James Fergusson and Indian Architecture



which has not been published under the pressue of
Japanese Cconstruction Mafia and Tokyo University.



Despite being the author of some great works on the history of architecture, few people in Japan know the name of the British architectural historian James Fergusson (1808-86). Fergusson was writing on the history of world architecture no less than thirty years earlier than Banister Fletcher's famous "A History of Architecture"(*1) and he was compared to the ancient Roman auther architect Vitruvius in recognition of his deep thinking and prolific and popular work. (*2)

Heinrich Schliemann, an archaeologist who had excavated Troia, dedicated one of his principal books, the "Tiryns", to Fergusson. The RIBA (Royal Institute of British architects) awarded him a royal gold medal owing to his brilliant achievements concerning his research on the history of architecture.

In Japan, for the first educational teachings of architectural history in the Meiji era, at the architectural courses in the Great Institute of Technology, and in the Imperial University of Tokyo, it was his books that were used as textbooks. In the pre-World War II period, Hideto Kishida, the then professor of the Imperial University of Tokyo, heard from Chuta Ito, the first Japanese architectural historian, that 'the lectures of the history of architecture were by and large direct translations and instructions from Fergusson's book the "History of Architecture", 1874 ...' (*3) Most of the Japanese architects who grew up in the Meiji era must have been familiar with his name.

However, probably on account that none of his books were translated into Japanese, his name has almost sunk into oblivion, while Fletcher's "A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method"(*4) became widespread. In spite of Fergusson's great contribution to the history of architecture, scholars have hardly studied the development of his writings. It would be partly due to the difficulty of grasping the entire substance of his work because of the extremely wide range of his writings, and partly because his greatest achievement consisted of systematizing the history of Indian architecture, whereas the focus of study in Japan was on the West.

James Fergusson

In Japan Chuta Ito in the Meiji era and Shun-ichi Amanuma in the Taisho era had been interested in Indian architecture and had actually traveled in India, but no later architectural historians followed them, leaving Indian architecture neglected. There were no scholars who specialized in Indian architecture; therefore the society of architectural history in Japan could not properly locate Fergusson in extent of the history of Indian and World architecture. Not surprisingly his name is not found in the Japanese "Grand Dictionary of Architecture and Construction." More recently, as the study of Asia has begun to thrive, at length greater attention has been paid to Fergusson.(*5)

The aim of this article is to make a general survey of Fergusson's pursuit of the history of Indian architecture. However, given that his full-length picture is not known I put aside examination of every detail in his works for the present, I am going to observe how he made his history of Indian architecture, in correlating with all his whole writings about world architecture.


James Fergusson became one of the leading architectural historians in the 19th century and was awarded many honors. Fergusson had, according to William White's article, close to ten titles such as C.I.E., D.C.L. Oxon., LL.D. Edin., F.R.S., F.G.S., Vice-President of the Royal Asiatic Society, a Past Vice President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, etc.

However, Fergusson did not study architecture in a university. He taught himself after graduating from a private school and pursued world architecture at his own expense, going on to publish many treatises and books. He was not an academic architectural historian,not surprising when you know that one apprenticed oneself in an architect's atelier rather than in a university to become an architect at that time. Furthermore, that gave him a free spirit. He would look at historical monuments with his own eyes and think independently without adherence to the established theories in the academic community or conventions in architectural society, and persisted in his own views however opposed they might have been to the current of the times.

Lithograph of the Lingaraja Temple based on a Fergusson's sketch

As a critical biography of James Fergusson has not been published even in his native country, details of the process of his study are not known, nor is his private life. According to fragmentary descriptions in many books, we have been able to reconstruct an outline of his life as follows: (*6)

James Fergusson was born in 1808 at Ayr, the capital of the old Ayrshire State in Scotland, as the second son of a medical officer, Dr. William Fergusson. Owing to his father's job relocations he attended the High School in Edinburgh, then went to a private school in Hounslow. After graduation at the age of around twenty he emigrated to India. He was destined for employment in the firm of Fairlie, Fergusson, and Co., in Calcutta, where his older brother was a partner. But the company soon failed and he became an indigo planter and also started a new business in Calcutta along with his brother William.

His indigo plantation was successful and brought him riches. However, he preferred to become a scholar of architecture rather than to continue the business. It seems, as a result of his life in India,that he judged himself more suitable for a life of studies than commercial pursuits, traveling to ancient sites and developing his childhood interest in antiquities and foreign buildings.

Putting an end to his ten years commercial activity in Calcutta, he returned to London. He purchased a home in Langham Place and frequented libraries, immersing himself in the study of architecture. For about ten years between 1834 and 1843 he went to India repeatedly, investigating Indian architecture and taking numerous field notes. It seems that he also traveled in Europe and the Middle East on the way to India. It is not clear when and which parts of India he traveled to due to discrepancies among various descriptions.

Although his last travel to India was in 1845, he wrote his first treatise the previous year and read it at the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland at the end of the year. This was "On the Rock-Cut Temples of India", and Fergusson was thirty-five years old.
It was in 1818 that General Taylor from England discovered Buddhist ruins at Sanchi, and the following year a cavalryman called John Smith discovered cave temples and their murals at Ajanta. Since then the study of Indian archaeology in the Buddhist period had thrived. As Fergusson lectured systematically about the cave temples in various regions quite early, he became well known in Britain as a specialist of Indian architecture. This lecture got such a good response that the British government was prompted into preserving them and reproducing their mural paintings. (*7)

After that time Fergusson unremittingly collected architectural documents all over the world adding to his previous ten year accumulation, developed them theoretically, and read his papers. He published many books, revising and enlarging them tirelessly to perfection until his demise at the age of seventy-seven.
As the range of his writings spread vastly from India to Europe, from ancient times to the 19th century, it became too difficult to grasp the total system of its contents. The result is a chaotic range of descriptions across a large number of books that mention his works and bibliographies that differ from each other causing mistakes and contradictions. In order to rectify and restore them completely I made a systematic "Chronology of Fergusson's Writings", which I will now explain.

