Kumaon and Garhwal are two districts in the Himalayas, located about 300 km northwest of Delhi, and bordering Tibet to the north, and Nepal to the southeast. They were each for about a thousand years home to autonomous kingdoms that were conquered towards the end of the 18th century by the Nepali Gurkhas. The forces of the British East India Company (EIC) in turn seized the districts during the Anglo-Nepalese War (1814-6), adding them to their domains. Today the two districts form the modern Indian state of Uttarakhand.
For centuries, Kumaon and Garhwal were famous for mining, mainly of iron and copper, but also placer gold. While the deposits were significant, large scale mining was hindered by the fact that the mines were separated from each other, as well as mineral markets, by rugged mountainous terrain, while the management of the operations themselves was highly inefficient.
By the early 1850s, India was gradually entering the Industrial Revolution and the railway era (the country’s first railroad was completed in 1853, followed by a great railway boom), necessitating the supply of large quantities of metals. Iron was especially important, and as Central India was home to vast coal deposits, so naturally required iron to create steel.
The East India Company placed mining as a top priority and went to great efforts and expense to improve domestic production. As Kumaon and Garhwal were considered to be amongst the subcontinent’s most promising mineral regions, the EIC commissioned a global mining heavyweight to conduct what was the first scientific appraisal of mining ever untaken in the Himalayas.
William Jory Henwood (1805-75), was a Cornish mining engineer who, from 1832 to 1838, occupied the prestigious post as the assay-master and supervisor of tin production in the Duchy of Cornwall, an estate owned by the Royal Family. He was a great advocate of employing the most modern technology to improve the efficiency and safety of mining and wrote numerous articles on the subject that received a global audience. In particular, his 1839 paper, ‘On the Expansive Action of Steam in some of the Pumping Engines on the Cornish Mines’, published in the Philosophical Magazine, was especially acclaimed, winning the Silver Telford Medal, the second-place prize of British Empire’s highest engineering award.
In 1843, Henwood was appointed as the superintendent of the Gongo Soco Mine in Minas Gerais, Brazil, the country’s largest gold operation. This endeavour gave Henwood unparalleled experience in running a massive mine in a developing country that informed his subsequent work in India. While he was able to introduce the latest scientific methods to Gongo Soco, he was appalled by the use of slaves and the brutal exploitation of workers, and the overall inefficiency of the operation. He eventually returned to England, troubled by his conscience, regretting that he was limited in what he could do to improve the situation in Brazil.
While his academic writing and consulting kept him busy in England, he soon relished another great overseas venture, and the EIC’s offer perfectly fit the bill.
Provided with a large budget and full governmental authority to explore and enquire, Henwood and his hand-picked team spent four months tirelessly traversing in Kumaon and Garhwal, visiting every mining site worth mentioning in both districts.
The present work is his official report on the current state of mining in Kumaon and Garhwal and his exceedingly detailed recommendations as to how to improve production and conditions for the workers. It was published immediately following his tour at the expense of the EIC, in Calcutta, by Thomas Jones as the Calcutta Gazette office. While the report is a separate standalone work in and of itself, it was issued as part of a series of government reports on major issues affecting the country called ‘Selections from the Records of the Government of India (Home Department)’, his work being the 8th issue of the series.
The text of the report comes in the form of a lengthy narrative addressed to the Governor General in Council of India, singed by Henwood and dated at ‘Nynee Tal’ (Nainital), Kumaon, May 26, 1855.
In the introduction (pp. 1-3), Henwood describes his elaborate preparations for his mission and his arrival in Kumaon:
“The Honourable Court of Directors having been pleased to employ me to examine and report on the metalliferous resources of Kumaon and Gurhwal, and to engage Mr. James Barratt as First, and Mr. Thomas Gray, as Second Assistant in the Mining Department, as well as Mr. Rees Davies, an iron smelter, as Metallurgic Assistant, directed me to proceed with the latter to the iron districts of Styria [Austria], in order to acquaint ourselves with the application of hot blast to smelting iron ore with charcoal, and having done so, to meet our other associates at Alexandria [Egypt]; and thence to proceed together to Calcutta…In obedience to commands from Cecil Beadon, Esquire, Secretary to the Government of India, in January , we proceeded to the North-West Provinces, and on the 20th of that month, we had the pleasure of reporting our arrival in Kumaon to John Hallet Batten, Esquire, Commissioner of the two Provinces” (pp. 1-2).
