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Allan Octavian Hume (6 June 1829 - 31 July 1912) was an civil servant in British India and a political reformer. He was one of the founders of the Indian National Congress, a political party that was later to lead the Indian independence movement.

A notable ornithologist, Hume has been called "the Father of Indian Ornithology" and, by those who found him dogmatic, "the Pope of Indian ornithology."

Life and career

Hume was born at St Mary Craymarker, Kentmarker, the son of Joseph Hume, the Radical MP. He was educated at East India Company College, Haileybury, and then at University College Hospitalmarker, where he studied medicine and surgery. In 1849 he sailed to Indiamarker and the following year joined the Bengal Civil Service at Etawahmarker in the North-Western Provinces, in what is now Uttar Pradeshmarker. His career in India included service as a district officer from 1849 to 1867, head of a central department from 1867 to 1870, secretary to the Government from 1870 to 1879 and in 1879 he went against the authorities and finally resigned in 1882.

It was only nine years after his entry to India that Hume faced the uprising of 1857 during which time he was involved in several military actions for which he was created a Companion of the Bath in 1860. Initially it appeared that he was safe in Etawah, which was not far from Meerutmarker where the mutiny began. This however changed and Hume had to take refuge in Agramarker fort for six months. Only one Indian official remained loyal and Hume took back position in Etawah in January 1858. He built up a force of 650 Indian troops and took part in engagements with them. Hume blamed British ineptitude for the uprising and pursued a policy of ‘mercy and forbearance’.

In his early service as a District Officer in the Indian Civil Service, he began introducing free primary education and creating a local vernacular newspaper, Lokmitra (The People's Friend).

He married Mary Anne Grindall in 1853.

In 1860 Hume was made Companion of the Bath for his gallantry during the Mutiny or Indian rebellion of 1857.

He took up the cause of education and founded scholarships for higher education. He wrote, in 1859 he wrote that education played a key role in avoiding revolts like the one in 1857:
... assert its supremacy as
it may at the bayonet's point, a free and civilized government must look for its stability and permanence to the enlightenment of the people and their moral and intellectual capacity to appreciate its blessings.

In 1863 he moved for separate schools for juvenile delinquents rather than imprisonment. His efforts led to a juvenile reformatory not far from Etawahmarker. He also started free schools in Etawah and by 1857 he established 181 schools with 5186 students including two girls. In 1867 he became Commissioner of Customs for the North West Province, and in 1870 he became attached to the central government as Director-General of Agriculture. In 1879 he returned to provincial government at Allahabadmarker.

He was against the revenue earned through liquor traffic and described it as "The wages of sin". With his progressive ideas about social reform, he advocated women's education, was against infanticide and enforced widowhood. Hume laid out in Etawah a neatly gridded commercial district that is now known as Humeganj but often pronounced Homeganj. The high school that he helped build with his own money is still in operation, now as a junior college, and it has a floor plan resembling the letter H. This, according to some is an indication of Hume's imperial ego, although the form can easily be missed.

Hume proposed to develop fuelwood plantations "in every village in the drier portions of the country" and thereby provide a substitute heating and cooking fuel so that manure could be returned to the land. Such plantations, he wrote, were "a thing that is entirely in accord with the traditions of the country -- a thing that the people would understand, appreciate, and, with a little judicious pressure, cooperate in."

He also took note of rural indebtedness, chiefly caused by the use of land as security, a practice the British themselves had introduced. Hume denounced it as another of "the cruel blunders into which our narrow-minded, though wholly benevolent, desire to reproduce England in India has led us." Hume also wanted government-run banks, at least until cooperative banks could be established.

He was very outspoken and never feared to criticise when he thought the Government was in the wrong. In 1861, he objected to the concentration of police and judicial functions in the hands of the police superintendent. In March 1861, he took a medical leave due to a breakdown from overwork and departed for Britain. Before leaving, he condemned the flogging and punitive measures initiated by the provincial government as 'barbarous … torture'. He was allowed to return to Etawah only after apologizing for the tone of his criticism. He criticized the administration of Lord Lytton (before 1879) which according to him cared little for the welfare and aspiration of the people of India. Lord Lytton's foreign policy according to him had led to the waste of "millions and millions of Indian money". Hume was critical of the land revenue policy and suggested that it was the cause of poverty in India. His superiors were irritated and attempted to restrict his powers and this led him to publish a book on Agricultural Reform in India in 1879.