Chronology of Fergusson's Writings Chronology

To begin with, I pladed all Fergusson's writings into four categories. The first category is the History of Indian architecture, which he pursued through the better part of his life. The second is the sphere of History of World architecture from ancient times to the Middle Ages. And the third is that of modern times, the Renaissance to the 19th century. I placed his other works in the fourth column, Miscellaneous. Articles in journals are also in this group, even though their themes correspond to the former three categories.

The best representative works of the first three lineages are "A History of Architecture in All Countries", the "History of Indian and Eastern Architecture", and the "History of Modern Styles of Architecture". One may refer to these widespread books as his 'trilogy'.
Revised editions of the trilogy were published even posthumously. Above all the "History of Indian and Eastern Architecture" has often been reprinted in India and continues to be read until now by scholars and amateurs of Indian culture.

His first publication was the "Illustrations of the Rock-Cut Temples of India" in 1845, the text of which was the aforementioned paper "On the Rock-Cut Temples of India." He added many measured drawings to make it a small book, with which he combined the eighteen pieces of large-sized lithographs made by T.C. Dibdin based on Fergusson's original drawings.

He wrote in the preface of this book that at the beginning he had not intended to publish a book just about the cave temples apart from other sort of architecture. His original plan was to publish a book with around 100 pieces of lithographs of the ancient Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic buildings. So he hoped to introduce the totality of Indian architecture and its masterpieces, but considering the excessive cost he completed the cave temples as a first step. He was not necessarily interested in cave temples more than stone constructed buildings.

Lithograph of the Ajanta cave 19 based on a sketch by Fergusson

His next luxurious publication accordingly was 24 large-sized lithographs of stone-built architecture in India together with a 70 page explanation published in 1848 as the "Picturesque Illustrations of Ancient Architecture in Hindostan", which got such a good reputation it was reprinted.
Thus these two publications on Indian architecture marked his public starting point, although his aspiration was not only studying Indian architecture but also to integrate the history of architecture all over the world. He was compiling wide-ranging materials and data from ancient times to the modern age, examining their essences and the interrelations between them.

The book that had the great influence on Fergusson's accomplishment of his work was "An Attempt to Discriminate the Styles of English Architecture" written by Thomas Rickman (1776 -1841) in 1817.(*8) Rickman, who was an architect as well as a researcher of English church buildings, had classified Gothic architecture in England into smaller groups and had established the appellations, such as 'Norman', 'Early English', 'Decorated', and 'Perpendicular', of which he explained the characteristics clearly in the book. So the book 'scientifically' clarified that it is above all 'style' that classifies each piece of architecture and settles its age, and determined it as the principle notion in the 19th century for the study of the history of architecture.

Fergusson was deeply impressed with the book and thought that the notion of 'style' would be effective not only in Britain but even more so in India.(*9)


Historical Inquiry
"An Historical Inquiry into the True Principles" top page

Fergusson's first full-dress theoretical book is "An Historical Inquiry into the True Principles of Beauty in Art, more Especially with Reference to Architecture" published in 1849 (hereinafter referred to as "Historical Inquiry" in this essay). (*10)
A noticeable point in this book's long title is that he used the phrase 'True Principles', reflecting the influence of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812 -52) .

In the beginning of the 19th century, before which Neo-Classicism had been dominant in the society of British architecture, new architects and theoreticians appeared who objected to it. Pugin, one of the representatives of that movement, insisted that the true figure of Christian architecture resided in the Gothic style and that the Classic style of pagan Greece and Rome was unsuitable.
In Gothic architecture, which principally uses pointed arches, its varied and intricate architectural expressions are based on structural rationality, and its attractive ornamentation is executed without disturbing it. That's why Gothic architecture is most worthy as the perfect representation of the 'True Principles' of architecture, he asserted.
Pugin's "The True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture" published in 1841 became the theoretical backbone for the Gothic revival movement in the 19th century in England and other countries. Fergusson deeply empathized with this idea and borrowed the words 'True Principles'.

The revivalists such as Pugin and George Gilbert Scott (who would go on to design the Library and Convocation Hall of Bombay University in India afterward) spread the trend of 'praise to the Middle ages' among British architects, in designing new churches in the Gothic style.
However, in spite of his appreciation of the Gothic style Fergusson did not consider that it was the absolute style and that one should design contemporary buildings in that style. Some of the mediaevalists objected to this attitude of his, so he later wrote in the preface of the "History of Architecture" as follows, ( [ - ] shows supplementation by the author)

"My faith in the exclusive pre-eminence of [European] mediaeval art was first shaken when I became familiar with the splendid remains of the Mogul and Pathan emperors of Agra and Delhi [in India], and saw how many beauties of even the pointed style had been missed in Europe in the Middle Ages. My confidence [of the pre-eminence of European mediaeval art] was still further weakened when I saw what richness and variety the Hindoo [Indians] had elaborated not only without pointed arches, but indeed without any arches at all. And I was cured when, after a personal inspection of the ruins of Thebes and Athens, I perceived that at least equal beauty [as in Europe and India] could be obtained by processes diametrically opposed to those employed by the [European] mediaeval architects.
After so extended a survey, it was easy to perceive that beauty in architecture did not reside in pointed or in round arches, in bracket capitals or horizontal architraves, but in thoughtful appropriateness of design and intellectual elegance of detail. I became convinced that no form is in itself better than any other, and that in all instances those are best which are most appropriate to the purposes to which they are applied." (*12)

