Series 2 - Telegraphic correspondence with Lord Chelmsford, and related papers

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Reference code

MONT II/A/2

Title

Telegraphic correspondence with Lord Chelmsford, and related papers

Date(s)

  • 1919-20 (Creation)

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27 files

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The documents listed under this head mainly relate to 'private' or 'private and personal' telegrams sent by Montagu as Secretary of State for India to the Viceroy, Lord Chelmsford. The distinction between these terms, if there is one, is uncertain, but there is a clear distinction between communications of these kinds on the one hand and correspondence designated 'official' on the other. However, since a topic initially raised in official correspondence might subsequently form the subject of a series of private telegrams, copies of some official telegrams will also be found here. Official communications are explicitly identified in the list. It is possible that there were other categories of correspondence, since the term 'demi-official' also occurs. Correspondents occasionally discussed what category was appropriate for the subject under discussion (cf. A2/22/14, A2/23/3).

These papers were formerly either loose or fixed together with treasury tags to form small files. In the latter case the subject-matter of the file, or some other title, was sometimes marked on the top sheet.

The documents comprise (i) drafts and texts of the telegrams themselves; (ii) memoranda exchanged between Montagu and other officials on the composition of telegrams; and (iii) documents consulted as part of this process, such as newspaper cuttings and copies of regulations.

The correspondence begins at the time of the riots in Delhi, Bombay, and the Punjab, the day before the Amritsar massacre, and mostly concerns those disturbances and the controversial measures taken to counter them. The topics discussed include the progress of efforts to restore law and order; Gandhi; the involvement of Muslims in the disorders, and the Hindu-Mohammedan entente; the use of flogging as a punishment under martial law; the 'crawling order' issued by General Dyer at Amritsar, and the 'salaaming order' issued by Colonel Hodgson in Gujrunwala and Lyallpur; the postponement of sentences of execution against persons convicted of involvement in the Amritsar riots; the issue of notices by the Bombay High Court to barristers for taking the satyagraha vow; the question of arranging an inquiry into the disorders, and the subsequent formation and report of the Hunter Committee; and the Indemnity Bill.

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The texts of telegrams listed here originate from various stages in the processes of composing, transmitting, receiving, and distributing messages, and it is not immediately clear how they should be named and distinguished. In the strictest sense the word telegram refers to a message sent as an electronic signal along a cable, or to a series of such transmissions, and not to a physical object. But the word is, of course, commonly used to refer to any document containing the text of a telegraphic message, most familiarly those in the form of ticker-tape pasted to a printed form. There is, however, only one example of this kind of document among those listed here. The others comprise rough drafts, fair copies used by the telegraph operators, handwritten copies taken down by receiving clerks, fair copies typed up from these, as well as various other handwritten transcripts and mechanical copies. In order to distinguish between these different kinds of document the following scheme has been adopted.

On the transmission side the term 'telegram' is used without qualification to refer to documents actually used by the telegraph clerk for transmission, i.e. those which are marked by the clerk or some other person with the word 'sent' and the date of transmission. These vary in form from rough handwritten notes to typed fair-copies. The word 'draft' denotes a draft of a telegram which was revised before transmission or a draft of a telegram which was not sent.

On the reception side the term 'telegram', without qualification, refers to one of the typed fair-copies which it appears to have been the practice to make soon after the receipt of the message, probably directly from a handwritten version taken down by the receiving clerk. In one case, however (A2/1/13), the name has been given to what appears to be the clerk's original note.

Texts of telegraphic communications which do not fall into these categories are described as copies. Many of these are explicitly headed 'copy of a telegram'. Occasionally, printed copies of telegrams between the Secretary of State and the Viceroy were made for circulation among a select body of people, such as the Cabinet or a Cabinet Committee, and these have been identified accordingly. It appears to have been usual in such cases to issue a series of telegrams in the form of a small booklet, but no complete example survives, and each of the documents referred to as a 'printed copy' is a page or cutting from a larger document.

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