The Letters of Sir Fulque Agnew of Lochnaw Bt - Section A
WITNESS TO THE PARTITION:
INTRODUCTION AND LAST DAYS OF THE RAJ
WITNESS TO THE PARTITION
INDIA AND PAKISTAN 1947-48
THE LETTERS OF
SIR FULQUE AGNEW OF LOCHNAW Bt
Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw Bt
University of Edinburgh
Centre for South Asian Studies
© Ged Martin (editorial comment)
© Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw Bt (foreword and text)
All rights reserved. No reproduction, copy or transmission of this publication may be made without written permission.
Published 2001 by
University of Edinburgh
Centre for South Asian Studies
18 Buccleuch Place
Edinburgh EH8 9LN
ISBN 1 900 795 18 3
A cataloguing record for this publication is available from the British Library.
This project was commissioned by Swanzie, Lady Agnew of Lochnaw (1916-2000), Foundation Professor of Geography at the University of Malawi, in memory of her husband, Fulque Melville Gerard Noel Agnew (1900-1975) Tenth Baronet of Lochnaw.
The editor wishes to thank Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw Bt for supporting this publication, and for contributing the Foreword.
Thanks are also due to the Centre for South Asian Studies of the University of Edinburgh, especially to Dr Crispin Bates and Professor Roger Jeffery. Special thanks are owed to Dr Bates for his advice on the history of India and Pakistan.
Ann Barry and Grace Owens helped in the production.
The original letters are deposited in the Scottish Record Office
(Lochnaw Papers, GD 154).
To me my father was always a remote "Richard Hannay" type figure - he ran away from school to fight in the First World War; he flew with the Royal Flying Corps and fought the Red Baron; tried to sail round the world and sank off California; joined the United States Cavalry; drove a chariot in Ben Hur, spent time at Heidelberg University during the Nazi regime; canoed down the Danube, spied in the Balkans and met with Gandhi in India.
My father was a prolific letter writer to my mother. My mother preserved his correspondence including letters from Heidelberg, together with the letters he wrote from India during the partition. Ultimately our family removed to South Africa and academic life at Fort Hare University. My parents were engaged in anti-apartheid activities; were sacked and asked to leave South Africa.
My mother, who ended her academic career as Professor of Geography at the University of Malawi, was determined to have some of my father's correspondence published. She was extremely grateful to Professor Ged Martin for agreeing to undertake this project in relation to the letters from India. Sadly my mother did not live to see their publication. I hope that these letters, which Professor Martin has edited so sensitively, will add something to our understanding of the Indian sub-continent at the time of partition.
18 June 2001
For thirteen months in 1947-48, Sir Fulque Agnew travelled the Indian sub-continent seeking a role in the newly independent dominions of India and Pakistan. This edition of his letters primarily chronicles his search for a job, an episode known in his family as "The Quest That Failed". It was a quest that brought him into contact with the new political leadership of the sub-continent, and his letters are valuable as descriptions of the last days of the Raj and the crisis of Partition that followed. They are also a memorial to the writer himself, a complex man who explored his own contradictions through his correspondence with his wife, Swanzie, Lady Agnew, who had remained behind in Britain. As with all writings that are partly autobiographical, we cannot fully understand the letters without knowing something of their author. Yet the relationship between writer and text is symbiotic and to some extent circular, for much of our evidence for the person must be derived from the evidence that he chose to reveal in these documents.
His editor must first decide how to refer to the subject himself. The son of an army officer, Fulque Melville Gerard Noel Agnew was born on 9 October 1900.1 In 1928, on the death of an uncle, he became Sir Fulque Agnew of Lochnaw Bt, the tenth holder of a baronetcy created in 1629, the latest heir of what he himself called "a six-hundred year dynasty". He was ambiguous in his attitude to the system that produced such gradations. Much of his adult life, including his visit to India, was spent attempting to escape from its constraint. According to Debrett's, he did not use his title. Yet he was quite prepared to capitalise on it to secure the last sleeping berth in an overnight train if he felt some personal mission justified a little genteel queue-jumping. In a far more deferential age, he can hardly be blamed for occasionally cashing in on the benefits of a status that he found irksome. His own ambiguity complicates editorial reference to him. Historians risk demeaning their subjects if they refer to them by surname, or of patronising them by the intrusive use of a forename. The writer of these letters was proud that Gandhi addressed him as "Fulque", the name by which he was of course known within his family. Here he is referred to as "Agnew", not least because it was a usage with which he was familiar and comfortable himself. It took the excitement of sharing a forced proximity with an English couple of a week-long panther shoot before all three could bring themselves to use first names.
In an answer to a question from a fellow traveller on a train journey, Agnew described himself as "a landowner in Scotland", adding that "my Estate was occupied by the Government and that I had taken the opportunity to visit India". In fact, this was something of a simplification of his identity and status. Although he had inherited the baronetcy in his late twenties, Agnew never had enjoyed full control over Lochnaw Castle, the Wigtonshire estate where his forebears had lived since the fifteenth century. As with many upper-class Scots, by Victorian times, the Agnews were not simply Scots but North British: like his uncle and grandfather before him, Agnew was sent to Harrow, an English public school, where he was entered in the academically undemanding class of youngsters destined for the Army. There was a military and imperial tradition in the Agnew family: the eighth baronet served in Canada at the time of the rebellions of 1837-38. His father was an officer in the Fourth Hussars, a fashionable regiment in which the young Winston Churchill had recently acquired his military experience. Agnew's father had taken part in the Burma campaign of 1885-86 and, as it happens, Fulque Agnew himself was born in India. He retained no memories of the country when he returned in 1947 since his father's regiment had been ordered to South Africa shortly afterwards. Ironically, for a man who could trace his ancestry over five hundred years, there was some speculation at the time of Independence that his Indian birth might cost Agnew his British nationality. It is noteworthy that Agnew should have called himself "a landowner in Scotland" rather than "a Scot". Most of his childhood was spent in the south of England. In Lucknow on the eve of Independence, Agnew ran across a senior British officer whom he had not seen since they had been childhood friends, another Army child, at Chobham in Surrey. In his letters from India, he associated himself with wider collective labels such as "Europeans" or "Westerners".
Given that, from birth, he was the heir presumptive to one of the oldest estates in Scotland, it may seem strange that Agnew's identification with ancestral turf was not stronger. From New Delhi in 1947, he mused over a comment in a letter from his wife that "I never appreciated the wonderful heritage that was mine". "I was not brought up at Lochnaw as were my father's family and his father's, therefore I never absorbed or grew to love all it embodied." He had often visited the Castle as a child, but always felt more at ease at his aunt's house in Perthshire than at the property that would one day be his. Perhaps - but it was something on which he seems not to have dwelt even in his private letters - his visits to Lochnaw were overshadowed by the fact that his parents had divorced not long after his birth. Marital breakdown was vastly more scandalous at the start of the twentieth century than it had become by its close. It may be that deep down Sir Noel Agnew and his wife could not relate to the boy born of a union that had failed when their own marriage had failed to produce an heir to the centuries-old senior line. Whatever the reason, the young Fulque Agnew dreamed of a larger stage than Scotland. He would follow his father and grandfather into the Army, and carve out a worldwide career as an officer in one of the crack regiments. The First World War seemed to offer the first step on the ladder.
Instead, the War produced the first and in many respects the most transcendent crisis in his life. In 1917, still sixteen years of age and technically too young to serve, he simply refused to return to Harrow at the end of the school holidays and joined the elite Machine Gun Corps. It was characteristic of his sense of adventure that in the last year of the conflict, he switched to the newly formed Royal Air Force. Nor, sadly, was it unusual that his plane should have crashed. His navigator was killed; Agnew himself was so severely injured that he needed months in hospital to recover. In the decades ahead he often drove himself to the physical limit as if to test his own success in overcoming his injuries. But in a larger, psychological sense, like so many veterans of the First World War, his wounds never healed. The bitterest blow was that the combination of ill health and post-war retrenchment cost him his hoped-for Army career, nor did he possess the private income still necessary to support an officer lifestyle in a crack regiment. Agnew responded explosively, ostensibly rejecting the background and values that had shaped his own destiny.
In one of his Indian letters, Agnew wrote "I will find relaxation in action". It was a comment that summed up his restless wanderings of the inter-war years. He did not marry until he was thirty-seven. His bride, who was fifteen years younger, could never fully disentangle the adventures of his early manhood. He enlisted as a Trooper in a cavalry regiment, fine-honing his horsemanship and serving in Ireland during the Troubles. Then, he joined a round-the-world expedition, as crewman on an elderly merchant vessel. The ship struggled as far as the Pacific Ocean before sinking off the coast of California. Agnew managed to save his life, but virtually nothing else. Destitute, he signed on as a stoker on a cargo boat sailing between the US west coast and South America. Later, he joined the United States Army, which eked out its peacetime resources by providing extras for Hollywood movies: Agnew appeared as a charioteer in Ben Hur. When he took a literacy test, the Americans were amused that their new recruit did not know that the alphabet ended with the letter "zee", but they made him a sergeant in the Cavalry and sent him to China as part of a US intervention force. In a strange way, Agnew's life seemed to be a reverse parallel of the career of T.E. Lawrence, for whom the overseas adventure of the Desert campaign was followed by an incognito post-war enrolment in the RAF in Britain.
