North-East Frontier of India [The]
Alexander Mackenzie, the author of the present volume, was more a seasoned administrator than a historian. The book has its genesis in his Memorandum on the North-East Frontier of Bengal which made a general survey of the political relations of the then British Government of India with the hill tribes of Assam, Cachar and Chittagong which proved extremely useful to the local administrators as well as to the Foreign
Department of the then British Indian Government.
He later developed this document into a memorable book after a close scrutiny of piles of the Government files, proceedings and records, coupled with his own notes which he had been diligently preparing and compiling. He finally published, in a book form, his painstaking research in 1884 under the title History of the Relations of the Government with the Hill Tribes of the North-East Frontier of Bengal as till then Assam and the entire North- East formed part of Bengal. From all accounts it is a unique work and its reprint under the title The North East Frontier of India, is most timely. The Prefatory Introduction written by Late Prof. B.K. Roy Burman, an anthropologist of world renown and an un disputed authority on North-East of India, adds to its importance and usefulness. In Prof. Roy Burman’s own words : “Mackenzie was a chronicler of events which were relevant from the point of view of colonial administration of the time. As one goes through the book, one feels that he has done the job competently. He has provided materials which no historian or even no ethno-historian interested in the region can afford to ignore”.
The matter in the volume, which is no doubt of great historical value, has been organised into three parts. Part I deals with Sub-Himalayan region from Bhutan to the Siang District of present day Arunachal Pradesh. In Part II & III there is a graphic account of the dealings of the then British Government of India with the tribes of the south of the Brahmaputra and Surmah Valleys and the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The conclusions and observations drawn by the author are of absorbing interest.
No doubt the present volume is an imperishable chronicle of the period under study.
Sir Alexander Mackenzie (1842-1902) was Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal. He joined Indian Civil Service in 1862; was Under-Secretary to Local Government, Bengal in 1866; Home Secretary to Government of India in 1882; helped to shape Bengal Tenancy Act of 1885; became C.S.I. in 1886 and Chief Commissioner of Central Provinces (1887-90), and of Burma (1890-95) and became K.C.S.I. in 1891. He suppressed hill tribe raids and restored order in 1892. As Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal (1895-98) he did a sanitary survey of Calcutta, enlarged powers of Bengal municipalities, co-operated with Assam in Lushai expedition of 1895-96; expedited land settlement operations in Bihar and Orissa, dealt efficiently with the famine and the plague of 1896-97. He published History of the Relations of Government with the Hill Tribes of the North-East Frontier of Bengal in 1884 (the present book). After his retirement he became Chairman of the India
Development Company. He died on
Nov. 10, 1902.
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