The Archives and Special Collections at SGUL are part of the Race Equality Action and Engagement Group (REAEG), and are examining the historical legacies of slavery and colonialism at St George’s as part of the institution-wide equality and diversity initiatives. The on-going research into the historical subscribers, funders and donors of St George’s is part of the project to reveal these links. For more information about the hundreds of donors, see the Archives catalogue.
Frederick James Halliday was one of these donors. This blog post has been written by Information Assistant Arianna Koffler-Sluijter.
Frederick James Halliday attended the East India College, a school designed to train administrators for the East India Company, before joining the Bengal civil service in 1824. He also attended Fort William College, an academy of ‘oriental studies’ which was aimed at training administrators in various languages in Calcutta. He worked his way up the civil service by starting as an assistant working for the Supreme Court in 1825, before becoming a secretary to the Board of Revenue by 1836 and then Home Secretary for the Government of India in 1849. He travelled back to England to provide information to Parliament between 1852 and 1853. After his return, in 1854, he was appointed the first Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal by the East India Company.
The East India Company was the vessel for British imperialism in India from the early 18th century to the mid-19th century. The company began by trading in spices from the East Indies from the 17th century. After defeating Portugal in India in 1612, who had the previous monopoly, the EIC traded in cotton, silk, indigo, saltpetre and spices from South India. It started trading and using slaves from the 1620s, and this lasted until the 1770s. The EIC started to control Bengal in 1757 and became the base for British expansion. The Regulating Act 1773 and William Pitt the Younger Act 1784 gave Parliament commercial and political control of India so from 1834 the EIC was the body that managed India as a British colony. After the major rebellion of 1857, rule of India was transferred to the Crown through the Company until it shut down in 1873. British rule lasted until India gained its independence in 1947.
Before Halliday’s appointment, Bengal had previously been overseen by a Governor-General but the post of Lieutenant-Governor was created by the Marquess of Dalhousie when the East India Company’s charter was renewed as it was noted that Bengal needed a different administrative approach. From 1833, the Governor-General of India was also the Governor-General of Bengal, and due to territorial acquisitions, the Governor-General was often away from the region, and thus this change in the structure of the role was hoped to improve the situation. Through his appointment, he resided in Belvedere House, which had formerly housed Warren Hastings, the first Governor of the Presidency of Fort William (Bengal) and the first Governor-General of Bengal. Belvedere is a 30-acre estate where the National Library of India is now housed.
As Lieutenant-Governor, he was responsible for the building of numerous roads and the construction of the East Indian Railway, which enabled better communication for the East India Company. The Railway route was planned to run from Calcutta to Rajmahal in 1849, which would later be extended to Delhi via Mirzapur and so the Railway Company acquired much land for this. British shareholders made immense profits from railways across India, whilst the works were paid for exclusively by Indian taxes. The railways were primarily used to move natural resources (coal, iron ore, cotton, etc.) so that they may be shipped back to Britain. The first passenger train ran from Bombay to Thane in 1853. The vast number of employees of the railways were European. Due to legislation in 1912, it was unviable for Indian trains to be manufactured or even designed, so between 1854 and 1947, India imported 14,700 trains from England, Canada, America and Germany. Due to this combination of factors, the railways, including the East Indian Railway company, did little to benefit Indian people and actively harmed their economy.
He also introduced the Calcutta Municipal Act, which included increased pay for the police, and increased supervision of the justice system. This was to help supress the disturbance of active resistance to British rule by creating a military police force as well as adding more officials to the justice system to help with its efficiency. The justice system of the British Raj was far from fair and equal, as, for example, thousands of murders of Indian people by English settlers went unpunished, with only three successful prosecutions. To a large extent, Bengal was not involved in the Indian Rebellion of 1857, which saw a mass revolt and mutiny against British sovereignty in India, but Halliday provided advice to Lord Canning, the Governor-General of India, to reduce civil unrest. Alongside these administrative reforms, Halliday sought social change and enforced anti-sati legislation; sati being the ritual burning of a widow. He was also involved in the Widow Remarriage Act, and improving educational opportunities through the establishment of a director of public instruction and the University of Calcutta.
Halliday left the position of lieutenant-governor in 1859, and was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 1860. From 1868 to 1886, he was a member of the Council of India, a group of 15 members who advised the Secretary of State for India in London.
Halliday donated £3 and 3 shillings to St George’s in 1882, which is roughly £300 in today’s currency. He died in 1901.
- Frederick James Halliday – Wikipedia
- Halliday, Sir Frederick James – Banglapedia
- ‘But what about the railways …?’ The myth of Britain’s gifts to India | Colonialism | The Guardian
- History of rail transport in India – Wikipedia
- East Indian Railway Company – Wikipedia
- East Indian Railway – Graces Guide
- East India Company | Definition, History, & Facts | Britannica
- How the East India Company Became the World’s Most Powerful Monopoly – HISTORY
- Indian Rebellion of 1857 – Wikipedia