The monograph on Peter Peterson (1847–1899) by Namrata
Ganneri is a part of a larger project undertaken by The Asiatic
Society of Mumbai with the objective of publishing a
series of monographs on the Founders and Guardians of the Society.
This project was envisioned and initiated by the late Dr. Aroon
Tikekar, former President of The Asiatic Society of Mumbai. Peter
Peterson was associated with the then Bombay Branch of the Royal
Asiatic Society (BBRAS) in the capacity of a scholar, Secretary (1884–
1889), Vice-President (1894) and President (1897–1899) of the
Society till his death. He was a scholar who lived in India, loved
India, worked and even died on the Indian soil. This monograph has
underlined and reiterated his contribution to the field of Indology
in general and Sanskrit in particular.
The author has divided this monograph into five parts based on
the stages in the life of Peterson viz: i) Early life and career, ii) Service
with the Education Department, iii) Research work on the ‘Search
of Sanskrit Manuscripts’, iv) Association with the BBRAS and v)
Conclusion. (The table of contents carries a typographical error of
numbering conclusion as iv) instead of v) which could have been
avoided). The monograph is well supported by a list of abbreviations,
Appendix enlisting the works of Peterson, Notes and an exhaustive
The author has suitably observed different stages in the study of
Sanskrit and other Oriental languages by European scholars. In the
latter half of the nineteenth century, these scholars changed the course
of their focus, not limiting themselves to simply the discovery and
description of India through these languages but to arrange and organize
this glorious past into a coherent narrative that extended up
to the present times. This was the exciting ‘heroic age of Indology’.
In the Saidian language, apart from the will and intention to understand
India’s past, the European scholars wanted to control and
manipulate India’s past assisting in her subordination. Though Peter
Peterson was the product of this thought process, the author in this
monograph investigates whether he actually did adhere to it.
In drawing the life sketch of Peterson, his education and training
in England and Scotland, his linkage with Presbyterianism, which
is a reformist denomination amongst Protestants, the author rightly
observes that the tendency to investigate and trace the roots of any
thought as depicted in Peterson’s research is an outcome of this linkage.
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