On This Day: 29 April 1927

Today in 1927, John Humphreys who was the President of the Birmingham Archaeological Society wrote to Lady Fry. Her daughter had written to Humphreys’ son enquiring about his father’s discovery of the Bowrey papers. This letter is interesting because it contains details not published in The Papers of Thomas Bowrey. Apparently, The Papers had not been published sooner because of WWI.

The Papers described the documents being discovered in a previously unknown windowless room. This sounds so romantic but, according to Humphreys, the chest was in a dark loft. We have all found something forgotten tucked in an attic. Not many have found an unknown room in our house. This is a reminder that care must be taken when interpreting published sources. Just because something was published in a book does not make it true.

Of course, there is no guarantee that the Humphreys’ version is correct. He continues to say in his letter that the papers dealt with the foundation of our Indian Empire. This is a gross exaggeration. The papers may throw some light on life in the East Indies in the late seventeenth century but, as an independent trader, Bowrey had little involvement with the East India Company at that time and the Company was not yet dominant in India.

Humphreys explained in his letter that he had spent a year copying the papers. As some manuscripts known to included are now missing, it would be interesting to know if these copies still survive.

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