A narrative of the sufferings of James Bristow, belonging to the Bengal Artilley [sic], during ten years captivity with Hyder Ally and Tippoo Saheb.


A narrative of the sufferings of James Bristow, belonging to the Bengal Artilley [sic], during ten years captivity with Hyder Ally and Tippoo Saheb.

London, J. Murray, 1793.

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Scarce. “Hyder and Tipu’s policy of moving their prisoners around the Carnatic is evidenced in the narratives and journals of those individuals who survived to tell the tale, as are the torments endured by British officers and soldiers, compounded by their being forced to march for days in the extreme heat – starving, bound and often ill, injured or dying – between the hill forts … Indeed, the fact that he and his fellow soldiers moved around the countryside is crucial to Bristow’s account of his captivity. In the preface to the first edition of his narrative, published in Calcutta, Bristow justifies adding to the already significant stock of information on the British prisoners of war, and distinguishes his tale from that of more senior members of the military:

A captivity of ten years during which period several removals from one place of imprisonment to another took place, and many changes in point of treatment occurred, includes much more variety than the account of what befell our officers, who remained under close confinement, till delivered up; and admitted more opportunities to see the country, to converse with the natives, whose language naturally became familiar … and to learn the fate and disposal of a number of fellow captives, not liberated at the peace, some of whom had been prisoners for many years … in short, to be better informed than Gentlemen who were never suffered to step beyond the limits of their prison wall. Several of the vexations and acts of violence committed against the private soldiers could not reach the knowledge of the officers, though many of them came to their ears; nor could they know what befell them subsequent to their release

Bristow not only denotes a hierarchy of suffering – distinguishing those soldiers who were forcibly marched through the Carnatic from the more senior officers who apparently suffered fewer ‘vexations’ in their fixed prison sites – but also indicates that being moved around the inhospitable landscape was a defining aspect of his captivity. Encountering and enduring the landscape, whether as prisoner or victor, is a formative aspect of war”.


First London edition. 8vo., vi, 210pp., contemporary tree calf gilt, red morocco label by Kalthoeber with his ticket, lightly rubbed, a fine copy.

Provenance: 1. Hon. Mr. Justice H. D. Cornish, Madras (bookplate); 2. Philip Kamil (bookplate).


Memory and the Aesthetics of Military Experience: Viewing the Landscape of the Anglo-Mysore Wars By Rosie Dias 28 March 2013 Tate Papers Issue 19.


Stock ID: 92146