Commentary on
William Logan’s ‘Malabar Manual’
VED from VICTORIA INSTITUTIONS
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The layout of the book

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The original book was published in two volumes. Volume One contains the following Chapters: The District, The people, History and This Land.


The first chapter, The District deals with the physical features, rivers, mountains, the Fauna and Flora, Road, passes, railway, Port facilities etc. The Fauna and Flora section has been written by Rhodes Morgan, F.Z.S., Member of the British Ornithologists Union, District Forest Officer, Malabar.


The second chapter is about the people, population, villages, towns, habitation, rural organisation, language, literature and state of awareness of the people, caste issue and occupation, manners and customs, religions, famines, diseases and treatment.


The third chapter is about History of the location. Commencing from the traditions that gives a hint of the antiquity of the place, it moves on to time when Portuguese traders tried to set up a trading centre here. Then came the Dutch and after them the arrival of the English traders.


The fourth chapter is This Land. In this location, the attempts to understand the land tenures and land revenue systems are seen. The focus is on the English Factory at Tellicherry. The writing moves through the various minor historical incidences that slowly lead to the establishment of an English administrative system in Malabar.


With the exception of the Flora and Fauna section, I think that whole book has ostensibly been written by William Logan. That is the impression that comes out.


The contents of Volume Two are different. It is basically a book of Appendices. Most of them are in the form of tables and lists. However, there are a number of detailed writings also, wherein it is seen that some natives-of-the-subcontinent officials have written narratives, under their own names. The tabular lists include information about Statistics, Animals, Fishes, Birds, Butterflies, Timbre trees, Roads, Port rules, Malayalam proverbs, Mahl vocabulary, and a Collection of deeds. Next is a Glossary with notes and etymological headings attributed to Mr. Græme who was one of the English East India Company officials in Malabar.


After this comes a list of names of the Chief Officers, Residents and Principal Collectors and Collectors who served in Malabar.


Next there are a lot of writings and chapters connected to agriculture and governmental income.


After this there is a List of Malikhana Recipients in Malabar. This more or less means that persons or families or religious institutions that received a sort of monthly or annual pension or some similar kind of monetary support from the English administration. The amount given to each entity is also given.


At the far end of all this comes a number of writings on the various Taluks in Malabar district. It includes the details of some of the Laccadive Islands also. These writings are reasonably descriptive enough.


From the perspective of pure statistical and chronological details, this book could be of very good contents. However, when seen from the underlying spirit that moves throughout the book, there are issues.


The book is clearly not the work or viewpoint one single person. As such to quote from this book, saying William Logan said this or that in his Malabar Manual, might not convey an honest information on what was Logan’s own version of understanding on any particular location.


The only location wherein he (or whoever has written this part) has written in a style, pose and gesture which is quite very steady and not much influenced by the native-land vested interests, in the location where he writes about the history by focusing on the dairy or logbook of the English East India Company Factory at Tellicherry.


If this book is taken up for reading, it would be quite candidly seen that the history of modern Malabar that existed as social mood till around 1975, is connected to Tellicherry. And not to Calicut.


As for Trivandrum having any historical or social connections to Malabar is a theme fit for the understanding of the birdbrains.