The Sikhs

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The Sikhs, by General Sir John J.H. Gordon, was first published in 1904 by William Blackwood and Sons, London, and reprinted in 1970 by the Languages Department, Punjab, Patiala. The author's own reference as to when and why he thought of writing this book provides an important clue to his treatment of the subject. The universal admiration, which everybody had for the soldierly bearing of the Siklis present among soldiers from all parts of the world representing the strength of the British empire at the coronation ceremonies of Edward VII, inspired him, he says, to write a short sketch of the origin of this "warlike race" and its "rise through much tribulation to power as a nation" which was necessary for understanding its transformation "into loyal and hearty subjects of the Great Queen Victoria." The book is divided into fourteen chapters the first four of which relate the origin and development of Sikhism under the Ten Gurus. The next two chapters deal with Sikhs' struggle for domination in the Punjab and the establishment of misis or chiefships, followed by two chapters sketching Maharaja Ranjit Singh's rise to power. A chapter then prescribes the decline of the Sikh monarchy and the three succeeding are devoted to the two AngloSikh wars, with the last two summing up the beliefs and observances of the Sikhs and their position under the British Crown. Except for the last chapter which the author prepared from his own notes, he admits having based the entire book on published works such as Malcolm, Sketch of the Sikhs, W.L. M'Gregor, The History of the Sikhs, G.C. Smyth, A History of the Reigning Family of Lahore, J.D. Cunningham, A History of the Sikhs and Syad Muhammad Ladf, History of the Punjab, besides Trumpp's translation into English of portions of the Guru Granth Sahib. However, there are no specific references in the body of the book to any of the sources used and it has no bibliography or index. The book is a simple and straightforward narrative of what Gordon understood Sikh faith and tradition to be. His account is not exempt from tendentious statements and over simplifications. Gordon in fact assesses the Sikhs as "subjects of the British empire," and, in the process, he lets several factual errors and misconceptions creep into his work.