The History of Lord Lytton's Indian Administration, 1876 to 1880


British poet and diplomat Edward Robert Bulwer-Lytton (1831–91) was viceroy of India between 1876 and 1880. He was appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, a Conservative, at a time of intense competition between Britain and Russia over control of Central Asia. During his viceroyalty Lytton worked to improve the Indian administration and supervised his government’s much-criticized response to the Great Famine of 1876–78. Lytton was also widely criticized for his assertive, “forward” policy toward Afghanistan, which in the view of his detractors was responsible for provoking the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–80). Presented here is The History of Lord Lytton's Indian Administration, 1876 to 1880, a narrative of Lytton’s viceroyalty, compiled by his daughter, Lady Betty Balfour, from private and official documents. Lytton had requested in his will that his wife “endeavour to obtain the assistance of some statesman or writer” to produce a complete record of his administration. The family first chose Lytton’s close friend and colleague Sir John Strachey to write it, but when Strachey’s health made it impossible for him to continue the work the task fell to Lytton’s daughter. Published in 1899, the book is a straightforward account of the events of Lytton’s administration, presented in chronological order. It is comprised of 12 chapters, and covers such issues as the Delhi Assemblage of 1877 that proclaimed Queen Victoria as Empress of India, the frontier negotiations of 1877, the famine of 1876‒78, the 1878 Russian mission to Kabul, and the negotiations conducted and treaties concluded with the rulers of Afghanistan. One chapter is devoted to Lytton’s controversial Vernacular Press Act, which restricted the freedom of India’s non-English newspapers. The book concludes with a fold-out map of India and surrounding territories, which shows the land gained from Afghanistan by British India after 1786. Lady Betty Balfour later became known for her support of the suffrage movement and female education.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Longmans, Green, and Company, London


Title in Original Language

The History of Lord Lytton's Indian administration, 1876 to 1880

Type of Item

Physical Description

551 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 centimeters


  1. Clayre Percy, “Balfour, Elizabeth Edith [Betty], countess of Balfour (1867‒1942),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2004).
  2. David Washbrook, “Lytton, Edward Robert Bulwer-, first earl of Lytton [pseud. Owen Meredith] (1831‒1891),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Last updated: August 17, 2016