In 1879 the Government of Lord Lytton dismissed him from his position in the Secretariat. No clear reason was given except that it "was based entirely on the consideration of what was most desirable in the interests of the public service". The press declared that his main wrong doing was that he was too honest and too independent. The Pioneer wrote that it was "the grossest jobbery ever perpetrated" ; the Indian Daily News wrote that itwas a "great wrong" while The Statesman said that "undoubtedly he has been treated shamefully and cruelly." The Englishman in an article dated 27 June 1879, commenting on the event stated, "There is no security or safety now for officers in Government employment."

Hume retired from the civil service in 1882. In 1883 he wrote an open letter to the graduates of Calcutta University, calling upon them to form their own national political movement. This led in 1885 to the first session of the Indian National Congress held in Bombaymarker.

Mary Anne Grindall died in 1890, and their only daughter was the widow of Mr. Ross Scott who was sometime Judicial Commissioner of Oudh. Hume left India in 1894 and settled at The Chalet, 4, Kingswood Road, Upper Norwoodmarker in Londonmarker. He died at the age of eighty-three on 31 July 1912. His ashes are buried in Brookwood Cemeterymarker.

In 1973, the Indian postal department released a commemorative stamp.


Hume did not have great regard for institutional Christianity, but believed in the immortality of the soul and in the idea of a supreme ultimate. Hume wanted to become a chela (student) of the Tibetan spiritual gurus. During the few years of his connection with the Theosophical Society Hume wrote three articles on Fragments of Occult Truth under the pseudonym "H. X." published in The Theosophist. These were written in response to questions from Mr. Terry, an Australian Theosophist. He also privately printed several Theosophical pamphlets titled Hints on Esoteric Theosophy. The later numbers of the Fragments, in answer to the same enquirer, were written by A.P. Sinnett and signed by him, as authorized by Mahatma K. H., A Lay-Chela.

Madame Blavatsky was a regular visitor at Hume's Rothney castle at Simlamarker and an account of her visit may be found in Simla, Past and Present by Edward John Buck (who succeeded Mr. Hume in charge of the Agricultural Department). A long story, about Hume and his wife appears in A.P. Sinnett's book Occult World, and the synopsis was published in a local paper of India. The story relates how at a dinner party, Madame Blavatsky asked Mrs Hume if there was anything she wanted. She replied that there was a brooch, her mother had given her, that had gone out of her possession some time ago. Blavatsky said she would try to recover it through occult means. After some interlude, later that evening, the brooch was found in a garden, where the party was directed by Blavatsky. Later, Hume privately expressed grave doubts on certain powers attributed to Madame Blavatsky and due to this, soon fell out of favour with the Theosophists.

Hume lost all interest in the theosophical movement in 1883 and became involved with the creation of the Indian National Congress.

Contribution to ornithology

From early days, Hume had a special interest in science. Science, he wrote

and of natural history he wrote in 1867:

During his career in Etawah, he built a personal collection of bird specimens, however it was destroyed during the 1857 mutiny. Subsequently he started afresh with a systematic plan to survey and document the birds of the Indian Subcontinent and in the process he accumulated the largest collection of Asiatic birds in the world, which he housed in a museum and library at his home in Rothney Castle on Jakko Hill, Simlamarker. Rothney castle originally belonged to P. Mitchell, C.I.E and after Hume bought it, he tried to convert the house into a palace expecting it to be bought by the Government as a Viceregal residence since the Governor-General then occupied Peterhoff, a building too small for large parties. Hume spent over two hundred thousand pounds on the grounds and buildings. He added enormous reception rooms suitable for large dinner parties and balls, as well as a magnificent conservatory and spacious hall with walls displaying his superb collection of Indian horns. He hired a European gardener, and made the grounds and conservatory a perpetual horticultural exhibition, to which he courteously admitted all visitors.

Rothney Castle could only be reached by a troublesome climb, and was never purchased by the British Government and Hume himself never used the larger rooms except for one that he converted into a museum for his collection of birds, and for occasional dances.

