John Herbert Harington (1764 -1828)

jurist, orientalist, and colonial administrator.

HARINGTON began his career with the East India Company in 1780, taking up a junior position in revenue administration for Bengal and spending the rest of his working life in India in the Bengal Civil Service. Rising rapidly through the ranks, Harington concerned himself with the legal affairs of the EI Company government, based in Fort William. As his interest in law grew, so, too, did his interest in Indian civilisation, and he was an active member of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. In 1801, Harington was appointed Puisne Judge of the Sadr Diwani and Nizamat Adalat; by 1811, he was Chief Judge. His key work, Analysis of the Laws and Regulations of the Fort William Government in Bengal (1805-17), was a standard text for colonial administrators and lawyers in the nineteenth century. Harington became Professor of Law at Fort William College and a member (later President) of its Council, and was member of the Supreme Council and President of the Board of Trade 1822-23, and again 1825-27. In a different vein, Harington organized the first publication from manuscript of the Persian poet, Sa’di. He died on 9 April 1828 shortly after returning to London.



Major-General Thomas Hardwicke (1755-1835)

soldier, natural historian, and East India Company man.

HARDWICKE joined the East India Company in 1777 as a soldier, working his way up to the rank of major-general in 1819. During his career as a soldier, he travelled widely throughout the Indian subcontinent, exploiting his itinerant lifestyle to pursue a passion for natural history and commissioning countless unknown local artists to record the many zoological specimens he collected along the way, whether live or dead. Together these amounted to the most extensive record of Indian fauna ever assembled by a single individual, with 4,500 pieces eventually published as Illustrations of Indian Zoology (1830-35). Hardwicke was known by, and corresponded with, many other zoologists and naturalists working on the subcontinent, as well as with Sir Joseph Banks back in England. In 1813, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Hardwicke retired from the army and returned to England in 1826, where he financed the publication of his collection of illustrations, dying in 1835 before the text for Illustrations of Indian Zoology was complete. His collection was bequeathed to the British Museum, from where parts of it were removed to the Natural History Museum.

Elias Greig and William Christie, University of Sydney

Elizabeth Hamilton (c. 1756-1816)

novelist, essayist and educator.

ELIZABETH HAMILTON was born in Belfast, the daughter of a Scottish merchant and his Irish wife. Following the death of her father in 1759, she was raised by her paternal aunt and uncle near Stirling, where she lived until 1788, when she went to London to join her elder brother Charles, then on leave from the East India Company. While in London, she made a number of literary acquaintances, including the philosopher William Godwin and the novelist Mary Hays, both of whom she later satirized in her fiction. After Charles’s sudden death in 1792, just before he was due to return to India, Hamilton launched her career as a writer, beginning with Translations of the Letters of a Hindoo Rajah (1796), a fictional travel narrative that was in part a tribute to her brother. In 1804, after publishing a second novel, Memoirs of Modern Philosophers, as well as a speculative biography of Agrippina the Elder and a book of essays on education, Hamilton settled in Edinburgh, where she spent most of the rest of her life. She quickly established herself as a central figure in Edinburgh intellectual society; Jeffrey maintained what appears to have been a cordial social relationship with her. While her 1808 novel, The Cottagers of Glenburnie, was the only one of her works to be noticed in the Edinburgh, Hamilton’s writing on subjects including educational and aesthetic theory demonstrates her engagement with topics that attracted the Edinburgh reviewers.

Pamela Perkins, University of Manitoba



Colin McKenzie (1753-1821)

surveyor, military engineer, oriental enthusiast, and East India Company man.

BORN on the Isle of Lewis, the details of McKenzie’s education are uncertain, but he was reputedly a skilled mathematician and had a passion for the Orient. He joined the East India Company’s infantry in 1783 as an ensign before transferring to the engineers, where he distinguished himself in a number of sieges and expeditions, carrying out surveys when not on campaign. McKenzie was an invaluable officer during the war against Tipu Sultan. Contemporaries spoke of his remarkable coolness in battle and he was personally commended by Arthur Wellesley (later Lord Wellington).

After Mysore fell, McKenzie argued the need for a comprehensive survey as a crucial mechanism for efficient governance – by which he meant not just mapping, but also cataloguing and describing the physical, historical, and cultural features of the territory surveyed. Working with William Lambton (whose cartography was more efficient and accurate, but lacked the range and depth of McKenzie’s data), McKenzie surveyed Mysore from 1799 to 1808. He was appointed surveyor-general of Madras in 1810, and surveyor-general of India in 1815. The cultural and religious aspects of his surveys captured his interest most keenly, and McKenzie credited himself with the discovery of a number of subdivisions within Indian religion, including Jainism. He liaised with many native scholars, and brought back thousand of coins, artefacts, inscriptions, and descriptions of the landscapes and cultures he surveyed, published in Asiatic Researches and elsewhere. McKenzie died near Calcutta in 1821.

Elias Greig and William Christie, University of Sydney

Sir Charles Warre Malet (1753-1815)

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


Francis Buchanan [later Hamilton] (1762-1829)

botanist, surgeon, and East India Company man.

BORN in Perthshire into the minor aristocracy, Buchanan took an MA from Glasgow in 1779 and an MD from Edinburgh University in 1783. Hoping to pursue a career as a botanist, Buchanan joined the East India Company, spending a decade as a ship’s surgeon before securing the post of Assistant Surgeon for Bengal in 1794, where he participated in Britain’s first political mission to Ava and collected a substantial Burmese herbarium along the way.

After the fall of Mysore and victory over Tipu Sultan, Wellesley appointed Buchanan to survey the newly conquered territory. Buchanan collected a multitude of new plant specimens and continued his botanising as a member of the British Embassy to Kathmandu in 1802. By 1804, Buchanan had been appointed Wellesley’s personal surgeon and made director of the Natural History Project of India, an enterprise that would attempt to classify and illustrate all the animals and birds of Southern Asia. Buchanan returned to London in 1805 and in 1806 was made a fellow of the Royal Society.

In 1807, Buchanan was promoted to Surgeon and returned to India, embarking on a topographical survey of Bengal that would occupy most of his time in India. In 1814, he was appointed superintendent of the Botanical Gardens in Calcutta, but only a year later ill health forced a return to Scotland, where he inherited his mother’s estates and changed his name to Hamilton. By the time of his death in 1829 he was chief of Clan Buchanan.

Elias Greig and William Christie, University of Sydney