Amit Paranjape’s Blog

Pune in the late 19th century – Through the eyes of New York Times

Posted in Pune by Amit Paranjape on June 1, 2009

The New York Times Archives  on is a great source of articles published in the New York Times, dating back to 1851. I have often referred to this repository to look back and browse information (and the way it was covered in those days…) about various events and periods over the past century and half.

In this brief blog post, I would like to point the readers to a few interesting articles from these archives about Pune (or ‘Poona’ as it was known back then by the British)  from the late 19th century. Overall, I felt that the New York Times towed the British ‘view’ of India (I guess that was to be expected…). They also had some correspondents based in India at that time who contributed  to the stories as well.

[NOTE – You might have to sign-in into to access these articles.]

The late 19th century was tumultuous period in Pune’s history. The end of the century saw the most horrific epidemic the city has ever witnessed – the plague epidemic. Just when it couldn’t get any worse, it did. A severe drought hit the region. This double tragedy resulted in thousands of deaths. The local population was enraged with the way in which the British authorities handled the crisis. This eventually culminated in the assassination of Pune Commissioner Rand, by the Chaphekar brothers on the night of 22 June 1897. These events are very well captured in a famous Marathi movie ‘22 June 1897’ – directed Nachiket & Jayu Patwardhan (imdb link). Initially, I didn’t find any reference to this incident in the archives. Thanks to Yogesh Khandke for pointing this link out:  This wikipedia article references a couple New York Times articles related to this incident. (Apparently, I had missed out on this search since Poona was referred to as ‘Poonah’ in these articles.)

The New York Times did discuss the plague crisis through multiple articles:

India’s plague and famine (dated June 22, 1897)

Drought and plague in India (dated June 18, 1899)

Main symptoms of the plague (dated November 25, 1899)

Lokmanya Tilak and his work were not covered by NY Times in the 19th century; but do find coverage in the early decades of the 20th century.

 Here are few other topics that were covered.

Wrangler Paranjape becoming the first Indian to get the honor of ‘Wrangler’ at Cambridge, UK:

Foreigners win Cambridge Honors (dated June 18, 1899)

The work that Pandita Ramabai did in Pune in the late 19th century.

Woman’s education in India: What has been done by the Brahmin lady now in this country. (dated March 7, 1886)

Pandita Ramabai’s work winning praises (dated July 30, 1893)

The graduation of Anandibai Joshi, the first Indian woman doctor, who got her degree at Philadelphia in 1886.

Thirty-three new female doctors (dated March 12, 1886)

A petition filed by the wife of Sardar Natu against the British Government for holding Natu and his brother in detention.

Topics of the times (dated May 29, 1898) 

Some ordinary observations that provide glimpses into the British Army life in Pune/India, are also mentioned. These include references about horse racing, golf and other pursuits of the British officers.

Golf girdles the globe (dated January 8, 1899)

Gossip of the horsemen (dated November 27, 1898)


Hope you find these historical perspectives interesting. I find history that ‘lives’ through the articles of an era gone by, to be more interesting, more alive, more fascinating…than mundane history books. I hope that someday, we can also have access to  free online archives of Indian Newspapers.

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7 Responses

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  1. Abhay said, on June 1, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    Thanks for the article, really interesting. Good to read about these social revolutionaries who thought years ahead of their time and dedicated their lives for the cause.

  2. Sam said, on June 3, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Very interesting. NY times archives are dating right till 1857! Unfortunately none of the events from phadke, chaphekar, tilak etc are mentioned. Probably it was not a news for them. First mention of savarkar is in 1911

  3. Ajit Sovani said, on June 4, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Amit, Great article. Reminds us of the great cultural heritage we in Pune inherit.

  4. Manisha said, on June 5, 2009 at 11:21 am


    Many thanks for the links which lead to an era forgotten…. As you said, it will be very interesting to go though the archives of Indian newspapers as well.

    I am giving a link to online Imperial Gazetteer of India published in 1909. It is a wonderful archive of our past and great source of history and information. Check it out if interested.


  5. Amit Paranjape said, on June 5, 2009 at 12:07 pm


    Thanks for your feedback. I will checkout the link.

    I found that University of Toronto and University of California Berkeley also have a lot of interesting India related documents in their archives. Will post the link later.


  6. Yogesh Khandke said, on June 25, 2009 at 4:48 am

    You are wrong about Chapekar and NYT, check this wikipedia article which has links to two NYT stories related to Chapekar and Rand.

  7. Amit Paranjape said, on June 25, 2009 at 11:12 am


    Thanks for your feedback and correction. You are right about the articles.

    Looks like I missed these in my search on the New York Times archives (probably because, I didn’t search for ‘Poonah’, as ‘Pune’ was referred to in those articles.


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