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James Grant Duff
Born 1789
Banff, Aberdeenshire
Died 1858 (aged 68–69)
Nationality British
Occupation Soldier, author

James Grant Duff (1789–1858) was a British soldier, and historian[1] from Scotland who was active in British India.

Early life

He was the eldest son of John Grant of Kincardine O'Neil and Margaret Miln Duff of Eden, who died 20 August 1824, was born in the town of Banff on 8 July 1789. His father having died about 1799, his mother moved to Aberdeen, where he went to school, and to the Marischal College.[1]

Military career

Duff was to become a civil servant of the East India Company, but being impatient at the prospect of delay in obtaining a post he accepted a cadetship in 1805 and sailed for Bombay. After completing the cadet training in Bombay, he joined the Bombay grenadiers[when?]. In 1808, Duff participated as an ensign in the storming of Maliah, a fortified stronghold of freebooters, where he displayed bravery. At an unusually early age[when?] he became adjutant to his regiment and Persian interpreter, and was even more influential in it than this position indicated[how?]. While still a lieutenant he attracted the attention of Mountstuart Elphinstone, then resident of Poona, and became, along with Henry Pottinger, his assistant and devoted friend. He was particularly successful in understanding the native character, and in discovering the mean between too rapid reform and too great deference to native prejudice and immobility. During the long operations against the Peishwa Bajee Rao, terminating in his overthrow, Grant took a considerable part, both in a civil and in a military capacity, holding now the rank of captain in his regiment.[2] Upon the settlement of the country he was appointed in 1818 to the important office of resident of Sattara. His instructions are contained in a letter of Elphinstone"s, dated 8 April 1818, and his remuneration was fixed at two thousand rupees per month, with allowances of fifteen hundred rupees per month, and in addition his office establishment.[3] Here, in the heart of a warlike province, the centre of the Mahratta confederacy, with but one European companion and a body of native infantry, he succeeded in maintaining himself. By proclamation 11 April 1818, Elphinstone made over to Grant full powers for the arrangement of the affairs of Sattara. Pertab Sing the rajah was rescued from his captivity by the peishwa, after the battle of Ashteh February 1819, and restored to the throne under the tutelage of Grant. By treaty 25 September 1819, Grant was to administer the country in the rajah's name till 1822, and then transfer it to him and his officers when they should prove fit for the task. Grant carefully impressed upon the rajah that any intercourse with other princes, except such as the treaty provided for, would be punished with annexation of his territory, and trained him so successfully in habits of business that Pertab Sing, having improved greatly under his care,[4] was made direct ruler of Sattara in 1822; but under Grant's successor, General Briggs, his behaviour was unsatisfactory.[5] During this time, Grant concluded the treaties with the Sattara jaghiredars, viz. 22 April 1820, the Punt Sucheo, the Punt Prithee Nidhee, the Duflaykur, and the Deshmook of Phultun, and 3 July 1820, the Rajah of Akulkote and the Sheikh Waekur (as the names are given by Aitcheson). The arrangements which he prescribed both for the etiquette of the Durbar and for the management of the revenue remained as he left them for many years.[1]

Return to Scotland

After five years the anxiety and toil broke down his health, and compelled his return to Scotland, where he occupied himself in completing his History of the Mahrattas, the materials for which he had long been collecting with great diligence and under peculiarly favourable opportunities, through his access to state papers, and family and temple archives, and his personal acquaintance with the Mahratta chiefs (see in Colebrooke, Life of Elphinstone, several letters to and from Grant). It was published in 1826 and was translated into the major languages of Western India and made required reading for Indian students during the British Raj. About 1825 he succeeded to the estate of Eden, and taking the additional name of Duff settled there, improving the property. In 1850 his wife, Jane Catharine Ainslie (only daughter of Sir Whitelaw Ainslie, an eminent physician and author of the Materia Medica Indica), whom he married in 1825, succeeded to an estate in Fifeshire belonging to her mother"s family, whereupon he took the further name of Cuninghame.[1]


He died on 23 September 1858, leaving a daughter and two sons, of whom the elder, Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant Duff, M.P. for the Elgin Burghs, Under-Secretary for India 1868–1874, and Under-Secretary for the Colonies 1880–1881, and Governor of Madras Presidency 1881–1886.[1]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Hamilton 1888, p. 130.
  2. Hamilton 1888, p. 130 see Forrest, Official Writings of Elphinstone, pref. memoir
  3. Hamilton 1888, p. 130 see Parliamentary Papers 1873, volume xxxviii. part i.
  4. Hamilton 1888, p. 130 see Heber, Journal, ii. 212
  5. For some details of Grant"s administrative policy see his report on Sattara in Elphinstone"s Report on the Territories taken from the Peishwa, 1821 (Hamilton 1888, p. 130).


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Wood, James, ed (1907). "Duff, James Grant". The Nuttall Encyclopædia. London and New York: Frederick Warne. 
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Hamilton, John Andrew (1888). "Duff, James Grant". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography. 16. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 130–131.  Endnotes:
    • Banffshire Journal, September 1858, from which all the other periodical notices are taken
    • Duff's History of the Mahrattas
    • Burke's Landed Gentry
    • Aitcheson's Indian Treaties, volume iv.
    • Colebrooke's Elphinstone
    • Dr. Murray Smith on Sattara in Calcutta Review, x. 437.

Further reading

  • Kulkarni, A.R. (2006). James Cuninghame Grant Duff: Administrator-Historian of the Marathas. Kolkata: K.P. Bagchi. ISBN 81-7074-286-2. 

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