HEWITT, J. Francis

HEWITT, James Francis Katherinus. 21.6.1835 — 14.3.1908. British Civil Servant in India, a Scholar of Indian Ethnology and Prehistory. Born in Ireland, son of Rev. John Pratt H. and Elisabeth Gervais. Educated in Westminster, studies at Oxford (Christ Church). Joined I.S.C., served in Krishnagarh. From 1863 Deputy Commissioner in Chota Nagpur, became much interested in local primitive tribes, following the example of the ethnologist Dalton. Later served as Commissioner of Chota Nagpur. Married Constance Stanley, two sons and two daughters.

In retirement Hewitt started working with his large materials on Mundas, Gonds, etc. Without philological schooling he proposed fanciful etymologies and explained stories as myths. In Nala he saw a rain god, and Damayantī should be the earth gradually taken into agriculture. However, he was industrious and knew very well his large and partly unique material. Beveridge compared him to James Tod.

Publications: Report on the Land Revenue Settlement of the Raepore District, Chuteesgurh Division, Central Provinces, 1869. 134 p. Nagpore 1869.

The Ruling Races of Prehistoric Times. 1-2. Westminster 1894-95.

The History and Chronology of the Myth-making Age. 682 p. 1901.

Primitive Traditional History. 1-2. L. 1907.

Many articles in JRAS, Westminster Review, etc., e.g. “Notes on early history of Northern India”, JRAS 20, 1880, 321-363; 21, 1889, 187-359, 527-582; 22, 1890, 527-605, 664f., 697-758.

Sources: H. Beveridge, JRAS 1908, 964-966; stray notes in Internet; not in D.N.B., Who Was Who.

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