The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians

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The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians. The Muhammadan Period is a book with eight volumes written by H. M. Elliot and edited by John Dowson.[1] The book was published in 1867-1877 in London. It is a well-known and reputed reference work for the history of medieval India. Despite being over 130 years old, it is still used by historians. The book contains translations of medieval Muslim chronicles.

The historian Lanepoole (1903) praised this work by saying:

To realize Medieval India there is no better way than to dive into the eight volumes of the priceless History of India as Told by its Own Historians… a revelation of Indian life as seen through the eyes of the Persian court annalists. [2]

This historical book has been reprinted several times[3] with one of the latest reprints being by the Publisher: Low Price Publications in 2001 (ISBN 9788175362260; ISBN 817536226X).[4] The book is also available online.[1]


Henry Miers Elliot was born in 1808. He was an administrator who worked for the British East India Company (EIC) and rose to the position of foreign secretary under the Governor-Generalships of Henry Hardinge and James Broun-Ramsay, 1st Marquess of Dalhousie. His academic capability in oriental languages, classics and mathematics enabled him to pass the open entrance examination for the EIC in 1826, foregoing the place at New College, Oxford that he had been expected to attend.[5]

Elliot's interest in studies of India was indulged as a leisure pursuit throughout his time in the country and arose out of researches made by him in attempts to develop policies relating to land and revenue. British historians of India, such as Mountstuart Elphinstone, had largely ignored the rural aristocracy and fiscal matters, which Elliot believed could usefully be investigated by resort to hitherto neglected medieval chronicles. He saw his Bibliographical Index to the Historians of Mohammedan India , published in 1849, as a prelude to a study of 231 Arabic and Persian historians of India and also a resource that would prove to be of benefit to future historians.[5][6] He said that he wanted his researches to be

... useful depositories of knowledge from which the labour and diligence of succeeding scholars may extract materials for the creation of a better and more solid structure.[6]

Ill-health prevented Elliot from completing his more detailed study: he left India in search of a more amenable climate and died in 1853 at Simonstown, South Africa.[5]

John Dowson was asked by Elliot's widow, Rebecca, to complete the work of her husband. Dowson had been born in 1820 and had held various teaching posts relating to oriental languages, of which he seems likely to have mastered Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Telugu and Hindustani. Those posts included a period as tutor at the EIC's Haileybury college, a professorship at University College, London and, from around 1859 until 1877, a professorship at the Staff College, Camberley. His efforts based on the work of Elliot resulted in the eight volumes titled The History of India, as Told by its Own Historians: the Muhammadan Period, published in London by Trübner & Co between 1867 and 1877. Around half of the material extracted from Elliot's bibliographic index were translated by Dowson himself[lower-alpha 1] and, according to Katherine Prior, he also left his mark by giving "... more of a historical emphasis than Elliot had planned." Some years later, Dowson began work on a volume concerning medieval Gujarat that was also based on Elliot's papers. This was incomplete at the time of his death in 1881 and was later published in a completely different form — as The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians: The Local Muhammadan Dynasties: Gujarat — under the editorship of Edward Clive Bayley.[8]


The literary work of Elliot was criticised around the time of his death. Francis H. Robinson wrote in 1853 that Elliot's evangelical trait tended to "criminate" those about whom he wrote.[5] Dowson's academic reputation was established through his involvement in the project, although he did receive some criticism both of his competence and methods. Prior notes that, "Ironically, in the longer term, the apparent comprehensiveness of his work seriously retarded scholarly re-examination of the manuscripts on which it was based".[8]

In 1903, Stanley Lane-Poole praised the efforts of Elliot and Dowson, saying:

To realise Medieval India there is no better way than to dive into the eight volumes of the priceless History of India as Told by its Own Historians which Sir H. M. Elliot conceived and began and which Professor Dowson edited and completed with infinite labour and learning. It is a revelation of Indian life as seen through the eyes of the Persian court annalists. It is, however, a mine to be worked, not a consecutive history, and its wide leaps in chronology, its repetitions, recurrences, and omissions, render it no easy guide for general readers.[9]

Another Francis Robinson, writing in 2010, notes that the Elliott and Dowson work "... should always be read with Peter Hardy's Historians of Medieval India (Delhi, 1997) to hand."[10]


The contents are not complete translations of works. A. J. Arberry notes the Tabakat-i Nasiri, Tarikh-i Firoz Shahi and Zafar-nama as being among those of which only parts were published. Arberry also points out that the quality of sources selected was variable and that the documents from which the translations were made were sometimes but one version of several that were available.[11][lower-alpha 2]

Volume I: Introduction[edit]

