Analysing the English Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum

Richard Carnac Temple

Alison Petch,
Researcher 'The Other Within' project

Richard Carnac Temple (1850-1931) was not much interested in England and concepts of 'englishness'. Although he was a very active member of the Royal Anthropological Institute and the Folklore Society he was most interested in the English engagement in their Empire and specifically India. He wrote several articles about the contributions the study of anthropology could make to a well-rounded colonial adminstrator and the needs for an Imperial school of anthropology.

Temple was an army officer, administrator and oriental scholar and the second baronet. His family home was in Worcestershire but he was born in Allahabad, India as his father was also an Indian administrator. Temple was educated at Harrow and at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. In 1871 he obtained a commission in the Royal Scots Fusiliers and went with them to India. IN 1877 he transferred to the Indian Army. He served in the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-9). In 1885 the outbreak of the third Anglo-Burmese war led to him being placed in charge of King Thibaw's capital, which was the start of his long association with the country. For the last ten years of his service he worked as chief commissioner of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

In 1902 he succeeding to the baronetcy on the death of his father, and he retired in 1904 having achieved the rank of lieutenant-colonel. In 1913 he was president of the anthropological section of the British Association and in 1925 he was elected a fellow of the British Academy. He was editor of the Indian Antiquary from 1892. From 1921 until his death, he lived in Switzerland, the Dictional of National Biography describe this as an 'enforced exile'.

Temple and the Folklore Society

Temple joined the Folklore Society in 1885 and was president of the Jubilee Congress in 1928. As the 54th annual report of the Council of the Society recorded:

Of the loss sustained to the Society as well as by all Oriental and antiquarian students in the death of Sir Richard Temple, much could be written. Folklore, his pet study, is the poorer for his passing. From the outset of his career in India, the subject fascinated him and he never lost his interest in it. Wherever he was stationed, in the Punjab, in Burma, in the Andamans, he started delving into the folk-tales and beliefs of the peoples with whom he came in contact, and his ready pen at once committed the results to paper. His 'Legends of the Punjab', his numerous contributions to 'Punjab and North Indian Notes and Queries', ... are some but by no means all the outcome of his research. To the Society's journal his contributions cover a period of nearly half a century, beginning with notes on "Indian superstititons" in vol. III of the Folk-lore Record (1880) and culminating in the Presidential Address, "The Mystery and Mental Atmosphere" which he delivered at the Jubilee Congress of the Society in 1928. [Anon, 1932: 5]

In 1886 Temple published a paper, 'The science of folk-lore' in Folklore which addressed what he believed folklore to be:

What is Folk-lore, and what is not Folk-lore? ... Such an editor will soon find that Religion, so far as it is
Superstition-and with many peoples it should be remembered that it is nothing else-is Folk-lore; so is a Social Custom, so far as it is founded on a superstition; while Songs and Catches, Proverbs and Sayings, are only interesting so far as they embody Folk-lore. History, Natural History, and Ethnography, are also Folk-lore, so
far as they preserve Legends; Language, again, includes much, in the matter of derivation especially, that is purely Folk-lore: while Antiquities are almost inseparable from Legends. Folk-lore, in fact, is present in almost
every subject connected with the study of man-kind, and with many it is so mixed up with sober fact as to be
practically inextricable. ...
What, then, is this Folk-lore that we find pervading everything human ? It seems to me that the answer is to be found in the term itself. If we take "folk" to mean the general community, we get " folk-lore" to be the "lore" of the people. "Lore" means and has meant learning in general, but, putting aside derivations and past meanings - a proceeding to which each generation in all parts of the world has always asserted its right - I think it is fair to say that " lore" nowadays, and at any rate in this connection, is learning of the kind that is opposed to science, meaning by " science " ascertained knowledge. Folk-lore, then, is, in the first place, popular learning, the embodiment, that is, of the popular ideas on all matters connected with man and his surroundings. [Temple, 1886: 193-4]

Temple and the Pitt Rivers Museum

Temple gave one English artefact to the Museum, 1906.1.7: 'Specimen of ancient lath & plaster from ceiling of the old portion of his home, the Nash, Worcester, showing the use of whole wattle-sticks.' In total, though, he gave 3,419 artefacts, most of the remainder were collected by him in India and Burma during his long colonial service.

Further Reading

Anon 1932 'Fifty-fourth annual report of the Council' Folklore, Vol. 43, No. 1 (Mar. 31, 1932), pp. 5-12

Temple, R.C. 'The Science of Folk-Lore' The Folk-Lore Journal, Vol. 4, No. 3 (1886), pp. 193-212