Orme, Robert

Robert Orme

Orme, Robert (1728-1801) official historian of the east india company. Educated at Harrow, Orme was a close friend of Dr Johnson, the lexicographer and scholar. Robert Orme had a mind to record the affairs of the East Indies so that the British people could know about the occurrences of the region. With that intention, as he asserted in his book, Orme came to Calcutta in 1742 as a 'Writer' of the East India Company. Considering his education and scholarship, the court of directors appointed Orme a Member of the Madras Council (1754-58).

An intimate friend of robert clive, it was Orme who persuaded the Madras Council to make Clive the commander of the military expedition to Bengal. Grateful Clive, when in power, brought his friend to Calcutta mainly for writing a history of the region in the light of the political changes that took place in recent years.

While in Madras and Calcutta, Orme collected available materials in vernaculars and Persian and based on those he wrote a long treatise entitled A History of the Military Transactions of the British nation in Indostan from the year 1745. Published in 1763 the book gave Orme the credit of being the first Orientalist. In 1782 he published a military history entitled Historical Fragments of the Mogul Empire, of the Moratoes, and of the English Concerns of Indostan from the year 1659.

Orme has decidedly inaugurated the oriental studies in the West. Orme's works on India speak of the contemporary perception of the West to the East. According to him, India had an inferior civilisation compared to that of the West. This perception in fact persisted in the Anglo-Indian historiography until the end of the colonial rule. He argued that the military conquests of the East India Company introduced a mutually beneficial regime of domination and subordination that must be sustained in order to keep the British supremacy intact. Orme died on 13 January 1801. [Sirajul Islam]