Travels amongst the Todas

William Elliot Marshall, Lieutenant Colonel of Her Majesty’s Bengal Staff Corps, was an amateur ethnographer. He was introduced to the Todas people, who lived on the Nilgiri Hills in southern India, while on a furlough to Ooty. Although he did not speak their language, Marshall decided to study the small tribe in order to uncover physiognomic proof of their “primitive nature.”

His final report was published in two similar editions, one titled A Phrenologist amongst the Todas and the other Travels amongst the Todas or the Study of a Primitive Tribe in South India. Both are illustrated with 14 carbon prints from glass negatives. At least two of these plates are from the Simla photography firm Bourne & Shepherd (founded by British photographers Samuel Bourne 1834-1912 and Charles Shepherd) and printed by the Autotype Fine Art Company.

Bourne and Shepherd sold their business in 1870 and Bourne returned to England (although their stock of glass negatives remained in circulation for many years). The images of the Todas are clearly made from life and so, must have been taken a number of years before Marshall’s book was finally published in 1873.

William E. Marshall, Travels amongst the Todas, or The Study of a Primitive Tribe in South India (London: Longmans, Green, 1873) “A brief outline of the grammar of the Tuda language by the Rev. G.U. Pope … From a collection of Tuda words and sentences presented by the Rev. Friedrich Metz”: p. [239]-269. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) 2006-2348N

For more information, see Kavita Philip, Civilizing Natures : Race, Resources, and Modernity in Colonial South India (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, c2004). Firestone Library Q127.I4 P48 2004