East India Company servant and diplomat.
BORN in Somerset, the son of a rector, Malet joined the East India Company at an early age and filled a number of posts, including the charge of an embassy to the Mughal Emperor and residency at Cambray, a post he filled from 1774 until 1785, when he was made Company resident to the court of the Peshwa at Poona. An unrivalled expert on western India, Malet was an expansionist, arguing for an increased EI Company presence – and, therefore, British presence – throughout India. He believed Britain had a duty to spread ‘liberal justice’ through a country he saw as ravaged by conflicts between petty robber-barons. Such ideas influenced the future decisions of figures such as Cornwallis and Wellesley.
Malet was made baronet in 1791 for brokering a difficult triple alliance between the East India Company, the Peshwa at Poona, and the Nizam of Hyderabad – no easy feat, as Malet had to diffuse tension between the Nizam and the Peshwa. This alliance enabled the defeat of Tipu Sultan and cemented Malet’s reputation. After a stint on the council at Bombay and as acting governor for the Presidency, Malet returned to England and married Susanna, daughter of the painter, James Wales, whom he assisted in publishing – particularly Wales’s work on the Ellora caves. Malet’s own description of the caves was published in Asiatic Researches in 1801. He died at Bath in 1815.
Elias Greig and William Christie, University of Sydney