Fergusson thought as highly of the Gothic architecture as Pugin, but he judged it inappropriate to apply a past style to a new building in the present day (Fergusson's 19th century) since the social system and people's mentality were completely different from those in the Middle Ages. He acknowledged many other styles all over the world as well as Gothic and concluded that they were beautiful and worthy because they were the best-adapted styles for the demands and needs of the age and society that they belonged to. He referred to that legitimacy as the 'True Principles'.

Having started from Indian architecture, he researched architecture throughout the world and studied the style-classification and those characteristics. He developed this view of architecture and decided to publish it as a theoretical writing in the aforementioned "Historical Inquiry".
However, there were no commercial publishers who would agree to publish a book that declared original architectural thought opposing the general tendency. So he eventually self-financed the publication through Longmans Publisher. Although it was the first of three planned volumes, only a handful of copies were sold, as had been feared. He abandoned his plan to continue publication and left it as an unfinished writing. Fergusson was fourty-one years old. (*13)

It was John Murray, a proprietor of a long-established publishing company issueing a wide range of books, from general books to scholarly, who paid attention to this book. John, who was coincidentally the same age as Fergusson, recommended that he rewrite his study in geographical order.
Fergusson, who was at that time collecting historical materials of worldwide architecture, had realized that highbrow theoretical writing could not be accepted by society, and so he took John Murray's advice to write a comprehensive account of world architecture from India to Europe 'in the more popular style'. Thus was born his epochal book "The Illustrated Handbook of Architecture" in two volumes published in 1855, when Fergusson was fourty-seven years old.

"The Illustrated Handbook of Architecture" top page

Since its exact title is so long; "The Illustrated Handbook of Architecture: Being a Concise and Popular Account of the Different Styles of Architecture Prevailing in All Ages and Countries", I shall simply refer to it as "the Handbook" in this article.

Fergusson, who was compared to Linné in the field of botany,(*14) classifying passionately the architecture of the world, intended to insert figures in this book as profusely as possible. As the technique of photoengraving did not yet exist, he had as many as 840 minute architectural drawings engraved on the end grain of woodblocks, a method developed by Thomas Bewick and popular at the time. So it became an unprecedented publication that showed pictorially diverse architectural styles from all over the world. Combined with the clear descriptions, the book gained a favorable assessment and was reprinted.

The book was also diffused on the European continent and even in America. As for Japan, "The Rules and Subjects of study of the Great Institute of Technology" (1885) mentioned Fergusson's "The Illustrated Handbook of Architecture" as one of its reference books.(*15) Which means that many Japanese students of architecture might have bought copies of this book too.
After this success, almost all of Fergusson's books were to be published in a similar form by John Murray.

The "Handbook" dealt with world architecture, the order being India, China, Western Asia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Persia, and Islam in the first volume. The second volume dealt with European medieval architecture in the order of France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Britain, Northern Europe, and then added Byzantine lastly. Seeing that the half of the book was dedicated to Europe, one might consider that Fergusson was Eurocentric. However, as shown in the aforementioned quotation, he intended to deal with worldwide architectural styles as thoroughly as possible. Such an attitude was rare in the 19th century and it can be said that he was a 'cultural relativist', to use a current term.(*16)

Even so, it is possible to surmise from his writings that he considered the architecture of ancient Greece and medieval Europe particularly valuable. Regarding India and neighboring countries, he spent 171 pages on them in his book. Here, for the first time, even if it was not sufficiently matured,Indian architecture was described in its totality . (Table 2)

Woodcut of the Jami Masjid in Delhi based on a Fergusson's sketch

The "Handbook" is a voluminous work in which each page has the largest quantity of words among Fergusson's books and its total number of pages exceeds 1,000. One could feel awkward that it is entitled 'handbook' like a light book.
The reason is that John Murray was publishing a series of guidebooks under the title of "Handbook for Travelers" and requested Fergusson to write about Indian architecture as one of the series.(*17) However, it became a much more abundant and scholastic work rather than a guidebook, so the publisher deleted 'for travelers' to leave solely 'handbook' in its title.

Fergusson writes in the preface of this book that studies of architecture were 'the mere amusement of the amateur' in the 18th century, but 'new principles of criticism have been evolved' in the 19th century and studies of architecture 'are now becoming objects of philosophical inquiry, and assuming a rank among the most important elements of historical research ( . . . ) and have made such rapid and satisfactory progress' during the first fifty years of the 19th century.
His architectural theory, which should be considered as the essence of his unfinished "Historical Inquiry", is unfolded through thirty-three pages of the introduction. He explains in the first place what the 'True Principles' in architecture are. (*18)

He wrote that the tendency of 'imitation of forms and orders' employed in ancient Greece and Rome that was prevalent fifty years ago (i.e. fifty years before Fergusson's time), but at the present day (i.e. middle of the 19th century) it has switched over to the 'correct reproductions of mediaeval designs (i.e. the Gothic style)'. However, these are 'the mere changing fashions of art' and not real or essential art. What we should do is to 'obtain a true definition of the art or of its purposes' below the surface.
First of all, he said, it is essential that we bear in mind the 'two systems' of architecture that have existed in the world's history. The first is the styles that prevailed in ancient and medieval Europe and other countries 'wherever European civilization or its influences have not yet penetrated'. The second is the styles in Europe since the time of the Reformation (i.e. the age of Renaissance)' and wherever European influence has established itself'.

