The diaries, letters and other private papers of Eliamma Matthen and C.P. Matthen, which could throw new light on the political and social history of the erstwhile state of Travancore of the 1930s and 1940s, have been gifted to the Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR) here by their grand-daughters Eliamma Thomas and Mariam Ram on behalf of the descendants of Mr. and Mrs. C.P. Matthen.
C.P. Matthen, a banking pioneer, was targeted by C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer, the Diwan of Travancore. His bank was liquidated on grounds that were subsequently proved to be unfounded and he was incarcerated in Thiruvananthapuram from 1939 to 1941. The dairies, letters and papers now donated to the KCHR document the turbulent days of his incarceration from his own and his wife’s perspectives. Notably, Eliamma Matthen had kept a daily diary.
C.P. Matthen was the founder-director of the Quilon Bank, which merged with the Travancore National Bank in 1937 to form the Travancore National and Quilon Bank of which he became the managing director. The bank was liquidated 70 years ago, in 1939, by the Travancore government. C.P. Matthen, and bank chairman K.C. Mammen Mappillai, were imprisoned. (Mammen Mappillai was the Editor of Malayala Manorama, which was sealed.)
After Independence, C.P. Matthen later became a Member of Parliament and India’s Ambassador to Sudan.
He had given a moving account of the events leading up to and during his incarceration in his autobiography I Have Borne Much, published in 1951.
The Matthen papers were received on behalf of the KCHR by its director P.J. Cherian at a simple function on Saturday. A letter from KCHR chairman K.N. Panikkar expressing gratitude to the Matthen family for placing the valuable papers at the disposal of scholars was handed over to Ms. Ram and Ms. Thomas by Dr. Cherian. “Given the importance of Shri. Matthen’s life and work in the history of 20th century Travancore, these documents would be of immense value to scholars,” Dr. Panikkar stated.
Speaking at the event, Ms. Ram and Ms. Thomas said the C.P. Matthen family had so far not handed over the documents to any institution because of the emotional attachment the family held for them. The KCHR, they said, was the right place to keep them. The family is considering instituting fellowships for the scholarly study of the documents, they said.
Dr. Cherian said the KCHR would digitise the documents after they are catalogued and indexed under its project ‘Digitising Kerala’s Past’.