However, the odyssey was cut short by the death of Sir Noel Agnew in 1928. The family called Sir Fulque Agnew back to Britain, but his accession to the title was not to be accompanied by control over the estate. Alarmed by his nephew's outspoken and wayward views, Sir Noel Agnew had placed the estate in the hands of trustees. Moreover, his widow retained a life interest in the estate. Early in her marriage, the Dowager Lady Agnew had sat for a celebrated portrait by John Singer Sargent, and she continued to live in the comfortable and hospitable style of the Victorian era, as indeed contemporary opinion would have expected of her. It was only after her death that the full extent of Lochnaw's problems became apparent. Sir Fulque Agnew, who had suspected all along that the estate was "a pure White Elephant", now felt - perhaps a little inconsistently - that he was scurvily treated by narrow-minded and parsimonious trustees.
In 1933, Agnew enrolled in a course in botany at Edinburgh University, taking advantage of the Scottish academic tradition that welcomed "non-graduating" students. He was hoping to join an expedition which the local Botanical Gardens planned to send to the Highlands of Abyssinia. There he met a fellow-student, Swanzie Erskine, who came from a background that had maintained an even longer-range contact with Scotland.2 The Erskines were among the elite of South African settlers: her father was British consul in Addis Ababa and, as it happened, an enthusiastic botanist who sent rare species to Kew Gardens. A courtship began and the couple were married in 1937. Agnew spent most of the four years after they first met travelling with a close friend, Godfrey Barrass, in Germany and the Balkans. In later life, Lady Agnew concluded that their long-range romance had been to her advantage, since it enabled her to concentrate on achieving the First Class Honours degree that formed the basis of her own academic career.
During his wanderings through south-eastern Europe, Agnew seems to have taken a general interest in subsistence farming, no doubt looking for tips that might one day be harnessed to the management of his moorland estate. It was on the basis of this experience that he was to present himself as an agricultural expert in India in 1947. In fact, his only formal experience of working on the land seems to have been a spell as a trainee pig farmer, which was hardly relevant to his hopes of working in Muslim India.
There can be no doubt that Agnew detested the totalitarianism and racism of Hitler's regime: in 1959, the Agnews were to be expelled from South Africa for their stand against apartheid. Rather his years in Germany were devoted to exorcising the horrors of the Western Front. He immersed himself in German culture and made friends with ordinary Germans just like those who had once been in his gunsights. When the Second World War broke out in 1939, Agnew became a pacifist and secured exemption from military service after appearing before a tribunal in Edinburgh. Husband and wife never discussed the matter. Some of Agnew's contemporaries concluded that he had been engaged in secret work during his European travels and had been refused permission to rejoin the Army as a result.
In October 1939, he enrolled at Edinburgh University this time in a degree course, taking courses in Physics, Chemistry, Zoology and Psychology. In the pressured circumstances of wartime, few students completed the standard requirements for degrees: Agnew was to be awarded a BSc in 1946 under special regulations that took account of war service.3 In his case, this was with the Friends' Service Unit in the eastern Mediterranean and Egypt, where he gained valuable experience but at some cost to his health.
In the bleak post-war world, more and more pointers seemed to be steering the Agnews towards a life overseas. Moreover. the birth of a son in 1944 galvanised Sir Fulque Agnew's determination to secure his family's future by re-creating a family patrimony under a different sky. Lochnaw, it was increasingly clear, was unlikely to form part of the scheme. The estate was requisitioned by the Air Ministry - and it can be safely said that no property ever benefited from being taken over by government for war service. The Agnews considered various business schemes for Lochnaw, but Britain in the Age of Austerity did not offer a promising environment for potential entrepreneurs, especially those who lacked commercial experience. Even the trustees had come to the conclusion that the estate had to be sold.
By 1946, the question was not so much whether to emigrate, but where to go. Swanzie Agnew retained her family connections in South Africa: they were to settle in Natal after her husband's unsuccessful foray to India. Her subject, geography, was an academic growth area and the prestigious Geography Department at Edinburgh was in the process of spawning offshoots at several Canadian universities. In the winter of 1946-47, Lady Agnew accepted a visiting post at McMaster University in Ontario partly with the intention of checking out Canada as a possible land of opportunity. The Agnews also considered settling in southern Ireland ("Eire" as it was called in those days). Given the range of choice, Agnew's decision to seek a new life on the Indian sub-continent seems to require some explanation.
In a larger sense, the choice of India was entirely explicable. For two hundred years, Scotland's landed and professional classes had relied upon the distant "corn-chest" as an outlet for needy ambition. Agnew's father had served in India; an uncle had made his fortune as a merchant in Calcutta. True, by 1946 the British Raj was obviously coming to its end, but that only added to the attractions of working there in Agnew's complex vision. India could offer both an opportunity of service and the attraction of a comfortable way of life, a social and economic position comparable to the old values of landed privilege which he had rejected but in the through-the-looking glass world of post-imperial self-government. Agnew was too serious a personality to engage in word-play, but it is possible to discern an underlying logic that can explain how, on the eve of Indian Independence, the laird of Lochnaw was to be found seeking a job in Lucknow.
In 1946, as the India venture formed in Agnew's mind, few could foresee just how rapid would be the pace of change in the sub-continent, how catastrophic its immediate aftermath and how total the eclipse of the British. For instance, the publicly announced target date for transfer of power was two years ahead, in June 1948. The time-scale, although brief enough, implied an orderly transition, in which the Colonel Blimps of the Raj might be replaced in advisory positions by committed idealists like himself. Nor was it clear to whom power would be transferred. In the aftermath of the Partition, angry nationalists from the Indian Congress movement alleged that the British had connived in the creation of a Muslim state in classic "divide and rule" fashion. In wartime, the British had indeed covertly supported the Muslim League against a make-weight against the majority Congress Party, which had opposed Indian involvement in the war against Germany. By 1946, however, the charge was less than fair. If anything, British policy represented a desperate attempt at "unite and steer", hoping to bequeath the inheritance of a declining Raj to a ramshackle structure that would accommodate centrifugal pressures at a price of relative impotence in the resulting central authority. The starting point for the three-man Cabinet Mission of 1946 was the Government of India Act of 1935, which had sought to establish a limited and decentralised form of self-government at provincial level. The outbreak of war in 1939 had put an end to Congress co-operation in this limited constitutional advance. Consequently there had been no progress towards the vague aspiration of an all-India federation that would include Hindus, Muslims and the 535 Princely States that formed a patchwork across and within the conquered territories of British India. In 1946 the Indian princes were still regarded as major political figures, not to mention treaty allies to whom the Raj owed obligations. The Cabinet Plan proposed to slot the princes into a three-tier scheme of government. Events in the turbulent months that followed Independence were to sweep the Princely States aside: some were no larger than Lochnaw, but even mighty Hyderabad, almost three times the area of Scotland, proved in the end to be little more than a minor obstacle. The real threat to the Cabinet Plan came from the Muslim League and its insistence upon "Pakistan", the inverted commas denoting the vagueness of the demand.4
Neither the extent nor the precise status of Pakistan had been clearly defined, not least because lack of definition suited M.A. Jinnah, the aloof and, as many believed, cunning leader of the Muslim League. The League coveted two large blocks of territory, one in the north-east of India and the other in the north-west. By no stretch of the imagination could such wide swathes be regarded as purely Muslim in population. The problem of definition increased once more localised partition was contemplated. Two of the most important provinces of British India, Bengal and the Punjab, would have to be divided. Even then, substantial non-Muslim minorities would be included within what Jinnah contemptuously called a "moth-eaten Pakistan". Nor was it clear whether Pakistan, in whatever form it might take, would exist within an all-India structure or alongside it. Extremists, of course, demanded complete independence and full equality with "Hindustan", while the secular ideology of Congress, on the other hand, found difficulty in adapting structures of government to a community defined by religion. At one point in the spring of 1946, Jinnah accepted a federal solution, and in September of that year he joined an Interim Government headed by Nehru. In retrospect, his decision seemed simply a tactical ploy - although some would argue that it was Congress intransigence that destroyed the possibility of compromise. However, at the time, it offered the hope that the demand for Pakistan might be met without full Partition.
Thus the political aspect of India late in 1946, as it presumably appeared to an alert observer like Agnew, managed to disguise the seismic changes that would soon follow. First, because the demand for Pakistan was based on the assumption that Hindus and Muslims could not co-exist, any form of Partition was likely to be accompanied by communal violence. "Pakistan would mean a massacre", an apprehensive Muslim politician had warned the British official, Penderel Moon.5 If confirmation were needed, an outbreak of killing had swept Calcutta in August 1946. Agnew cared deeply about his wife and son. It is out of the question that he would have contemplated taking them to a sub-continent that was to be drenched in blood. An even more striking biographical detail confirms the extent to which he was unable to foresee the tragedy that would follow Independence. In Egypt, Agnew had been diagnosed as diabetic. Properly managed, his condition does not seem to have been serious: at least, in his typically energetic fashion, Agnew did not behave as if his diabetes presented a major threat. He simply did not contemplate a breakdown in normal life that would disrupt the supply of insulin.
The multi-layered federal India envisaged in 1946 was also designed to minimise the shock of Independence for the Princely States. They would be encouraged, actively if necessary, to transfer from their existing arm's-length relationship with the British to a new all-India structure which would be flexible enough to preserve a large measure of local autonomy. Since few chose to contemplate the consequences of full Partition, hardly anyone could have foreseen that the creation of two centralised governments would swiftly entail the sweeping away of the Princely States in all but name. In 1946, it was by no means unreasonable to assume a continuing role for expatriate advisers acting as intermediaries between the old India and the new.