The art of architecture in the former system is the design 'most suitable and convenient for the purposes it was wanted for'. Each part has 'the stately and ornamental effect consistent with its uses', and its ornament is 'appropriate to the purposes of the building' and 'harmonies with the construction'. The architects took care to make the ornament 'most elegant in itself'. This system has 'succeeded in producing great and beautiful buildings' in not only ancient Egypt, Greece, Gothic, but also in 'indolent' India, 'stolid' Tibet and China, and 'savage' Mexico.
Working on this system, 'no race, however rude and remote, has failed to produce [great] buildings', and there has been no single building that is not beautiful in the age of such 'true art'.

On the contrary, he said, the result of the latter system (in Europe since the Renaissance and European influenced regions) is widely different from this. 'It has now been practiced in Europe for more than three centuries by people who have more knowledge of architectural forms, more constructive skill, and more power of combining science and art to effect a great object, than any people who ever existed before'. However, 'not one building has been produced that is admitted to be entirely satisfactory, or which permanently retains a hold on general admiration'.

Although 'many are large and stately to an extent almost unknown before, and many are ornamented with a profuseness of which not previous examples exist', only conform to the passing fashion, they soon become antiquated and out of date'. It is not permanently successful because it is sham and false.
It is impossible to make the situation that the classical art established in Greece and Rome or the people's emotion to be actual again. 'Gothic art belongs to a state of society so totally different from what now exists'. So 'any attempt to reproduce it now must at best be a masquerade'.

The above account is Fergusson's principal recognition of architectural history, namely, while ancient and medieval architecture is excellent everywhere in the world because it was based on the 'true principles', European architecture after the age of Renaissance is neither beautiful nor useful because it has degenerated into imitation of past styles.
Fergusson constantly developed his study of architectural history and rewrote it in the wake of discoveries of new facts and procurement of new materials, but he held on to this basic viewpoint invariably until the end of his life.

The reason that he gained such a perspective completely different from contemporary architects and architectural historians should be found in the fact that he started his career residing in India and pursuitingIndian architecture. If he had studied architecture in Europe from the start, he would have adopted the sense of value of the architectural society of that time.
Spending his youth in India and extending the area of study from Indian architecture to worldwide, he must have gotten an unacceptable impression from the European architecture that was imitating one past style after another. In addition to that, the then colonial buildings in India were imitations of contemporary classicist architecture in Europe that had no relation with local climate and life styles; therefore he must have had negative feelings toward them.

Woodcut of St Paul's Cathedral of the Gothic style, Calcutta

Fergusson and Pugin were in accordance when admitting that the Gothic architecture was an excellent style based on the 'true principles'. However, they both reached the exact opposite conclusions from each other from the same premise. While Pugin used to apply the Gothic style to new buildings, Fergusson criticized resolutely the imitations of past styles. Although I have to omit here the detail of his theory, he wrote in the introduction to his "Handbook" roughly as follows; (*19)

'Our knowledge of the style becomes greater, the heavier will our chains become, and anything like originality or progress in this important branch of architecture more absolutely impossible'. On the other hand, 'in civil engineering, the lowest and most prosaic branch of architectural art, our progress has been brilliant and rapid'.
And 'if we had made the same progress', 'we should see a Gothic cathedral pulled down with the same indifference, content to know that we could easily replace it by one far nobler and more worthy of our age and intelligence. No architect during the middle ages ever hesitated to pull down any part of a cathedral that was old and going to decay, and to replace it with something in the style of the day, however incongruous that might be'.

Fergusson was radical. This insistence that reminds us of Le Corbusier's critical book "Quand les Cathédrales étaient Blanches (When the Cathedrals were White)" might be regarded as the logic of a 20th century avant-garde architect rather than that of a 1855 historian.(*20)
What he looked for was not a reappearance of the past, but a reconstruction of the 'true principles'. An omen was found in the Crystal Palace built for the London World Fair four years before the publishing of his "Handbook". It was as great as any Gothic building in which the principles of true style of art were wholly permeated, only the materials suitable for the purpose were used, there are no dispensable elements, it depends wholly for its effect on the arrangement of its parts and the display of its structure.

However, Fergusson was not satisfied here either. 'Art, however, will not be regenerated by buildings so ephemeral as Crystal Palaces, or so prosaic as Manchester warehouses, nor by anything so essentially utilitarian as the works of our engineers'. 'Having commenced at the bottom, the true system may extend upwards, and come at last to be applied to our palaces and churches'. After our long wanderings in the dark by 'a false system, daylight may again enlighten our path and gladden our hearts'.


