Abdul Rasul was, so far as we have been able to find out, the first non-European student at St. John’s College.

He was the son of Moulvi Golam Rasul (mothers are unfortunately but unsurprisingly not recorded), a member of the landowning aristocracy of East Bengal. There is conflicting evidence about Rasul’s age at matriculation but he was probably born in. 1874.  Rasul matriculated in 1892, was granted a BA in 1896, and a Bachelor of Civil Law degree and MA in 1898. He was called to the Bar at the Middle Temple the same year and practised as a Barrister in Calcutta. A biography of Rasul, written by a descendant and published in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2003 tells a remarkable story - about Rasul, his family, who were wealthy zamindars – landowners – and members of an elite section of Bengali culture and society, as well as Rasul’s career and politics at a pivotal moment in Indian history and the history of Bengal.[i] More easily accessible is information on Rasul on a website dedicated to the history of the family and its estate - Guniauk in the district of Tippera in what is now Bangladesh, which tells us that Rasul was the first Barrister from the Indian subcontinent to receive the BCL degree.[ii] Rasul seems to have been an active and committed political figure, a fierce opponent of  the partition of Bengal by the British administration in 1905, and an important figure in the Indian legal profession as well as the branch of the Indian National Congress (the political party that came to power at Independence) in Bengal.

Unfortunately, we have thus far found very little by way of primary sources related to Rasul in the college archive, given Rasul's significance to the College in being the first of a now long tradition of students from non-European backgrounds at St John's. We do however have entries in his name in the College Battels (bills or fees for rent and other costs such as food), showing something of his living expenses and offering us just a keyhole glimpse perhaps into his life in College.

[i] T. Rasul Bakul, Barrister Abdul Rasul – his life and works, Dhaka, 2003 - the book is in Bengali but a summary in English was kindly provided for the College by the author.

[ii] https://guniaukzamindari.yolasite.com/The-Family-Tree.php

Abdul Rasul