Agnew continued to believe that if he had arrived in India earlier, he might have found secure employment. In retrospect, this seems unlikely. What is true is that the decision for Partition, reached on 2 June 1947, a month after Agnew reached Bombay, effectively closed the long-term job market in the Princely States. Indeed, he soon found himself unwelcome even as a visitor, since Nawabs and Rajas realised that the mere presence of a distinguished Westerner might signal to India's new rulers an inconvenient desire for autonomy. Partition, however, appeared to offer some compensatory encouragement. The new India would inherit the administrative structures of the Raj; the dominion of Pakistan would be forced to build from scratch. Although he was both entirely sincere and impressively accurate in claiming to rise above all parties and divisions on the sub-continent, Agnew was typical of the British elite in evidently finding himself more at home with Muslims than with Hindus. Muslims formed an aristocracy of a familiar kind - most Princely States were ruled by the descendants of conquerors - and their intellectual world managed to be simultaneously exotic and broadly comprehensible. Agnew was a distinctly secular personality who found the religious discipline of Ramadan awesome to witness, but his letters confirm that he was fully aware of the bleak constraints of Sunday in Presbyterian Edinburgh. (His great-grandfather, Sir Andrew Agnew, the seventh baronet, had led a parliamentary campaign a century earlier to outlaw all work on the sabbath.) Unfortunately, Pakistan did not offer the hoped-for alternative. In the hectic weeks from early June to mid-August 1947, Pakistan's government-in-waiting existed in too sketchy a form to be able to offer jobs at the level of Agnew's qualifications and experience. For the rest of 1947, it was almost impossible to travel between the two new states. When Agnew eventually managed to reach Lahore early in 1948, his health broke down, undermining his hopes altogether.
Why, then, did Agnew try his luck in India at all? His "quest" was inspired by his friend, Godfrey Barrass, who had been offered a job in Hyderabad, the largest of the Princely States, by its prime minister, Sir Mirza Ismail.6 Barrass spent a few weeks in his new post, but persuaded his employers to give him extended leave of absence in order to return to go home and marry. His bride was a German woman who would have to be extricated from occupied Europe. However, Barrass was in post for long enough to advise on future appointments in the state. "My name was mentioned as one of Godfrey's distinguished 'Cousins' who intended to visit him and spend some time in Hyderabad. This caused quite a flutter and I gather more than once the suggestion was put forward that I should accept posts where presence and other imponderables were of paramount importance." In January 1947, the two friends conjured the bride out of occupied Europe with all the panache and resourcefulness of John Buchan heroes: in the discouraging months that followed, Agnew clung on to the success of "Operation Brigitte" as an example of achievement in the face of impossible odds. But it was not his friend's marriage that delayed their departure but rather the difficulty of securing a passage to the East. The three of them reached Bombay aboard an elderly troop-ship, the Lancashire, at the end of April 1947. Throughout his sojourn in India, Agnew was convinced that he had simply arrived too late. In reality, the prospect of a lasting job in Hyderabad was probably a mirage from the start.
Hyderabad was a geographical inconvenience to all concerned. It stretched almost from coast to coast, very nearly dividing the Hindi heartland to the north from the very different Dravidian India of the south. Yet it was at the same time landlocked, which undermined its Nizam's hopes of securing dominion status in its own right. An attempt was made in 1946 to persuade the government in Lisbon to agree to the construction of a railway to the coast through the Portuguese enclave to Goa, but even this line would have crossed the Bombay Presidency. The Nizam's position was unenviable. The Muslim ruler of an overwhelmingly Hindu population, he could not reasonably have acceded to a Pakistan centred hundreds of miles to the north. (Agnew seems to have been unaware that a major left-wing uprising was already in progress among the Hindu peasants of Telengana in the rural north of Hyderabad.) None the less, the Nizam came under relentless pressure from a strict Islamic movement, Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen, which dominated court politics in this 87-percent Hindu state. Yet to accede to the Indian Union would not only spell the end of a proud history but, as the Nizam protested to the departing British, risked subordination to a Congress republic that might leave the Commonwealth and so end Hyderabad's much-valued ties to the British Crown.
If it is easy to understand the Nizam's dilemma, it is much harder to sympathise with the way in which he handled the challenge. Isolated in his great palace, "His Exalted Highness" behaved as if the outside world had a responsibility to negotiate with him, not vice-versa. Not only had he failed to appreciate the extent of change in India but - so his prime minister, Sir Mirza Ismail, complained - he was addicted to "weaving complex conspiracies" against his own advisers "and ultimately depriving them of the power he has wrested for them". As a result, a four-year term of office was the most that any of them could hope for. Ismail impressed Mountbatten's press secretary, Alan Campbell-Johnson, as a man "of moderate opinion, sober judgement and high intellect", qualities which placed him "in a somewhat isolated position" in Hyderabad politics. When Campbell-Johnson met him in mid-April, when Agnew and Barrass were still on the high seas, Ismail openly stated that "he is rapidly losing the Nizam's confidence and does not expect to be in office much longer".7 It was Sir Mirza Ismail who had invited Barrass to Hyderabad, and it was through that connection that the prospect of employment was dangled before Agnew. Neither of them could know that Sir Mirza's authority was waning.
By the time Barrass made his way back to Hyderabad, he found himself - in Agnew's expressive phrase - "nobody's pigeon". It would have suited a moderate politician like Ismail to bring in outsiders, but in the turmoil of Independence, even the Nizam's most senior European advisor found his position deeply frustrating. Walter Monckton had honed his skill in dealing with recalcitrant royalty when he had served as personal confidant of Edward VIII during the Abdication crisis. When the Conservatives returned to office in 1951, Churchill made Monckton Minister of Labour, so that his diplomatic skills could be harnessed to dealing with Britain's powerful but unimaginative trades union leaders. None the less, by November 1947, Monckton was reduced to threatening resignation to force the Nizam into serious negotiations. Even if he had found a niche in Hyderabad, Agnew, who had no experience of high politics, would not have participated in such sensitive negotiations, but he would have found his employment frustrating and almost certainly short-lived. In May 1948, under threat of military occupation, Hyderabad acceded to the Indian Union.
Some comment is needed about the letters and the letter-writer. There are twenty-six letters in the collection, a few of them entirely personal. Since Agnew tried to write at least weekly, except during the early months of 1948 when he was in hospital, it seems certain that many others went missing, especially during the trauma of the Partition when postal services were among the features of normal life subject to extreme disruption.
Family letters are rarely illuminated by editorial overdoses of literary and psychological analysis. Sir Fulque Agnew wrote to his wife for obvious reasons. These included a desire to describe his surroundings, share his experiences and provide reassurance about his safety and his prospects. Their personal and immediate quality is underlined by the almost total absence of allusion to politics. Agnew was a single-minded man, who was interested in the schemes of Mountbatten and Nehru and Jinnah primarily insofar as they related to his own hopes and plans. No doubt he took the view that long before any political comment that he could offer would reach his wife, she would have read all about events in the press. It should also be remembered that Agnew was a very private man. A casual reader may feel irritated by the saga of a titled European seeming to be so single-minded about advancing his own career in the midst of the developing tragedy of the sub-continent in 1947-48, even grumbling at the quality of hospital care that would not have been available to millions of Indians and Pakistanis in their own countries. It should be stressed that Agnew went out to India with the highest of motives, at a time when few foresaw the chaos that was to follow. It is evident that he undertook a good deal of worthwhile relief and humanitarian work, much of which could only have been achieved in the circumstances by an assertive European: these activities are mainly revealed en passant from the correspondence. He learnt with some bitterness to discount the flowery encouragements he received from local leaders, but the fact that so many were anxious to make use of his services suggests that it was not all empty flattery. If he was perhaps naïvely confident about his health, it can at least be pointed out that he neither wished nor intended to be felled first by diabetes and then by smallpox.
Agnew's letters, then, can only be fairly assessed by recognising that much was omitted. Yet it also seems fair to suggest that letter-writing gave him an opportunity to take stock of and for himself. He was a methodical man, a quality that was evidently the butt of jokes between husband and wife. When a much-travelled package of letters from home finally reached him in New Delhi, he recorded that "Fulque-like I first sorted the letters into order and then read them through and through several times." His preference for order and method, probably reinforced by his early experience of life in the armed forces, is in some contrast with the more fundamental conflict between his background and his beliefs. Family tradition reports that he treated letter-writing as a very serious exercise, sometimes locking himself away for hours to deal with correspondence. It was not easy to impose such an ordered regime in the heat of an Indian summer, although he took notes of interesting experiences for incorporation in subsequent narratives. "I find it quite impossible to escape and settle down to letter writing. In this heat it is an affair. One must find an empty room and place a table beneath a ceiling fan and even then it is only in the cool of the late evening that perspiration ceases to swamp everything one touches." It certainly took determined defiance of the Indian climate to produce the mannered descriptions of people and places that he so regularly and hopefully despatched to his wife on the other side of the world. "My clammy claws dampen the paper and the ink runs," he wrote on arrival in the heat of Bombay. "Leaning forward in my agitation perspiration drips from my noble beak." It was characteristic that his first typed sheet should conclude with the underlined command: "Please Turn Over", followed by "P.T.O." at the foot of each following page. In a later typed letter detailing his recovery from smallpox, he carefully went over his text and meticulously corrected a split infinitive. Through his correspondence, he could impose some order on the perplexing world around him. But they were something more than devices of vicarious control. Sir Fulque Agnew was undoubtedly a complex personality. Letter-writing offered one means of confronting those contradictions, and perhaps he found the process easier on paper than face-to-face.
