Maurice Vidal Portman
Life and career
M. V. Portman was the third son of The Honourable Maurice Berkeley Portman (of his first marriage, to Helen Vidal Harris) who was in turn the third son of Edward Portman, 1st Viscount Portman, and Emma Portman, Baroness Portman. He was born in Canada. He joined the Royal Indian Marine at the age of 16 and was some time in charge of the Viceroy's yacht. In July 1879 he was stationed at Port Blair in the Andaman Islands and made Officer in Charge of the Andamanese, a post which he held for more than 20 years with few interruptions (including December 1880 to December 1883 on sick leave, March 1887 to March 1888 on furlough). He was able to befriend the natives to pacify some previously hostile tribes, especially the Onge people of Little Andaman Island, but also used force against them on occasion.
During his stay at Port Blair he took a large number of photographs of the Andamanese, including some at the request of British Museum (at his own expense) and the British Government of India (on payment). These plates are now scattered among several museums and may be partly unpublished. He also wrote two books, Notes of the Languages of the South Andaman Group of Languages (1898) and A History of Our Relations with the Andamanese (1899). Portman also composed a significant collection of ethnographic objects during his time on the Andaman Islands that are now in the collections of the British Museum.
His obituary stated that he had a "frail physique" and suffered from ill health. After retiring as an invalid in 1901, he went back to Britain where he did some journalism and "some valuable Secret Service work" during World War I. He was a member of the Union Club. He never married and left no descendants.
- Weber, George. "Maurice Vidal Portman (1861-1935)". The Andamanese (Appendix A - Pioneer Biographies of the British Period to 1947). Archived from the original on 5 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-03.
- M. V. Portman (1898), Notes of the Languages of the South Andaman Group of Languages
- M. V. Portman (1899), A history of our Relations with the Andamanese, Volume I and Volume II. Office of the Government Printing, Calcutta, India.
- British Museum Collection
- (1935) OBITUARY - MR. M.V. PORTMAN - "FATHER" OF ANDAMAN ISLANDERS Archived 5 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine.. The Times of London, 22 February 1935. Reproduced by G. Weber in The Andamanese Archived 24 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine., Appendix A
- Works by or about Maurice Vidal Portman at Internet Archive
- Savage bodies, civilized pleasures: M. V. Portman and the Andamanese, Satadru Sen, American Ethnologist, Vol. 36, No. 2, pp. 364–379, May 2009 doi:10.1111/j.1548-1425.2009.01140.x
- 13-volume collection of photos held at the British Library: Andamanese Islanders (1893): Volume I; Volume II; Volume III; Volume IV; Volume V; Volume VI; Volume VII; Volume VIII; Volume IX; Volume X; Volume XI; Volume XII; Volume XIII (Portman Collection)