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Sir Lewis Leigh Fermor's Diary: Life in Colonial India

Sir Lewis Leigh Fermor (undated) [LDGSL/348/1/2].

The name Fermor may today be best known within the Society in association with the Fermor Fund, the bequest made by Sir Lewis Leigh Fermor’s second wife after her death to support research into her late husband’s areas of interest, or the Fermor Meeting. Outside geological circles it is more likely to be connected to Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor, Lewis Leigh’s celebrated travel writer son. Patrick could be said to have had adventure in his blood, with his father Lewis heading off to India at the age of 22, and being sent off on his first six month field work expedition less than a week later.

After applying for a job with the Geological Survey of India, Lewis Leigh Fermor (1880-1954) departed for Calcutta (Kolkata) in 1902. In 1909, after discovering six manganese minerals, his key report on the manganese deposits of the country was published. During WW1 he assisted the Railway Board and the Indian Munitions Board, for which he received an OBE in 1919. He led the surveying of the Archaean rocks of Madhya Pradesh both before and after the First World War. Although he officially became director of the Survey in 1932, he had previously acted as such for several years in the 1920s and from 1930 onwards. He retired from the Survey in 1935, but continued to live in India until 1939 as a consulting geologist, before returning to Britain.  

India 1934 small    Diary

Map showing the area of India in which Fermor travelled during his first two field work seasons. [George Philip FRGS (ed.), Philips’ Record Atlas, London: The London Geographical Institute, 1934.] Click to enlarge.

   Fermor’s diary covering his first two field work seasons in India, 1902-1903 and 1903-1904 [LDGSL/348/2/3].

The Society’s Archives hold a small number of notebooks and diaries formerly belonging to Fermor, in addition to personal papers such as his first Indian employment contract and a letter notifying him of a scholarship. His diaries are particularly interesting for the intriguing insight they give the reader into the life of both an early twentieth century geologist, and an English civil servant in British India. This exhibition looks at one diary covering Fermor’s first two field work seasons in India, 3rd November 1902-19th April 1903 and 17th October 1903-8th May 1904. Place names as written by Fermor will be given first, with the current name following in brackets, for example: Calcutta (Kolkata), as above.

Click on the thumbnails below to explore the contents of the diary:

Manganese   Field Work
Flora and fauna section thumb   Flora and Fauna
Leisure - hunting section thumb   Leisure: Hunting
Leisure - sightseeing section thumb   Leisure: Sightseeing
Natives section thumb   Relationship with Natives
Celebration section thumb   Celebration
Bibliography thumb   Bibliography