This edition is compiled from a collection comprising twenty-four letters, twenty-two of them transcripts of Agnew's longhand correspondence made by his widow and two photocopies of the typed letters. (The original correspondence has been deposited, with appropriate restrictions upon access, at the Scottish Record Office, Edinburgh, as GD64/Lochnaw.) In her transcriptions, Lady Agnew obscured some short passages of a private nature, few enough to suggest any reason for doubting the accuracy of her transcriptions. Swanzie Agnew was herself a distinguished academic and it was her wish that her husband's letters should be published as fully as possible. Her own letters in reply have not survived. Extracts have been selected chiefly for the picture they give of life in India and Pakistan in the year of Independence. Where possible, longer passages have been chosen to give the flavour of Agnew as an observer and letter-writer but these are mingled with shorter snippets that may have some value as historical evidence. A few minor emendations have been made to the original text to eliminate typing errors and standardise proper names. Only a few well-known words specific to India occur in the correspondence. Agnew did not think it necessary to explain "chinkey" and "thunder-box", forms of lavatory, or dak bungalow, although he did explain its counterpart, "chowki" (forest hut). The meaning of one term ("gus-wus" = disgusting) particular to the Agnews is easily deduced from its context. Paragraphing and punctuation have also been regularised. Superscript letters refer to the dates of correspondence listed in the Endnotes; superscript numbers to references and identifications of people mentioned in the text. Introductory and linking comment is set in smaller type, and brief quotations from the letters in these sections are not separately referenced.
Sir Fulque Agnew enjoyed his passage to India. "The food was stodgily British and uninteresting but plentiful" - the last quality, at least, a welcome change from day-to-day life at home. The Lancashire sailed from Liverpool with about 140 passengers, mainly Europeans frozen into an artificial idyll of mild flirtation and active relaxation. (Characteristically, Agnew went out of his way to make friends with a couple from Ceylon, a Cambridge-educated musician and his wife.) "The entire crew was Indian and the stewards were excellent and willing servants." He was untroubled by his own ambiguity between social status and high principle. "By dispensing a little baksheesh there and here, I managed to lay on more and more extras for myself such as early morning tea; coffee, biscuits and sandwiches mid-morning and at night." Agnew was a mordant observer of his fellow-passengers, many of them the last vestiges of a disappearing Raj. They included "two most superior box-wallahs and their families who remained pompous and aloof", a young man going out to work for ICI in Madras who modestly claimed that "his qualifications are Imperial not Chemical" and the wife of a Colonel in the Gurkhas. "She loved the Indian soldiers but held the rest of India's teeming millions in utter contempt." Not surprisingly, the other passengers in their turn found Agnew an intriguing personality. In an era when most men were clean-shaven, he sported a beard. Two lively young sisters, "the Belles", who were sailing east to marry their fiancés, were so taken by his Biblical appearance that they daringly nicknamed him "J.C.". This embarrassed a friendly clergyman (Agnew was not always at ease with clerics) who smilingly commented, "It doesn't do for a padre to call people J.C.".
The Lancashire was a little world of great privilege. The captain allowed Agnew access to the bridge to engage in his hobby of bird-watching, and gave him free run of the chart room. "An even greater thrill to me was the Radar which was put on while we were close to land", noted the recent graduate in Physics. It worked "equally well in the dark or in fog." Officially, as a troopship, the Lancashire was barred from allowing shore-leave to passengers at any port of call. However, at Port Said where the Colonel of the Gurkhas had official documents to deliver, it was discovered "that regulations allowed him to be accompanied by an aide-de-camp and assistants". Agnew was promptly allocated the first role, and "the Belles" appointed to the second, thus enabling them to ransack the bazaars, "and spend their dowries on silk stockings, perfumes and the treasures of the East". It was all in pleasant contrast to the rationed shortages of post-war Britain.
It was characteristic of Agnew that he should have been equally intrigued by the other side of life on the Lancashire. At Malta, "400 displaced Indian seamen came aboard and disappeared into the bowels of the ship from where, poor devils, they were only allowed to emerge on to a very lower deck." A day out from Aden, Agnew came on deck early in the morning to find the sun rising over the stern. One of the Indian crew had fallen overboard, and the ship had turned back to search for him. "Of course he was never seen again." Agnew, himself a survivor of shipwreck, found it distressing "to imagine being lost in that vast expanse, to imagine the man himself unable to see anything beyond the vast expanse by which he was encircled".
Unfortunately, the man overboard was not the only cause for concern on the voyage. Brigitte Barrass was in poor health when she boarded the Lancaster, so much so that the ship's doctor recommended that she be transferred to hospital at Malta. "This threat put us all into a frightful flap." Barrass felt that he could not afford to risk his prospects; Agnew was "aghast at the prospect of being carried on to India where I should be a lone lost sheep". The three of them continued to Bombay. The patient began to rally on dry land and was able to travel on to recuperate in an official guest house at Hyderabad. For Agnew, the crisis triggered the first in a series of changes of plan. "Our original plan was that we three stick together and take whatever accommodation providence provided. But in view of changed circumstances I felt it impossible to expect to abide by that plan." A relieved Barrass eagerly accepted Agnew's offer to shift for himself at least until his friend could point him towards a job. "I feel this set-back as a great reverse because I had much hoped and wanted to get going and settled into something without long delay," he wrote in frustration. It was in character that his solution was both decisive and energetic.
An old India hand whom he had met on the voyage advised "that it would be hopeless and pointless for me to remain in Bombay where accommodation is difficult, prices are high, the hot weather and rains intolerable". Instead, why not "use the time of waiting to get a basis of Urdu or Hindi", the two languages used in Hyderabad? (In fact, although Urdu was the language used at court, the local population spoke Telugu.) Arrangements were quickly made for Agnew to enrol in an Urdu course organised by the Association of Christian Missionaries at Landour, in the hill country hundreds of miles to the north. "If this plan works out it will be a great boon because nowhere could I live more cheaply and even allowing for return fares I will save quite a lot of money. Moreover I will be introduced to India among people who know more about the country than most Europeans, furthermore the company will include not a few Indian scholars." He had "already met a number of delightful Indians. The best of them are charming, most hospitable and put themselves to endless trouble to help one, particularly to help one follow up one's interests." Once he had determined upon an active course, the sub-continent took on an optimistic hue. "I must say that every new impression of India is better than I had expected and that the host of drawbacks which I had anticipated seem as if they will be less."8 On 5 May 1947, he travelled north from Bombay on the mail train for Delhi, with onward connection to Dehra Dun. He was never to see Hyderabad.
II: THE LAST DAYS OF THE RAJ
The two-day train journey provided a fascinating introduction to India. Agnew was astonished by the size of the coupé assigned to him, "a little larger than an English first-class carriage", complete with lavatory, shower and wash-basin and with enough room to store "stacks of kit". He was met at Delhi railway station by a representative of Maiden's Hotel who arranged his transfer and "saw to it that I was not too outrageously robbed". All the same, a page "recognising me as a new arrival craved 'baksheesh'." Although this "was quite out of order", Agnew gave him the trifling sum of four annas "and thought it worthwhile when he kissed the ground before my feet". After a day in Delhi he caught the evening train to the garrison town of Dehra Dun. He was allocated "a compartment for four which was as big as a bedroom in a suburban house". The second passenger was an Indian.
"An unpleasant type of Englishman with his wife, child aged about 10, two dogs and a van load of kit appeared as other occupants. Unwilling to travel with a "native" he had another compartment found for himself, wife, child and dogs."a
Agnew found the Indian an agreeable travelling companion, especially when he offered to share his meal with a European unaccustomed to such exotic food. The train reached Dehra Dun the following morning. The next stage of the journey was a bus to Mussourie. Landour, one thousand feet higher still, was only accessible by rickshaw, and even then the last part of the journey had to be undertaken on foot.
"A bus left Dehra-Dun at about 10.30. For the first few miles the road climbed steadily a height of about 2,000 feet at the base of the range and then zig-zagged up the steep side of the fold to Mussourie which is about 6,000 feet.... You step out of the bus into chaos. ... Every now and then a score of hands clutch, a dozen voices call and there at your feet is another of your belongings. After a while you find yourself in a group apart. A rickshaw on your one side; all your kit before you being apportioned among coolies who rope and sling their shares (often as much or more than their own weight) over their backs."a
Incongruously in this world of teeming Asian humanity, Agnew's target was a house called "Buonavista", run as a pension for language students.
"Buonavista is one of the last and highest situated houses in Landour. It must stand on the summit of the loftiest ridge of the outlying Himalayan foothills. To all quarters it overlooks valleys. To the south the plain in which lies Dehra-Dun. To the north a valley separating a higher range beyond which, when it is clear, lines of snow clad peaks of 20,000 feet and more are to be seen. ... My room is a lean-to on the south side of the house. Long, narrow with the whole of the south side the windows and glass doors. A curtain divides the room from my "offices" where there is a wash-stand, lidded chinkey, thunder-box and a concrete trough in which is set up my bath. Chinkey and thunder-box are peered into every time the sweeper passes and emptied if need be."a
Landour was so high above sea-level that it proved unexpectedly cold.
"On the evening after my arrival, I found myself glad to sit in front of a blazing fire. Altogether the weather is quite a problem. I keep three outfits of clothes out ready for quick changes. When the sun shines I am too hot in sandals, cotton trousers and flimsiest bush shirt. As soon as the sky is overcast I shiver and rush to change into a flannel suit. If rain or hail follows I put on heavy tweeds and a sweater."a
Best of all, the food was good and there was plenty of it - with one exception. But even in a world of missionaries, Sir Fulque Agnew was ever resourceful.
"Every kind of food is plentiful except bread and that is strictly rationed. ... However I have arranged already for a black-market loaf to be delivered to me at Buonavista every morning..."a
As he contemplated classes in Urdu with some trepidation, his spirits began to flag.
"This set-back has been a great blow to me. But in the changed circumstances Landour is a god-send to me. I can live for about one-third the outlay I should have to make anywhere else. The language school is quite the best and knowing Urdu should be an asset and advantage."a
After a week at Landour, Agnew was ready to convey an amused picture of his surroundings.
