Sir John Malcolm
|Governor of Bombay|
1 November 1827 – 1 December 1830
|Governor-General||The Earl Amherst|
Lord William Bentinck
|Preceded by||Mountstuart Elphinstone|
|Succeeded by||The Earl of Clare|
|Born||2 May 1769|
Burnfoot, Dumfriesshire, Scotland
|Died||30 May 1833 64) (aged|
|Occupation||Soldier, Statesman, Historian|
|Years of service||1782–1833|
|Battles/wars||Third Anglo-Mysore War|
Fourth Anglo-Mysore War
Battle of Mahidpur
Sir John Malcolm was born in 1769, one of seventeen children of George Malcolm, an impoverished tenant farmer in Eskdale in the Scottish Border country, and his wife Margaret (‘Bonnie Peggy’), née Pasley, the sister of Admiral Sir Thomas Pasley. His brothers included Sir James Malcolm, Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm and Sir Charles Malcolm. He left school, family and country at the age of thirteen, and achieved distinction in the East India Company over the next half century. A spirited character, he was nicknamed ‘Boy Malcolm’; for throughout his life he retained a youthful enthusiasm for field sports and fun and games. But behind this boisterous exterior lay serious intellectual ability and a considerable talent for government.
Arriving at Madras in 1783 as an ensign in the East India Company’s Madras Army, he served as a regimental soldier for eleven years, before spending a year in Britain to restore his health. He returned to India in 1795 as Military Secretary to General Sir Alured Clarke, participating en route in Clarke’s capture of the Cape of Good Hope. In the Anglo-Mysore war of 1799 he served with the Hyderabad contingent, and later as joint secretary of the Peace Commission setting up the new government of Mysore. Later that year he was selected by the Governor-General (Lord Mornington, later Marquess Wellesley) to lead a diplomatic mission to Iran. Following his return in 1801 he became Wellesley’s private secretary, based in Calcutta (Kolkata).
In the Anglo-Maratha war of 1803-05, he accompanied Sir Arthur Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington) as the Governor-General’s representative and diplomatic agent; the two men forming a lifelong friendship. In 1804 he was appointed British Resident at Mysore, but in 1805-6 saw further service in north India with General Lake.
In early 1808 the Governor-General, Lord Minto, sent him on a second mission to Iran, but at this time French influence was dominant in Tehran, and he was rebuffed. Later that year a separate mission from London under Sir Harford Jones arrived in Iran and achieved success, the Iran government having by then become disenchanted with the French. Malcolm was again sent to Iran in 1810, but by that time the British government had decided to conduct diplomatic relations with Iran directly from London, and appointed Sir Gore Ouseley as ambassador.
In 1812 Malcolm returned to Britain for five years’ furlough, and spent much of his time as a writer, completing his History of Iran (the first in English derived directly from Iran sources) in 1815. For this he received an honorary DCL from the University of Oxford. Returning to India in 1817, he acted as the Governor-General's agent in negotiations leading up to the third (and last) Anglo-Maratha war. He also acted as a general, leading Company troops to victory against Maharajah Holkar at the decisive battle of Mehidpoor (Mahidpur) in December 1817. In January 1818, Malcolm was placed by the Marquis of Hastings in the military and political charge of Central India (roughly, today's Madhya Pradesh); during the four years he filled that station, his attention was directed to the object of collecting materials for the illustration of its past and present condition. The report hereof he sent to Calcutte, where it was printed by order of Government. Disappointed to being superseded for the governorship of Bombay and Madras by his juniors, Malcolm left for Britain in 1822, where he lived with his family as a country gentleman, completing two more books.
In 1827 he was appointed Governor of Bombay. His governorship was generally successful, despite controversy over an unfortunate quarrel with the judges of the Bombay Supreme Court, who sought to extend their jurisdiction beyond Bombay to the Deccan hinterland, newly acquired by the Company from the Maratha Peshwa of Poona. In seeking to end both sati (the self-immolation of widows on their husband's funeral pyres) and female infanticide by moral persuasion, Malcolm visited Gujarat in February 1830 and met Sahajanand Swami, the founder of the Swaminarayan sect of Hinduism, who was advocating similar reforms. He has ever since been remembered in Swaminarayan literature. Together with his predecessor, Mountstuart Elphinstone, he was a pioneer in the promotion of Indian education and the training of Indians for the higher ranks of government. He also served as president of the Literary Society of Bombay
In 1831 Malcolm finally returned to Britain, and immediately became a Member of Parliament for the rotten borough of Launceston, supporting his friend the Duke of Wellington in opposition to the Reform Bill. He bought Warfield Hall in Berkshire from the Parry family and busied himself renovating it. His last public act was a speech in April 1833 to the Proprietors (shareholders) of the East India Company, persuading them to accept the Government's terms for renewal of its Charter. Immediately afterwards he suffered a stroke and died on 30 May 1833. He was buried in St James's Church, Piccadilly.
