Vincent Arthur Smith CIE (3 June 1843 – 6 February 1920) was an Irish Indologist, historian, member of the Indian Civil Service, and curator. He was one of the prominent figures in Indian historiography during the British Raj.[2]

Vincent Arthur Smith
The Early History of India by Vincent Arthur Smith, 1914
Born(1843-06-03)3 June 1843
Died6 February 1920(1920-02-06) (aged 76)[1]
Occupation(s)Indologist, art historian

In the 1890s, he was key to exposing the forgeries of Alois Anton Führer, then working for the Archaeological Survey of India, who Smith caught in the act of making fake inscriptions.[3][4]



Smith was born in Dublin on 3 June 1843 which was then part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. His father was Aquilla Smith, well known in medical and numismatic circles in Dublin and London.[1]

After graduating from Trinity College Dublin, he passed the final examination for the Indian Civil Service in 1871, at "the head of the list", and served in what is now Uttar Pradesh until 1900, in the regular ICS roles, rising to the post of Chief Secretary to the government in 1898, becoming a Commissioner the same year. Throughout this period he was a prolific writer on Indian history, and finally left the service early to devote more time to this, in 1900, returning to England.[1]

Moving first to Cheltenham, by 1910 Smith was settled in Oxford where he joined St John's College and was appointed a Curator of the Indian Institute.[1]

Following his retirement, Smith wrote several monographs on Indian history.[5] These included two monographs on the emperors Ashoka and Akbar respectively, which he went on to revise several times, updating them to reflect new research and information.[5] He also wrote and published two comprehensive volumes on Indian history, The Early History of India and The Oxford History of India, as well as a book about the history of fine arts in India and Sri Lanka.[1]

Smith was honoured with the award of Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire[6] and awarded a doctorate by Trinity College Dublin in 1919.[1]

He died in Oxford on 6 February 1920.[7]




  1. ^ a b c d e f F. E. P. (July 1920). "Vincent Arthur Smith". The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (3): 391–395. JSTOR 25209644.
  2. ^ Ahir, Rajiv (2018). A Brief History of Modern India. Spectrum Books (P) Limited. p. 14. ISBN 978-81-7930-688-8.
  3. ^ Dhammika, Shravasti (2008). Middle Land, Middle Way: A Pilgrim's Guide to the Buddha's India. Buddhist Publication Society. p. 41. ISBN 978-955-24-0197-8.
  4. ^ "Fuhrer's attempt to associate the names of eighteen Sakyas, including Mahanaman, with the structures, on the false claim of writings in pre-Asokan characters, was fortunately foiled in time by V.A. Smith, who paid a surprise visit when the excavation was in progress. The forgery was exposed to the public." in East and West. Istituto italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente. 1979. p. 66.
  5. ^ a b N.B.D. (1919). "OBITUARY NOTES". Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. 1 (2): 191–193. ISSN 0378-1143.
  6. ^ Crooke, William (30 March 1920). "Dr. Vincent Arthur Smith, C. I. E." Folklore. 31 (1): 87. doi:10.1080/0015587x.1920.9719131. JSTOR 1255017.
  7. ^ The History of British India: A Chronology. by J F Riddick

Further reading