As the scope of architecture that the "Handbook" had covered had been exclusively the ancient and middle ages, Fergusson wrote a history of post-Renaissance architecture as a sequel. This is the "History of the Modern Styles of Architecture" published in 1862, which, he wrote in the preface, might be considered either 'as the third volume of the "Handbook" or treated as an entirely separate work complete in itself'. (Hereafter it is abbreviated to the "Modern Styles" in this article.)
The contents of this book is the history of each country's architecture in Europe since the Renaissance, the history of European influenced countries', so to speak, western style architecture in Asia and North and South America, 'theatres' as a new sort of architecture, and finally, the development of civil and military engineering. Naturally, 80% of the book's distribution was to Europe. (*21)

The book's descriptions of architectural history by region alongside, in the previous volumes, visual woodcut figures are quite useful as printed records and materials.
However, from Fergusson's architectural theory as described in the previous chapter, the architecture since the Renaissance that had degenerated into imitations of past styles must have been considered worthless. Actually, he explained his intention of publishing this book as follows:

"It is principally in the hope that a clear exposition of the mistaken system on which the art is now practiced may lead to some amelioration that this work has been written. How far it may be successful depends on those who read it, or from its study may be led to perceive how false and mistaken the principles are on which modern Architecture is based, and how easy, on the contrary, it would be to succeed if we were only content to follow in the same path which has led to perfection [of architecture] in all counties of the world and in all ages preceding that to which the history contained in this volume extends". (*22)

What Fergusson wrote in the "Modern Styles" is the 'history of false and mistaken architecture'. Between any of the architectural styles in the world is there no superiority or inferiority as far as being based on the 'true principles'. However, the history of architecture since the Renaissance in which architects have learned past history and styles and fell into the decay of repeating them incessantly is the 'history of false and mistaken systems'.
When such styles based on the false principles are transplanted to countries outside Europe, they would go so far as to spoil those countries' traditions. Let's look at the case of India; (*23)

After Neoclassicism, colonial buildings were built in the Gothic style in India too. However, it did not suit the climate of India at all. If one constructs a Gothic church, 'various changes in arrangement must be made' such as 'the aisles of a church must be placed outside, the tracery must be double and fitted with Venetians blinds' etc. Nevertheless, revivalists did not permit it.
In the meantime, Indian builders who were subordinate to rulers without understanding the origin and motive of the 'Orders' followed construction with a 'bastard style'. Here, he insists, the 'common-sense' guided by 'taste' has been lost.

Bastard Style
A sample of bastard style buildings in Lucknow

Then, why had European architecture since the Renaissance lost 'common-sense' and fallen into a state of constructing 'false buildings'?
What Fergusson paid attention to for an answer was 'ethnology' or 'race theory', which was growing at that time. He was led to the idea that the reason for Europeans' loss of architectural creativity and incessant imitation of the past was that the character of Aryans in Europeans had become predominant, and originally, Aryans were not the 'Architectural (artistic) race'.

Since the Age of Great Voyages, and the exploration of Asia and America, Europeans described the societies and religions they found, and their published articles and travelogues came to be referred to as 'ethnography'. Accumulation of those ethnographies on the various lands in the world would grow in due course into the sciences of 'ethnology' or 'anthropology'.
The discovery of the resemblance of grammatical structures between Sanskrit (Indian classic language), Ancient Greek, and Latin opened the way to comparative linguistics in the end of 18th century and generated the notion of a linguistic family; 'Indo-European'. It accompanied the dawning of comparative mythology and comparative religious studies, which would develop the classification of nations or races in the world and the pursuit of interrelations between them. The middle of the 19th century, when Fergusson wrote the "Handbook", was the age of the blossoming of these academic studies.

When Fergusson started to classify the styles of Indian temple architecture, he divided it into 'Northern Hindu Style' and 'Southern Hindu Style' based on the phenomenon that the forms of Hindu temples in Northern India and Southern were clearly different from each other, and applied them to the racial distinction between 'Arian (i.e. Aryan) race' in the North and 'Tamul (i.e. Tamil) race' in the South, which also showed clear differences. He therefore referred to the former as 'Arian Hindu Style' too. (*24)

This might be when he began to refer to ethnographies of every region when extending his territory of writing from Indian to global architecture. If a description about architecture is only an enumeration of styles, it cannot be considered a science. Historians must systematize them while showing the distinctive features of each style. He thought that this could be called 'architectural ethnography'.
The term 'ethnography' came into use early in the 19th century. Fergusson preferred to use it with almost the same meaning as 'ethnology' or 'race theory'. In the introduction to the "Handbook" in 1855, he allotted only half a page for Section XII entitled 'Ethnography', in which he wrote as follows:

"Looking on an ancient building, we can not only tell in what state of civilization its builders lived, or how far they were advanced in the arts, but we can almost certainly say also to what race they belonged, and what their affinities were with the other races or tribes of mankind. So far as my knowledge extends, I do not know a single exception to this rule; and, as far as I can judge, I believe that architecture is in all this instances as correct a test of race as language, and one far more easily applied and understood. Languages alter and become mixed, and when a change has once been established it is extremely difficult to follow it back to its origin, and unravel the elements which compose it; but a building once erected stands unchanged to testify to the time when it was built, and the feelings and motives of its builders remain stamped indelibly upon it as long as it lasts". (*25)

Nineveh and Persepolis
"The Palaces of Nineveh and Persepolis Restored" top page

The young Friedrich Max Muller (1823-1900), who had published the most sacred epic in India the "Rig Veda" in Sanskrit, developed comparative linguistics and cultivated comparative religious studies in the middle of the 19th century, and insisted that there were close corresponding relations among languages, religions and nations. Based mainly on his theory, Fergusson adopted the classification of races in what was considered the scientific standard at that time and wrote a whole thirty-six-page chapter of 'Ethnology from an Architectural Point of View' as an appendix at the end of his "Modern Styles". (*26)
Although this theory is not adopted at all at the present time, he organized it quite clearly and enunciated it with the intention to settle it as the foundation of architectural history. He seemed so confident in this theory that he incorporated it into his next book, the "History of Architecture", to be dealt with later, as Part III of the introduction, almost intact with a few revisions in changing the title to 'Ethnography as Applied to Architectural Art'. As it remained intact in the 2nd and 3rd editions too, it was read by a number of readers.