  • Early Arab Geographers
  • Historians of Sind

Volume II: To the Year A.D. 1260[edit]

Volume III: To the Year A.D. 1398[edit]

Volume IV: To the Year A.D. 1450[edit]

  • Tarikh-i Hafiz Abru
  • Tarikh-i Mubarak Shahi, of Yahya bin Ahmad
  • Matla'u-s Sa'dain, of Abdur Razzaq
  • Rawżat aṣ-ṣafāʾ,of Mirkhond
  • Khulasatu-l Akhbar, of Khondamir
  • Dasturu-l Wuzra, of Khondamir
  • Habib al-Siyar, of Khondamir
  • Tarikh-i Ibrahimi; or, Tarikh-i Humayuni, of Ibrahim bin Hariri
  • Tuzk-e-Babri; or, Waki'at-i Babari: The Autobiography of Babur
  • Tabakat-i Babari, of Shaikh Zain
  • Lubbu-t Tawarikh, of Yahya bin 'Abdu-l Latif
  • Nusakh-i Jahan-ara, of Kazi Ahmad
  • Tarikh-i Sher Shahi; or, Tuhfat-i Akbar Shahi, of 'Abbas Khan Sarwani
  • Tarikh-i Daudi, of 'Abdu-lla

Volume V: End of the Afghan Dynasty and the First Thirty-Eight Years of the Reign of Akbar[edit]

Volume VI: Akbar and Jahangir[edit]

  • Akbar-nama of Shaikh Abu-l Fazl
  • Takmila-i Akbar-nama of 'Inayatu-lla
  • Akbar-nama of Shaikh Illahdad Faizi Sirhindi
  • Waki'at of Shaikh Faizi
  • Wikaya of Asad Beg
  • Tarikh-i Hakki of Shaikh 'Abdu-l Hakk
  • Zubdatu-t Tawarikh of Shaikh Nuru-l Hakk
  • Rauzatu-t Tahirin of Tahir Muhammad
  • Muntakhabu-t Tawarikh; or, Ahsanu-t Tawarikh of Hasan bin Muhammad
  • Tarikh-i Firishta of Muhammad Kasim Hindu Shah Firishta
  • Ma-asir-i Rahimi of Muhammad 'Abdu-l Baki
  • Anfa'u-l Akhbar of Muhammad Amin
  • Tarikh-i Salim Shahi; Tuzak-i Jahangiri of the Emperor Jahangir
  • Dwazda-Sala-i Jahangiri; Waki'at Jahangiri of the Emperor Jahangir
  • Tatimma-i Waki'at-i Jahangiri of Muhammad Hadi
  • Ikbal-nama-i Jahangiri of Mu'tamad Khan
  • Ma-asir-i Jahangiri of Kamgar Khan
  • Intikhab-i Jahangiri-Shahi
  • Subh-i Sadik of Sadik Isfahani

Volume VII: From Shah-Jahan to the Early Years of the Reign of Muhammad Shah[edit]

  • Padshahnama, of Muhammad Amin Kazwini
  • Badshah-nama, of Abdul Hamid Lahori
  • Shah Jahan-nama, of 'Inayat Khan
  • Badshah-nama, of Muhammad Waris
  • 'Amal-i Salih, of Muhammad Salih Kambu
  • Shah Jahan-nama, of Muhammad Sadik Khan
  • Majalisu-s Salatin, of Muhammad Sharif Hanafi
  • Tarikh-i Mufazzali, of Mufazzal Khan
  • Mir-at-i 'alam, Mir-at-i Jahan-numa, of Bakhtawar Khan
  • Zinatu-t Tawarikh, of 'Azizu-llah
  • Lubbu-t Tawarikh-i Hind, of Rai Bhara Mal
  • 'alamgir-nama, of Muhammad Kazim
  • Ma-asir-i 'alamgiri, of Muhammad Saki Musta'idd Khan
  • Futuhat-i 'alamgiri, of Muhammad Ma'sum
  • Tarikh-i Mulk-i asham, of Shahabu-d din Talash
  • Wakai', of Ni'amat Khan
  • Jang-nama, of Ni'amat Khan
  • Ruka'at-i 'alamgiri, of the Emperor Aurangzeb
  • Muntakhabu-l Lubab, of Khafi Khan
  • Tarikh, of Iradat Khan
  • Tarikh-i Bahadur Shahi
  • Tarikh-i Shah 'alam Bahadur Shahi
  • 'Ibrat-nama, of Muhammad Kasim

Volume VIII: To End of the Muhammadan Empire in India[edit]

