Mountstuart Elphinstone

Mountstuart Elphinstone

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Mountstuart Elphinstone (6 October 1779 – 20 November 1859) was a Scottish
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 statesman
Statesman
A statesman is usually a politician or other notable public figure who has had a long and respected career in politics or government at the national and international level. As a term of respect, it is usually left to supporters or commentators to use the term...

 and historian
Historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

, associated with the government of British India. He later became the Governor of Bombay (now Mumbai
Mumbai
Mumbai , formerly known as Bombay in English, is the capital of the Indian state of Maharashtra. It is the most populous city in India, and the fourth most populous city in the world, with a total metropolitan area population of approximately 20.5 million...

) where he is credited with the opening of several educational institutions accessible to the Indian population. Besides being a noted administrator, he wrote books on India and Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

.

Early life


Born in Dumbarton, Dumbartonshire
Dunbartonshire
Dunbartonshire or the County of Dumbarton is a lieutenancy area and registration county in the west central Lowlands of Scotland lying to the north of the River Clyde. Until 1975 it was a county used as a primary unit of local government with its county town and administrative centre at the town...

 (now Dunbartonshire
Dunbartonshire
Dunbartonshire or the County of Dumbarton is a lieutenancy area and registration county in the west central Lowlands of Scotland lying to the north of the River Clyde. Until 1975 it was a county used as a primary unit of local government with its county town and administrative centre at the town...

) in 1779, and educated at the Royal High School
Royal High School (Edinburgh)
The Royal High School of Edinburgh is a co-educational state school administered by the City of Edinburgh Council. The school was founded in 1128 and is one of the oldest schools in Scotland, and has, throughout its history, been high achieving, consistently attaining well above average exam results...

, Edinburgh
Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The council area includes urban Edinburgh and a rural area...

, he was the fourth son of the 11th Baron Elphinstone in the peerage of Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

. Having been appointed to the civil service
Civil service
The term civil service has two distinct meanings:* A branch of governmental service in which individuals are employed on the basis of professional merit as proven by competitive examinations....

 of the British East India Company
British East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

, of which one of his uncles was a director, he arrived at Calcutta (now Kolkata) early in 1796 where he filled several subordinate posts. In 1801, he escaped massacre in Benares (now Varanasi
Varanasi
-Etymology:The name Varanasi has its origin possibly from the names of the two rivers Varuna and Assi, for the old city lies in the north shores of the Ganga bounded by its two tributaries, the Varuna and the Asi, with the Ganges being to its south...

) by the followers of the deposed Wajid Ali Shah (?). Later that year he was transferred to the Diplomatic Service where he was posted as the assistant to the British resident at the court of the Peshwa
Peshwa
A Peshwa is the titular equivalent of a modern Prime Minister. Emporer Shivaji created the Peshwa designation in order to more effectively delegate administrative duties during the growth of the Maratha Empire. Prior to 1749, Peshwas held office for 8-9 years and controlled the Maratha army...

 ruler Baji Rao II
Baji Rao II
Baji Rao II was the last Peshwa of the Maratha Confederacy, and governed from 1796 to 1818. His reign was marked by confrontations with the British.-Biography:...

.

Envoy


In the Peshwa court he obtained his first opportunity of distinction, being attached in the capacity of diplomat
Diplomat
A diplomat is a person appointed by a state to conduct diplomacy with another state or international organization. The main functions of diplomats revolve around the representation and protection of the interests and nationals of the sending state, as well as the promotion of information and...

ist to the mission of Sir Arthur Wellesley
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS , was an Irish-born British soldier and statesman, and one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century...

 to the Marathas. When, on the failure of negotiations, war broke out, Elphinstone, though a civilian, acted as virtual aide-de-camp
Aide-de-camp
An aide-de-camp is a personal assistant, secretary, or adjutant to a person of high rank, usually a senior military officer or a head of state...

to Wellesley. At the Battle of Assaye
Battle of Assaye
The Battle of Assaye was a major battle of the Second Anglo-Maratha War fought between the Maratha Confederacy and the British East India Company...

, and throughout the campaign, he displayed rare courage and knowledge of tactics such that Wellesley told him he ought to have been a soldier. In 1804, when the war ended, Elphinstone was appointed British resident at Nagpur
Nagpur
Nāgpur is a city and winter capital of the state of Maharashtra, the largest city in central India and third largest city in Maharashtra after Mumbai and Pune...

. This gave him plenty of leisure time, which he spent in reading and study. Later, in 1807, he completed a short stint at Gwalior.

In 1808 he was appointed the first British envoy
Envoy (title)
In diplomacy, an Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary is, under the terms of the Congress of Vienna of 1815, a diplomat of the second class, ranking between an Ambassador and a Minister Resident....

 to the court of Kabul
Kabul
Kabul , spelt Caubul in some classic literatures, is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. It is also the capital of the Kabul Province, located in the eastern section of Afghanistan...

, Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 with the object of securing a friendly alliance with the Afghans against Napoleon's planned advance on India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

. However this proved of little value, because Shah Shuja
Shuja Shah Durrani
Shuja Shah Durrani was ruler of the Durrani Empire from 1803 to 1809. He then ruled from 1839 until his death in 1842. Shuja Shah was of the Sadozai line of the Abdali group of Pashtuns...

 was driven from the throne by his brother before it could be ratified. The most valuable permanent result of the embassy was in Elphinstone's work titled Account of the Kingdom of Cabul and its Dependencies in Persia and India (1815).

After spending about a year in Calcutta arranging the report of his mission, Elphinstone was appointed in 1811 to the important and difficult post of resident at Pune
Pune
Pune , is the eighth largest metropolis in India, the second largest in the state of Maharashtra after Mumbai, and the largest city in the Western Ghats. Once the centre of power of the Maratha Empire, it is situated 560 metres above sea level on the Deccan plateau at the confluence of the Mula ...

 (formerly known as Poona). The difficulty arose from the general complication of Maratha politics, and especially from the weakness of the Peshwas, which Elphinstone rightly read from the first. The tenuous peace between the Peshwas was broken in 1817 with the Marathas declaring war on the British. Elphinstone assumed command of the military during an important crisis during the Battle of Khadki
Battle of Khadki
The Battle of Khadki took place at Khadki on November 5, 1817 between the forces of the British East India Company and those of Bajirao II, the Peshwa of the Maratha Empire...

 and managed to secure a victory despite his non-military background. As reparations, Peshwa territories were annexed by the British. Elphinstone became the Commissioner of the Deccan in 1818.

Governor



The following year (1819), Elphinstone was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Bombay, a post he held until 1827. During his tenure, he greatly promoted education in India, at a time when opinion in Britain was against educating the "natives". He may fairly be regarded as the founder of the system of state education in India. One of his principal achievements was the compilation of the "Elphinstone code." He also returned many lands that had appropriated by the British to the Raja of Satara
Satara
Satara is a city located in the Satara District of Maharashtra state of India. The town is 2320 ft. above sea-level, near the confluence of the Krishna and its tributary river Venna. The city was the capital of the Maratha empire in the 17th century, hence one of the the historical cities of...

.

He built the first bungalow in Malabar Hill
Malabar Hill
Malabar Hill, a hillock in southern Mumbai , India is an extremely upmarket residential area, most known for the Walkeshwar Temple which houses the Banganga Tank. Situated at a height of 50 metres Malabar Hill, a hillock in southern Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India is an extremely upmarket...

 during this time, and following his example, many prominent people took up residence here. It soon became a posh locality, and remains so to the present date.

His connection with the Bombay Presidency
Bombay Presidency
The Bombay Presidency was a province of British India. It was established in the 17th century as a trading post for the English East India Company, but later grew to encompass much of western and central India, as well as parts of post-partition Pakistan and the Arabian Peninsula.At its greatest...

 is commemorated in the endowment of Elphinstone College
Elphinstone College
Elphinstone College is an institution of higher education affiliated to the University of Mumbai. Established in 1856, it is one of the oldest colleges of the University of Mumbai. It was exalted as a prestigious seat of learning during the British Raj and is generally observed for its vibrant alumni...

 by local communities, and in the erection of a marble statue by the European inhabitants. However, the Elphinstone Road railway station and the Elphinstone Circle
Horniman Circle Gardens
The Horniman Circle Gardens is a large park in South Mumbai, India which encompasses an area of . It is situated in the Fort district of Mumbai, and is surrounded by office complexes housing the country's premier banks...

, both in Mumbai
Mumbai
Mumbai , formerly known as Bombay in English, is the capital of the Indian state of Maharashtra. It is the most populous city in India, and the fourth most populous city in the world, with a total metropolitan area population of approximately 20.5 million...

 city, are not named after him but in honour of his nephew, Lord John Elphinstone
John Elphinstone, 13th Lord Elphinstone
John Elphinstone, 13th Lord Elphinstone and 1st Baron Elphinstone GCB GCH PC was a Scottish soldier, politician and colonial administrator. He was twice elected to the Parliament of the United Kingdom as a Scottish Representative peer, serving once from 14 January 1833 to 29 December 1834 and then...

, who also later became Governor of Bombay in 1850s.

Return to England


Returning to England in 1829, after an interval of two years' travel, Elphinstone continued to influence public affairs. He twice refused the offer of the post of the Governor-General of India
Governor-General of India
The Governor-General of India was the head of the British administration in India, and later, after Indian independence, the representative of the monarch and de facto head of state. The office was created in 1773, with the title of Governor-General of the Presidency of Fort William...

, preferring to finish his two-volume work, History of India (1841). It embraces the Hindu
Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

 and Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 periods, and is still a work of high authority. He died in Surrey
Surrey
Surrey is a county in the South East of England and is one of the Home Counties. The county borders Greater London, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire. The historic county town is Guildford. Surrey County Council sits at Kingston upon Thames, although this has been part of...

, England on 20 November 1859.

Works

at ibiblio.org (Volumes I and II in HTML form, complete, chapter-by-chapter, with all footnotes and index)

External links