Kashmir is one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Cashmere* is one of the most expensive fabrics in the world.
Kashmire, Cashmeer, Cashmere, Cashmire, Kashmeer and Kashmir have all been used throughout the past few centuries to describe the Vale of Kashmir.
Writing about the travels of Francois Bernier, George Forster used the spelling ‘Kashmire’ for the valley in 1783. He also used ‘Kashmire’ in the title of his 1798 book ‘A Journey from Bengal to England – through the Northern part of India, Kashmire, Afghanistan, and Persia, and into Russia by the Caspian Sea.’
With the advent of the nineteenth century, the term ‘Cashmeer’ to denote the valley seems to have gained popularity while ‘Kashmire’ just disappeared. ‘Cashmeer’ was used in books like ‘The Commerce and Navigation of the Ancients in the Indian Ocean‘ published in 1807 and ‘The Arabian Nights‘ published in 1811.
In subsequent decades ‘Cashmeer’ was used interchangeably with ‘Cashmere’ till it fell out of favour and the latter became increasingly frequent by the 1840s. A few instances of ‘Cashmeer’ can be found in the 1850s and the 1860s, before bowing out in 1871 in an inexplicable blaze of glory having being brought centre-stage by Robert Shaw, an old Kashmir hand writing about his exploits in ‘Visits to High Tartary, Yarkand and Kashgar.’
I say inexplicable because the gentleman responsible for the last mainstream use of the term ‘Cashmeer’ served as the British Commissioner in Leh and must have been well aware that the official name of the kingdom by the 1870s was ‘Kashmir’ – even ‘Cashmere’ having been officially relegated by that time.
Strangely enough around the same time a pamphlet written in defence of the Maharaja of Kashmir in 1870 was titled ‘The Maharaja of Kashmeer and his Calumniators‘, marking a rare use of the term ‘Kashmeer.’ The pamphlet sought to counter western authors severely castigating the Dogra ruler for his misrule – ‘The Wrongs Of Cashmere‘ (1868) by Arthur Brinckman and ‘Cashmere Misgovernment‘ by Robert Thorpe published posthumously in 1870.
‘Cashmire’ was intermittently used over the years, primarily in literary works, and while writing in or translating from French, with ‘Kaschmir’ being the German equivalent.
One of the earliest uses of the modern name ‘Kashmir’ is found in the ‘Historical and Descriptive account of British India‘ published in 1832 by a group of British experts led by Hugh Murray. The valley is described as the ‘little kingdom of Kashmir’ and extolled as a ‘terrestrial paradise’.
Baron Charles von Hugel used the term in scientific papers published in 1835 and 1836 and his books – ‘Kaschmir und das Reich der Siek‘ (1840) and ‘Travels in Kashmir and the Punjab‘ (1845).
Over the course of the nineteenth century, ‘Cashmere’ and ‘Kashmir’ kept jostling for prominence. Official acceptance of ‘Kashmir’ over ‘Cashmere’ was an important factor and by the 20th century it was ‘Kashmir’ that had become the accepted term for the valley with ‘cashmere’ being reserved for an exquisite fabric made from the soft undercoat of Himalayan goats.
Incidentally the valley is called ‘Kasheer’ in the native Kashmiri language.
P.S Boring Scientific Explanation from the internet:
‘the British Raj standardized on the Hunterian system in 1872, and from the article, it looks to me like ‘Kashmir’ would be the proper Hunterian transliteration. Prior to 1872, the Raj (and before that, the East India Co.) appear to have haphazardly used either the Wilkins system or the “Dowler” system‘.
*The United States Code of Federal Regulations states that “a product may not be labeled as cashmere unless “such wool product is the fine (dehaired) undercoat fibers produced by a cashmere goat (Capra hircus laniger).