  • Mukhtasiru-t Tawarikh
  • Khulasatu-t Tawarikh, of Subhan Rai
  • Haft Gulshan-i Muhammad-Shahi, of Muhammad Hadi Kamwar Khan
  • Tazkira-i Chaghatai, of Muhammad Hadi Kamwar Khan
  • Tarikh-i Chaghatai, of Muhammad Shafi, Teharani
  • Burhanu-l Futuh, of Muhammad Ali
  • Kanzu-l Mahfuz
  • Tarikh-i Hindi, of Rustam Ali
  • Tarikh-i Nadiru-z Zamani, of Khushhal Chand
  • Jauhar-i Samsam, of Muhammad Muhsin Sadiki
  • Tazkira, of anand Ram Mukhlis
  • Nadir-nama, of Mirza Muhammad Mahdi
  • Tahmasp-nama, of Miskin
  • Bahru-t Tawarikh
  • Muhammad-nama
  • Tarikh-i Muhammad Shahi, of Yusuf Muhammad Khan
  • Tarikh-i Ahmad Shah
  • Bayan-i Waki, of Khwaja Abdu-l Karim Khan
  • Tarikh-i 'alamgir-sani
  • Tarikh-i Manazilu-l Futuh, of Muhammad Ja'far Shamlu
  • Jam-i Jahan-numa, of Muzaffar Husain
  • Farhatu-n Nazirin, of Muhammad Aslam
  • Tarikh-i Faiz Bakhsh, of Sheo Parshad
  • Hadikatu-l Akalim, of Murtaza Husain
  • Jam-i Jahan-numa, of Kudratu-llah
  • Ma-asiru-l Umara, of Shah Nawaz Khan Samsamu-d daula
  • Tazkiratu-l Umara, of Kewal Ram
  • Sawanih-i Akbari, of Amir Haidar Husaini
  • Siyaru-l Muta-akhkhirin, of Ghulam Husain Khan
  • Mulakhkhasu-t Tawarikh, of Farzand Ali Husain
  • Tarikh-i Mamalik-i Hind, of Ghulam Basit
  • Chahar Gulzar Shuja'i, of Hari Charan Das
  • Tarikh-i Shahadat-i Farrukh Siyar, of Mirza Muhammad Bakhsh
  • Waki'at-i Azfari
  • Bahru-l Mawwaj, of Muhammad Ali Khan Ansari
  • Ibrat-nama, of Fakir Khairu-d din Muhammad
  • Chahar Gulshan, of Ram Chatar Man
  • Tarikh-i Ibrahim Khan
  • Lubbu-s Siyar, of Abu Talib Londoni
  • Ausaf-i asaf
  • Tarikh, of Jugal Kishwar
  • Gulistan-i Rahmat, of Nawab Mustajab Khan
  • Gul-i Rahmat, of Sa'adat Yar Khan
  • Sahihu-l Akhbar, of Sarup Chand
  • Tarikh-i Muzaffari, of Muhammad Ali Khan
  • Shah-nama, or Munawwaru-l Kalam, of Sheo Das
  • Ikhtisaru-t Tawarikh, of Sawan Singh
  • Mir-at-i Aftab-numa, of Shah Nawaz Khan
  • Intikhabu-t Tawarikh, of Mirza Masita
  • Sa'adat-i Jawed, of Harnam Singh
  • Ma'danu-s Sa'adat, of Saiyid Sultan Ali
  • Majma'u-l Akhbar, of Harsukh Rai
  • Kashifu-l Akhbar, of Inayat Husain
  • Zubdatu-l Akhbar, of Umrao Singh
  • Muntakhab-i Khulasatu-t Tawarikh, of Ram Parshad
  • Akhbar-i Muhabbat, of Nawab Muhabbat Khan
  • Tarikh-i Shah 'alam, of Manu Lal
  • Shah 'alam-nama, of Ghulam Ali Khan
  • Imadu-s Sa'adat, of Mir Ghulam Ali
  • Nigar-nama-i Hind, of Saiyid Ghulam Ali
  • Muntakhabu-t Tawarikh, of Sadasukh
  • Ashrafu-t Tawarikh, of Kishan Dayal
  • Jinanu-l Firdaus, of Mirza Muhammad Yusufi
  • Tarikh-i Henry, of Saiyid Muhammad Bakir Ali Khan
  • Balwant-nama, of Fakir Khairu-d din Muhammad
  • Yadgar-i Bahaduri, of Bahadur Singh
  • Jami'u-t Tawarikh, of Fakir Muhammad
  • Jam-i Jam, of Saiyid Ahmad Khan
  • Majma'u-l Muluk and Zubdatu-l Gharaib, of Muhammad Riza
  • Akhbarat-i Hind, of Muhammad Riza
  • Miftahu-t Tawarikh, of Thomas William Beale