He made several expeditions to collect birds both on health leaves and as and where his work took him. He was Collector and Magistrate of Etawah from 1856 to 1867 during which time he studied the birds of that area. He later became Commissioner of Inland Customs which made him responsible for the control of 2500 miles of coast from near Peshawar in the northwest to Cuttack on the Bay of Bengal. He travelled on horseback and camel in areas of Rajasthan and negotiated treaties with various local maharajas to control the export of natural resources such as salt. During these travels he made a number of notes on various bird species:

His expedition to the Indus area was one of the largest and it started in late November 1871 and continued until the end of February 1872. In March 1873, he visited the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal. In 1875 he visited the Laccadive Islands. And in 1881 he made his last ornithological expedition to Manipur. This was made on special leave following his demotion from the Central Government to a junior position on the Board of Revenue of the North Western Provinces.

He used this vast bird collection to produce a massive publication on all the birds of India. Unfortunately this work was lost in 1885 when all Hume's manuscripts were sold by a servant as waste paper. Hume's interest in ornithology reduced due to this theft as well as a landslip caused by heavy rains in Simla which damaged his personal museum and specimens. He wrote to the British Museummarker wishing to donate his collection on certain conditions. One of the conditions was that the collection was to be examined by Dr. R. Bowdler Sharpe and personally packed by him, apart from raising Dr. Sharpe's rank and salary due to the additional burden on his work caused by his collection. The British Museum was unable to heed to his conditions. It was only after the destruction of nearly 20000 specimens, that alarm bells were raised by Dr. Sharpe and the Museum authorities let him visit India to supervise the transfer of the specimens to the British Museum.

Sharpe wrote of Hume's impressive private ornithological museum:

Sharpe also noted:

The Hume collection as it went to the British museum in 1884 consisted of 82,000 specimens of which 75,577 were finally placed in the Museum. A breakup of that collection is as follows (old names retained).
  • 2830 Birds of Prey (Accipitriformes)… 8 types
  • 1155 Owls (Strigiformes)…9 types
  • 2819 Crows, Jays, Orioles etc…5 types
  • 4493 Cuckoo-shrikes and Flycatchers… 21 types
  • 4670 Thrushes and Warblers…28 types
  • 3100 Bulbuls and wrens, Dippers, etc…16 types
  • 7304 Timaliine birds…30 types
  • 2119 Tits and Shrikes…9 types
  • 1789 Sun-birds (Nectarinidae) and White-eyes (Zosteropidae)…8 types
  • 3724 Swallows (Hirundiniidae), Wagtails and Pipits (Motacillidae)…8 types
  • 2375 Finches (Fringillidae)…8 types
  • 3766 Starlings (Sturnidae), Weaver-birds (Ploceidae), and larks (Alaudidae)…22 types
  • 807 Ant-thrushes (Pittidae), Broadbills (Eurylaimidae)…4 types
  • 1110 Hoopoes (Upupae), Swifts (Cypseli), Nightjars (Caprimulgidae) and Frogmouths (Podargidae)…8 types
  • 2277 Picidae, Hornbills (Bucerotes), Bee-eaters (Meropes), Kingfishers (Halcyones), Rollers(Coracidae), Trogons (Trogones)…11 types
  • 2339 Woodpeckers (Pici)…3 types
  • 2417 Honey-guides (Indicatores), Barbets (Capiformes), and Cuckoos (Coccyges)…8 types
  • 813 Parrots (Psittaciformes)…3 types
  • 1615 Pigeons (Columbiformes)…5 types
  • 2120 Sand-grouse (Pterocletes), Game-birds and Megapodes(Galliformes)…8 types
  • 882 Rails (Ralliformes), Cranes (Gruiformes), Bustards (Otides)…6 types
  • 1089 Ibises (Ibididae), Herons (Ardeidae), Pelicans and Cormorants (Steganopodes), Grebes (Podicipediformes)…7 types
  • 761 Geese and Ducks (Anseriformes)…2 types
  • 15965 Eggs

The Hume Collection contained 258 types.

