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