See also[edit]


  • The few glimpses we have, even among the short Extracts in this single volume, of Hindus slain for disputing with Muhammadans, of general prohibitions against processions, worship, and ablutions, and of other intolerant measures, of idols mutilated, of temples razed, of forcible conversions and marriages, of proscriptions and confiscations, of murders and massacres, and of the sen- suality and drunkenness of the tyrants who enjoined them, show us that this picture is not overcharged, and it is much to be regretted that we are left to draw it for ourselves from out the mass of ordinary occurrences, recorded by writers who seem to sympathize with no virtues, and to abhor no vices. Other nations exhibit the same atrocities, but they are at least spoken of, by some, with indignation and disgust.
    • The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians
  • These deficiencies are more to be lamented, where, as sometimes happens, a Hindu is the author. Prom one of that nation we might have expected to have learnt what were the feelings, hopes, faiths, fears, and yearnings, of his subject race ; but, unfortunately, he rarely writes unless according to order or dictation, and every phrase is studiously and servilely turned to flatter the vanity of an imperious Muhammadan patron. There is nothing to betray his religion or his nation, except, perhaps, a certain stifihess and affectation of style, which show how ill the foreign garb befits him. With him, a Hindu is " an infidel," and a Muhammadan " one of the true faith,' and of the holy saints of the calendar, he writes with the fervour of a bigot. With him, when Hindus are killed, " their souls are despatched to hell," and when a Muhammadan suffers the same fate, " he drinks the cup of martyrdom." He is so far wedded to the set phrases and inflated language of his conquerors, that he speaks of " the light of Islam shedding its refulgence on the world," of " the blessed Muharram," and of "the illustrious Book." He usually opens with a " Bismillah," and the ordinary profession of faith in the unity of the Godhead, followed by laudations of the holy prophet, his disciples and descendants, and indulges in aU the most devout and orthodox attestations of Muhammadans.
    • The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians

Quotes about the book[edit]

  • Lanepoole opined: 'To realize Medieval India there is no better way than to dive into the eight volumes of the priceless History of India as Told by its Own Historians' a revelation of Indian life as seen through the eyes of the Persian court annalists.
    • Lanepoole, quoted in K.S. Lal, The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India
  • Elliot and Dowson's great work, in spite of a chorus of disparagement by some modern Indian historians, still holds the field even now for more than a hundred years, against any translations in Urdu or Hindi. Scholars are still learning from and working on Elliot's meritorious volumes....Elliot's original work is still going through repeated reprints. This in itself is indicative of its importance.
    • K.S. Lal, The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India



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  1. In contradiction to Katherine Prior's assessment that Dowson translated around half of the material, Richard Eaton has said that "the bulk" was translated by Elliot.[7]
  2. Arberry believes, for example, that the Tabakat-i Nasiri lacks sufficient depth, that the Zafar-nama material was derived mainly from an abridgement and that the Tarikh-i 'Alai includes "some remarkable bombast".[12]


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  1. 1.0 1.1 See online copy of book, under Further Reading
  2. Lanepoole: Medieval India under Muhammadan Rule (London,1903), Preface, p.v-vi.
  3. The history of India, as told by its own historians the Muhammadan period. by H. M. Sir Elliot, John Dowson (Used, New, Out-of-Print) - Alibris [archive]
  4. Alibris: 8981381131 [archive]
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Penner (2006)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Wahi (1990)
  7. Eaton (2000), p. 246
  8. 8.0 8.1 Prior (2004)
  9. Lane-Poole (1903), p. v-vi
  10. Robinson (2010), p. 11
  11. Arberry (1995), pp. 153, 273, 366
  12. Arberry (1995), pp. 153, 281, 366
  13. Hameed ud-Din (2011). "Abū Ṭāleb Ḥosaynī" [archive]. Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 17 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


Further reading[edit]

  • Hodivala, Shahpurshah Hormasji Dinshahji (1979) [1939]. Studies in Indo-Muslim History: A Critical Commentary on Elliot and Dowson’s History of India as told by its own Historians (2 vols.). Bombay: Islamic Book Service.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links[edit]

  • Elliot, Henry Miers (1849). Bibliographical Index to the Historians of Muhammedan India [archive]. 1. Calcutta: J. Thomas at the Baptist Mission Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Elliot, H. M. (Henry Miers), Sir; Ed. John Dowson (1871). The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians. The Muhammadan Period. London : Trübner & Co.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
---Volume 1 [archive]
---Volume 2 [archive]
---Volume 3 [archive]
---Volume 4 [archive]
---Volume 5 [archive]
---Volume 6 [archive]
---Volume 7 [archive]
---Volume 8 [archive]