This is the substance: the original seat of the Asian and European races was in Central Asia, from which races migrated four times with intervals. Those four great races are 'Turanian', 'Semitic', 'Celtic', and 'Aryan' and Fergusson insisted that each race's purity and mixture rate determined the character of its architecture. He inferred those four great race's features and described them assertively in terms of religion, government, morals, literature, arts, and sciences respectively.

Turanians, the most elusive, were the main race of the Stone Age and distributed widely from Asia to Africa. Egyptians, Chinese, Japanese, Mexicans, Tamils, Turks, Magyars, and others belong to this race. The next race, Semites, immigrated to the Middle East, consisting of Akkadians, Arameans, Hebrews, Arabians, and Ethiopians.
It was the Celts who first installed bronze ware and they immigrated to Western Europe. The race that immigrated lastly was Aryans. They invaded Europe, Persia, and India, conquering aboriginal Turanians and ruled over them.

The race that displayed the richest artistic talents in great constructions was the Turanians, of which ancient Egyptians and Tamils or Mughals in India are typical examples. In contrast to them, Semites gave birth to the idea of absolute Gods and religions of the Creators, but were not as great in the field of architecture. The Celts conversely did not produce any great religions, mixing with other peoples everywhere they settled, but nurtured subtle and valuable arts in Europe.
Despite being the most intellectual race, Aryans were the least talented in architecture. As 'convenience is the first thing' they gained what they desired 'by the readiest and the easiest means'. Even in the case of emulating others in construction, they simply made their buildings ornamental and were 'willing to copy what experience had proved to be successful in former works'. They did not apply their money or energy to architecture, but 'without which nothing great or good was ever done in Art'.
'The immaterial nature of their faith has always deprived the Aryan races of the principal incentive to architectural magnificence'. In contrast, 'the Turanian and Celtic races always have the most implicit faith in ceremonial worship and in the necessity of architectural splendor as its indispensable accompaniment'.
Persians, being Aryans, did not have temple architecture. Although the Greeks were Aryans, the greatness of Greek architecture owed much to Pelasgis who were of apparent Turanian race with whom invading Aryans had mixed. As for Europe, the arts prospered in the age of the Celtic race's dominancy, but declined after the Aryan race's influence augmented. The above is the gist of Fergusson's theory.

It is surprising that Fergusson, who should be considered to belong to the Aryan race, reached such a race theory by studying architecture. Is this Aryan self-criticism?
However, there is room to make a shrewd guess. As the name Fergusson demonstrates, he was a pure Scotsman. So, did he place a high value on the culture of the Celts, which was considered as an ancestor of the Scottish, and want to saddle Aryans with the blame for the degeneration of architecture in the modern age? (*27)
At that time Scottish nationalism was rising with the intention of leaving England's rule. Fergusson could have such an emotion in the depth of his mind. Nevertheless, it is unfair to discern his motive in studying world architecture so extensively in such nationalism.

His preterhuman work was achieved by the prompting of some mysterious 'power of architecture' in order to return the degenerated modern architecture again to its great height, and he devoted his life to writing architectural history and theoretical treatises on architecture.
He hoped, in Europe or India or anywhere in the world, people would create their own architectural styles suitable to their periods, nations, and social systems.

History of Architecture
"A History of Architecture in All Countries" top page


As new materials and reports on world architecture came together successively during the ten years after the publication of the "Handbook", Fergusson felt the need to make a new edition to incorporate them. On that occasion, since the "Handbook" had been written in geographical order, it was appropriate to arrange it in historical order and largely rewrite it in order to make it literally a 'history of world architecture'. The result was the two volumes of "A History of Architecture in All Countries, from the Earliest Times to the Present Day", which he was proud of as 'the first attempt to write a universal history of architecture'. (*28)

The first volume was published in 1865, and the second volume, which was due to be published the next year, was delayed until 1867, when he was 59 years old. They were bulky books up to 1,500 pages along with 1,180 woodcut figures altogether, about half of which remained unchanged from the "Handbook" and the other half was a revision or enlargement of the original materials. Since his historical view itself had not altered and the method of description of the medieval architecture according to country remained essentially the same, this publication was not so sensational as the appearance of the "Handbook" ten years before. It is suitable to consider it as a book adding further detail and elaboration.

The "Modern Styles" written as the third volume of the "Handbook" was later regarded as the third volume of the "History of Architecture", so that Fergusson enhanced his fame noticeably as the historian who had completed an entire history of world architecture.
The Indian part including abutting countries, which had been discussed in 171 pages in the "Handbook", was augmented considerably, increasing to 288 pages in the second volume of the "History of Architecture", as the Book III to IV of the 'Pagan Architecture', with enriched substance. (Table 2)

Furthermore what Fergusson passionately intended was to elaborate the history of Indian and trans-Indian architecture to evolve it into an independent volume.
After Alexander Cunningham (1814 -93) took a position as the first Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India that was established in 1860, Indian archaeology developed rapidly with the publication of numerous reports on ancient sites and buildings. Fergusson, who had started in Indian architecture, aimed to complete his history of Indian architecture while incorporating all of these findings into it.
In order to accomplish it, it was necessary to totally reorganize his "History of Architecture". Firstly he wholly revised the "Modern Styles", deleting the chapter on 'ethnography' that had been relocated to the "History of Architecture", then he published it in 1873 as the second edition of the "Modern Styles", writing in the preface that it was 'intended to form the fourth volume of a new edition' of the 'History of Architecture'.

