surveyors to form accurate maps that were to be carefully inspected by senior officials to ensure their quality. Tax collectors who could not produce good maps were subject to sacking. In areas where the GTS had not already resulted in accurate base surveys, the revenue surveyors had to make scientifically accurate maps from scratch, a challenging undertaking; otherwise they could, at least in part, ‘piggyback’ on the work of the Survey of India.
By 1876, the year in which the present map was issued, the Government of India revenue department had seventeen separate surveying parties in the field all across the country. I that year they would cumulatively manage to survey 11,175 square miles (27,720 sq. km) of territory.
A curious aspect of some of the revenue survey maps was that they featured bilingual text (in English or Hindustani, or sometimes another local language, such as Bengali). While this was not a mandatory requirement of the maps, many of the Indian tax collectors could not speak or write English well, such that the inclusion of local languages ensured that the maps were universally accessible. During the 1860s and ‘70s bilingual printed maps in India were still quite unusual. The esteemed Calcutta cartographer Jean-Baptiste Tassin had created several bilingual maps in the 1830s, but the practice was not generally taken up. Beyond that, the Survey of India occasionally made bilingual maps of princely states, but these works were very few and far between. The revenue surveys thus had a ground-breaking role, in that many of the very first printed maps of many areas with text in Hindi (or other indigenous languages) were such maps.
Noel Beyts, who oversaw the creation of the present map, was one of the most important and influential members of the ‘new generation’ of Raj tax collectors. He commenced his career in India in the early 1860s, appointed as the collector of the Broach District, whereupon he commenced the task of painstakingly compiling the information showcased upon the present map.
Beyts, while tireless and meticulous in the pursuit of his mandate, acknowledged that assessing and collecting revenue in Gujarat was especially difficult. The province’s economy was heavily reliant upon maritime trade, and a large back market existed far beyond crown oversight. As for property taxes, much of the land in the Broach District had been owned by the same families for generations. For generations, the landowners concocted masterly schemes that confounded tax assessors, ensuring that the government almost always came away with only a fraction of its entitled yield. Beyts noted that obtaining the correct amount of revenue from properties in Gujarat “…is as difficult as it would be to ascertain the price of a fancy article in a shopkeeper’s bill when a lump sum is given of a dozen others with no attempt at detail”.
Despite the obstacles, Beyts was remarkably effective at collecting something close to the full amount of taxes from the Broach landowners, the partial results of which he published in his Report on the Revenue Settlement of the Broach Talooka: Broach Collectorate, 1870-71 (1871).
Beyt’s success in Broach led to his promotion to as the acting, and later permanent, Superintendent of Revenue for Gujarat, a post he held for many years. In this role, he dramatically reformed the revenue collection system in the province, making it one of the most efficient in all India. Beyt’s went on to write many more reports on revenue collection in the province, and also became an authority on the region’s cash crops, publishing Gujarát Agriculture (1880).
The present map is based upon years of custom surveys undertaken by professional surveyors, working under Beyts’s close supervision. Highly accurate and detailed, it is everything that a revenue map should ideally be. The map seems to be Beyt’s only surviving general district revenue survey, while the British Library holds the only known examples of his five associated maps of each of the Broach District’s talukas (likewise printed in Poona in 1876).
Beyts, who served as the Revenue Superintendent of Gujarat for almost 25 years until his retirement in 1895, was highly regard throughout India for having set the ‘gold standard’ for revenue assessment and collection, and his methods were widely copied. This played a key role in the dramatic overall improvement in tax system across the country in the late 19th Century. Importantly, this allowed the British Raj’s budget to be in the black, even in the face of continually rising expenditures, a state of play which lasted until World War I.
References: British Library: Cartographic Items Maps I.S.61. / OCLC: 556729083.
Royal Geographical Society, ‘New Maps’, Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography, New Monthly Series, Vol. 1, No. 8 (Aug., 1879), p. 542;
Bhaskar DHATAVKAR (ed.), Catalogue of Maps in the Bombay Archives, vol. II (Bombay: Department of Archives, Government of Maharashtra, 1985), no. 3811 (p. 279). Cf. R.D. CHOKSEY, Economic Life In the Bombay Gujarat (1800 – 1939) (Bombay, 1968), p. 75; Bernardo A. MICHAEL, ‘Making Territory Visible: The Revenue Surveys of Colonial South Asia’, Imago Mundi, vol. 59, no. 1, 2007, pp. 78–95.