The history of British rule in India is marked by significant changes in governance, including the evolution of titles and roles of the top British officials. One such transformation is the progression from the Governor of Bengal to the Governor-General of Bengal and then to the Governor-General of India, culminating in the ultimate title, the Viceroy of India. This article explores this transformation and its implications on India’s colonial history.
The Governor of Bengal
The British East India Company established its presence in India during the 17th century. In 1757, after the Battle of Plassey, the company emerged as a significant power in Bengal. Robert Clive was appointed as the first Governor of Bengal in 1757. However, it’s important to note that Clive’s title as “Governor” had limited jurisdiction and authority.
The Governor-General of Bengal
As British influence expanded, the need for a more centralized authority became evident. In 1773, Warren Hastings became the first Governor-General of Bengal, marking a significant shift in governance. The Regulating Act of 1773 empowered Hastings with authority over the entire Bengal Presidency, which included Bihar and Odisha.
The Governor-General of India
The transition from the Governor-General of Bengal to the Governor-General of India was a pivotal moment in India’s colonial history. The Charter Act of 1833 was instrumental in this transformation. Lord William Bentinck, who held the position of Governor-General, became the first Governor-General of India in 1833. This change was more than a mere title alteration; it signified the Company’s expanding influence beyond Bengal to other regions of India.
The Viceroy of India
The ultimate transformation in governance came with the designation of “Viceroy of India.” The title was introduced in 1858, following the Indian Rebellion of 1857 (often referred to as the Indian Mutiny or Sepoy Mutiny). The Government of India Act of 1858 transferred the powers of the British East India Company to the British Crown, ending the Company’s direct rule. Lord Canning, who was the Governor-General during the rebellion, became the first Viceroy of India.
The change from Governor-General to Viceroy was not merely semantic. It symbolized the Crown’s direct control over India, a shift from a corporation’s rule to imperial rule. The Viceroy represented the British monarch and exercised authority on behalf of the Crown.
Governors of Bengal:
|Robert Clive||1757-1760||Battle of Plassey, First Governor of Bengal|
|John Carnac||1760-1763||Suppressed the revolt of Siraj-ud-Daulah|
|Henry Vansittart||1764-1767||Negotiated the Treaty of Allahabad with the Mughal emperor Shah Alam II|
|Warren Hastings||1772-1773||Regulating Act of 1773, Last Governor of Bengal|
Please note that the Regulating Act of 1773 changed the position of Governor of Bengal to Governor-General of Bengal. So, Warren Hastings was the first Governor-General of Bengal.
Governor-Generals of Bengal:
|Warren Hastings||1773-1785||Regulating Act of 1773, Pitt’s India Act of 1784, Rohilla War of 1774, First Maratha War, Second Mysore War, First Governor General of Bengal|
|Richard Colley Wellesley||1786-1793||Third Mysore War, Treaty of Seringapatam, Cornwallis Code, Permanent Settlement of Bengal|
|Lord Cornwallis||1798-1805||Introduction of the Subsidiary Alliance System, Fourth Mysore War, Second Maratha War|
|Lord Minto I||1807-1813||Treaty of Amritsar with Ranjit Singh|
|Lord Hastings||1813-1823||Anglo-Nepal War, Treaty of Sagauli, Third Maratha War, Establishment of Ryotwari System|
|Lord Amherst||1823-1828||First Burmese War|
|William Bentinck||1828-1835||Abolition of Sati System, Charter Act of 1833, Last Governor general of Bengal|
Please note that the Governor-General of Bengal was renamed as the Governor-General of India in 1833.
Governor-Generals of India:
|William Bentinck||1828-1835||Abolition of Sati System, Charter Act of 1833, First Governor General of India|
|Lord Auckland||1836-1842||First Afghan War|
|Sir Charles Metcalfe||1843-1844|
|Lord Hardinge||1844-1848||First Sikh War|
|Lord Dalhousie||1848-1856||Annexation of Punjab, Doctrine of Lapse, Second Sikh War, Third Burmese War|
|Lord Canning||1856-1862||Indian Rebellion of 1857, Last Governor general of India|
The position of Governor-General of India was abolished in 1858, after the Indian Rebellion of 1857. The British Crown assumed direct control of India and the position of Viceroy was created.
Viceroys of India:
|Lord Canning||1858-1862||Indian Rebellion of 1857, First Viceroy of India|
|Lord Elgin I||1862-1863|
|Lord Lawrence||1864-1869||Mutiny Commission, Land Revenue Settlement of Punjab|
|Lord Northbrook||1872-1876||Civil Marriage and Arya Samaj marriage introduced, Universal Marriage Act introduced, Intercaste Marriage allowed, Kuka Movement in Punjab|
|Lord Lytton||1876-1880||Vernacular Press Act, Arms Act, Proclamation of Queen Victoria as Empress of India|
|Lord Ripon||1880-1884||Repealed the controversial Arms and Vernacular press act, Set up Local self-governments – Panchayats and Municipal Boards, 2 new universities opened – Punjab University 1884, Allahabad University 1887, Illbert Bill|
|Lord Dufferin||1884-1888||III Anglo-Burmese war (1885-1886), Indian National Congress was founded in 1885|
|Lord Lansdowne||1888-1894||Indian Councils Act, 1892 (Indirect election was introduced for the time), Factory Act, 1891|
|Lord Elgin II||1894-1899||First British Officer called Rands was killed. He was killed by Chapekar (Ramkrishna & Damodar) Brothers. This was the first political murder|
|Lord Curzon||1899-1905||Partition of Bengal|
|Lord Minto II||1905-1910||Morley-Minto reforms|
|Lord Chelmsford||1916-1921||Montagu-Chelmsford reforms|
|Lord Irwin||1926-1931||Round Table Conference|
|Lord Willingdon||1931-1936||Communal Award|
|Sir Archibald Wavell||1943-1947|
|Lord Mountbatten||1947||Partition of India, Independence of India and Pakistan, Last Viceroy of India|