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Sir  Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy (1783–1859), by unknown artistSir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy (1783–1859), by unknown artist
Jeejeebhoy, Sir Jamsetjee, first baronet (1783–1859), businessman and philanthropist, was born at Bombay on 15 July 1783. He was the son of Merwanjee Maneckjee Jeejeebhoy (d. 1799) and Jeeveebai Cowassi (d. 1799), weavers, of Nowsaree, a small town in the princely state of Baroda. In 1799 he was apprenticed to his cousin, Merwanjee Maneckjee, a merchant, and acted as a clerk on a voyage to China. On 1 March 1803 he married Awabaee Framjee (1793–1870), daughter of Framjee Pestonjee, a Bombay merchant, who was also engaged in trade with China. As partner of his father-in-law he made four more voyages to China. On the return voyage from Canton (Guangzhou) in 1804 the ship in which he sailed formed one of the fleet of merchantmen under the command of Sir Nathaniel Dance, which routed a squadron of French warships under Admiral Linois. During a subsequent voyage Jeejeebhoy was captured by the French and taken to the Cape of Good Hope. After losing all his property and suffering many hardships he obtained a passage in a Danish vessel bound for Calcutta, and returned to Bombay in 1807.

From this time, Jeejeebhoy's career as a successful merchant developed rapidly. In 1821–2 Jeejeebhoy's firm was able to establish a dominant position in the China import trade, using the British Far Eastern house of Jardine Matheson as its chief agents, and by 1822 Jeejeebhoy had built up a fortune of Rs20 million. He also enjoyed good relations with the British merchant community of Bombay, and in particular with Charles Forbes (founder of the important British agency house of Forbes Forbes Campbell). Having established himself as a successful and wealthy merchant, Jeejeebhoy became a leading figure in the Bombay Parsi business community, and an important pioneer in the creation of Bombay as a leading modern commercial city: in 1835 he became a founder director of the first savings bank of Bombay, in 1842 he became a member of the European-dominated harbour committee and port trust, and in 1843 he became the only Indian director of the Bombay Bank. Having made a substantial fortune, Jeejeebhoy became, from the early 1820s onwards, a major philanthropist. Over the course of his life he gave over Rs30,000 to a wide variety of public and private causes: he provided famine relief, financed public works, and founded hospitals, schools, and scholarship funds. His best-known foundations were the Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy Hospital and the Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy School of Art.

Jeejeebhoy was an important reformer of his own Parsi community. He opposed the domination of the Parsi panchayat by priests, and was instrumental in reorganizing it along less hierarchical lines. He was also a supporter of women's education. His interest in education received governmental recognition when, in 1842, he was appointed to the board of education. He was also a member of the senate of Bombay University when it was established in 1857.

Jeejeebhoy also took a strong interest in political life. Though not a nationalist in the modern sense of the term, he was an early advocate of the promotion of Indians into the British-dominated administrative élite. He became the first honorary president of the highly influential Indian political organization the Bombay Association at its foundation in 1852. As the proprietor of the Bombay Courier and of the Bombay Times (later the Times of India), he played a leading role in the political mobilization of the business and intellectual élites of western India. He was, however, a firm supporter of British rule in India. In 1842 he received a knighthood and in 1857 he was created the first Indian baronet. He distinguished himself by his loyalty during the mutiny of 1857, and by the generous contributions which he made afterwards for the relief of its casualties in India. He died on 14 April 1859, and was succeeded in the baronetcy by his eldest son, Cursetjee, who in 1860 assumed the name of his father. The second baronet died on 17 June 1908; his remains were disposed of according to Parsi rites.

E. J. Rapson, rev. A.-M. Misra

Sources  

J. H. Wadia, The life of Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, first baronet (1950) · J. R. P. Mody, Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy: the first Indian knight and baronet, 1783–1859 (1989) · G. A. Natesan, Famous Parsees: biographical and critical sketches · Bombay Gazetteer (15 April 1959) · C. E. Dobbin, Urban leadership in western India: politics and communities in Bombay city, 1840–1885 (1972)

Likenesses  

Baron Marochetti, bronze statue, Kent's Corner, Bombay, India · portrait, Oriental Club, London [see illus.]

Wealth at death  

Rs2,500,000: Mody, Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy (1959), 157