The next year he published two volumes of the "History of Architecture" also as the second edition, deleting the Indian and Eastern part, revising, enlarging, and rearranging its composition. (This was intended to be the first and second volume of his 'History of Architecture'.)
Finally in 1876, two years later, he published the first edition of the long desired "History of Indian and Eastern Architecture", a voluminous 775 pages. (Hereafter it is abbreviated to "Indian and Eastern" in this article.) He regarded it as the third volume of his 'History of Architecture'. Thus his highly developed 'trilogy' of architectural history came to perfection; it had developed into a great work of 2,600 pages in 4 volumes, when Fergusson was at the age of sixty-eight.

Indian and Eastern
"History of Indian and Eastern Architecture" top page

A revised edition of the 'trilogy' was even published posthumously by John Murray who had provided the pubolic with most of Fergusson's writings. The "Indian and Eastern", revised and enlarged into two volumes by J. Burgess and R. Phené Spiers, appeared in 1910, thirty-four years after the first edition. This became the definitive book on the history of Indian architecture and was read widely for a long time.
The revisions by James Burgess (1832 -1917) were quite conscientious in respecting Fergusson's original theory, incorporating subsequent research results, and correcting old unripe points, but we should pay attention to the fact that this revised edition is not Fergusson's itself.

How the descriptive quantity and constitution of history of Indian architecture made progress from the early "Handbook" to the entirely systematized "Indian and Eastern" is shown in the schema of 'Making a History of Indian Architecture by James Fergusson' that I have drawn up here.

Making a History of Indian Architecture Making

As we cannot afford to thoroughly discuss this development in this article, we will particularly examine how he made his classification of architectural styles in India. What we have to make clear from the start is that since the Indus civilization was not yet known in the 19th century, the 20th century's aporia over who had been the bearers of this ancient culture had not yet existed.

In his early "Handbook", Fergusson made a distinction between Tamuls in southern India and Arians in northern India. (*29) In the paragraph of 'Ethnology of India' in the "History of Architecture", he used the word 'Dravidians' for the first time, writing that while there were indigenous people in India akin to current mountain tribes, Dravidians speaking Tamul language came first, and then Aryans speaking Sanskrit came later. (*30)
However, after that he changed his description in which he had a tendency to emphasize distinction of religions rather than races. It was a demand coming from actual research of temple architecture. In other words, it was difficult to define architectural styles solely based on racial distinctions, it also needed to rely upon religious distinctions.

Thriving religions in India were Buddhism in ancient times, Hinduism and Jainism from early middle to modern ages, and Islam from late middle to early modern ages. Supposing that they evolved around different styles respectively, he had described Indian architecture by giving each religion's architecture a different chapter from the "Handbook" on. It was his theme to combine this method to his race theory.
As for Aryans only, he had drawn a conclusion in the 'Ethnology' appended to the "Modern Styles", that is, since they were not a talented nation in architecture, they had not left any buildings in ancient times accordingly, in spite of the creation of the religion of Veda.

Classification of architectural styles in the middle ages was most complicated. At the stage of the "History of Architecture", contrary to the "Handbook", he quit nominating 'Aryan' for 'Northern Hindu Style', applying 'Dravidian Style' to 'Southern Hindu Style'.
Then for the third style recognized later, he used the name 'Chalukya or Rajpoot Style' for the first time. However, since he confused Chaulukyans (Solankis) in western India with Chalukyans in the Deccan Plateau, he identified Jain temple architecture in Solanki dynasty with this by mistake. It would be corrected in the "Indian and Eastern".

Although it was in the introduction of the "Indian and Eastern" that Fergusson's race theory which applied to India was minutely discussed, before the examination of it, I will explain concisely, according to its text, the classification and grouping of Indian styles he finally adopted.
First of all, since there remain only Buddhist ruins from ancient times, Book I was assigned to Buddhist Architecture. The architecture of Jainism, the brotherly religion of Buddhism, was discussed in Book II. Fergusson regarded it as almost the same form as Buddhist architecture in its earlier phase, then it flourished independently in the Middle Ages. Book III treated Himalayan architecture in a different style from that of the Indian Plain.
Then he discussed Hindu architecture that stood in the center of the history of Indian architecture, firmly establishing the nomenclature of three styles by bringing his former attempts to a conclusion. He firstly explained southern 'Dravidian Style' in Book IV, subsequently central 'Chalukyan Style' in Book V, lastly 'Indo-Aryan Style' in Book VI.
Since Islamic architecture, which was referred to as 'Saracenic' architecture at that time, coming fundamentally from outside of India, developed greatly since the early 13th century; he discussed it in the large volume of Book VII. He made a distinction there between the architecture of the Delhi Sultanate ages, which he referred to as 'Pathan Style', and that of the Mughal era. Furthermore, he discussed local styles of Islamic architecture in the various regions.
Book VIII consists of areas beyond India, namely, Burma, Siam, Java, and Cambodia.

Map of Styles
Map of India showing locations of the architectural styles

Fergusson's theory about the relation between race and architectural styles having started from India, returned to India after having been hypertrophied to human history. (*31) Leaving out mythical parts based on the "Veda" or "Mahabharata", I shall look at a more concrete characterization for each race at the outset.
He wrote that it was not clear if Dravidian people, which were said to belong to the Turanian race, were immigrants or aboriginals who originated in the south. If they were immigrants, their original land might not have been Central Asia but a southern region such as Babylonia, he wrote.
Dravidians were less intellectual than Aryans, nevertheless, as Turanians retaining their pure lineage and racial characteristics, they could develop great temple architecture in the middle ages. Fergusson designated it as 'Dravidian Style'.

