Mountstuart Elphinstone in South Asia

Pioneer of British Colonial Rule

Edited by

Shah Mahmoud Hanifi

‘Elphinstone’s guidance in war and administration in peace furnished models of penetration, bravery, intelligence and wisdom.’ ––  William Jerdan

With a preface by William Dalrymple

Bibliographic Details
Mountstuart Elphinstone in South Asia Hardback
June 2018£25.00

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Mountstuart Elphinstone (1779-1859), Lowland Scottish traveller, East India Company civil servant and educator, was one of the principal intellectual architects of British colonial rule in South Asia. Imbued with liberal views, such that Bombay’s wealthy founded Elphinstone College in his memory, he pioneered the scholarly, scientific and administrative foundations of imperialism in India.

Elphinstone’s career was launched when he led the inaugural British diplomatic mission to the Afghan court, after which his Account of the Kingdom of Caubul (1815) became the main source of British information about Afghanistan. He is best known for his periods as Resident at Poona and Governor of Bombay in the 1810s and 1820s, when he instituted innovative policies in administration and education while also conducting research for his extremely influential History of India (1841).

This volume examines Mountstuart Elphinstone’s intellectual contributions and administrative career in their own right, in relation to prominent contemporaries including Charles Metcalfe and William Moorcroft, and in the context of later historical study of India, Afghanistan, British imperialism and its imperial frontiers.


Shah Mahmoud Hanifi is Professor of History at James Madison University, Virginia.

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