A Land of Their Own

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A Land of Their Own, Samuel Richard Tickell and the Formation of the Autonomous Ho Country in Jharkhand, 1818-1842 – The historians’ edition

by Paul Streumer

Published by Wakkaman, the Netherlands, 2016

Hardcover, 356 pp., 12 colour illustrations, 1 B/W illustration, 4 maps, Introduction, Bibliography, Notes, Index

ISBN 978-90-825632-0-7


All over India ethnic groups such as tribals express the wish to live in an administrative division of their own. This book covers the story how one of the earliest of such separate areas came into existence for the HO tribe in Jharkhand. This took twenty-five years, between 1818 and 1842

The HO tribe, speaking an Austroasiatic language, emerged between the twelfth and eighteenth century. By 1767 it was the main power in its region. In 1818, the East India Company was invited in by a local raja, and soon clashed with the inward-looking, fiercely independent HO society. The next two decades, the neighbouring rulers employed HOS as freebooters in their wars, and their inability to control them created security concerns for the East India Company. In 1837, after much deliberation, the Company took over the HO area. The next five years its first administrator S. R. Tickell organised the new estate, wrote the first HO grammar and an ethnographic account of the tribe.

This book examines how the HO tribe came into existence; the military actions of the East India Company to bring the HOS under the local rajas; the heated debates inside the East India Company about the strategy for dealing with the tribal peoples of Jharkhand; the pragmatic implementation of the new strategy inside the area of the HOS. It gives a short biography of Samuel Richard Tickell. It discusses in depth his uniquely intimate description of HO tribal life in the 1830s.

It is a history we can relate to. It offers careful descriptions of the events; it presents individuals in sharp relief. Importantly, here, the HOS, too, are individuals who think and act for themselves.

Some of Tickell’s beautiful bird and landscape paintings are published here for the first time.

With its references and index, the book meets high academic standards of transparency and accessibility. It offers ample tools for further research in its notes and bibliography.


From the back cover:

The establishment of the Kolhan Government Estate is arguably the decisive moment in the history of the Hos, now a 1,200,000 strong scheduled tribe in Jharkhand. Independent at the start, between 1818 and 1842 the Hos had twenty-five odd years to reconsider their ties with the outside world and the modern state. As far as their aim was to continue to live their life without foreign interference, they did so with remarkable success.

This is not just another political or socio-economic history of just another tribe. It goes way beyond that. This is history as people lived it in the jungles of Jharkhand with intrigues, deception, bravery, love—and despair. Their own words give their story a rare immediacy.

Using a wealth of contemporary documents, the author reconstructs the actions and motives of the rajas, army officers, and Hos. Each of these groups took on the other groups; each was divided against itself. The outcome was that Samuel Richard Tickell organised the Kolhan Government Estate, and was an eyewitness to the reactions this caused. Then he learned the language and wrote about his love for the Ho people.

Tickell’s paintings of jungle birds and life are reproduced here for the first time.

This is the historians’ edition. It is thoroughly documented. The information is identified and elaborated in the notes.

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