Dravidian style
Woodcut of the Brihadishvara Temple in the Dravidian style

On the other hand, he continued, Aryan people immigrated into India around the Kali Yuga age, 3101 B.C.E., based on the Hindu theory of world cycles (*32), and their racial purity gradually grew less definite, mixing with indigenous peoples.
Although it was Aryans who gave birth to Buddhism, it was not pure Aryans but a mixed race with Turanians that diffused it widely and built 'stupas' and cave temples. Though Hinduism too commenced as the religion of Veda by Aryans, namely the age of Brahmanism, it was a much later mixed race of Aryans and Turanians that would produce actual outcomes of architecture in the age of Gupta.
Thus Fergusson brought into India the characterization of the four great races established in his history of world architecture.

Then, what sort of Turan race had settled themselves in India? Though its nomenclature had not been established among ethnologists at that time, he had already mentioned 'Dasyu' people for that race in his book "Tree and Serpent Worship", in which he had studied stupas and sculptures at Sanchi and Amaravati in 1868, and assumed that they might have been the people depicted on reliefs found at Sanchi and other ancient sites. (*33)
Dasyu or Dasa is a nomenclature for the aboriginal people conquered by Aryans in "Rig Veda". They were described as people with black skin and flat noses, living in forts called 'pur', and speaking gibberish. Fergusson assumed that they were the indigenous Turanians, and it was them that much later accepted Buddhism in the earliest stage.

Since Dasyus belonged to the Turan race, they were an architectural nation. The form of Hindu temples that they built in northern India is like this soaring tower with a curvilinear outline on a square base as seen below. The non-artistic Aryans did not contribute towards creating this, so the proper nomenclature for this, he wrote, would be 'Dasyu style' rather than 'Indo-Aryan Style' even if it was an unfamiliar name. (*34)

Dasyu style
Woodcut of the Kali Temple in Barakar in the Dasyu style

When it comes to Fergusson's history of Indian architecture, since everybody would be familiar with the 2nd edition of the "Indian and Eastern" revised by James Burgess, they could be confused by this name 'Dasyu style'.
Actually, Burgess deleted this portion of description in the first edition when preparing a revised edition. Although Burgess was the successor of Fergusson and served as the second Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India, advancing the study of architectural history and archaeology, he judged that Fergusson's opinion that 'Dasyu Style' was more suitable than 'Indo-Aryan Style' should be erased for the publication of the revised edition in the early part of the 20th century.

By the way, Fergusson referred to architectural styles of medieval India with racial names such as 'Indo-Aryan Style' (or 'Dasyu Style') and 'Dravidian Style', but he could not find an appropriate ethnicity that could be applied to the style developed in the central part of India between them. He consequently designated it with a name of a dynasty that had thrived there in the Middle Ages, as the 'Chalukyan Style.'
Thus his method of nomenclature would be criticized later because of its inconsistency confusing racial and dynastic names. In addition to that, many other dynasties as well as Chalukyans also built edifices in the area that Fergusson identified as the 'Chalukyan Style.'

However, Fergusson's "Indian and Eastern," which wholly systematized the architecture of India for the first time and was reinforced much by Burgess, became a monumental work in the history of studying Indian architecture, combining races, religions, and geography.
"Indian Architecture" written much later by a historian of art and architecture of India, Percy Brown (1872-1955), in two volumes, has deprived Fergusson's book of the status as a textbook for students because of rich details including the outcomes of new research, but its contents are only an extension of Fergusson's system, and its classification of styles entirely follows Fergusson's, moreover, without explanation of his own 'ethnography' it is not clear why he adopted such nomenclature 66 years after Fergusson's definition.

It was an art historian from England, Ernest Binfield Havell (1861 -1934), who most thoroughly criticized Fergusson's classification and nomenclature of styles. He was the same generation as the Japanese philosopher, Kakuzo (Tenshin) Okakura, and took a position close to Okakura's art movement in Japan, intending to reinstate traditional arts in India while principal of Calcutta Government School of Art. That is to say a theory of unbroken continuity in Indian art, and he upbraided Fergusson, insisting it was completely absurd to emphasize differences between architectural styles based on the religions or races.

However, Havell published later in 1918 a history of India centering on art history, "The History of Aryan Rule in India", explaining that it was always Aryans and their principles that had been ruling India from ancient times up to the contemporary age. He elaborated the cultural history of India from the settlement of Indo-Aryans in India to Akbar's rule in the Mughal era from the Aryan view of history, through which he confirmed the rule of India by the English as Aryans.
This publication can be seen as either Havell's rivalry with Fergusson, who had looked down on Aryans as a non-artistic nation, or as a reflection of the changing times, flowing from Fergusson's naive race theory, which would go on to discriminatory race theory of the Nazis.

Fergusson was not an ethnologist. He only applied the newest ethnology and race theory at that epoch in order to give a bone structure to his study of architectural history. The style names that he gave in such a manner are seldom made formal use of in current history of Indian architecture.
However, his writings' influence was so great that his nomenclature has been widely distributed in the general public in India. Owing also to P. Brown's following, even the specialists often view Indian architecture with Fergusson's old classification.

© Takeo Kamiya
E-mail to: kamiya@t.email.ne.jp