The egg collection was made up of carefully authenticated contributions from knowledgeable contacts and on the authenticity and importance of the collection, E. W. Oates wrote in the 1901 Catalogue of the collection of birds' eggs in the British Museum (Volume 1):

Species described

Some of the species that were first described or discovered by Hume are as follows. The numbers are references to species as given in S. D. Ripley's synopsis and the old names are retained. Many of these names are no longer valid.
  • 12 Persian Shearwater (Procellaria lherminieri persica) (Puffinus persicus)
  • 17 Short-tailed Tropic-bird (Phaethon aethereus indicus)
  • 33 Great Whitebellied Heron (Ardea insignis)
  • 96 Grey, Andaman or Oceanic Teal (Anas gibberifrons albogularis)
  • 140 Burmese Shikra (Accipiter badius poliopsis)
  • 148 Indian Sparrow-hawk (Accipiter nisus melaschistos)
  • 180,183 Indian Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus fulvescens)
  • 181 Himalayan Griffon Vulture (Gyps himalayensis)
  • 200 Andaman Pale Serpent Eagle (Spilornis cheela davisoni)
  • 201 Nicobar Crested Serpent Eagle (Spilornis cheela minimus) (=Spilornis minimus)
  • 235 Northern Chukor (Alectoris chukar pallescens)
  • 239 Assam Black Partridge (Francolinus francolinus melanonotus)
  • 263 Northern Painted Bush Quail (Perdicula erythrorhyncha blewitti)
  • 265 Manipur Bush Quail (Perdicula manipurensis manipurensis)
  • 273 Redbreasted Hill Partridge (Arborophila mandellii)
  • 308 Mrs. Hume's Barredback Pheasant (Syrmaticus humiae humiae)
  • 330 Andaman Bluebreasted Banded Rail (Rallus striatus obscurior)(= Gallirallus striatus)
  • 466 Roseate Tern (Sterna dougalli korustes)
  • 476 Blackshafted Ternlet (Sterna saundersi) (=Sterna albifrons)
  • 516 Blue Rock Pigeon (Columba livia neglecta)
  • 525 Andaman Wood Pigeon (Columba palumboides)
  • 555 Andaman Redcheeked Parakeet (Psittacula longicauda tytleri)
  • 563 Eastern Slatyheaded Parakeet (Psittacula finschii)
  • 601 Bangladesh Crow-pheasant (Centropus sinensis intermedius)
  • 607 Andaman Barn Owl (Tyto alba deroepstorffi)
  • 610 Ceylon Bay Owl (Phodilus badius assimilis)
  • 611 Western Spotted Scops Owl (Otus spilocephalus huttoni)
  • 613 Andaman Scops Owl (Otus balli)
  • 614 Pallid Scops Owl (Otus brucei)
  • 618b Nicobar Scops Owl (Otus scops nicobaricus) (=Otus alius)
  • 619 Punjab Collared Scops Owl (Otus bakkamoena plumipes)
  • 626a Himalayan Horned or Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo hemachalana)
  • 643 Burmese Brown Hawk-owl (Ninox scutulata burmanica)
  • 645 Hume's Brown Hawk-owl (Ninox scutulata obscura)
  • 653 Forest Spotted Owlet (Athene blewitti) (=Heteroglaux blewitti)
  • 654 Hume's Owl (Strix butleri)
  • 669 Bourdillon's or Kerala Great Eared Nightjar (Eurostopodus macrotis bourdilloni)
  • 673 Hume's European Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus unwini)
  • 679 Andaman Longtailed Nightjar (Caprimulgus macrurus andamanicus)
  • 684 Hume's Swiftlet (Collocalia brevirostris innominata)
  • 684a Black-nest Swiftlet (Collocalia maxima maxima)
  • 686 Andaman Greyrumped or White-nest Swiftlet (Collocalia fuciphaga inexpectata)
  • 691 Brown-throated Spinetail Swift (Chaetura gigantea indica)
  • 732 Nicobar Storkbilled Kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis intermedia)
  • 738 Andaman Whitebreasted Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis saturatior)
  • 773 Narcondam Hornbill (Rhyticeros undulatus narcondami)
  • 793 Pakistan Orangerumped Honeyguide (Indicator xanthonotus radcliffi)
