of the British Period to 1947
Richard Carnac Temple (1850-1931)
Richard Temple was born at Allahabad, India, in October 1850, the oldest son of the first Baronet Nash and as such a member of a very high-ranking Anglo-Indian family.
The young man was educated in England, at Harrow and at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He was a highly gifted student and a brilliant academic. Despite his academic leanings, he decided on a military career. He went to India in 1877 with his regiment, the Royal Scots Fusiliers, and took part in the first Afghan War. In 1879 he was appointed magistrate in the Punjab and there he commenced his lifelong fascination for Indian languages, history and ethnology. During the years 1883 to 1890 he published his three-volume Legends of the Punjab with which he gained a considerable reputation.
While on a tour of duty in the Andamans with a detachment of his regiment in 1880, he not only met E.H. Man for the first time face-to-face (they had corresponded before), he also met, fell in love with and married Agnes Fanny, the daughter of a British general. Temple saw further active military service in the third Burmese War: in 1887 he was the officer in charge of deposed Burmese King Thibaw's capital Mandalay. In 1891 he was appointed President of the Municipality and Port Commissioner of Rangoon and from 1894 until 1904 he was Chief Commissioner of the Andaman and Nicobar islands. In this position he was promoted to Lt.-Colonel in 1897 and succeeded his father as the second Baronet of Nash in 1902. For his work with the St. John Ambulance and the British Red Cross during World War I Temple received the Order of the Bath. For a man of his talents and family connections his was not an outstandingly successful career - one justifying little more than a footnote a century hence.
Temple was also an accomplished and pioneering scientist. He published prolifically and edited many historical papers on a wide variety of subjects relating to India. His work on the Andamans is not so important as that on other parts of India. Because of pressure of administrative work, Temple was always short of time even after his retirement in 1904. He could not publish nearly as much or as carefully as he would have wished to. Much of the material he did publish on the Andamans consisted of short articles, notes and reviews and of ancient manuscripts edited by him, especially those of early travellers in the area. There was also his somewhat unfortunate taste for grandiose theories and projects, among them an overblown "Universal Grammar of all Languages." He would begin these startling projects with much enthusiasm and great fanfare - only to let them fizzle out under pressure of other work and new projects.
For Temple, the Andamans were only one part of the enormous canvas of Indian history and life. He had visited almost all the provinces of British India and his wide-open mind had enabled him to appreciate the cultures of all of them. He was not a specialist by nature but by indefatigable industry had acquired an exceptionally wide knowledge of most branches of oriental research. His pioneering role in matters Andamanese lay above all in the support, advice and encouragement he gave to others, especially to his lifelong friend, E. H. Man. Without Temple, Man would not have taken such a profound interest in the Andamanese and their languages nor would he have published so much important or wide-ranging material.
Another area in which Temple exercised a profound and wholly beneficial influence was as editor of the Indian Antiquary, a post he held for nearly 40 years, from 1892 until his death. His position of mentor of emerging talent was further strengthened when he became president of the anthropological section of the British Association in 1913 and a fellow of the British Academy in 1925.
Temple's last years were not happy. In 1921 he was "greatly inconvenienced" by unspecified and apparently scandalous "domestic troubles" and driven into self-imposed exile. He died in French-speaking Switzerland in 1931 after a long period of ill-health. His ashes were interred in Kempsey, England.
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Last changed 14 January 2001