Cornwallis as Governor General of India

The defeat against the armies of the colonies at Yorktown did not destroy Cornwallis’s career. He was too well-connected. Instead, in 1786, he was appointed governor-general of India, where he brought important reforms to the civil service and the judiciary. He also instituted a major land reform and led military campaigns against native uprisings. In 1792, he was made a marquess for his service in India so it was percieved as a successful mission..

As governor-general from 1786 to 1793, Charles Cornwallis professionalized, bureaucratized, and Europeanized the company’s administration. He also outlawed private trade by company employees, separated the commercial and administrative functions, and remunerated company servants with generous graduated salaries.

Because revenue collection became the company’s most essential administrative function, Cornwallis made a compact with Bengali zamindars, who were perceived as the Indian counterparts to the British landed gentry. The Permanent Settlement system, also known as the zamindari system, fixed taxes in perpetuity in return for ownership of large estates; but the state was excluded from agricultural expansion, which came under the purview of the zamindars. In Madras and Bombay, however, the ryotwari (peasant) settlement system was set in motion, in which peasant cultivators had to pay annual taxes directly to the government.
Neither the zamindari nor the ryotwari systems proved effective in the long run because India was integrated into an international economic and pricing system over which it had no control, while increasing numbers of people subsisted on agriculture for lack of other employment. Millions of people involved in the heavily taxed Indian textile industry also lost their markets, as they were unable to compete successfully with cheaper textiles produced in Lancashire’s mills from Indian raw materials.

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