In transcribing the following paragraphs from the Internet Archive online version of The Imperial Gazetteer’s entry on Hindustan, I have expanded the abbreviations for easier reading and added paragraphing and links. This mid-Victorian reference work has substantial sections on both India and Hindustan, and it is not always clear how Victorians distinguished between the two. The title-page bears the date 1856, but internal evidence in various entrees makes clear that the text dates from 1851 or 1852. This discussion of British India has particular importance because it immediately precedes the 1857 Mutiny.— George P. Landow]

The Assyrians under Semiramis, and the Persians under Darius, are said to have penetrated into the northwest part of this region, but the information we have respecting their expedition thither is very fragmentary; and the earliest de tails giving any connected account of Hindoostan, are those by the historians of Alexander. This conqueror traversed the Punjab, but did not establish any permanent dominion beyond the Indus. Seleucus Nicator, one of his successors, is believed to have advanced with an army into the heart of India, against Sandracottus (Chandragupta), and he afterwards sent Megasthenes on an embassy to that sovereign, at his capital Palibothra, which is conjectured to have been either Patna or Bhaugulpoor.

The Greek monarchs of Bactria appear really to have pushed their conquests into India, and subsequently the Parthians and Scythians. The author of the Periplus of the Erythrean Sea, and Pliny, give some descriptions of the west coast of India; but from the decline of the Roman empire, a lapse of many centuries occurs before we arrive at any further authentic information concerning the countries beyond the Persian desert.

Muslim Invasions and the Modern History of India

The modern history of Hindoostan commences with A. n. 1000, when Mahmoud of Ghuznee, a Mahometan sovereign, whose dominions reached from the Indian Ocean to the Caspian, made the first of his 13 successful expeditions into Hindoostan, which region he penetrated as far as Kanoje, Bundelcund, and Gujerat. In 1174, the Ghaznevide dynasty was overturned by Mahomet of Ghore, who also invaded India on several occasions, and whose successor Cuttub, in 1215, founded the Patan or Afghan sovereignty, which had its seat at Delhi. The Patan dynasty lasted till 1525, and, during its continuance, Hindoostan suffered from the successive devastations of Jenghiz-khan and Timour. Baber, a descendant of Timonr, in 1526, established the Mogul dynasty; of which, after himself, Akbar, Jehangire, Shah Jehan, and Aurengzebe, were the most celebrated sovereigns.

In the time of Aurengzebe, the Mogul dominion had reached its culminating point, and in his reign the Mahometan conquest of the Deccan was achieved; but his rule was disturbed by the rise of the Mahratta power under Sevajee, and after the death of his successor Shah Allum, in 1713, the Mogul sovereignty rapidly waned into decrepitude. The Nizam, and other viceroys of the empire, then founded for themselves independent kingdoms in different parts of India, which were soon afterwards devastated by the incursions of Nadir Shah, and a fresh invasion of Afghans.

South India and Hindu Kingdoms

Meanwhile that the foregoing dynasties ruled in Hindoostan, south India was long the seat of several independent Hindoo sovereign ties; the principal of which were Bejapoor and Bijnagur, but which were successively conquered by the Mahometans. Shortly after the fall of the Bhamenee empire of the Deccan, and 27 years before the foundation of the Mogul empire by Baber, the Portuguese under Vasco de Gama, in 1498, arrived at Calicut, which was then governed by a prince named the Zamorin. Within a short period they had possessed them selves of Goa, Diu, and other places, on the west side of India; the trade of which coast was for a period wholly under their control. They were followed by the Dutch, who, however, nearly confined themselves to trading with India, and never made any important settlement on its soil. In the 18th century, the French found means to establish colonies, chiefly on the east side of India; but before the termination of that century, their progress toward domination in India was checked; and, early in the present century, their influence over Indian polities and native sovereignties, was thoroughly destroyed by the British.

Sources for this entry: Von Orlich; Jacquemont; Hamilton, Hindoostan and east India Gaz.; Conder, Modern Traveller; Bell; North British Review; Picture of India; Crawfurd, Asiatic Researches; Journals of the Royal Asiatic Society, and Asiatic Society of Bengal; Bombay and Madras Journals; Calcutta Review, 1850-51, &c.)

Related Material on the History of the British in India


Blackie, Walker Graham. The Imperial Gazetteer: A General Dictionary of Geography, Physical, Political, Statistical and Descriptive. 4 vols. London: Blackie & Son, 1856. Internet Archive online version of a copy in the University of California Library. Web. 7 November 2018.

Last modified 10 December 2018