Among the men responsible for preserving the past of the city
of Chennai, the name William Langhorne stands apart.
His work in systematized record keeping in South India was
the first such effort in the country. What started as a mere
record maintenance exercise has today developed into the science
of Archival studies and also diversified into extensive facilities
for archival research.
William Langhorne arrived in Madras (now Chennai) in 1671.
He came to the city to adjudicate a dispute. Gifted with qualities
of an efficient administrator, Langhorne was appointed Governor
of Madras in 1672. Not many know that William Langhorne built
a garden house, the Guindy Lodge, which later became
the Raj Bhavan. He was also instrumental in officially
acquiring the village of Triplicane for the East
India Company. It was Langhorne's passion for records
that led to the official maintenance of records for the first
time in India. The Council Room in the Fort House (in
Fort St. George) was used for this purpose. It had
a building of its own in Egmore in 1909. It was then called
the Madras Record Office, which later on became the
Tamil Nadu State Archives. Some of the oldest records
of the East India Company date back to Langhorne's
period. The Public Consultations, Public letters
to England and other records are worth mentioning.
But for Langhorne, rediscovering Chennai and the erstwhile
Madras Presidency would have been a near-impossible task.
His work has given Chennai one of the oldest record offices
in the world and also the oldest record-keeping centre for
the East India Company.
The Tamil Nadu State Archives (also a recognised research
centre, that houses a good archival library) is open from
8.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m. on all weekdays.
Address: The Tamil Nadu State Archives, 28-29,
Gandhi-Irwin Road, (Opposite Egmore Railway Station), Egmore,
Chennai - 600 008.