Gold and Silver Road of Trade & Friendship, Theby Volker Grabowsky
Volker Grabowsky & Andrew Turton
When British diplomats McLeod and Richardson set out on their missions to the Tai states in December 1836, their aim was trade and friendship. Captain William Couperus McLeod and Dr David Richardson, both of the East India Company Madras Army, travelled from Moulmein on elephants, horses, and in the caravans of traders, to the present-day regions of the Shan States in Burma, northern Thailand, and Sip song Panna in China. As the first Europeans to officially visit the region, they experienced some extraordinary social and cultural encounters.
McLeod and Richardson had been in action in the first Anglo- Burmese War (1824-26) and had experience of other missions in Burma and Siam. They were fluent in Burmese and had a basic knowledge of Tai. They wrote superbly of their journeys and diplomatic exchanges. Their journals are published here in full, with detailed notes, for the first time.
The richness of their narratives, their records of scientific, social and cultural detail, their engaging insights, and some prejudices, make this engrossing reading for the enthusiast of travel and adventure literature. More than this, it is an essential new resource for scholars of many kinds—historians, anthropologists, geographers, and botanists, to name a few.
Grabowsky and Turton provide an analytical commentary on the journals, and on the conditions and contexts of their writing and subsequent use. The authors set the information in the journals in the context of indigenous Tai language sources. They also present completely new research on the British settlement in the Tenasserim Provinces of peninsular Burma, along with the biographies of McLeod and Richardson, who appear, for the first time, as three-dimensional individuals.
This volume is a state-of-the-art example of how to make archival material like these journals—journals which are among the finest of the period—accessible to a broad audience.
VOLKER GRABOWSKY is professor of South East Asian history at the Westfalische Wilhelms-Universitat Munster.
ANDREW TURTON is reader in anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.