Starting his career as an officer in the army of the East India Company, Joseph Davey Cunningham became an aide to Colonel Claude Wade, political agent at Ludhiana in 1938, in-charge both of British relations with the Sikh kingdom and the rulers of Afghanistan. In his tragically short lifespan of 39 years, he rose rapidly in the service to which he was opted. Though it is difficult for minds rooted in different cultures to write with credibility on the convictions and beliefs of distant civilisations, Cunningham did it most succesfully.
In the History of the Sikhs the author not only provides fascinating details about the Sikhs but also displays his penchant for minute observations on subjects as varied as the saffron and shawls of Cashmeer (Kashmir) to the Dogras and Kunnets of the Himalayas. The book traces the birth and rise of Sikhism and records Punjab's history in the context of the geo-political situation prevailing during the crucial period in the nineteenth century.