THE HISTORY OF THE SIKHS by W.L. M'Gregor, a surgeon in the British Indian army, was first published by James Madden, London, in 1846, in two volumes, and reprinted by the Languages Department, Punjab, Paṭiālā, in 1970. The first volume is sub-titled "containing the lives of the Gooroos; the history of the independent Sirdars, or Missuls and the life of the great founder of the Sikh monarchy, Maharajah Runjeet Siṅgh" and is devoted entirely to these themes. Obviously, it is based on the works of Ahmad Shāh's Tārīkh-i-Hind and Prinsep's Life of Runjeet Singh. The second volume, sub-titled "containing an account of the war between the Sikhs and the British in 1845-46," deals with events after the death of Maharājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh up to the end of the first Anglo-Sikh war.
The first volume comprises, besides Introduction, eighteen chapters, the first six of which are devoted to the Gurūs -- one to Gurū Nānak, founder of the Sikh faith, second to the succeeding eight Gurūs and the next four to Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, the tenth and last in the line of the Gurūs or prophet-teachers. The next two chapters deal with the career of Bandā Siṅgh Bahādur and with developments leading to the establishment of Sikh misls or political chiefships. The three succeeding chapters, based almost entirely on Tārīkh-i-Hind, deal with six of the twelve Sikh misls, namely the Bhaṅgī, the Faizullāpurīā, the Rāmgaṛhīā, the Kanhaiyā, the Āhlūvālīā and the Sukkarchakkīā. The author left out the remaining misls because of their having accepted British suzerainty and thus, in his opinion, not falling within the purview of his study. The last seven chapters, a large part of which he based on Prinsep and Ahmad Shāh, are devoted to the Sikh sovereign, Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh.
The second volume, comprising eighteen chapters, begins with the death of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh and, alluding to courtly conspiracies which followed it and describing the Anglo-Sikh wars, concludes with Punjab's annexation by the British. The reign of Mahārājā Duleep Siṅgh forms a major theme of this volume. The author's treatment of the period is coloured by the prevalent British viewpoint.
The book suffers from many errors of fact as well as of interpretation. It has little appreciation for Sikhs as a people and, in imitation of earlier Persian chronicles, refers to them, especially Bandā Siṅgh, in unflattering terms. The author does not deny the title of greatness to Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, but he fails to comprehend the essential nuances of Sikh religion and philosophy. He considers Nau Nihāl Siṅgh as the last sovereign in the Raṇjīt Siṅgh lineage and states that the Sikh army during the reign of Duleep Siṅgh had become "so arrogant that no longer confining itself to the Punjab, it aimed at the conquest of Hindustan and imagined itself capable of overthrowing the British supremacy." M'Gregor's book is not plain history, yet it is valuable source material. The purposes, prejudices and attitudes of the author will however have to be taken into consideration while making use of it.
J. S. Grewāl