Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Campbell, James Macnabb
CAMPBELL, Sir JAMES MACNABB (1846–1903), Indian official and compiler of the 'Bombay Gazetteer,' born at Partick, Lanarkshire, on 4 Oct. 1846, was a younger son of six children of John McLeod Campbell [q. v.] by his wife Mary Campbell. Of three brothers, the eldest, Donald (d. 1909), was rector of Oakford, Devonshire, and rural dean of Tiverton. His other brothers lived with him in Bombay, John McLeod (d. 1888) being a member of the Bombay civil service, and Robert Story a merchant.
Campbell was educated at Glasgow, first at the academy and then at the university, graduating M.A. in 1866, with the highest honours in logic, philosophy, and English literature. Passing the Indian civil service examination in 1867, he went out to Bombay in November 1869, and served as an assistant collector. Quickly winning repute for interest in the history and customs of the people, he was in June 1873, when only twenty-seven, entrusted with the compilation of the provincial 'Gazetteer' of Bombay. At the same time he discharged some other duties. From April to August 1877 he was on famine work in the Bijapur (then the Kaladgi) district; and from April 1880 till near the close of 1881 he held successively the posts of municipal commissioner of Bombay, under-secretary to government in the political, judicial, and educational departments, and collector of Bombay. Yet to the 'Gazetteer' he devoted every spare moment. By August 1884 the statistical accounts alone occupied twenty-seven volumes averaging 500 pages each. The government, while then terminating Campbell's formal appointment as compiler, eulogised his work as 'a record as complete perhaps as ever was produced on behalf of any government.' Sir W. W. Hunter, the editor of the 'Imperial Gazetteer of India' (1881; 2nd edit. 1885–7), largely based the Bombay portions upon Campbell's work, and spoke of his compilation as 'perhaps unequalled and certainly unsurpassed' (Bombay 1885 to 1890). Campbell was made C.I.E. in January 1885, and going home on his first furlough in that year was created hon. LL.D. of his university (Glasgow). Campbell completed his 'Bombay Gazetteer' at the close of 1901, when it consisted of thirty-four volumes, embracing twenty-six sections, he himself writing much in those dealing with ethnology. In 1904 Mr. R. E. Enthoven added an index volume, and brought down to date some of Campbell's earlier statistics, while in 1910 Mr. S. M. Edwards added three further volumes on the history of the town and island of Bombay.
After serving as collector of various districts, Campbell was from November 1891 stationed at Bombay as collector of land revenue, customs, and opium. In 1895 and 1897 he acted also there as commissioner of customs, salt, opium, and abkari. Occasionally he served too as chairman of the port trust. In 1894 he arranged for the additional work cast on the Bombay customs house by the general re-imposition of import duties. Campbell was recalled from furlough early in 1897 to aid in measures against the great outbreak of plague. In June 1897 he succeeded General Sir William Gatacre [q. v. Suppl. II] as chairman of a new and independent plague committee at Bombay. The committee's compulsory measures of sanitation provoked rioting and murderous outrage against officers on plague duty (22 June 1897). The difficulties of the situation were soon multiplied by the appearance of famine in the country and the return to Bombay of thousands of refugees. Campbell's resourcefulness, and the personal regard in which the masses held him the 'Murani Collector-Saheb' (the collector with the divinely lighted face) greatly improved the popular attitude and encouraged voluntary co-operation in inspection and other work. Largely under his influence, in June 1898 the plague administration was restored to the municipality.
In June 1897 Campbell was made K.C.I.E., and on 29 April 1898 he left Bombay in broken health, resigning, on the expiry of his furlough, in April 1900. The Bombay government placed on record a resolution of appreciation of his work and character. Residing with his brother Robert at his father's old home, Achnashie, Rosneath, Dumbartonshire, he found his main recreation in gardening. He died unmarried at Achnashie on 26 May 1903, and was buried in Roseneath churchyard, beside his parents. A memorial tablet on the ruined wall of the old church, in which his father had often preached when minister of the adjoining parish of Row, pays tribute to 'the noble example set by him during the great plague in Bombay, which led to his premature and deeply lamented death.' His friends also founded a gold medal, conferred triennially by the Bombay branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, for the best original work on Indian folklore, history, or ethnology. The first medal was presented on 1 March 1909 to Dr. A. M. Stein, the explorer, for his 'Ancient Khotan.'
Campbell collected masses of material on Indian history and folklore, but, apart from his 'Gazetteer,' only published the history of Mandogarh in the 'Journal of the Bombay Branch, Royal Asiatic Society' (vol. xix. 1895-7), some papers in the proceedings of the Bombay Anthropological Society, and studies of demonology, under the title of 'Notes on the Spirit Basis of Belief and Custom,' in the 'Indian Antiquary' (1894 et seq.).
[Bombay Gazetteer; Times of India, 30 April 1898, 12 April 1902, 3 June 1903, 2 March 1909; Jour. of Roy. Asiat. Soc., July 1903; Rept. Indian Plague Comm., 1901, cd. 810; personal knowledge.]