James Silk Buckingham

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

James Silk Buckingham
James Silk Buckingham by Clara S. Lane.jpg
James Silk Buckingham by Clara S. Lane
Born(1786-08-25)25 August 1786
Flushing, Cornwall
Died30 June 1855(1855-06-30) (aged 68)
London, England
Occupationauthor, journalist, traveller

James Silk Buckingham (25 August 1786 – 30 June 1855) was a Cornish-born British author, journalist and traveller, known for his contributions to Indian journalism. He was a pioneer among the Europeans who fought for a liberal press in India.

Early life[edit]

Buckingham was born at Flushing near Falmouth on 25 August 1786, the son of Thomasine Hambly of Bodmin and Christopher Buckingham (died 1793/94) of Barnstaple. His father, and his ancestors, were seafaring men.[1] James was the youngest of three boys and four girls and his youth was spent at sea. The property of his deceased parents consisted of houses, land, mines and shares, which was left to the three youngest children.[1] In 1797 he was captured by the French and held as a prisoner of war at Corunna.


In 1821, his Travels in Palestine was published, followed by Travels Among the Arab Tribes in 1825.[2] After years of wandering he settled in India, where he established a periodical, the Calcutta Journal, in 1818. This venture at first proved highly successful, but in 1823 the paper's outspoken criticisms of the East India Company led to the expulsion of Buckingham from India and to the suppression of the paper by John Adam, the acting governor-general in 1823. His case was brought before a select committee of the House of Commons in 1834, and a pension of £500 a year was subsequently awarded to him by the East India Company as compensation.

James Silk Buckingham, by Henry William Pickersgill c. 1816

Buckingham continued his journalistic ventures on his return to England; he settled at Cornwall Terrace, Regent's Park,[3] and started the Oriental Herald and Colonial Review (1824–9) and the Athenaeum (1828) which was not a success in his hands, Buckingham selling to John Sterling after a few weeks.

Between 1832 and 1836 Buckingham served as MP for Sheffield. He was a strong advocate of social reform, calling for the end of flogging in the armed services, abolition of the press-gang and the repeal of the Corn Laws.[4]

During his time as an MP, Buckingham served as Chair of the select committee charged with examining "the extent, causes, and consequences of the prevailing vice of intoxication among the laboring classes of the United Kingdom" devise a solution. Campaigner for the working class Frances Place concluded that the lack of “parish libraries and direct reading rooms, and popular lecture that were both entertaining and instructive” were drawing individuals to frequent “public houses for other social enjoyment.” [5] With this in mind, Buckingham introduced the Public Institutions bill in 1835. Buckingham’s bill allowed boroughs to charge a tax to set up libraries and museums. This bill never became law but would serve as inspiration for William Ewart and Joseph Brotherton, who introduced a bill that would "[empower] boroughs with a population of 10,000 or more to raise a ½d for the establishment of museums".[6] Ewart and Brotherton’s bill would become the basis for the Museum Act of 1845.

Following his retirement from parliament, in October 1837, Buckingham began a four-year tour of North America. In 1844 he was central to the foundation of the British and Foreign Institute in Hanover Square.[4] Buckingham was the former editor of Asiatic Mirror.

He was a prolific writer. He had travelled in Europe, America and the East, and wrote many useful travel books, as well as many pamphlets on political and social subjects. "In 1851, the value of these and of his other literary works was recognized by the grant of a Civil List pension of £200 a year. At the time of his death in London, Buckingham was at work on his autobiography, two volumes of the intended four being completed and published (1855)".[7] This work is important as it mentions in detail the life of the black composer Joseph Antonio Emidy who settled in Truro.

Personal life[edit]

In February 1806, Buckingham married Elizabeth Jennings (1786–1865), the daughter of a Cornish farmer.

Buckingham died after a long illness at Stanhope Lodge, Upper Avenue Road, St John's Wood, London, on 30 June 1855.[4] Buckingham is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery.[8]

His youngest son, Leicester Silk Buckingham, was a popular playwright.



  1. ^ a b "The Flushing Boy Who Became A Great Traveller". The Cornishman (212). 3 August 1882. p. 6.
  2. ^ Shepherd, Naomi, The Zealous Intruders: the Western Rediscovery of Palestine, London 1987, p. 59.
  3. ^ "Cornwall Terrace". Archived from the original on 12 October 2012.
  4. ^ a b c "Buckingham, James Silk (1786–1855), author and traveller". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/3855. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ Select Committee on inquiry into drunkenness, Report (1834)
  6. ^ Thomas, Kelly (1977). Books for the People: Illustrated History of the British Public Library. Britain: Harper Collins. p. 77. ISBN 0233967958.
  7. ^ Santanu Banerjee (2010). History of Journalism : A Legend of Glory. Suhrid Publication. ISBN 978-81-92151-99-1.
  8. ^ "Term details". British Museum. Retrieved 12 February 2018.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Sheffield
With: John Parker
Succeeded by
John Parker
Henry George Ward