Family Group Sheet
Family Group Sheet
NameSir Denzil Charles Jelf IBBETSON
Birth1847, Gainsborough Lincs
Death1908
Marriage1870, Cambridge
SpouseLouisa Clarissa COULDEN
Notes for Sir Denzil Charles Jelf IBBETSON
Administrator in India and author.

From Venn’s

Cambridgeshire University Alumni
Ibbetson Denzil Charles jelf
Adm.pen at St johns, June 1865 elder son of denzil John Holt(afterwards in orders and V of St johns adelaide Australia) civil engineer(of Kooringa, S Australia and Clarissa Elizabeth nee Guilding) his grandfather was commissary general at St helena during Napoleon captivity)

B aug 30 1847 Gainsborough Lincs(School St Peters College Adelaide South Australia) Matr Michs 1865 BA 1869, adm at St Lincolns Inn nov 23 1868, at Inner Temple June 2 1870, Entered the I C S,1870 Settlement officer Punjab 1875 superintendent of census. Director of Public Instruction. Deputy Commissioner. In charge of Gujranwala settlement, 1891. Member of deccan agriculturists relief commission 1891-8192 President of contagious desease commission.Financial Commisioner. Secretary to the Goverment of India(department of Revenus and Agriculture) 1894 and 1896. Chief Commissioner central province 1898. member of irrigation commiission. Leiut Governor of the Punjab 1905-8 C.S.I.1896. K.C.S.I 1903 Compiled census report of the Punjab 1883,Handbook of Punjab Ethnography.Gazetteer of the Punjab Taken ill at Lahore died Feb 21 London 1908


Sir Denzil Charles Jelf Ibbetson KCSI (30 August 1847–21 February 1908)[1] was an administrator in British India and an author. He served as governor of the Central Provinces and Berar from 1900 to 1902.

Denzil Ibbetson was born in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire on 30 August 1847, the oldest son of John Holt Ibbetson, who at that time working as a civil engineer on the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. The family moved to Adelaide, Australia after his father took holy orders and became vicar there. Ibbetson was educated at St Peter's College, Adelaide and St John's College, Cambridge. Ibbetson obtained his BA in mathematics in 1869, being ranked as a senior optime, and had come third in the competitive examination for the Indian Civil Service in the previous year.[1][2]
Ibbetson arrived in the Punjab Province of India on 8 December 1870, having married Louisa Clarissa Coulden earlier in that year. Once there, says the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, "He formed part of a new élite of ‘competition-wallahs’ which intellectually outshone the earlier generation of Punjabi military political officials and well-connected alumni of Haileybury College."

The censuses of India carried out in 1865, 1872 and 1881 had attempted to classify people according to the Brahmanic ritual ranking system of varna but this proved not to reflect the realities of social relationships, however much it might have met with approval from scholars of Sanskrit and ancient texts. Furthermore, the Brahmanic system had no practical purpose from an administrative point of view.[4] The latter was of considerable significance as there was a desire to use ethnography and other means in order to develop further the British influence in India. Ibbetson, who was Deputy Superintendent for the 1881 census operation in Punjab,[3] had written in his 1883 Report on the exercise that

“Our ignorance of the customs and beliefs of the people among whom we dwell is surely in some respects a reproach to us; for not only does that ignorance deprive European science of material which it greatly needs, but it also involves a distinct loss of administrative power to ourselves".