  • 841 Manipur Crimsonbreasted Pied Woodpecker (Picoides cathpharius pyrrhothorax)
  • 887 Karakoram or Hume's Short-toed Lark (Calandrella acutirostris acutirostris)
  • 889 Indus Sand Lark (Calandrella raytal adamsi)
  • 898 Baluchistan Crested Lark (Galerida cristata magna)
  • 915 Pale Crag Martin (Hirundo obsoleta pallida)
  • 974 Large Andaman Drongo (Dicrurus andamanensis dicruriformis)
  • 986 Andaman Glossy Stare (Aplonis panayensis tytleri)
  • 998 Hume's or Afghan Starling (Sturnus vulgaris nobilior)
  • 1000 Sind Starling (Sturnus vulgaris minor)
  • 1041 Hume's Ground Chough (Podoces humilis)
  • 1113 Andaman Blackheaded Bulbul (Pycnonotus atriceps fuscoflavescens)
  • 1165 Mishmi Brown Babbler (Pellorneum albiventre ignotum)
  • 1172 Mount Abu Scimitar Babbler (Pomatorhinus schisticeps obscurus)
  • 1190 Manipur Longbilled Scimitar Babbler (Pomatorhinus ochraceiceps austeni)
  • 1225 Kerala Blackheaded Babbler (Rhopocichla atriceps bourdilloni)
  • 1234 Hume's Babbler (Chrysomma altirostre griseogularis)
  • 1289 Western Variegated Laughing Thrush (Garrulax variegatus similis)
  • 1301 Khasi Hills Greysided Laughing Thrush (Garrulax caerulatus subcaerulatus)
  • 1330 Manipur Redheaded Laughing Thrush (Garrulax erythrocephalus erythrolaema)
  • 1363 Sikkim Whitebrowed Yuhina (Yuhina castaniceps rufigenis)
  • 1389 Bombay Quaker Babbler (Alcippe poioicephala brucei)
  • 1424 Eastern Slaty Blue Flycatcher (Muscicapa leucomelanura minuta)
  • 1434 Whitetailed Blue Flycatcher (Muscicapa concreta cyanea)
  • 1453 Eastern Whitebrowed Fantail Flycatcher (Rhipidura aureola burmanica)
  • 1484 Hume's Bush Warbler (Cettia acanthizoides brunnescens)
  • 1510 Northwestern Plain Wren-Warbler (Prinia subflava terricolor)
  • 1520 Northwestern Jungle Wren-Warbler (Prinia sylvatica insignia)
  • 1526 Sind Brown Hill Warbler (Prinia criniger striatula)
  • 1540 Blacknecked Tailor Bird (Orthotomus atrogularis nitidus)
  • 1569 Small Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca minula)
  • 1570 Hume's Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca althaea)
  • 1577 Plain Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus neglectus)
  • 1664 Andaman Magpie-Robin (Copsychus saularis andamanensis)
  • 1707 Redtailed Chat (Oenanthe xanthoprymna kingi)
  • 1714 Hume's Chat (Oenanthe alboniger)
  • 1730 Burmese Whistling Thrush (Myiophonus caeruleus eugenei)
  • 1820 Manipur Redheaded Tit (Aegithalos concinnus manipurensis)
  • 1850 Manipur Tree Creeper (Certhia manipurensis)
  • 1903 Andaman Flowerpecker (Dicaeum concolor virescens)
  • 1913 Andaman Olivebacked Sunbird (Nectarinia jugularis andamanica)
  • 1918 Assam Purple Sunbird (Nectarinia asiatica intermedia)
  • 1129a Nicobar Yellowbacked Sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja nicobarica)
  • 1955 Blanford's Snow Finch (Montifringilla blanfordi blanfordi)
  • 1960 Finn's Baya (Ploceus megarhynchus megarhynchus)
  • 1970 Nicobar Whitebacked Munia (Lonchura striata semistriata)
  • 1971-2 Jerdon's Rufousbellied Munia (Lonchura kelaarti jerdoni)
  • 1993 Tibetan Siskin (Carduelis thibetana)
  • 1995 Stoliczka's Twite (Acanthis flavirostris montanella)
William Ruxton Davison, Curator of Hume's personal bird collection
An additional species, the Large-billed Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus orinus was known from just one specimen collected by him in 1869. The status of the species was contested for long and DNA comparisons with similar species in 2002 suggested that it was a valid species. It was only in 2006 that the species was seen again in Thailand.