Henwood noted the great inherent challenge to the development of a mass mining industry in Kumaon and Garhwal, writing that “The metallic productions of the country are not collected into one extensive and continuous tract, but are spread through separate and distant districts, divided from each other by large areas of unproductive rocks” (p. 2).
In the section entitled ‘Geological, Mining and Economic Details’ (pp. 3-33), Henwood leads the reader on a tour of all the mines in Kumaon and Garhwal, meticulously detailing the virtues and limitations of each site. While iron is concentrated in precious high-yield loads, copper is more sporadically present, while placer gold can be found in small quantities here and there.
In ‘Suggestions of Improved Mining Operations’ (pp. 33-35), Henwood discusses how the operations in the region are inefficiently run, owing to the deplorable state of the infrastructure, the backward technology (or complete lack thereof), haphazard mining methods and the frightful neglect for the safety of the miners. He provides a number of specific recommendations for bettering both the yields of the mines and the warfare of the workers, no doubt informed by his extensive experiences in Brazil.
Henwood strikes a progressive tone, decades ahead of his time, in his section ‘Suggested Preservation of the Forests’ (pp. 35-6), where he notes that trees must be preserved for future generations and not felled en masse and burned in the metal smelting process. Indeed, in many parts of the world deforestation had already rendered sustainable mining untenable.
In the section ‘Experiments in Mining and Smelting’ (pp. 36-45), Henwood discusses how the latest technology in metal mining could be applied in Kumaon and Garhwal to dramatically increase yields.
Throughout, Henwood pays careful attention to financial factors, providing specific proposed budgets for various operations, and his plans come across as ambitious, but well-reasoned and achievable.
Perhaps the highlight of the work is the excellent custom-made map, that is one of the finest and most sophisticated early works of thematic mining cartography made in India. Entitled the Topographical Sketch of the Metalliferous Districts of Kumaon & Gurwhal 1855, it was lithographed in Calcutta by Thomas Black, the principal of the Asiatic Lithographic, India’s first specialist map publisher (founded 1823). A steeler example of early Indian thematic cartography, the map embraces most of Kumaon (the eastern two-thirds of the map) and eastern Garhwal, which contained virtually every mineral bearing place in the region. The extremely rugged Himalayan topography is expressed by hachures, while all rivers are delineated and named, with all major roads outlined. Towns are noted as red squares, with the map is centred on ‘Almorah’ (Almora), and the capital of Kumaon, and it extends to the northwest just beyond ‘Kurn Pryag’ (Karnapryag), and then south to Haldwani, and east to Pithoragarh, near the Nepalese border, and on to ‘Nyee Tal’ (Nainital) and ‘Kaleedooongee’ (Kaladhungi), in the southwest.
Most importantly, the map, in exhaustive detail, labels all of the mines in Kumaon and Gurwhal’s which were vised by Henwood and his associates. The nature of these sites, which are all described in detail in the text, is explained in the ‘Reference’, in the lower left, with the mines marked by coloured lines representing: ‘C. Copper’ (brown); ‘I. Iron’ (blue); ‘L.S. Limestone’ (yellow); ‘F.S. Fire Stone’, or fire-resisting sandstone used for lining smelting furnaces (orange), while arrows indicate the direction of dip of the mines.
A Note on Rarity
The present work is rare and was issued in only this single edition. We can locate examples held by 8 institutions worldwide, at the British Library (3 examples), Bodleian Library (Oxford University), SOAS Library, Royal Asiatic Society, Asiatic Society of Mumbai, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, University of Washington Library and the Institut de France. Moreover, we are not aware of any other examples as appearing on the market during the last 25 years.
Henwood’s report was reviewed favourably at the highest levels, and it initially seemed that the East India Company was prepared to act on, at least, many of his recommendations. However, the Indian Uprising of 1857 caused the British government to revoke the EIC’s charter in 1858, placing India under direct crown rule, so creating the ‘The Raj’. Naturally, the regime change ensured that even some of the EIC’s best work was side-lined or delayed and, as such, Henwood’s designs were not acted upon in the manner as was intended. However, his advice was followed on a piecemeal basis, dramatically increasing the production of some mines, and providing much needed iron and copper towards India’s industrial boom. However, the region’s extreme topography and a lack of ongoing investment prevented Kumaon and Garhwal from becoming a mining powerhouse. Mining in other parts of India was often more cost effective, as was often importing metals from abroad, such as from Australia.
References: British Library: 7106.c.1.(1.); Bodleian Library (Oxford University): (IND) Ind R 1/8; Asiatic Society of Mumbai: GP_00108393; OCLC: 13712728, 1243957779.
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