"Landour and Mussoorie present a strange spectacle. Many aspects more like a Swiss holiday resort overwhelmed by an Oxford Group conference than anything else I can think of.9 They're literally lousy with missionaries, the majority attending language schools."b
There was something of an Anglo-American social feud among the missionaries. Agnew had no doubts about his preferences.
"Most of the British missionaries I have met here have been the best type of public school and varsity product, who indulge in physical exertion, enjoy all things in moderation and offer a good cigar and choice whisky as part of hospitality. ... The British missionaries up here disassociate themselves from the Americans and boycott their emotional forms of worship and devotion. They openly deplore such bad taste and deprecate manners which permit anybody to press their beliefs unasked. As one said to me "Americans will never realise that religious service demands more dignity than diplomatic service or [a] court of law"."b
He found the American missionaries "appalling".
"They never cease from riding waves of emotion, tub-thumping and red-hot evangelism. They keep on telling one another never to let an opportunity pass whether in street, hotel, shop, train, bus or at a casual meeting to convert the other fellow. Whenever two, three or more together behold a lovely view or are present when the haze lifts to disclose distant peaks one will call "Come on folks, let's praise God" and will lead off with some sloshy awful evangelist hymn."b
Catching up in Urdu involved some "pretty strenuous" study, but the effort seemed worthwhile.
"I am quite astounded at the efficiency and high standard achieved by the schools at Landour. ... I have caught up in grammar and conversation but find reading and writing difficult. ... In Urdu there are many sounds which are unknown in English. One has in fact to be taught to make muscular movements with tongue, lips and vocal chords that are quite different and physically very, very difficult. Then the alphabet is not easy. There are 35 consonants and 10 vowel sounds. 45 sounds in all. Each sound has 4, sometimes 5 symbols equivalent to our letters."b
Agnew was still coming to terms with his initial setback, trying to convince himself that the diversion from his plans was a positive development.
"I really am disappointed not to have been able to go on to Hyderabad at once and to have got cracking. As it is I see this as an opportunity. Otherwise I should never have achieved a sound grounding or any mastery of Urdu. Knowledge of Urdu might be useful for a job. Certainly it will improve my position. Indians really appreciate it when a foreigner takes trouble and interest to learn their language."b
He was heartened by the encouragement of an English expatriate, who insisted that "things just turn up in India" and advised him to persevere with his plans to head for Hyderabad. "In Hyderabad they're very pro-British, pro-Public-School and snobbish. You might be snapped up and do well there!" However, "Sir Mirza [Ismail] and most other Ministers of State have gone for their holidays" and "nothing can be done ... till they return."
Several letters seem to have gone astray in the weeks that followed, so no record survives of Agnew's immediate reaction to the announcement on 4 June that India was to be partitioned, and power transferred on 15 August. The surviving correspondence resumes with a letter dated 15 June 1947. It was clear that his strategy was unravelling still further. Typically, his response was to plan for renewed activity on a large scale. He remained confident of finding " a good and interesting job" and, in his first reference to the impending division of the sub-continent, promised his wife "a magnificent elephant with the finest trappings in all Pakistan and Hindustan too". It is not clear whether he mastered enough Urdu to make use of the language. In January 1948, in hospital in Pakistan, he passed the time by reading "a selection of Indian poetry - in translation of course".
"Events in India have led Sir Mirza to resign from Prime Minister of Hyderabad. Another Prime Minister has taken his place but almost all members of the State Government have resigned. None can tell how many of the old and how many of the new people will be given office. ... Not only Hyderabad but all India is in a state of flux. People are awaiting major decisions which will settle the future shape of the country. Meanwhile everybody is marking time and no decisions or appointments are being made. ... All the same I feel even more than before that opportunities will be even greater. In a month or so new orders will begin to take form and I am ready to spring. ... I shall be at Landour until about the middle of July - definitely until July 12th. On leaving Landour I intend to spend a few days at each Delhi, Agra, Aligarh, Allahabad, and possibily Benares on my way to Hyderabad."c
There was time for one adventure, a hunting trip with an English couple, Robert and Christine Weston.10
"The project arose when some villagers on the mountains complained to the Westons during one of their outings about a panther which had been killing their stock. The weather had suddenly cleared and become very warm again. The Westons thought it would be great fun to seize the Indian summer and make a trip before the monsoon which is due any day now. ... The Westons are providing ponies and most of the provisions but I have had to go down to the bazaar to buy a few more things to eat and to hire another coolie who will be needed to carry my gear. Hence the flap. The Forestry people are allowing and arranging for us to use the forest Chowkis - (rest huts) so we shall rough it with a modicum of comfort."d
His letters of 29 June and 6 July chronicle the expedition. In retrospect, it has a poignant air, almost the last episode of the British Raj in India.
"We returned on our shikar on Friday. I don't remember ever being so uncomfortable, so dirty, living in so haphazard a manner, crawling over rocky ground, but never have I enjoyed a week better than this one which I shall always recall among the uttermost satisfactions I have known. It was simply glorious and most successful. Arduous sport, two goral (mountain goat) fell to my gun for two difficult shots; a world of nature opened to me by Weston who is the best field naturalist I have known."e
"After a couple of hours we were beyond the forest and among mountains where only the northern slopes were partly covered with scrubby trees. We had a picnic lunch by the roadside and reached our destination during the afternoon. Our destination was Jalki, a tiny deserted hamlet where was the dak bungalow which we occupied. The dak bungalow as as simple as could be. ... nothing more than a barn about 20 feet square with two sleeping rooms, more like cells, opening out at each end. We had one peep into the cells and of one accord told the servants to move beds into the barn where we all slept, cooked, ate and lived. There was a large hearth in one wall. By the time we had unpacked, arranged the tables and disposed ourselves generally, the barn was quite filled, thoroughly disordered, millions upon millions of flies had been disturbed and the kettle was boiling for tea."f
After tea, the hunting party sallied forth in search of the panther. They heard its cry and set off in pursuit but their quarry eluded them, crossing into a nearby Princely State where they had no licence to hunt. After two hours of scrambling along rocky hillsides, the hunters finally saw a welcome light from their bungalow. But before they could eat, it was necessary to launch a DDT attack on the insect population.
"Dead flies and other things rained down so that we had to brush them from the tables and sweep them from the floor with a bunch of twigs before sitting down to supper."f
The exhausted hunters turned in for an early night, vowing to make a dawn start the next day. Agnew thought he had just got to sleep when Robert Weston awoke him at 3.45 a.m. He admired Christine Weston's refusal to be roused but heaved himself out of bed.
"Tea and a bowl of cornflakes instilled humanity into me. We descended the steep bouldery slope behind the bungalow into the valley whose floor lay about 1,500 feet below. The head of the valley was to our left; on our right it broadened out considerably. By the time we had almost reached the bottom it was quite light. The opposite slope was much steeper and thickly covered with scrubby trees and bushes. We made our way along the valley keeping about a couple of hundred feet above the stream and stopping every few hundred yards to search the opposite side with field glasses."f
Although the two men had little success in their dawn hunt, Agnew made a discovery of a different kind that shocked him into appreciating the harsh life of the Indian masses.
"By now the sun had risen above the peaks, game were gone to cover, it was hot and we had a hard climb before us and breakfast. ... I saw a few trees and a trickle of water coming from the rock. I asked if this was good to drink and learned this was the spring from which all our drinking water had to be fetched. The poor servants had to descend a thousand feet and carry all the water up in jars. After this we were willing to forego any for washing ourselves and to be content with one glassful to clean teeth at night."f
The hunters returned to a sumptuous if smoky meal.
"Christine had a fire going, the bungalow full of smoke for there was no chimney to the hearth, and a sumptuous breakfast ready. 9 scrambled eggs, wallops of tinned ham, rye-vita biscuits, cheese, jam and coffee."f
That evening the three dined off a wild goat that they had shot. "Nothing provided by Simpson-in-the-Strand has ever tasted better." The following day, they stalked and killed a bear. Oddly enough, some wildlife seemed oblivious of the hunting party. Massive deforestation, it seems, had yet to overtake the wilderness.
"... a Lammergeyer, a huge mountain vulture with a wing-span of 6 feet, skimmed the face of the ridge not more than a few feet from the ground. It did not see us until almost close enough to touch with a stick. When it did it zoomed quickly, raised and twisted its neck and turned its head to look at us from behind its wing. This amused us immensely."f
The triumphant Robert Weston recruited four men to carry back his bear, but it was an inconvenient trophy.
"We gave the villagers the spoils for meat and fat. Bear's grease has a hundred virtues. Life at 10,000 feet is hard and even nominal Hindus are glad to accept flesh and to forget scruples."f
Hunting in the hills was one way to pass time during "the stand-still which over-hangs the country". Another was to use his time in "this ivory tower which is a prison" to cultivate the contacts he was making in the hope of reaching those who would make the key decisions in the new dominions.
"I believe that I make a good impression on cultured Indians. ... Indians are bad at answering letters and have to be cunningly stroked and tactfully prodded. Today I have hand-written 40 pages of letters to ensure that introductions I have asked for will reach me before July 12th."e
As his decision to study Urdu rather than Hindi had already indicated, he was pinning his hopes on the Muslim community, and hoping to go direct to the leader of the Muslim League.
"I hope ... to procure an introduction and invitation to visit Mr. Jinnah in Delhi. ... I do not favour any party nor do I intend to champion one community but there are opportunities waiting in Muslim India whether it be Pakistan or an Indian State. Already appeals for service in Pakistan have appeared in the press & I am in correspondence with Mr. Liaqat Ali Khan, Secretary of the All India Muslim League.11 Wherever we may find ourselves it is a fact and a happy one that Europeans are considered above party politics and community interests."f
He still thought of India as an ideal place to raise a family. The ayahs were "quite wonderful, always gentle and never out of patience and never thinking about getting away for the evening". There was, however, a shadow over his plans that would grow larger in the months ahead.