Hume made several expeditions solely to study ornithology and in March 1873 he made one to the Andaman, Nicobar and other islands in the Bay of Bengal along with geologists Dr. Ferdinand Stoliczka and Dr. Dougall of the Geological Survey of India and James Wood-Mason of the Indian Museum in Calcutta.

Hume employed William Ruxton Davison as a curator of his personal bird collection and also sent him out on collection trips to various parts of India, when he was held up with official responsibilities.

Stray Feathers

Cover of Stray Feathers
Hume started the quarterly journal Stray Feathers - A journal of ornithology for India and dependencies in 1872. He used the journal to publish descriptions of his new discoveries, such as Hume's Owl, Hume's Wheatear and Hume's Whitethroat. He wrote extensively on his own observation as well as critical reviews of all the ornithological works of the time and earned himself the nickname of Pope of Indian ornithology.

He reviewed a monograph on parrots, Die Papageien by Friedrich Hermann Otto Finsch noting that changes to names were being suggested which in his view were aimed to claim authority without the trouble of discovering new species. He wrote:

Hume in turn was attacked but Finsch later became a friend.

Network of correspondents

Hume built up a network of ornithologists reporting from various parts of India. More than 200 correspondents are listed in his Game Birds and this was only a fraction of the subscribers of Stray Feathers. This huge network made it possible for Hume to cover a much larger geographic region in his ornithological work.
Distribution and density of Hume's correspondents across India.

During the time of Hume, Blyth was considered the father of Indian ornithology. Hume's achievement which made use of a large network of correspondents was recognized even during his time:

Many of Hume's correspondents were eminent naturalists and sportsmen of the time.

He also corresponded with ornithologists outside India including R. Bowdler-Sharpe, the Marquis of Tweeddale, Pere David, Dresser, Benedykt Dybowski, John Henry Gurney, J.H.Gurney, Jr. ,Johann Friedrich Naumann, Severtzov, Dr. Middendorff.

My Scrap book: or rough notes on Indian Oology and ornithology (1869)

Dedication of "My Scrap Book" to Blyth and Jerdon.
This was Hume's first major work. It had 422 pages and accounts of 81 species. It was dedicated to Edward Blyth and Dr. Thomas C. Jerdon who, he wrote [had] done more for Indian Ornithology than all other modern observers put together and he described himself as their friend and pupil. He hoped that his book would form a nucleus round which future observation may crystallize and that others around the country could help him fill in many of the woeful blanks remaining in record. In the preface he notes:

Game Birds of India, Burmah and Ceylon (1879-1881)

This work was co-authored by C. H. T. Marshall. The three volume work on the game birds was made using contributions and notes from a network of 200 or more correspondents. Hume delegated the task of getting the plates made to Marshall. The chromolithographs of the birds were drawn by W. Foster, E. Neale, M. Herbert, Stanley Wilson and others and the plates were produced by F. Waller in London. Hume had sent specific notes on colours of soft parts and instructions to the artists. He was unsatisfied with many of the plates and included additional notes on the plates in the book. This book was started at the point when the government demoted Hume and only the need to finance the publication of this book prevented him from retiring from service. He retired from service on 1 January 1882 after the publication.

In the preface Hume wrote

while his co-author Marshall, wrote

Hume's comment on the illustration The plate is a cruel caricature of the species, just sufficiently like to permit of identification, but miscolored to a degree only explicable on the hypothesis of somebody's colour-blindness… Fortunately for our supporters, this is the very worst plate in the three volumes.

Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds (1883)

This was another major work by Hume and in it he covered descriptions of the nests, eggs and the breeding seasons of most Indian bird species. It makes use of notes from contributors to his journals as well as other correspondents and works of the time.

A second edition of this book was made in 1889 which was edited by Eugene Oates. This was published when he had himself given up all interest in ornithology. An event precipitated by the loss of his manuscripts through the actions of a servant.He wrote in the preface:

Eugene Oates wrote his own editorial note

This nearly marked the end of Hume's interest in ornithology. Hume's last piece of ornithological writing was done in 1891 as part of an Introduction to the Scientific Results of the Second Yarkand Mission an official publication on the contributions of Dr. Ferdinand Stoliczka, who died during the return journey on this mission. Stoliczka in a dying request had asked that Hume should edit the volume on the ornithological results.

