HISTORY OF THE PUNJAB (and of the Rise, Progress and Present Condition of the Sect and Nation of the Sikhs) is an anonymous work in two volumes ascribed variously to T.H. Thornton (Catalogue of the Sikh Reference Library, Amritsar), H.T. Prinsep (Catalogue of the Khālsā College, Amritsar), and William Murray (Catalogue of Dwarkā Dāss Library, Chaṇḍīgaṛh). Completed on 11 May, 1846 and first published in 1846 by Allen and Co., London, and reprinted in 1970 by the Languages Department, Punjab, Paṭiālā, the book is the first detailed history of the Punjab and the Sikhs. The bulk of the work (chapters VI to XVI) is based on Origin of the Sikh Power in the Punjab by Prinsep who had himself made extensive use of the papers of Murray, whereas the last nine chapters (XVII to XXV) are based on the Ludhiāṇā Agency Records and other contemporary sources. The first volume, comprising eleven chapters, deals with the hydrography of the Punjab (Ch. I), topography of the Punjab and its socio-economic milieu (Ch. II) and early and medieval history of the Punjab (Chs. III and IV). The author identifies the Sikhs with the ancient tribes of the Scythian Getes and also describes various Sikh sects and institutions such as Udāsīs, Suthrāshāhīs, Rām Rāīs, Nirmalās, gurmatā, Akālīs, etc. Sikh history from 1708-91, with special reference to the military exploits of Bandā Siṅgh Bahādur, his arrest and execution, invasions of Ahmad Shāh Durrānī and the establishment of the misls is dealt with in chapters VII to IX. The remaining two chapters deal with Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh's occupation of Lahore and his subsequent conquests. Volume II, comprising chapters XII to XXV and appendices I to VIII, covers the reigns of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh and his successors, the first Anglo-Sikh war, submission of the Lahore Darbār and the post-war settlement. The book echoes the official version of the war favouring the British. About Raṇjīt Siṅgh, it says : "Humanity, indeed, or rather a tenderness for life, in spite of some acts of harshness, was a trāit in the character of Runjeet Singh: There is no instance of his having wantonly imbrued his hands in blood" (pp. 180-81). Further : although totally illiterate, Raṇjīt Siṅgh could dictate orders on State business with natural intelligence (p. 176) ; he possessed a sharp intellect and retentive memory, and audited all the revenue accounts (p. 177) ; his passion for horses amounted almost to insanity; he took great delight in military parades and display; neither a bigot nor unconcerned in matters of religion, he was scrupulous in the performance of the rules of Sikhism (p. 184); a regiment of amazons (nautch girls) of superb beauty entertained him in his hours of relaxation (p. 182); his conduct towards the British was "marked with sagacity" (p. 198). The book contains a firsthand account of Raṇjīt Siṅgh-Auckland meeting at Fīrozpur (November 1838). In the preparation of this work the author seems to have made use of all the sources in English then available, but none in Punjabi or Persian. The chapters on the rise of Sikhs and their religion, and their institutions are primarily based on Malcolm and the author repeats the errors made by him.


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

Bhagat Siṅgh