Today’s offering is a tiny book, The Story of Fort St George by Colonel Douglas Muir Reid. Modest though it is, it was first published by the Diocesan Press in Madras in 1945 and has been reprinted twice in New Delhi in 1999 and 2007. My pristine copy is one of the latter Asian Educational Services reprints. It is not my only reprint from this useful publisher.
From the Forward by the then Governor of Madras we learn that Colonel Reid regularly conducted tours of the Fort making use of his unequalled knowledge and enthusiastic love of the Fort. I can easily imagine Reid to be one of those energetic amateur local historians whose passion for their subject results in them being the guardian of the sorts of gems that would otherwise be lost. His text is enhanced with delightful little drawings by Ismena R Warren. All this allows me to be forgiving of the poor print quality and weird layout of the book.
The books is written as if you are actually on one of Reid’s tours of the Fort and is full of the little details that help bring the past to life. Most books about the history of the East India Company stress the importance of the trade in pepper during the earliest days but only in this book is there the explanation that mustard was the only spice grown in England at the time.
For me, writing the biography of Captain Thomas Bowrey, it is the description of Fort at different periods with such details of how you would have arrived by sea and landed by surf boat that is so invaluable. The book also includes a set of plans of the Fort through the years and a useful historic timeline. In this case, size is not everything. A great deal of useful content is contained in just seventy-eight tiny pages.