Warren Hastings

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Hastings, Warren,

1732–1818, first governor-general of British India. Employed (1750) as a clerk by the East India Company, he soon became manager of a trading post in Bengal. When Calcutta (now Kolkata) was captured (1756) by Siraj-ud-Daula, Hastings was taken prisoner but soon released. After the British recapture (1757) of the city, he was made British resident at Murshidabad. Good service there brought appointment to the Calcutta council (1761), but he returned to England (1764) disgusted with administrative corruption in Bengal.

Hastings went back (1769) to India as a member of the Madras council and became (1772) governor of Bengal, immediately embarking on a course of judicial and financial reform, law codification, and the suppression of banditry, measures that laid the foundation of direct British rule in India. In 1774, he was appointed governor-general of India. This position was created by Lord North's Regulating Act (1773), which also set up a four-member governing council. In the succeeding years Hastings was greatly hampered by opposition in the council, especially from Sir Philip FrancisFrancis, Sir Philip,
1740–1818, British statesman and pamphleteer. He may have been the author known as Junius. He held several minor posts in government offices before being appointed to the council of Bengal in 1773.
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. Another problem he encountered in his new position was the ill-defined relationship with and resulting lack of control over the subordinate provincial governors. The interference of the Bombay government in Maratha affairs led to a war with the Marathas, while the blunders of the Madras government provoked conflict with Haidar AliHaidar Ali
or Hyder Ali
, 1722–82, Indian ruler. A Muslim of peasant stock, he rose by military brilliance to command the army of the Hindu state of Mysore.
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 of Mysore. In both cases Hastings, conscious of the danger of French intervention, dispatched armies from Bengal that saved the British position. Nonetheless he was criticized for interference with the provincial governments.

Hastings resigned (1784) and returned to England, where he was charged with high crimes and misdemeanors by Edmund BurkeBurke, Edmund,
1729–97, British political writer and statesman, b. Dublin, Ireland. Early Writings

After graduating (1748) from Trinity College, Dublin, he began the study of law in London but abandoned it to devote himself to writing.
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 and Sir Philip Francis, whom he had wounded in a duel in India. The chief charges against him concerned his extortion of money from the rajah of Benares and the begum of Oudh, his hiring out of British troops to the nawab of Oudh to subdue the Rohillas (an Afghan tribe), and his alleged responsibility for the judicial murder of an Indian merchant, Nandkumar. He was impeached in 1787; but the trial, begun in 1788, ended with acquittal in 1795, despite the bitter prosecution of Burke, Francis, Richard B. Sheridan, and Charles James Fox. Hastings's fortune was spent in the defense, but the East India Company contributed to his later support. He became popular and was made a privy councilor (1814).

Bibliography

See biographies by A. M. Davies (1935), K. G. Feiling (1955, repr. 1967), and J. Bernstein (2000); studies by P. Moon (1947, repr. 1962) and P. J. Marshall (1965).

Hastings, Warren

 

Born Dec. 6, 1732, in Churchill, near Daylesford, Oxfordshire; died Aug. 22, 1818, in Daylesford. British colonial figure.

In 1750, Hastings arrived in India as an employee of the British East India Company and later played a role in organizing the conquest and sacking of Bengal. He was a member of the India Council at Calcutta from 1761 to 1764 and at Madras from 1769 to 1772; he was made governor of Bengal in 1772. In 1773, under the newly passed Regulating Act for India, Hastings was appointed the first governor-general of India. Serving in this position until 1785, he consolidated the British conquests in India.

Hastings used every means possible to fill the coffers of the British East India Company. He methodically plundered the Indian peasantry by farming out the land tax in return for bribes, discontinued the pensions allotted to the nabob of Bengal and the Great Mogul (1773), sent troops in return for a large sum of money to Siraj-ud-daula, the nabob of Oudh, to be used to conquer the Rohillas (1774), annexed the vassal state of Benares to the company’s domains (1781), and confiscated property of the begums of Oudh (1782). Hastings ruthlessly suppressed popular uprisings against the British colonialists, including the sannyasi movement (1760–75), the uprisings in Benares (1781) and Oudh (1782), and the peasant revolt in Dinajpur (1783).

Hastings retired in 1785 under pressure from the Whig Party, which opposed the monopoly of the British East India Company in India. In 1788 he was brought to trial in the House of Lords on charges of cruelty, acts of injustice, and corruption. The trial dragged on for several years, and in 1795 Hastings was acquitted, despite the evidence against him. The materials of Hastings’ trial are an important source for the history of the British colonial seizure and ruthless pillaging of India.

REFERENCES

Antonova, K. A. Angliiskoe zavoevanie Indii v XVIII v. Moscow, 1958.
Feiling, K. Warren Hastings. London-New York, 1955.

K. A. ANTONOVA