King's College London
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'A daughter of the Empire': Beryl White In India 1901-03

John Claude White - career

John Claude White taking photographJohn Claude White taking photographBeryl's father, John Claude White, was the son of the army surgeon John White (1920-1871) who went to India in 1847 and his wife Louise Henriette (Claude) Pfeffer White.

Born in Calcutta on 1st October 1853, he was educated (briefly) at Rugby (6 months in 1868) and most probably went to school for the remaining time in Bonn, staying with German relatives.

He was admitted to the Royal Engineering College at Cooper’s Hill in 1874 and joined the Bengal Public Works Department as Assistant Engineer after his graduation in 1876.

Before sailing to India he married his distant cousin Jessie Georgina Ranken on 12th September 1876 at All Saints Church in Kensington, London.

The couple settled in Bengal, where their daughter Beryl was born in 1877. John Claude White initially worked as engineer in Bengal, Nepal and Darjeeling but was appointed Political Officer of Sikhim in 1889, a position he held until his retirement in 1908.

White travelled extensively in the region on surveying expeditions and where he indulged his passion for photography, in so doing leaving behind one of the richest and most detailed accounts of the scenery and culture of the Himalayas.

He published his memoir Sikhim and Bhutan: Twenty-one Years on the North-East Frontier in London in 1909.

His photographs form the basis of In the Shadow of the Himalayas: Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, Sikkim: A Photographic Record by John Claude White 1883-1908 by Kurt Meyer and Pamela Deuel Meyer published in 2005 in Ahmedabad, India.

His daughter appears to have inherited his keen eye for detail judging from her choice of photography and illustrations for her album.

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