YULE, Henry. Inveresk near Edinbourgh 1.5.1820 — London 30.12.1889. British (Scottish) Historian in India. The youngest son of Major William Yule (retired from Indian service in 1806) and Elizabeth Paterson (d. c. 1827). Educated in Edinburgh and in 1837-38 at East India Company’s Military College in Addiscombe. He went to India following the newly opened “land route” (as it was then called) via Egypt and Aden and arrived at Calcutta in the end of 1840. Served in Royal Engineers in India, 1840-61. His first posting was among the Khasis, a tribal people of North-East Indian hill country in the area of the modern state of Meghalaya, and he soon became interested in ethnology. After this, he mainly served in canal works in Kurnool and Roorkee districts, interspersed with leaves at home (1843 and 1850-52). He participated in both Sikh wars in the Punjab, in 1845-46 and 1849. Back from the long furlough in 1853, Yule was sent to Burma to survey the passes from British Arakan to the inland kingdom of Burma. After a brief mission in Singapore, he joined the new Public Works Department in Calcutta, where he was long remembered as an eager advocate of the combined broad and metre gauge system for Indian railways. As the secretary to Artur Phayre he participated in the diplomatic mission to the court of Burma in 1855 and wrote its official chronicle. After another leave at home (1856-57) he arrived in India in the middle of the uprising and was sent to Allahabad. In 1860 he spent a furlough in Java studying local antiquities.
Yule retired from service in 1861 as Colonel and returned to Europe. Unable to find a satisfactory position in London, he spent his time travelling in France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. Now (1863) he also started the active study of early travellers. He soon settled a pattern, living permanently with his family in Palermo, but visiting London once or twice a year and frequently also the libraries in Venice, Florence and Paris. After his wife’s death, in 1875, he moved back to London. In 1875-89 member of India Council. Honorary LL.D. 1883 Edinburgh. K.C.S.I. 1889. President of both the Hakluyt Society and the Royal Asiatic Society and Vice-President of the Royal Geographical Society. Married 1843 his cousin Anna Maria White, one daughter, remarried as widower.
In retirement Yule concentrated on the study of early travel literature (especially Mediaeval European, but also Arabic and Chinese). His three learned editions of travellers (Jordanus, Cathay, and Marco Polo) made him soon famous among both scholars and general public. He was the first to show definitely that Odorico da Pordenone was really one of the most important among the Mediaeval European travellers and not the poor compilator as was thought earlier. Important and long used is also his Hobson-Jobson, prepared in collaboration with Burnell (who died before it was finished).
Publications: “Notes on the Kasia Hills and People”, JASB 13, 1844, 612-631; a few other articles on the antiquities of India and South-East Asia in JASB.
– A Narrative of the Mission sent by the Governor-General to the Court of Ava in 1855. 7+389 p. L. 1858, new ed. together with the journal of Arthur Phayre, 1968.
– Transl. Mirabilia Descripta. The Wonders of the East, by Friar Jordanus, of the Order of Preachers and Bishop of Columbum in India the Greater, (circa 1330). Transl. from the Latin Original … with the Addition of a Commentary. 17+68 p. Hakluyt Soc. Publ. 1st Series 31. L. 1863.
– Cathay and the Way Thither. Being a Collection of Medieval Notices of China. Translated and Edited, with a Preliminary Essay on the Intercourse between China and the Western Nations previous to the Discovery of the Cape Route. 1-2. Hakluyt Society 1st Ser. 36-37. L. 1866; second edition by Henri Cordier. 1-4. Hakluyt Society 2nd Ser. 38, 33, 37, 41. L. 1914-16.
– Introduction to John Wood, A Journey to the Source of River Oxus. L. 1872, xxi-cxi.
– “On Hwen Thsang’s account of Tokharistan”, JRAS 6, 1873, 92-120 & 278.
– The Book of Ser Marco Polo, the Venetian, Concerning the Kingdoms and Marvels of the East. L. 1871, enl. 2nd ed. 1-2. L. 1875; much rev. 3rd ed. by Henri Cordier. 1-2. 1903-20
– With A. C. Burnell: Hobson-Jobson. A Glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases, and of kindred terms, etymological, historical, geographical and discursive. L. 1886. New ed. [rev.] by W. Crooke. 1021 p. 1903.
– The Diary of William Hedges, Esq. (afterwards Sir William Hedges), during his Agency in Bengal; as well as on his Voyage Out and Return Overland (1681[-]1687), transcribed for the Press, with introductory Notes, etc., by R. Barlow., and illustrated by Copious Extracts from Unpublished Records, etc. by HY. 1-3. Hakluyt Society 1st Ser. 74. 1887-89.
Sources: Buckland, Dictionary; H. Cordier, TP 1, 1890, 66-68 and *JA 8:15, 1890, 243-264; K. Karttunen, Literature of Travel and Exploration. N.Y. 2003, 1315-1317; *R. M[aclagan], JRAS 22, 1890, 220-227 and *Proc. Geogr. Soc. 12, 1890, 108-113; C[outts] T[rotter], D.N.B. 63, 1900, 405-407; Amy Frances Yule, “Memoir of Sir Henry Yule” and his Bibliography, published in the third edition of The Book of Ser Marco Polo. 1903; Wikipedia with portrait.