"I hope my cable for insulin did not alarm you. The machinery by which I had arranged to be supplied has broken down. I will get it going again but it will take at least 6 weeks, as in India express action is never expected nor taken. ... On Friday I realised the situation was desperate and disbursed 20 rupees among shady nameless individuals in the bazaar. If there is any floating on the black market these blokes will get it. It was a fantastic sum to give to quite unknown people and sounds like madness but I have found even the shadiest Indians to be honest in so far as having pocketed a goodly sum they always return it if they can[not] find the goods. ... I trust you read my meaning and realised I wanted a fair supply but small enough packet to escape notice of the Customs. Indian Customs hold up drugs indefinitely."e
There was a worrying break in the correspondence until 20 July: "I have been so tired every evening", Agnew confessed. He was finding it difficult to keep up his spirits in the face of the long wait and increasing uncertainty.
"At this moment of writing I think it unlikely that I will end up in Hyderabad.... I have been unable to do anything positive here and the usual close-down over the hot weather and the complete inaction which has supervened preceding formation of two new Dominions have prevented me from moving sooner."g
He was, however, building a network of contacts in the Muslim world.
"Although I do not anticipate that they or their introductions will be much aid to a job (but one never knows) I am so pleased to have got to know Hamid Ali and Begum Hamid Ali. They are an elderly couple of one of the greatest Muslim families in India and both well-known in the intellectual world. Both are quite international and inter-communal in feeling and greatly respected and loved by everyone. When Mr. Hamid Ali and I met we both remarked that we had often passed one another in the street. He is a most distinguished figure in his embroidered shoes, white pantaloons, three-quarter length silk coat and stand-up collar, and tarboosh (which is never removed) beneath which his silver hair turns up into a roll of curls. Their hospitality is marvellous. As soon as one is seated a servant places slippers upon one's feet and removes one's shoes to be cleaned and cooled by sprinkling inside with perfumed powders. Abundant fare of most delicious European and Indian foods are offered. Begum Hamid Ali, had heard that I was interested to hear Indian music and had engaged a number of musicians to perform on different instruments which she explained to me. Their house is more circular than anything else. Outermost are three curved glass-fronted verandahs from which to choose to suit the weather. Each room opens into every neighbouring one through curtained doorways. At least one in the middle of the house opened into eight others. Every room was characteristically furnished with priceless things which they had collected. In one were mostly embroideries from Sind; in another leather work from Persia; a Chinese room displayed beautiful screens and lovely china and porcelain. I was quite enthralled by their library and greatly taken with the low carved desks he had made so as to be able to read huge Art Books while comfortably seated upon a huge cushion on the floor."g
The description is atmospheric, and captures a Muslim world that was about to face the horrors of Partition. But it is noticeable that in the same letter, Agnew described in almost equally realistic terms a Muslim household in Delhi which he had yet to see. Equally revealing is his explicit identification with a man who lived in two different worlds.
"In Delhi I have been invited and intend to stay 2 or 3 nights with a queer character called Khawaja Muhammed Shafi.12 I haven't met him yet but understand that he is a poet of some at least local distinction. His house is an old family residence in the older part of the city. Frequent all-night sessions take place in his house where young poets gather and read their songs generally in Persian. Visitors may remain to listen or retire. Those who remain squat on the floor, are helped to refreshments and sweetmeats and cry "wah-wah" at intervals to show their appreciation if not understanding. Generally just before dawn Shafi Sahib breaks up the session, sweeps his most favoured guests into Tongas, drives beyond the city and then organises a shoot. He sounds a man of two worlds and therefore after my heart. Shafi Sahib is leaving Delhi shortly to take up a position in Pakistan so may know quite a few people."g
At Landour, Agnew had met Colonel Henry Power, a boyhood friend whom he had not seen for forty years. Power had joined the Indian Army in 1915, turning down a chance to go to Oxford. He was unusual "because he has a number of outside interests and distinguished Indian friends which puts him many cuts above the average of the Indian Army".13 On learning that Agnew was about to set out to travel through northern India, Power invited him to spend a few days with him at his command, the Military Academy at Dehra Dun. The next letter in the collection was written on 10 August from Agra. Independence was just one week away.
"I very much enjoyed my visit to the Indian Military Academy at Dehra Dun and found it was quite refreshing to be among Power's and his fellow soldiers who are living in a small closed world rather like overgrown schoolboys thinking only of their cricket, riding, swimming and weekend picnics. India strikes me as a system of little closed worlds each within and yet quite remote and isolated from each other. Already many people have wondered and envied at me that I have succeeded at crossing frontiers and moving freely within several worlds."h
Both in Delhi and Agra he had "enjoyed fascinating experiences extraordinary and extremely interesting experiences as guest in Indian households".
"Indian households appear as communities which overrun everywhere and can never be escaped. Each of my hosts has been a man of letters and leader of a literary circle and from morn till night their houses have kept filled with writers and poets come to discuss, declaim and recite. I have found the visitors most interesting as they are genuine Indian intellectuals whose education has been purely Indian and whose roots and traditions are in their own land. ... When the first visitors arrive the few chairs are pushed against the wall and for the rest of the day one (which includes me) sits cross-legged on the floor. At Shafi's house in Delhi my count was scarcely less than 30 visitors. Every evening a number of Afghans arrived, some of them princes and princesses of, I suppose, long since deposed ruling houses. As more and more guests arrived more food had to be prepared and the evening meal postponed until later and later. Rarely did we assemble round the table before midnight. And such rich Mohammedan food that I wonder anybody slept. One of the Afghan princesses who unveiled in the house was quite charming to look upon. But I found it rather a shock to see her up to her wrists in grease from eating with her hands. Indians are daintier eaters and by using shreds of chappatie as ladles keep their hands moderately clean even with liquid dishes. I am learning too. It so happened that all three of my hosts were Muslims and that the fast of Ramadan reigned until last Thursday. During the fast of Ramadan no devout Mohammedan will take anything to eat or drink between sunrise and sunset. I feel that the occasion of this fast makes life in households even more disordered than usual. Shafi admitted that he had to be surrounded by friends and engrossed in discussion to keep his mind off his empty tummy. Fortunately my unbelief was tolerated and a less devout servant was detailed to serve meals to me at fairly regular intervals throughout the day. ... With the temperature well above 100 degrees, and perspiration pouring from one's body I simply do not know how the most devout can refrain from drinking. Of such is religious zeal."h
Agnew made some useful contacts in Delhi, including Liaqat Ali Khan, who was about to become first Prime Minister of Pakistan. Once again, prospects seemed boundless - but not immediate.
"In Delhi I saw Mr Liaqat Ali Khan who is chief minister in Pakistan Cabinet. He assured me that the Government of Pakistan considered it a great compliment that a man of my standing should desire to make his life and home in their country - etc - with many flowery speeches. Mr. Liaqat Ali Khan introduced me to Professor Qereshi.14 Professor Qereshi was charming, said many of the same things as Ali Khan, I think took a liking to me and insisted that I spend a night with him before I left Delhi. He assured me that Pakistan would welcome my service but feared it might be some time before his government could invite it. Q told me the intention is for a provisional government to carry on until the needs of Pakistan can be appreciated. Then for a Public Service Commission to be appointed to make recommendations. Their recommendations will be forwarded to him and he will furnish names of suitable people. In the meantime Professor Q. and his staff are collecting names & tabulating qualifications of all persons who are prepared to serve Pakistan. In other words in the ordinary course one would have to wait a year or so before any opening occurred. Obviously I must beat this gun somehow. Professor Qereshi asked if I would be so good as to go to see Mohammed Amin Khuro, Development Minister for Sind and Abdur Rab Nishtar, Cabinet Minister for Pakistan and to lay before them certain ideas I had raised with him.15 Naturally I agreed. He has written to both and I am to visit them in Karachi sometime in September. Once again I was compelled to accept delay because Pakistan only comes into being on August 15th; thereafter birth celebrations for about two weeks before the ministers will open their doors. Heaven knows how I am to afford the journey and stay-over in Karachi; but this is the first and only lead which has shown as yet."h
Within a few weeks "dear kind Shafi Sahib" had fled to a refugee camp. Professor Qereshi had also escaped but "his lovely house" was burnt down "and all his beautiful things looted". From Delhi, Agnew travelled to Agra. The city was beautiful, but job prospects were disappointing. Soon he was planning to move on to Aligarh and Allahabad.
"I find the Mogul architecture quite fascinating. And seeing the Taj Mahal at sunrise an experience I am longing to share with you. ... I have been in Agra since Tuesday (five days) and have been compelled to recognise that none of my contacts here will lead me anywhere.... Aligarh is unique. A Mohammaden town which revolves round the Muslim University which is one of the cultural centres of Islam in India. Except for distinguished guests invited by the University it seems nobody ever visits Aligarh. Indian friends who have lived there assure me that there is no hotel, pension or guest-house of any sort in the city. ... From Aligarh I go to Allahabad where I shall be the guest at the Agricultural and Rural Institute. I don't anticipate that the Institute will offer me or show me anything but I hope to make further contacts and perhaps to pick up a few ideas to add to those I am going to lay before Mr. Khuro, Development Minister of Sind. I also have an introduction to Dr. Tara Chand, Chancellor of Allahabad University, who is a fairly influential Hindu and possibly may direct me into other fields.16 A number of schemes are afoot in the United Provinces."h
The next letter was begun at Aligarh on 17 August, two days after Independence, but not posted until the 23rd at Allahabad. Agnew had quickly found why so few people visited the university town. Its tourist facilities were indeed basic, and it could only be reached by "one of the worst trains in the world".
