Few people today know the name, Philip Meadows Taylor. He came out to India when he was barely fifteen. Like many who came to the subcontinent, he had few resources in England. He did not attend Haileybury, the training school for the elite members of the British civil service in India. He lived hand to mouth for several years before he was employed by the Nizam of Hyderabad, largest of the princely states of India.
The Nizam was ruler of a vast region encompassing the largest of the princely states, which included parts of present-day Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra states. Its ruler, the Nizam Osman Ali Khan was a Muslim, although over 80% of its people were Hindu. Today, the Nizam of Hyderabad, is Fifth on Forbes ‘All Time Wealthiest’ list of 2008 with Net Worth: 210.8 Billion USD. Bill Gates is twentieth, Net Worth: 101.0 Billion USD.
So how did a very young man with no patrons or “connections” find a post with the Nizam? First, Meadows Taylor was one of the first people to pursue the Thuggee, the cult of killers who haunted the back roads of India for centuries. If General W.H. Sleeman hadn’t rounded them up, Meadows Taylor would have.
Taylor was sent out to India to become a clerk to a Bombay merchant. On his arrival the house was in financial difficulties, and he was glad to accept in 1824 a commission in the service of his highness the Nizam, to which service he remained devotedly attached throughout his long career. He was speedily transferred from military duty to a civil appointment, and in this capacity he acquired a knowledge of the languages and the people of Southern India which has seldom been equaled. He studied the laws, the geology, the antiquities of the country; he was alternately judge, engineer, artist and man of letters, for on his return to England in 1840 on furlough he published the first of his Indian novels, Confessions of a Thug,
As a result of his experience with the Thuggee, subject of another post in upcoming months, Meadows Taylor wrote a book, Confessions of a Thug, which became a best seller in England.
Taylor worked for the Nizam for decades and when he grew old and tired and was about to leave India and go “home,” to England, thousands of the Nizam’s subjects followed him for days, sang to him and prayed, to show how highly they valued him. He was the exceptional Englishman who gave his all for India and the Indians. He built roads, reservoirs and looked for any way he could to improve the lives of the Nizam’s subjects, and they knew it.
As you can see from the image of Meadows Taylor I have posted, he was a big, powerful man with more than the ordinary share of bravery and love for his fellow man. To learn more, read Meadows Taylor’s own, Story of My Life,