Snapshot Of History – The Ancient Art Of Sanskrit – 1860

The hanging of two participants in the Indian ...

The hanging of two participants in the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Albumen silver print by Felice Beato, 1858 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The election in 1860 for the position of Boden Professor of Sanskrit at
the University of Oxford was a hotly contested affair between two
candidates with different approaches to Sanskrit scholarship. Monier
Williams (pictured), an Oxford-educated Englishman who taught Sanskrit
to those preparing to work in British India, regarded the study of
Sanskrit as a way to help convert India to Christianity. Max Müller, an
internationally regarded scholar in comparative philology (the science
of language), thought that his work, while it would assist missionaries,
was valuable as an end in itself. They battled for the votes of the
electorate (the Convocation of the university, consisting of over
3,700 graduates) through manifestos and newspaper correspondence. The
election came at a time of public debate about Britain’s role in India
after the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Although generally regarded as the
superior scholar, Müller had the double disadvantage (in some eyes) of
being German and having liberal Christian views. Special trains to
Oxford were provided for non-residents to cast their votes. Williams won
the election by a majority of over 230 votes, and held the chair until
his death in 1899.




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