There are statues of Sir John Malcolm in Westminster Abbey's north transept and in the Town Hall in Bombay. There is also a 100-foot-high obelisk celebrating Malcolm's achievements on the top of Whita Hill, above Langholm in Scotland.
Together with his contemporaries Mountstuart Elphinstone and Sir Thomas Munro, Malcolm was an architect of three early principles of British rule, whose wisdom “was too soon forgotten and remembered too late”. Four main themes can be identified. Firstly, India was to be ruled for the benefit of the Company – but also of Indians, i.e. no British settlers. Secondly, indirect rule was to be preferred, leaving existing Indian rulers in place wherever possible, with minimal disturbance of traditional methods of governance, religion and social structure. Thirdly, Malcolm helped to develop the role of the District Officer, a small group of powerful administrators with minimal overt force to support them. Fourthly, Malcolm promoted a ‘forward’ foreign policy; meaning diplomatic engagement with neighbouring states such as Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia.
Malcolm wrote nine books, plus a volume of poetry, as follows:
Disturbances in the Madras Army in 1809, 1812
The History of Persia, 1815
The Political History of India, 1826
Sketches of Persia; this book is not written by Malcolm,but by one of his companions in his mission to Iran; the writer remains anonymous and has introduced himself as the traveller;he has referred to Malcolm in his text as ilchi ,which is a Persian word means envoy of a foreign country . , 1827
The Life of Robert, Lord Clive, 1836 (posthumous)
- JSTOR:Obituary Notice of the Late Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Malcolm, President of the Ethnological Society | Richard Cull | Journal of the Ethnological Society of London (1848–1856), Vol.3 (1854) pp 112-114 | 1854 | Royal Anthropological Society of Great Britain and Ireland
- Rory Muir. Wellington, The Path to Victory, 1769-1814 (2014), C H Philips, The Young Wellington in India (1973)
- R M Savory. British and French Diplomacy in Iran, 1808-1810. British Institute of Iran Studies (1972)
- A K S Lambton. Sir John Malcolm and the History of Iran. British Institute of Iran Studies (1995)
- Malcolm, Central India, Preface
- Parshotam Mehra: A Dictionary of Modern Indian History, 1707-1947. Delhi. Bombay. Calcutta. Madras : OUP 1985, p.427-428
- R Brady Williams. An Introduction to Swaminarayan Hinduism Cambridge (2001).
- "Review of Sketch of the Sikhs by Brigadier-General Sir John Malcolm". The Quarterly Review. 9: 472–479. July 1813.
- Harrington, Jack (2010). Sir John Malcolm and the Creation of British India. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Kaye, John W. (1856). The life and correspondence of Major-General Sir John Malcolm, G. C. B., late envoy to Persia, and governor of Bombay, from unpublished letters and journals. 1 (2 volumes ed.). London: Smith Elder and Company.
- Kaye, John W. (1856). The life and correspondence of Major-General Sir John Malcolm, G. C. B., late envoy to Persia, and governor of Bombay, from unpublished letters and journals. 2 (2 volumes ed.). London: Smith Elder and Company.
- Malcolm, John (2014). Malcolm – Soldier, Diplomat, Ideologue of British India: The Life of Sir John Malcolm (1769–1833). Edinburgh: Birlinn Limited.
"Malcolm, Sir John", A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature, 1910 – via Wikisource
- Significant Scots
- Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs
- Works by John Malcolm at Project Gutenberg
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by John Malcolm
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
Sir James Gordon
| Member of Parliament for Launceston
With: James Brogden
Sir Henry Hardinge
The Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone
| Governor of Bombay
Sir Thomas Sidney Beckwith