"I took it [the train] as the only one to go direct. It left Agra at 8 pm and reached Aligarh, 50 miles away, at half-past two in the morning. I found the waiting room to be a filthy hole filled with dirty individuals sprawled sleeping over the whole floor. The lavatory was too disgusting to enter at all. I gave the attendant a rupee and he produced a broken chair on which I rested my bottom while I supported my feet on top of my luggage and so avoided most of the teeming crowds of creeping things which scurried across the floor. At 6 o'clock I drove to the Dak bungalow which I found to be a dismal building situate in a marshy field where millions upon millions of malarial mosquitoes bred. There was no shade outside and inside, even at that early hour, was like a furnace. The floor of the guest room billowed and in each hollow lay a layer of water from which mosquitoes arose. Flies descended in thousands from ceiling and walls. Both bath-tubs and thunder-box were caked with dirt of ages each after its kind."i
Agnew's first reaction was to get out of Aligarh as fast as he could. Unfortunately, given the nature of the local train service, this was not very fast at all. He decided that he might as well present the letters of introduction that he had collected. He was amused at the contrast between "the rather fine University buildings" and a collection of "thatched bazar-stalls which designated themselves University Book Shops". He was welcomed by Professor Habib who insisted "that Aligarh did not often have the honour of a visit from a distinguished foreigner".17 The Professor chided Agnew for omitting to announce his arrival in advance, thus depriving his host of the pleasure of having him met at the station. Agnew was immediately liberated from "the frightful dak-bungalow" to enjoy "marvellous hospitality and luxury" at the Habib family home.
"They come from one of the best Muslim families in India and have the natural manners and charm of any aristocracy before it becomes altogether degenerate.... The house itself is extraordinarily comfortable. It is completely surrounded by a wide balcony and several porches. The rooms are large, high-ceilinged and cool. The whole place superbly furnished in Indian style but after the western manner. By that I mean that there is ample comfortable western furniture, chairs, tables etc., and that meals are laid and served our way. It is extremely well and punctually run. Among other things a good servant makes my bed and erects my mosquito net on the verandah and places an electric fan by my bedside.
... The Habibs are Muslims but progressive and long ago put aside purdah, fasting and other outward signs. Like many progressive Muslims they are anti-Muslim League, that is to say strong supporters of Congress. Therefore I did not mention Pakistan to them. Professor Habib is the power behind the scenes in the University and also in certain Government, i.e. Congress, circles. He knows everybody who counts for anything. During my stay many Congress members paid visits and I was careful to make sure that none departed without learning my name and realising my interest in India. Professor Habib suggested on his own initiative since I liked India and your interest would find full scope here, why did I not seek an appointment and remain. He himself proposed that the Minister of Agriculture for India or the Minister for the U.P. [United Provinces] might be glad to have me as personal assistant. He contended that all Ministers have far too much work for them to attend to and find it difficult to discover confidential assistants to travel round the country and give them honest reports. He has written introducing me to both Ministers and is going to see that I receive invitations to stay with them as his esteemed friend. He has also introduced me to the Governor of the U.P. and written to the Secretary requesting that he send me an invitation to stay at the Governor's House."i
Agnew was also intrigued by the contrast between the Habibs' closest neighbours.
"There are two near neighbours. Professor Sharif with short white hair and clipped moustache who might be from Berkeley, Bristol or anywhere besides Aligarh and the Vice-Chancellor who wears a tarboosh on the back of his head, a full beard and might have stepped from the court of Akbar.18 The Vice-Chancellor never sits on a chair. Even on Independence Day at the University function, to which I was invited - where he had been ordered by Government to take the chair he only did so by token and immediately proceedings were opened he slid forward to sit cross-legged upon the floor."i
Despite his initial aversion to the place, Agnew found that on closer inspection, Aligarh proved to be both interesting and hospitable.
"I have long since lost count of the guests who have been invited to the house to meet me. Many have given "At Homes" in my honour where I have met more people. Yesterday evening I attended 3 "at homes" followed by a dinner party for about 80. In this way I have seen that a little way back from the sordid bazars are dozens and dozens of palatial residences owned by persons whose fortunes are counted in lakhs and in crores. But Begum Habib tells me that of these rich households where purdah is still insisted upon, the womenfolk live in appalling conditions and are confined to quarters she would not tolerate for her servants. Everybody has vied to overwhelm me with hospitality and kindness. The least remarks I have dropped about interest in art, rural life, agriculture, etc. have resulted in a car and official being sent to take me to this or that. Some outings have been most stimulating, particularly the excursion to Akbar's city of Fatehpur Sikri.19 Some in a way pathetic such as the visit to the University Agricultural Department's farm."i
The University Farm was a depressing sight, but one that encouraged him in his hopes of eventually finding a job in which he might contribute something worthwhile to India's development.
"The Director of the University Farm has more degrees than anyone else I have heard of. The farm itself is 60 acres, of which 30 acres are planted and reaped by a couple of aged peasants who do all the work. The remaining 30 acres are waiting to be cultivated. The director said they intended to try the effect upon those fields of ploughing with more modern iron ploughs. In fact the Government had given them an iron plough several years ago. But the plough was broken, he did not know what type of plough it was, therefore could not write to the makers asking if it could be repaired. And so the scheme would have to wait indefinitely. He showed me the plough which had been lying in the open for several years and was now quite rusted and useless. I turned the conversation towards livestock and poultry. The director said almost nothing had been done with livestock in India, therefore it was pointless to try. If you wanted livestock you could buy it in the market. But he didn't want livestock on the place because it tied you down too much. It is the kind of do-nothing inefficiency which pervades all India that makes me hopeful of being offered an appointment where it is felt that some sort of a showing must be made."i
It was not until some months later that Agnew supplied some account of his own activities at this time.
"Aligarh seemed to open a break for me. Professor Habib genuinely (I am sure) desired that I make my life and settle in India. He persuaded me that agriculture and rural development were the best fields for me to exploit. Professor Habib organised quite a campaign, He set abroad a reputation for me as a great agricultural expert and renowned authority on rural life. In India reputation counts above ability. In fact there is small call for ability where so little is expected in the way of achievement. He arranged a series of lectures which I gave in Aligarh, Allahabad and Lucknow on Rural Life in the Balkans and on Eastern European Agriculture in which my conclusions were purposely remarkable for their applicability to India. He managed that my talks were excellently reported in the Congress Press."r
Professor Habib insisted that Agnew remain in Aligarh for Independence Day. He described the event a week later.
"Independence Day was an interesting event and experience because the Habibs took me only to the most important of the celebrations which continued from midnight to midnight. The Chief Magistrate regretted that I should notice that the Indians felt no gratitude to the British for going but assured me that none felt rancour. The last event I attended was a communal dinner in the Park which was open to all creeds, castes and walks of life. But the Indian sense of fitness saw to it that our party was served in a private pavilion spread with silken covers upon which we squatted and ate our food from large leaves."i
So overwhelming was the hospitality of Aligarh that Agnew feared that he had overloaded his blood with sugar. "As a precaution I had increased my insulin considerably." He was, however, spared the same intense round of entertaining at Allahabad: Agnew tried to present his letters of introduction to the local Chief Minister, only to find that he was absent for two weeks.
"At present I am staying at the Allahabad Agricultural Institute. This is an American concern and probably the best institution of its kind in Asia. Naturally I find it most interesting and may even be picking up a few ideas which I shall be able to bring out upon suitable occasions. Nevertheless I have to recognise that I have got off the road on to a side street. The most interesting and valuable work in my view is being done by the Extension Department which is studying Indian rural life as a pattern and endeavouring to find a better life for the cultivator. But even here I see little opportunity for myself. Most members of the Extension have prepared themselves with years of training and experience. Typical of the background is that of one member who studied and practised agriculture followed by a degree in sociology, then a post-graduate course here after which he and his wife lived two years in an Indian village where they ate the same food, shared the same life and cultivated a similar plot by the same methods as the other villagers."i
By the time Agnew wrote on 4 September, he had been in Lucknow for over a week. Once again, he had been swept into a busy round of meetings and excursions. He did not reveal for some months that he had suffered a bout of dysentery during his visit.
"I have been most impressed by the spirituality and other-worldly idealism of so many of India's Ministers but I am afraid the mood will not lead to effective action."j
The problem was that idealism and vision were being forced to take second place to the immediate and terrible crisis that was engulfing the sub-continent.
"Just at present nearly all Ministers from Pakistan and Sind are abroad [i.e travelling about] trying to put a stop to terrible communal strife. Everyone I meet is shocked and dreadfully concerned about the awful strife and unbridled fury which seems to have got quite out of hand. For my part since I have been in India I have seen no disturbance of the smallest kind."j
Agnew was optimistic of finding a job in the United Provinces. He was also expecting to take up an introduction to meet the Chief Minister of Rewa, which was intended as the starting point for a tour of inspection to study agricultural methods in a number of the smaller Princely States. Again, it was not until some months later that he recounted the full extent of his disappointments.
"I ate two dinners and passed long evenings with the Minister of Rural Development (Mr. Sherwani).20 He read aloud a letter from Professor Habib and then expressed a wish that it were possible for me to associate myself with the rural development scheme. After exchange of customary courtesies I let it be understood that nothing would give me greater satisfaction. Then he explained that due to trouble in the Punjab and [the] influx of refugees into U.P. the funds that he had been promised were now to be withdrawn and the whole scheme to be given up. I expressed surprise because the papers that morning had been full of the plans for rural development. He regretted that this was just bluff. In fact the Prime Minister had written to inform him that no funds could now be allotted and that the scheme must now be abandoned. He (Sherwani) shortly would be transferred to the Ministry of Refugees. But in the meanwhile the press would exploit the rural development plans in order to buoy the people up with hopes of wonders to follow in the wake of "Freedom"."r
Nor did he have better luck with his plans to tour the Princely States.
