The British pursuit of knowledge on India followed the East India Company’s rise in status from a trading company to the revenue collector of Bengal in 1765. The translations into English of the indigenous Persian and Sanskrit texts, which were a direct response to the Company’s new administrative needs, facilitated the recovery of ‘Ancient’ India. This recovery in turn allowed the British to seek justification of their governance, by presenting themselves as moral up-lifters of a decadent society that was once a great civilization. Archaeology, or what was by the 1830's perceived as undertaking archaeological investigations, was fully roped into the politics of manufacturing a history for India. For, by then the self-assured rational administrators of the progressively Utilitarian Britain had begun to accord Indian ruins and antiquities with higher value as sources than the indigenous texts. “In a country such as India, the chisels of her sculptors are ... immeasurably more to be trusted than the pens of her authors” (Fergusson 1876, reprinted 1910: p. x) is what they ordained. Thus privileged, archaeological investigations became the scientific mode of conducting enquiries on the history of India. After the Mutiny of 1857, such investigations and their photographic documentations inevitably assisted the British in the geographical surveillance of their vast and lucrative colony, and for empirically grounding their many, albeit similar, representations of the histories, which they created for ‘Early India’.
From the 1830's onwards, antiquarian scholarship increasingly delved into translations of ‘legends’ and inscriptions on coins, pillars, statues, and ‘minor antiquities’ and on field surveys of districts, ancient sites and historical monuments. This field orientated research, which was clearly proclaimed as undertaking archaeological work by the 1840's, was to distinguish itself from translations of Sanskrit, Pali and Persian manuscripts that had previously formed an inherent aspect of antiquarian research. By the 1880's, methodological distinctions between archaeological and Indological research were quite clear even though they remained inarticulated well into the twentieth century. The personalities engaged surveying districts and sites and those who promoted themselves solely as architectural historians often conceived their research being rather distinct, despite the fact their scholarships overlapped and their research aims were often remarkably similar.