Warren Hastings

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.

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.
..... Click the link for more information.
. 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.
..... Click the link for more information.
 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.
..... Click the link for more information.
 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).


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.


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


References in periodicals archive ?
Wellesley had Buchanan's sermon circulated throughout India and soon appointed Buchanan Vice-President of the East India Company College at Fort William, recently established, in the wake of the impeachment proceedings against Warren Hastings, to ensure the moral probity and technical efficiency of the Company's administrative cadre.
No such supplementing would seem necessary for Lock's fascinating blow-by-blow account of the protracted trial of Warren Hastings, nor for his comprehensive and tightly focused coverage of the texts relating to Burke's response to the French Revolution.
The first section shows farce and pantomime of the 1770s relying on the audience's individualized identification with specific characters onstage; the second section examines the "unraveling" of that model of identification during the show trial of the Warren Hastings impeachment; and the third section explores a new theatrical mode in which "the object of the performance is the consolidation of the audience," an audience which is now asked to identify as a totality with a spectacle of a racially unified nation (30).
The current longest inquiry in British legal history is the Impeachment of Warren Hastings, the first Governor General of India, which took place in the House of Lords between 1788 and 1795.
It was also a court of law, housing many notable state trials including those of Sir Thomas More, King Charles I, Warren Hastings and Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot conspirators.
She dedicates the work to the late General-Governor of Bengal, Warren Hastings, and provides a 52-page Preliminary Dissertation of background material and a 5-page Glossary of "Oriental words that occur in the letters of the Rajah" (1:1iii).
The Calcutta catalyst proved to be Halhed's meeting with Warren Hastings, Governor and Governor-General of Bengal from 1772 to 1785.
2) The first Orientalists to be known by that name were part of a group of civil service administrators appointed by Governor-General Warren Hastings to conduct cultural policy in India in the 1770s.
Under India's first Governor General, Warren Hastings, the British and Indians met as equals and relations between the countries were characterised by racial harmony and mutual respect, leading to close working relationships, inter-racial marriage and a considerable exchange of ideas.
Under India's first Governor General, Warren Hastings, the British and Indians met as equals - it was just a brief encounter but one which could have led to the world's first multi-cultural society.
By the 1760s the East India Company had been running various quantities of opium poppy from India to China in steadily increasing volumes for several decades, but it was not until Warren Hastings, the Governor-General, ascribed the resistance of the Moguls to the increase in poppy cultivation, and reorganised the trade using the resources of the British army and navy that it began to generate significant revenues.