Thursday, July 29, 2010

From the Department of Appropriate Names

I've been reading The Great Game by Peter Hopkirk, about the rivalry between Russia and Britain in central Asia in the nineteenth century. This passage amused me:
Ellenborough's scheme for the clandestine survey of the Indus did not, however, meet with universal approval in India. One of it's severest critics was Sir Charles Metcalfe, a member of the all-powerful Supreme Council, and former Secretary of the Secret and Political Department.

Who would have thought that the Supreme Council of the East India Company would be all powerful? Rather sadly, although the India Office Records refer to Political and Secret Department records, the Department itself would have been called just the Political Department. The fact it was the Secret and Political Department seems to have been a secret.
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