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Bad Language: The Role of English, Persian and other Esoteric Tongues in the Dismissal of Sir Edward Colebrooke as Resident of Delhi in 1829


In 1829, at the height of Lord William Bentinck's regime of reform, a keen young civil servant in north India took on one of the last of the Company's nabobs and won. It was a clash of a new style of Haileybury civilian with an old Company servant which remarkably prefigured the personal and philosophical dynamics of the Anglicist-Orientalist education debate a few years later. Sir Edward Colebrooke, Bt, was Resident of Delhi, 67 years old and nearly 50 years in the East India Company's service. His youthful adversary was his own first assistant, Charles Edward Trevelyan, aged 22 and, in Sir Edward's words, ‘a Boy just escaped from school’. In June 1829 Trevelyan charged Colebrooke with corruption, and despite being cut by many of Delhi's European residents, saw the prosecution through to its conclusion some six months later when the Governor-General in Council was pleased to order Colebrooke's suspension from the service, a sentence ultimately confirmed by the Court of Directors.

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We are grateful to the Australian Research Council for funding the research for this paper, which is an interim production in a larger project to write a biography of Charles Trevelyan. We are also grateful to Dr Lesley Gordon, Special Collections Librarian at the Robinson Library, University of Newcastle, UK and the Trevelyan Family Trustees for their assistance and permission in allowing us to use and cite from papers of Sir Charles Edward Trevelyan held at the Robinson Library. Comments from C. A. Bayly, Nigel Chancellor and Robert Travers have been especially welcome and helpful.
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Modern Asian Studies
  • ISSN: 0026-749X
  • EISSN: 1469-8099
  • URL: /core/journals/modern-asian-studies
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