The Governor-General's copy of the scarce improved second edition
A History of the Sikhs,
from the origin of the nation to the battles of the Sutlej. London John Murray 1853
Second edition, with the author's last corrections and additions, pp.xliii, 473, 2 maps, 1 partially hand coloured and folding, the other coloured in outline, genealogical chart. A very good copy in original cloth, spine title in gilt. Minor wear to head and foot of spine. Armorial bookplate of Southam de la Bere, Earl of Ellenborough. Stamp of Earl of Ellenborough's Heirlooms. Signed Ellenborough, 1853.
Joseph Davey Cunningham (1812-1851) sailed for India in 1832 after graduating with distinction from Addiscombe. In 1837 he was appointed assistant to Colonel Wade, political agent at Ludhiana. He was present at the meeting of Lord Ellenborough, Dost Muhammad and the Sikhs at Ferozpur in 1842. During the Sikh wars he served under Napier, Gough, and as aide-de-camp to Hardinge, the Governor-General, at the battle of Sobraon. After the war he was appointed Political Agent at Bhopal where he was commended by Hardinge "you have.. by your energy and promptitude, fully justified the favourable opinion I entertain of your abilities and character." He wrote this book in Bhopal, but on it's publication in 1849 he was dismissed from the political service for "having made.. unauthorized use of official documents entrusted to his charge as a public officer," and returned to regimental duty. It is said the disgrace he felt hastened his death. Cunningham covers the period from the origin of Sikhism to the end of the First Anglo-Sikh war in nine chapters. On first publication this book was much acclaimed in the home press and recognised as the greatest authority on the Sikhs. This second edition, published after his death, has forty-one appendices. In the advertisement Cunningham's brother Peter states that "the sheets of this edition were seen and corrected by their Author, and were ready for publication several months previous to his death," "The author fell a victim to the truth related in this book," and "My brother's anxiety to be correct was evinced in the unceasing labour he took to obtain the most minute information. Wherever he has been proved to be wrong, - and this has been in very few instances, - he has, with ready frankness, admitted and corrected his error. In matters of opinion he made no change - not from obstinacy, but from a firm conviction that he was right." With some fifty additional pages, much in extended notes, this edition is clearly superior to the first. Cunningham's "crime" was perhaps that he saw Ranjit Singh as a far greater leader than the common British depiction of him as selfish, sensual, and greedy, his genuine admiration for the "ennobling doctrine of Sikhism," and his determination to reveal that the war was won by British intrigue rather than valour. The Earl of Ellenborough was Governor-General of India from 1842 to 1844.