European Adventures Of Northern India

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Book Cover of European Adventures Of Northern India

European Adventures Of Northern India, 1785 to 1849, by G. Grey, first published in 1929 and reprinted by the Languages Department, Punjab, Patiala, in 1970, contains biographical sketches of over one hundred Europeans who came to or served in the Punjab during Sikh times. The book, which is the result of "some six years of labour" in the archives of the Punjab Government as well as the consultation of a large number of contemporary memoirs and other works, supplements Compton's European Adventurers which the author found both out of date and incomplete. Broadly speaking, these adventurers fall into two groups: wellknown men like George Thomas and Avitabile and the lesser known men "of whom no account has hitherto appeared." They could also be classified as combatants and noncombatants; the former category includes Generals like Ventura and Potter and the latter class includes medical men like Honigbergcr and Harlan, the antiquarian Masson and the engineer Bianchi. It also deals with certain aspects of the organization of the Khalsa army and the role of its European officers in introducing western methods of drill and discipline. Foremost amongst these officers were Allard, Ventura, Avitabile and Court. Jean Francois Allard is described as the "Suliman Bey of Ranjit Singh," and Jean Baptiste Ventura the "baron of the Fauj-i-Khas." Both of them had fled France after the fall of Napoleon and passing through many an adventure in Persia arrived at Lahore in March 1822.

Allard was assigned by Maharaja Ranjit Singh to training the Sikh cavalry, while Ventura raised four infantry battalions of the Special Brigade in the European style. Claude Auguste Court is described as the "architect of Sikh artillery." He distinguished himself as an artillery commander and an ordnance officer. Paolo di Avitabile, a Neapolitan who drifted from Naples to Persia where he obtained a civil appointment as administrator of the Kurdish districts, came to Lahore in 1826, and secured a rank in the Sikh army through the good offices of Ventura. He also held civil appointments and proved to be a firm administrator. His rule of Wazirabad is described as just and vigorous, and his governorship of Peshawar as a rule of "gallows and gibbets." Grey has also furnished accounts of some of the colourful personalities such as Josiah Harlan and Alexander Gardner, both Americans. He nicknames the former the Yankee Doodle, who proved untrue to his salt, and joined the Afghans to fight against the Sikhs at Jamrud after having served Maharaja Ranjit Singh for seven years. He is drawn as a vainglorious and ambitious person who once thought of occupying the masnad of Kabul and under the pretence of studying alchemy counterfeited Nanakshahi rupees. Grey describes Alexander Gardner as a fake and his Memoirs fictitious.