A HISTORY OF THE REIGNING FAMILY OF LAHORE, bearing the full title A History of the Reigning Family of Lahore with some account of the Jummoo Rajahs, the Seik Soldiers and their Sirdars; with notes on Malcolm, Prinsep, Lawrence, Steinbach, McGregor and the Calcutta Review, by Major G. Carmichael Smyth, of the third Bengal Light Cavalry, was first published in 1847 and reprinted in 1970 by the Languages Department, Punjab, Paṭiālā, and in 1977 by Vikrānt Press, Delhi. As stated in the Introduction, written at Jalandhar on 5 January 1847, the book was compiled "partly from native manuscripts, and partly from information collected from Seik service; but chiefly from the notes of a Captain Gardner of the Seik Artillery."

         Personally Smyth emerges from the Introduction as an ardent advocate of expansionist policies in whose eyes British rule was a blessing to be extensively conferred. He was critical of the British Indian government which, he thought, was hesitant, for fear of the public opinion back at home, to pursue an aggressive policy towards the Punjab.

         The first of the five sections of the book traces the history of Raṇjīt Siṅgh's family and the career of the Mahārājā up to the occupation of Lahore, skipping the latter part of his career for, as says the author, it had been "too often told" to warrant repetition. For this account he depended primarily on oral tradition collected, directly or indirectly, from the subjects of the kingdom of Lahore. The second section, comprising twelve chapters, relating to court intrigues by which kings were made and unmade in quick succession after the death of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh and an additional one on the Anglo-Sikh war, is the longest and, from the author's viewpoint, the most important part of the book. This rather detailed account of the Sikh dynasty covering a period of about six years is based entirely on the notes of Captain Gardner. Although the numerous events of these years are presented in the chronological order with a certain rationale imposed upon them, very few dates are mentioned and of those mentioned none is of any significance. Smyth considers this material as the core of the whole work and, in fact, he might not have at all attempted this work without this core. Since this material was taken from the notes of Captain Gardner, he refers to himself as editor, and not author, of the book. The chapter on the Anglo-Sikh war endeavours to prove the English thesis that the conflict was the result of the desire of Mahārāṇī Jind Kaur and Lāl Siṅgh to punish the Sikh army which was no more under their control. The Sikh soldiers fought hard and well, but were betrayed by their commanders, notably Lāl Siṅgh (cavalry) and Tej Siṅgh (infantry). Gulāb Siṅgh, who came to negotiate with the British terms of peace on behalf of the Sikhs, was also not their well-wisher and bargained to obtain Jammū and Kashmīr for himself.

         The section, entitled "Miscellaneous Notices," comprises brief notes on Akālī Phūlā Siṅgh, Zorāwar Siṅgh, a minister and military leader under Gulāb Siṅgh, Fateh Khān Ṭiwāṇā, who in conjunction with Chatar Siṅgh Aṭārīvālā had Prince Pashaurā Siṅgh murdered, the mutiny in Kashmīr and the Sūdhan revolt. The fourth section, comprising two chapters, traces the history of the Jammū family and describes briefly the careers of Gulāb Siṅgh, Dhiān Siṅgh and Suchet Siṅgh till they became the vassals of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh.

         The Appendix contains information likely to be of use to the prospective masters of the Punjab. To provide an insight into the social and political history of the people that inhabited the land, the author has commented upon extracts from Malcolm's Sketch of the Sikhs, Prinsep's Life of Runjeet Singh, Lawrence's Adventures of an Officer in the Punjaub, Steinbach's Punjab, The Medieval and Literary Journal for January 1845, and the Calcutta Review for August 1844. This is followed, besides listing among other things the natural and cultivated produce of the Punjab, by an abstract showing the disposition of the Sikh army as of 1 July 1844, a description of the boundary of the Punjab in 1845, a list of principal Sardārs and their group affiliations, the strength of the standing army of the Punjab in 1845, a list of the European officers in Sikh service, the amount of revenue for 1844, and a list of the products and manufactures of commercial interest.

         Haughtiness, contempt and sneer are woven into the texture of Smyth's language. One merit of the work lies in the use the author makes of the notes of Captain Gardner which, in any case, are available separately. Smyth was publically reprimanded by the Government of India for his "infamous book" when it was brought to its notice.


  1. Fauja Siṅgh ed., Historians and Historiography of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1978
  2. Khurana, Gianeshwar, British Historiography on the Sikh Power in Punjab. Delhi, 1985
  3. Darshan Singh, Western Perspective on the Sikh Religion. Delhi, 1991
  4. Grewal, J.S., Guru Nanak in Western Scholarship, Delhi, 1992

J. S. Grewāl