"Unfortunately before the time came for my visits I received wires from all the Dewans postponing invitations. Just then the position of small States had shown itself to be extremely precarious and my reception might have been misinterpreted by the Indian Government which was making any excuse an occasion to swallow the States."r
In desperation, he tried to get to the Pakistan capital, Karachi, by way of Delhi. Here, too, and understandably enough, he did not admit to his wife until much later how dangerous was his situation.
ENDNOTES: THE LETTERS
a. 11 May 1947, from Landour, Mussourie, United Provinces.
b. 18 May 1947, from Landour.
c. 15 June 1947, from Landour, Mussourie, UP.
d. 22 June 1947, same.
e. 29 June 1947, same.
f. 6 July 1947, same.
g. 20 July 1947, from Mussourie.
h. 10 August 1947, from Agra.
i. 17-23 August 1947, from Aligahr, 17 August,
posted Allahabad, 23 August.
j. 4 September 1947, from Lucknow.
k. 24 September 1947, from New Delhi.
l. 12 October 1947, from 24 Akbar Road, New Delhi.
m. 3 November 1947, from 6 Aurangzeb Road, New Delhi.
n. 13 November 1947, same.
o. 22 December 1947, from Lahore,
dated "Monday before Christmas".
p. 14 January 1948, from c/o Dr J.C. Manry,
Forman Christian College, Lahore, Pakistan.
q. 18 January 1948, same.
r. 21 February 1948, same (typed).
s. 29 February 1948, from Lahore.
t. 7 March 1948, same.
u. 28 March 1948, from 6 Aurangzeb Road, New Delhi.
v. 28 April 1948, same.
1. Biographical information from Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw Bt and the late Swanzie, Lady Agnew. An obituary of Sir Fulque Agnew appeared in The Times on 10 September 1975. Short quotations from the letters cited in editorial passages are not separately footnoted.
2. Swanzie Erskine was born in the Transvaal in 1916. She graduated with First Class Honours in the MA in Geography at Edinburgh University in 1937, and married Fulque Agnew later that year. She was co-author of The Historical Geography of South Africa, published in 1963. From 1965 to 1976 she was Professor of Geography at the University of Malawi. Her unusual first name was derived from a Dutch word meaning "little swan". She died in Edinburgh on 28 September 2000.
3. Information from Peter Freshwater, Edinburgh University Library, and see the obituary notice to Agnew in University of Edinburgh Journal, 27 (1975-76), p. 237.
4. For general accounts of the Transfer of Power in India, see Percival Spear, The Oxford History of Modern India 1740-1947 (Oxford, 1965), pp. 353-389; B.N. Pandey, The Break-up of British India (London, 1969); E.W.R. Lumby, The Transfer of Power in India 1945-7 (London, 1954); R.J. Moore, Escape from Empire: The Attlee Government and the Indian Problem (Oxford, 1983); Kenneth O. Morgan, Labour in Power 1945-1951 (Oxford, 1984), pp. 218-230. The atmosphere of the time is caught in two more popular works, Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, Freedom at Midnight (London, 1975) and Michael Edwardes, The Last Years of British India (London, 1963).
5. Penderel Moon, Divide and Quit (London 1961), p. 20. For Jinnah's role, see R.J. Moore, "Jinnah and the Pakistan Demand" in Mushiral Hasan, ed., India's Partition: Process, Strategy and Mobilization (Delhi, 1993), pp. 159-195.
6. Amin-ul Mulk Sir Mirza Ismail, born in Bangalore in 1883, belonged to an earlier generation of Indian officials. He was Prime Minister of Jaipur from 1942 to 1946 and of Hyderabad in 1947-48. He opposed Partition and refused to join the Muslim League. Ismail died in 1959.
Godfrey Barrass was one of Agnew's oldest friends. The two men had served in the Army together. Barrass took a post in Hyderabad in 1946, a development that led Agnew to think of pursuing a career in India. Barrass later lived in Canada.
7. Alan Campbell-Johnson, Mission with Mountbatten (London, 1951), p. 62. V.P. Menon discussed the new Indian government's problems with Hyderabad in his The Integration of the Indian States (London, 1956), pp. 314-389.
8. The account of the voyage is taken from a lengthy typed letter which Agnew began in Bombay on 27 April 1947 and posted on 1 May. On 11 May he reported that he was "most distressed" to learn "that it is most unlikely that either of the two long letters I wrote and posted from Bombay will ever reach you". He had not been warned "that in India one must always insist on the stamps being cancelled in front of one and then the service is as reliable as anywhere in the world". If this precaution was neglected, unfranked stamps were removed and the letter destroyed. Whatever the explanation, it seems that a second letter from Bombay never reached its destination.
9. The "Oxford Group" was founded in the nineteen-twenties by an American, Frank Buchman. It had no connection with Oxford University and in 1938 adopted the formal title of Moral Rearmament. Its combination of religion and anti-Communism made many critics uneasy. Agnew's comment reflects this attitude.
10. Christine and Robert Weston, an English couple, have not been separately identified. Agnew admired Robert Weston both as a field naturalist and as an excellent shot. He was encouraged by the fact that the Westons had come to India "on spec" and found jobs at Delhi University. However, they are not among the academic staff listed in the Universities of the British Empire Yearbook for 1947 and cannot be traced in its successor volumes, the Commonwealth Universities Yearbook.
11. Mohammed Ali Jinnah was born in Karachi in 1876 although he spent much of his life practising law in Bombay. In 1913 he left the Indian National Congress to begin a political career as spokesman for India's Muslims. An aloof and inflexible figure, Jinnah was largely responsible for the creation of Pakistan through his intransigent attitude to negotiation. His stature was reflected in the title "Quaid-i-Azam" (Great Leader). He became first governor-general of Pakistan but died in 1948. Agnew subscribed to the widespread belief that he was influenced by his wife, Fabina Jinnah.
Liaqat Ali Khan was a British-educated lawyer, born in 1895, who had joined the Muslim League in 1923. He became Pakistan's first Prime Minister in 1947, but was assassinated in 1951. It is worthy of note that he encouraged Agnew in his quest for employment.
12. Hamid Ali and his wife Begum Hamid Ali have not been identified.
Sir Khawaza Muhammed Shafi was born near Lahore in 1869. He was educated at the Forman Christian College where Agnew was to spend his convalescence in 1948. Shafi later read for the Bar in England. During his time in London, he joined a debating society called the Paddington Parliament and served in its Unionist [Conservative] "cabinet". A supporter of Western education, he regarded India as an integral part of the British Empire. Agnew learnt in September 1947 that he had fled to a refugee camp during the Delhi pogroms.
13. Colonel Henry Power has not been separately identified.
14. Anwar Iqbal Qereshi was born in 1910, and educated at London University, Trinity College Dublin and Princeton. He was the author of Islam and The Theory of Interest. Professor Qereshi represented Pakistan in the technical but highly important negotiations with the British over the allocation of sterling balances, the credit India had accumulated with the Bank of England under wartime currency restrictions. He became Deputy Minister of the Interior and for refugees. His involvement in the story confirms that Agnew was taken seriously by the new leaders.
15. Mohammed Amin Khuro was born in 1901. His political career began in 1923 with a campaign, ultimately successful, to detach Sind from the Bombay Presidency. He was Development Minister for Sind when Agnew first met him, but in August 1947 became Chief Minister. He soon quarrelled with Liaqat Ali Khan and was dismissed from office in 1948. Tensions between Sind and the central government of Pakistan were a factor in Agnew's decision to abandon his search for employment. Khuro served later terms as Chief Minister of Sind in the nineteen-fifties.
Abdur Rab Khan Nishtar was one of the Muslim League representatives at the 1946 Simla Conference. He served in the Interim Government of 1946-47 and was later Governor of West Punjab.
16. Dr Tara Chand, the Vice-Chancellor of Allahabad University, was a graduate of Oxford, at which University he had also completed a doctorate. Agnew's reference to him as "Chancellor" indicates that the future Registrar of Fort Hare University College was at that time unfamiliar with academic terminology.
17. Mohammed Habib was Professor in the Department of History and Political Science. He was a graduate of Oxford and a Muslim member of the Congress Party. Born in 1895, he listed his chief recreation as detective fiction. He was obviously serious in his encouragement to Agnew. He died in 1971.
18. The westernised Professor Sharif held the Chair of Philosophy. The Vice-Chancellor was Nawah Mohammed Ismail Khan. Both Khan and Sherif were graduates of Cambridge University, but the experience had evidently affected them in different ways.
19. The Mughul Emperor Akbar had died in 1605. His purpose-built capital at Fatehpur Sikri was quickly abandoned when the water supply was found to be inadequate, leaving the model city as a perfectly preserved museum piece. Agnew's almost casual references to Akbar in family letters confirm the extent to which the British regarded their "Raj" in India as a continuation of an earlier imperial tradition. This attitude excused British rule but had complicated adjustment to Indian nationalism.
20. Niswar Ahmal Sherwani was Minister of Agriculture in the UP (United Provinces, later Uttar Pradesh). A Congress veteran, he had served a prison sentence in the nineteen-twenties for his participation in the Non Co-operation campaign. Later he became an entrepreneur in the sugar industry. It says something for Agnew's powers of presentation that he was able to impress Sherwani with his relatively slight qualifications in rural development. Sherwani remained in office until 1951 and died in 1956.