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ELEVEN years have elapsed since the materials collected by Sir H. M. Elliot for this work were first placed in my hands for revision and publication. In bulk the papers seemed sufficient and more than sufficient for the projected work, and it was thought that an Editor would have little to do beyond selecting extracts for publication and revising the press. With this belief I undertook the work, and it was announced as preparing for publication under my care. When the papers came into my possession, and the work of selection was entered upon, I soon found that the MSS., so far from being superabundant, were very deficient, and that for some of the most important reigns, as those of Akbar and Aurangzeb, no provision had been made. The work had been long advertised, and had received the support of the Secretary of State for India, not as a series of Selections from the Papers of Sir H. M. Elliot, but as a continuous "History of India as told by its own Historians." I had thus unwittingly undertaken the editing of a complete History out of very incomplete and disjointed materials. So I had to determine whether to make the best of the matter provided, or to
fill up the blanks and finish the work by my own unassisted labour. Had this prospect been presented to me at the first, I should probably have shrunk from undertaking the task; for I should not only have distrusted my ability, but have felt that the time and labour required were greater than I could bestow. But I had put my hand to the plough, and had promised the publication of a complete history; so I resolved that it should be as perfect as my labour and ability could make it. Happily I have had the leisure and have been blessed with health to finish my undertaking; but although I rejoice over the conclusion, I part with regret from a work which has occupied my constant thought and care for so many years.
I am conscious that there must be many imperfections and errors in the eight volumes. The voluminous extent of the work would not allow of deliberate study, for the utmost span of life I could hope for would not have sufficed for anything like full and careful study of every MS. I have had to examine. Living far away from great libraries, I have had access to few books beyond my own limited collection, and I have seldom enjoyed the advantage of taking counsel with others upon doubtful passages and obscure allusions. The completion of the work has been my grand aim; and to achieve this end, I have often pressed on when I would have preferred to wait and consider-to inquire for other copies of MSS., and to examine and compare the statements of other writers. Nearly, if not quite half of the matter contained in the whole eight volumes, has been supplied by my own pen, and a large portion of the other half
has required extensive revision. Besides all this, and the superintendence of the press, there has been the long and wearisome labour of going through many tedious and lengthy Persian MSS., as well as crabbed translations, in search of passages for publication, and often with little result.
One portion of the work has been subjected to very sharp and hostile criticism. Since the publication of the second volume, in which some extracts from the Tabakát-i Násirí appeared, Major Raverty has undertaken a complete translation of that work, and has published a considerable portion. Many years ago the late Lord Strangford characterized Major Raverty as "a ready censurer of the errors and shortcomings of his precursors," and time has by no means changed his disposition. His work abounds with sarcastic censures cast on other writers, but contains very little in acknowledgment of the assistance he has received from the labours of his predecessors. It is no difficult matter to criticise and point out errors in the best of translations, especially when the original texts vary and are unsettled. If such criticisms are couched in fair and courteous terms, they are acceptable to both authors and readers, but no benefit can accrue to any one from captious and sneering animadversions. Had Major Raverty's criticisms on this work affected only me personally, they should have passed without observation; but for the credit of this publication, I have gone through his observations seriatim, in a few pages supplementary to this Preface, and am greatly rejoiced 1 Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1862, p. 54.
that such an eager critic has found so little real cause for complaint. I have tried to treat his criticisms in a calm and judicial spirit, and I have given him full credit for such real improvements as his practical knowledge and additional MSS. have enabled him to make. For these corrections, but not for his manner of making them, I tender my thanks.
It is not for me to pass a judgment on the value of this publication. But whatever its imperfections, it has been the means of bringing to the knowledge of Europeans, the merits and demerits of many histories, some entirely unknown, or, if known at all, known only by name and repute. It may be that valuable writings still remain undiscovered; but until they are brought to light, this work will serve, not simply as a store of original information, but as a guide to the sources from which critical and diligent investigators may seek for help and enlightenment upon obscure and doubtful matters. It brings down the history of the Muhammadan Empire in India to the close, but it contains little relating to the independent dynasties of the Dakhin. Sir H. M. Elliot included the history of these dynasties in the ultimate scope of his work, and had obtained a few MSS. for the purpose, but no translations have been made. There are materials from which these histories might be compiled, and the publication of them would complete the Musulman history of Musulman India.
It only now remains to perform the grateful task of expressing my thanks for assistance received. To Mr. E. Thomas I have been indebted for many valuable hints and observations throughout the whole course of