The 1872 census was, in the opinion of Crispin Bates,
... by far the least structured census ever conducted in the subcontinent and a printer's nightmare, since rather than fit the population into pre-determined categories census takers asked relatively open-ended questions about religious beliefs and occupations. The result was a proliferation of columns concerning occupations in particular. Individuals appeared as 'con-man', 'pimp', 'prostitute', 'idiot' and 'thief, or however else they might appear or describe themselves. Worse still, castes and tribes were listed as to whether they were 'animist', Christian, Hindu or Mohammedan, with little structure or system beyond the self-representation of the respondents.[6]
Ibbetson had seen the imperfections of the 1872 census. These informed the decision by the administration in Punjab Province to adopt categorisation by occupation in 1881, regardless of the approach adopted elsewhere.[6] Together with John Collinson Nesfield's Brief view of the caste system of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh, published in 1885, Ibbetson's 1883 Report was influential in bringing about a change in categorisation method throughout the country. Ibbetson argued against the contemporary understanding of caste and the 1891 census adopted classification by occupation rather than the Brahmanic system. He argued that the conventional belief of caste as a purely Hindu construct was erroneous, that people who had converted from Hinduism to Islam remained affected by system, and that therefore it should be viewed more as a social than a religious mechanism. Furthermore, he believed that the varna categories of Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra were not reflected in reality, and that indeed it was likely that Kshatriya no longer existed and Vaishya certainly did not. He pointed out that there were Brahmins who were viewed as being outcastes even by the lowest ritual rank, the Shudra, and that the latter term was primarily used as a form of abuse rather than in any categorical sense. Finally, he argued that the contemporary belief that caste and the ritual ranks associated with it were inherited had no basis in fact, that different generations could have different identities and that the ancient basis of castes probably lay in shared origins of a tribal nature and were akin to guilds.[4]
Despite their influence on the processes adopted for the 1891 census, the ideas of Ibbetson and Nesfield subsequently lost favour in the administration of the British Raj. Bates says thatnot only did [classification by occupation] allow for the possibility of unhealthily egalitarian conclusions about the ethnic mixing of the Indian population, and the possibilities for change in economic and social status, but it also directly conflicted with the racist ideas about Indian social structure that had by then been largely confirmed in the minds of administrators by more than a generation of anecdotal writing. The response was to seek for a new method that would confirm 'scientifically' what were now ingrained prejudices.

The anecdotal evidence of a racial basis for caste, which could be traced back to the late eighteenth century speculations of William Jones, was being buttressed by the relatively new field of study known as anthropometry and this gave rise to a form of scientific racism epitomised by the work of people such as Herbert Hope Risley, who became Census Commissioner for India in 1901.[6] Bates remarks that Ibbetson's "... classification of castes, however logical and useful it might have proven, lacked a 'scientific' basis, as well as completely neglecting the problem of status." In the longer term, however, Ibbetson's theories have attracted support from James Henry Hutton and Edmund Leach and have been "cherished by successive generations of non-Marxist, non-Dumontian historians and anthropologists working in the classical British tradition of structural-functionalism, first established by Radcliffe Brown."

His written works include A glossary of the tribes and castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province. Based on the census report for the Punjab, 1883 with Horace Arthur Rose and Sir Edward Maclagan, and Panjab castes, being a reprint of the chapter on "The races, castes, and tribes of the people" in the report on the census of the Panjab. The latter was a posthumous reprint of a section of his 1883 report on the 1881 census of the Punjab.


From Venn’s

Adm. pens. at ST JOHN'S, June 16, 1865.
[Elder] s. of Denzil John Holt [afterwards in Orders, and V. of St John's, Adelaide, South Australia], civil engineer [of Kooringa, South Australia, and Clarissa Elizabeth, née Guilding]. [His grandfather was Commissary-General at St Helena during Napoleon's captivity.] B. Aug. 30, 1847, at Gainsborough, Lincolnshire.
[School, St Peter's College, Adelaide, South Australia.]
Matric. Michs. 1865;
B.A. 1869.
Adm. at Lincoln's Inn, Nov. 23, 1868; at the Inner Temple, June 2, 1870.
Entered the I.C.S., 1870.
Settlement Officer, Punjab, 1875. Superintendent of Census. Director of Public Instruction. Deputy Commissioner.
In charge of Gujranwala Settlement [ India], 1891.
Member of Deccan Agriculturists' Relief Commission, 1891-2. President of Contagious Diseases Commission. Financial Commissioner.
Secretary to the Government of India (Department of Revenue and Agriculture), 1894 and 1896.
Chief Commissioner, Central India, 1898. Member of Irrigation Commission.
Lieut.-Governor of the Punjab, 1905-8.
C.S.I., 1896.
K.C.S.I., 1903.
Compiled Census Report of the Punjab, 1883; Handbook of Punjab Ethnography; Gazetteer of the Punjab, 1883-5.
"The greatest Indian Administrator of my official generation" (Michael O'Dwyer). Retired, Jan. 21, 1908.
Taken ill at Lahore [ India][ and ]
died Feb. 21, 1908, in London.
Scott, MSS.; Inns of Court; I.C.S. Lists; D.N.B.; Who was Who, 1897-1916; Sir Michael O'Dwyer, India as I knew it, 29, 129 and 131; Sir B. Sweet-Escott.)
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