Indian National Congress

Hume at the first session, Bombay, 28-31 December, 1885
After retiring from the civil services and towards the end of Lord Lytton's rule, Hume sensed that the people of India had got a sense of hopelessness and wanted to do something, "a sudden violent outbreak of sporadic crime, murders of obnoxious persons, robbery of bankers and looting of bazaars, acts really of lawlessness which by a due coalescence of forces might any day develop into a National Revolt." He felt that the British government had a studied and invariable disregard, if not actually contempt for the opinions and feelings of our subjects, is at the present day the leading characteristic of our government in every branch of theadministration.

There were agrarian riots in the Deccanmarker and Bombaymarker, and Hume suggested that an Indian Union would be a good safety valve and outlet for this unrest. On the 1st of March 1883 he wrote a letter to the graduates of the University of Calcutta:

His poem The Old Man's Hope published in Calcutta in 1886 also captures the sentiment:
Sons of Ind, why sit ye idle,Wait ye for some Deva's aid?Buckle to, be up and doing!Nations by themselves are made!

Are ye Serfs or are ye Freemen,Ye that grovel in the shade?In your own hands rest the issues!By themselves are nations made! ...

The idea of the Indian Union took shape and Hume initially had some support from Lord Dufferin for this, although the latter wished to have no official link to it. Dufferin's support was short-lived. It has been suggested that the idea was originally conceived in a private meeting of seventeen men after a Theosophical Convention held at Madrasmarker in December 1884. Hume took the initiative, and it was in March 1885, when the first notice was issued convening the first Indian National Union to meet at Poona the following December.

He attempted to increase the Congress base by bringing in more farmers, townspeople and Muslims between 1886 and 1887 and this created a backlash from the British, leading to backtracking by the Congress. Hume was disappointed when Congress opposed moves to raise the age of marriage for Indian girls and failed to focus on issues of poverty. In 1892, he tried to get them to act by warning of a violent agrarian revolution but this only outraged the British establishment and frightened the Congress leaders. Disappointed by the continued lack of Indian leaders willing to work for the cause of national emancipation, Hume left for Britain in 1894.

The 27th session of the Indian National Congress at Bankipur (26-28 December 1912) recorded their "profound sorrow at the death of Allan Octavian Hume, C.B., father and founder of the Congress, to whose lifelong services, rendered at rare self-sacrifice, India feels deep and lasting gratitude, and in whose death the cause of Indian progress and reform sustained irreparable loss."

South London Botanical Institute

After the loss of his manuscript containing his lifetime of ornithological notes. Hume took up a great interest in horticulture while at Shimla.
He erected large conservatories in the grounds of Rothney Castle, filled them with the choicest flowers, and engaged English gardeners to help him in the work.
From this, on returning to England, he went on to scientific botany.
But this, as Kipling says, is another story, and must be left to another pen.

In 1910 Hume bought the premises of 323 Norwood Road, and modified it to have a herbarium and library. He called this establishment the South London Botanical Institutemarker which continues to promote the study of plants to the present day. Hume objected to advertisement and refused to have any public ceremony to open the institute. Frederick Townsend, F.L.S., an eminent botanist, who died in 1905, had left instructions that his herbarium and collection was to be given to the institute, which was then only being contemplated.

The SLBI has a herbarium containing approximately 100,000 specimens mostly of flowering plants from Europe including many collected by Hume. The collection was later augmented by the addition of other herbaria over the years, and has significant collections of Rubus (bramble) species and of the Shetland flora, the latter including a major gift from the late Richard Palmer, joint author of the standard work on Shetland plants. Other resources include a very good library originally containing Hume's own books. The institute today has classroom facilities, a small botanical garden, and an ongoing programme of talks and courses. In the years leading up to the establishment of the Institute, Hume built up links with many of the leading botanists of his day. He worked with F. H. Davey and in the Flora of Cornwall (1909), Davey thanks Hume as his companion on excursions in Cornwall and Devon, and for help in the compilation of the 'Flora', publication of which was financed by Hume.

