Ancient Fortifications of the Tamil Country as Recorded in Eighteenth-Century French Plans.

Author:Simpkins, Robert
Position:Book review
 
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Ancient Fortifications of the Tamil Country as Recorded in Eighteenth-Century French Plans. By Jean Deloche. Collection Indologie, vol. 120. Pondicherry: Institut Francais De Pondichery, Ecole Francaise D'Extreme-Orient, 2013. Pp. 139, 111 photos, 41 figs., 6 pis.

Judging from his numerous publications, venerable South Asian scholar Jean Deloche has spent an itinerant life across the subcontinent. Although based in Pondicherry in South India (at the Institut Francais de Pondicherry and Ecole francaise d'Extreme-Orient), his works have ranged from detailed studies of specific historic sites (such as his monograph Senji (Gingee): A Fortified City in the Tamil County [2005]) to subcontinent-wide surveys of topics such as fortifications (Studies on Fortification in India [2007]) and roads and transportation methods in the pre-modern period (Transport and Communications in India Prior to Steam Locomotion [1980 (1993)]. These works are primarily descriptive and historical--you will not find within them extensive discussions of theory, for example, and interpretations are kept to a minimum. What distinguishes his work from many other scholars, however, is a desire to link historical sources and maps to physical locations and cultural landscapes he has himself visited. He looks for the places described in historical writings or published epigraphy, and, when he finds places in his explorations, seeks to link them to written sources. Deloche finds beauty in the ruins and poetry in the landscapes he sees.

His latest publication, Ancient Fortifications of the Tamil Country as Recorded in Eighteenth-Century French Plans (2013), makes this vision explicit in his introduction in a personal anecdote about an English teacher and poet he once met and with whom he shared his treasured fort of Senji (Gingee). That poet's book never appeared, but Deloche's did. What follows in this modest book is a discussion of a selected number of fortifications around Tamil Nadu, framed by their representation in plans drawn by or for the French during the eighteenth century and now archived in France in five collections: Archives nationales (Paris), Bibliotheque Nationale (Paris), Archives nationales d'Outre-Mer (Aix-en-Provence), Collection du ministere de la Defense (Vincennes), and Service historique de la Marine (Vincennes). The book contains several high-quality photographic plates showing these forts as they existed in the era of the "Carnatic Wars," as the English...

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