British Government in India: The Story of Viceroys and Government Houses


George Nathaniel Curzon (1859‒1925) was a British politician, traveler, and writer who served as viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905 and foreign secretary from 1919 to 1924. The somewhat confusingly titled British Government in India: The Story of Viceroys and Government Houses was one of Curzon’s last books, completed after he left the Foreign Office in January 1924 and posthumously published. The two-volume work is a study of Calcutta (present-day Kolkata), capital of British India in the period 1772‒1911, and home of the governors and viceroys who represented the British East India Company and later the British government from the early 18th to the early 20th century. As Curzon states in the preface, his plan to write the book went back to his time in India, when he “resolved to write the history of Government House—that stately building, by far the finest Government House in the Empire, designed upon the model of my own home of Kedleston in Derbyshire—which had sheltered the rulers of India for exactly one hundred years….” In addition to being a study of the house, the book contains notes and observations on viceroys and governors such as Robert Clive, Warren Hastings, and Lord William Bentinck. The last chapter in volume one, entitled “Forms, Ceremonies, and Entertainments,” is an especially interesting overview of ceremonial life at the viceregal residence, which reflected a blend of British and Indian traditions. Other chapters cover the famous Black Hole of Calcutta or touch upon important historical events, such as the Indian Mutiny and the Anglo-Afghan Wars.

Last updated: September 30, 2016