See also


  1. Sen, S N (1997) History of the Freedom Movement in India (1857-1947). New Age International. 3E. ISBN 8122410499 Page preview
  2. Ali, S. (1979) Bird study in India:Its history and its importance. Azad Memorial lecture for 1978. Indian Council for Cultural Relations. New Delhi.
  3. According to the Dictionary of National Biography however Encyclopaedia Britannica [1] gives his birthplace as Montrose, Forfarshire
  4. Wedderburn (1913):3
  5. Wedderburn (1913):11-12
  6. Moulton, Edward C. 2004. ‘Hume, Allan Octavian (1829–1912)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 6 Sept 2007
  7. Moulton, Edward (2003) 'The Contributions of Allan O. Hume to the Scientific Advancement of Indian Ornithology' in Petronia: Fifty Years of Post-Independence Ornithology in India, ed. J. C. Daniel and G. W. Ugra. Bombay Natural History Society - New Delhi: Oxford University Press, New Delhi. Pages 295-317.
  8. Wallach, Bret (1996) Losing Asia: Modernization and the Culture of Development. The Johns Hopkins Press. (Chapter 5 PDF)
  9. Hume, AO (1879) Agricultural Reform in India. W H Allen and Co., London
  10. Wedderburn (1913):35-38
  11. Stamp commemorating Hume - Indian Postal Department
  12. Bevir, Mark (2003) Theosophy and the Origins of the Indian National Congress. International Journal of Hindu Studies 7(1-3):99-115
  13. Hanes III, W. Travis (1993) On the Origins of the Indian National Congress: A Case Study of Cross-Cultural Synthesis. Journal of World History 4(1):69-98
  14. S. Dillon Ripley (1961) A Synopsis of the Birds of India and Pakistan. Bombay Natural History Society.
  15. Hume, A. 1869. Ibis 2 (5): 355–357 (no title).
  16. Bensch, S and D. Pearson (2002) The Large-billed Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orinus revisited. Ibis (2002), 144:259–267 PDF Nucleotide sequence
  17. Hume, A.O. (1874). Viscount Walden, president of the Zoological Society, on the editor of “Stray Feathers”. Stray Feathers 2: 533-535.
  18. Bruce, Murray (2003) A brief history of classifying birds. Foreword to volume 8 of The Handbook of the Birds of the World Volume 8. Lynx Edicions. pp. 1-43 text
  19. Shyamal, L. 2007. Opinion: Taking Indian ornithology into the Information Age. Indian Birds 3(4):122-137
  20. Warr, F. E. 1996. Manuscripts and Drawings in the ornithology and Rothschild libraries of The Natural History Museum at Tring. BOC.
  21. Hume, AO (1896) My scrap book: or rough notes on Indian zoology and ornithology. Baptist Mission Press, Calcutta.
  22. Hume to Northbrook, 1 August 1872, Northbrook Papers, cited in Mehrotra 2005
  23. Sitaramayya, B. Pattabhi. 1935. The History of the Indian National Congress. Working Committee of the Congress. Scanned version
  24. Cited in Mehrotra 2005:75
  25. Martin Jr., Briton (1967) Lord Dufferin and the Indian National Congress, 1885-1888. The Journal of British Studies 7(1):68-96
  26. Wedderburn (1913):176
  27. Wedderburn (1913):43, quoting CHT Marshall
  28. Wedderburn (1913):118-121

Further reading

  • Bruce, Duncan A. (2000) The Scottish 100: Portraits of History's Most Influential Scots, Carroll & Graf Publishers.
  • Buck, E. J. (1904) Simla, Past and Present. Thacker & Spink, Calcutta, 1904. excerpt
  • Mearns and Mearns (1988) Biographies for Birdwatchers. Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-487422-3
  • Mehrotra, S. R. (2005) Towards India's Freedom and Partition, Rupa & Co., New Delhi.
  • Moxham, Roy (2002) The Great Hedge of India. ISBN 0-7567-8755-6
  • Wedderburn, W. (1913) Allan Octavian Hume. C.B. Father of the Indian National Congress. T.F. Unwin. London. Scanned book

External links

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