ORIGIN OF THE SIKH POWER IN THE PUNJAB AND POLITICAL LIFE OF MAHARAJA RANJIT SINGH, with an Account of the Religion, Laws and Customs of the Sikhs, was compiled by Henry Thoby Prinsep (1793-1878), a civil servant of the British East India Company, who later rose to be a member of the Legislative Council of India (1858-74). The book was published at Calcutta in 1834. A reprint was issued by the Languages Department, Punjab, in 1970.

         Prinsep commences his account with Yāhiyā Khān's viceroyalty of Lahore (1745-48) and carries his account down to the Ropaṛ meeting between Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh and the British Governor-General, Lord William Bentinck, in October 1831, and the British treaties with the Amīrs of Sindh in April 1832. The last chapter contains observations on the character and policy of Raṇjīt Siṅgh, his revenues, the strength of his army, etc. Also added to this volume of 150 pages, is a 20-page appendix taken from a report on Manners, Rules and Customs of the Sikhs prepared by Captain W. Murray for Lord William Bentinck.

         In the compilation of this book, Prinsep largely depends upon the accounts of Captain Murray and Captain Wade and on Khushwaqt Rāi's Persian work, Twārīkh-i-Sikhāṅ. He chooses his facts and events with care and shows great insight into the motives of the British as well as into the character, policy and personality of Raṇjīt Siṅgh. For instance, he clearly discerns the political objectives behind the seemingly commercial treaties of the British with the Amīrs of Sindh. This is what he had to say on the future of the Sikh State : "Thus the whole power and authority centres in the single individual, whom fortune and his own abilities have placed at the head of affairs; and, upon his being removed from the scene, unless there be another to fill his place, with equal energy and command over the attachment and affections of his dependents, which, it is be feared [sic], is not the character of Khaṛak Siṅgh, everything must necessarily fall into confusion."

         On the whole, the book presents a fair account of the Sikhs, and is a useful source for the history of the period it deals with.


  1. Fauja Singh, ed., Historians and Historiography of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1978.
  2. Khurana, Gianeshwar, British Historiography on the Sikh Power in the Punjab. Delhi, 1985.
  3. Darshan Singh, Western Perspective on the Sikh Religion. Delhi, 1991

S. K. Bajāj