Birthday: June 4, 1829
Nationality: British, Indian, Scottish
Died At Age: 83
Sun Sign: Gemini
Born Country: England
Born in: Saint Mary Cray, Orpington, United Kingdom
Famous as: Founder of Indian National Congress
Spouse/Ex-: Mary Anne Grindall (m. 1853)
father: Joseph Hume
mother: Maria Burnley
children: Maria Jane Burnley
Died on: July 31, 1912
place of death: London
Founder/Co-Founder: Indian National Congress, Early Nationalists, South London Botanical Institute, National Congress
education: University College Hospital, East India Company College
awards: Companion of the Order of the Bath
Who was Allan Octavian Hume?
Allan Octavian Hume was a political reformer, botanist, and ornithologist who worked in British India. He was also a member of the Imperial Civil Service, which later came to be known as the Indian Civil Service. He was one of the founding members of the Indian National Congress, a political party known for its struggles to free India during the Indian independence movement. He was the administrator of Etawah, and he realized that the Indian rebellion that took place in 1857 was a result of misgovernance, after which he tried to make improvements and make the lives of the common people better. His administration helped his district return to normality, and it was eventually considered a model of development. Throughout his career, he was also known for questioning the British policies in India. Other than politics, he was also a renowned ornithologist, and he founded the journal tilted ‘Stray Feathers’, wherein people recorded notes on various kinds of birds across the country. In 1894, he left India and settled in London. He passed away in 1912, at the age of eighty-three.
Childhood & Early Life
Allan Octavian Hume was born at St Mary Cray, Kent, on 4th June 1829. His parents were Joseph Hume and Maria Burnley.
He was privately tutored in his childhood till he reached the age of 11. He pursued his higher education at the University College Hospital, where he studied medicine and surgery.
He was later nominated into the Indian Civil Services. He sailed to India, and a year later, he entered the East India Company in Bengal.
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Unlike any other government officials, Allan Octavian Hume decided to study the native languages of India. In his early years in service, he introduced free primary education for the people. He also started a local newspaper in vernacular language titled ‘Lokmitra’ in Etawah, Uttar Pradesh.
After some years, he saw the famous Indian Rebellion of 1857, during which he also got involved in various military actions. When the revolution began, he was in Etawah, which was not too far from Meerut, where the rebellion had started. But as it spread, he had to move and take refuge in Agra fort for six months.
Allan Octavian Hume was able to resume his position in January 1858. He put the blame on the British government for being inefficient, which, according to him, was the cause for the uprising. He decided to pursue a policy of mercy and tolerance.
He helped in promoting primary education and founded scholarships for higher education. He also wrote that education would prevent revolts like the one in 1857.
He also tried to build separate schools for juvenile delinquents, as he believed that flogging and punishment would only produce hardened criminals. He started the building of free schools and is known to have established 181 schools throughout his entire career. He promoted the education of women and strongly opposed female infanticide and enforced widowhood.
By the 1870s, Allan Octavian Hume had risen within the ranks of the Imperial Civil Service. He eventually became the director-general of agriculture in the central government.
He was critical of the land revenue policies of the British government and believed that it was one of the major causes that were keeping India in poverty. He was very outspoken whenever he felt that his government was wrong, and this led to him having problems with some of his colleagues. His reformist policies gained controversy.
Due to his honesty and criticism of the British government, Allan Octavian Hume’s situation worsened. In 1879, he was dismissed from his position in the secretariat. The only reason given was that his dismissal was in the ‘interests of the public service’. However, the press declared that the only reason was his honesty and independence. He was demoted to a member of the board of revenue.
He did not resign immediately from service in spite of this as he was in need of the salary for the publication of ‘The Game Birds of India’ which he had been working on for some time.
He eventually retired in 1882. The next year, he wrote an open letter, addressed to the graduates of Calcutta University. He informed them about the necessity of their own national political movement in the country. This eventually led to the first session of the Indian National Congress in 1885.
Indian National Congress
Being one of the founders of the Indian National Congress is one of Allan Octavian Hume’s main contributions to India. He had deep sympathy for those who had suffered due to the government’s wrong policies. Though he wanted a better future for the country, he didn’t think of a completely separate India free from the Imperial British Rule.
He was elected as the general secretary of the party in 1884, and he held that position till 1891. The Indian National Congress soon started leading the Indian Independence Movement, with over 15 million members. There were over 70 million participants in their struggle to free India from the British rule. Hume is today widely regarded as the founding father of the Indian National Congress.
Allan Octavian Hume was also known for his interest in birds and was often called ‘The Father of Indian Ornithology’. He had made several expeditions to study and collect birds of the Indian subcontinent. He had identified several new species of birds, which got their common names from him, such as Hume’s Babbler and Hume’s Bush Warbler.
He started a quarterly journal named ‘Stray Feathers’ in 1872; it was devoted to ornithology. He was also preparing a huge publication that would cover all the birds of India, but all his works were unfortunately lost when they were stolen and sold by one of his servants. He had a personal museum as well, which was destroyed by the heavy rains in Shimla.
Family & Personal Life
Allan Hume was married to Mary Anne Grindall from 1853 till her death in 1890. They had a daughter who was named Maria Jane Burnley.
He also briefly followed the theosophical movement founded by Madame Blavatsky.
In 1894, he left India and settled in south London. He passed away at the age of eighty-three on 31st July 1912.