ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

New Answers to an Old Problem: What to do with the Library of Tipu Sultan?


Ehrlich Joshua - University of Macau, History, Macau, Macau


12 – South Asian Collections in European Museums: Examining their acquisition, display, and futures


This paper contributes to present-day debates surrounding South Asian collections in European museums through an exploration of the history of one of South Asia’s greatest libraries: that of Tipu Sultan of Mysore (1751-99). Tipu’s collection was amassed largely through the plunder of rivals, yet it in turn was plundered by the British East India Company. Debates over what should be done with it began almost immediately in 1799, raged for some years, and lately have arisen again. The case of Tipu’s library highlights the difficulties involved in assigning “ownership” of collections to particular people, polities, or places. Digital technologies, however, hold out the promise of new solutions to the problem.