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The Punjab Being A Brief Account of The Country of the Sikh by Steinbach

First published in 1845, this edition was considerably expanded to bring the account down to the recent decisive Battle of the first anglo-Sikh war at Sobraon, briefly recounted on an additional unpaginated leaf. Steinbach describes himself as a "careful compiler" from the best available authorities, but Khurana considers his original contribution sufficient to term it a"valuable firsthand account" (p. 71). Uncommon, particularly so in the cloth and so well-preserved.

Steinbach was a Prussian adventurer who joined Ranjit Singh's army in 1836 as commander of an infantry battalion, seeing continuous service in isolated districts. In 1841 on the accession of Sher Singh, Ranjit's eldest surviving legitimate son, Steinbach found that "the position of European officers in the Sikh service became untenable... as had been predicted by H. T. Prinsep" in his Life of Runjeet Singh... (p. 60). He left for a furlough in Europe where he drafted this account, and on his return in 1844 joined the army of Gulab Singh with which he served on their campaigns in Kashmir. He resigned in 1851.

Evidently well-read, Steinbach drew on Prinsep, Malcolm's Sketch of the Sikhs, Thornton's Gazetteer, Moorcroft and Trebeck and baron Hugel's travel narratives, and his inclusion of the "Table of Heights of Mountains in the Punjaub" shows that "he kept abreast of the latest researches which were being reported in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal and Asiatic Researches" (p. 61). On publication the book was well-received, being highly recommended by John William Kaye's Calcutta Review which was subsequently dismissive of McGregor, Cunningham and Smyth's histories. But Steinbach wrote with a purpose, and that was the promotion of the idea of annexation. He had been treated high-handedly by Sikh troops and their government, he was unable to acquire "a feel of the Sikh society", and his experiences had made him "bitter and blurred his vision" (p. 70-1). Nevertheless this is an important contribution to the literature of the period, combining as it does "useful date on the socio-economic conditions of the Punjab", detailed accounts of the latest military events, and "an important specimen of the thinking of European officers in the Sikh service about the future of the kingdom of the Punjab".

The Punjab Being A Brief Account of The Country of the Sikh by Steinbach

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  • Format: Paperback

    Publisher: Rethink Foundation

    Publication Date: 2024 Reprint

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