(Gopinath Sricandane holds a M.Phil from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He currently runs a two-year project EAP-1309 funded by the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme. Previously he was an affiliated researcher at the Institut Français de Pondichéry (IFP) and had worked with various national and international research institutions and non-profit organisations.
The Chettiar Mercantile archive is valuable to understand the nature of pedagogic training in elementary arithmetic skills and how it actually transformed into the context of work, at the desk of the accountant. Also, the relationship between accounting virtuosity and computational prowess embedded in the history of mercantile trading households, which resulted in the cultural hegemony of an entire community known as computationally sharp and financially prudent.
The two-year EAP 1309 project funded by the British Library will digitize the unique family archive located in Kottaiyur village, Karaikudi town, Sivagangai District in the state of Tamil Nadu, which is like the biography of the computational practices of a business household, which will connect the school to the accountant’s desk to the commodities, ships, sea and foreign landscapes.
The materials to be digitized are from late nineteenth century to the 1940s. Palm leaf manuscripts amounting to about thirty percent of the corpus date to late nineteenth century and early 20th century. Printed and hand written accounts on paper amount to the rest of the archive which date to the first five decades of the twentieth century (The earliest one on paper dated to 1918). Most materials in Tamil are written using conjunct Tamil script and numeral notation unique to the Chettiar accounting practice.