Writing in 1894 at the full tide of British power in India, Sir Alfred Lyall, one of the most perceptive of the administrator-historians, remarked that the history of the Indian Empire was unique in that it provided a connected view of the germination, growth and expansion of the sovereignty of a civilized power over another people of a high, but alien, culture. The meaning and the results of such an extension of power must weigh, he thought, 'on the minds of reflective men in all times and countries.' Lyall summarized his own attitude by referring to St Augustine, who, after examining Roman expansion, concluded that 'to carry on war and extend rulership over subdued nations seems to bad men felicity, but to good men a necessity.' The purpose of this study is to examine the part played by Charles Grant, servant and Director of the East India Company, in the expansion of British power in India and to show how he interpreted the significance of that movement for both India and Britain. The general conclusion suggested is that not only did Grant raise for the first time many questions concerning the nature of the relationship between India and Great Britain, but also that his commentary on events and the record of his public career provide valuable insights into the creative role of the East India Company and its servants in modern Indian history.
The process of germination of which Lyall spoke took a long time --stretching over the century and a half from the first voyages at the beginning of the seventeenth century to the middle of the 1760's when it became plain that Britain, or at least the Company, was to be a territorial power in India. The period of growth and expansion, on the other hand, was relatively brief--largely comprised in the fifty years culminating in Lord Hastings' conquests in 1819. Throughout almost the whole of this period, Charles Grant was connected with the East India Company. He began his Indian career in Bengal in 1768, a time and place, as he later said, which reflected 'a kind of dark shade.' His first years in India were spent as private agent to Richard Becher, one of the best-known of the Company's servants of the time. Later, under a regular appointment, Grant advanced rapidly in the Company's service, and before he left India in 1790 he had become an influential figure, having been chosen by Lord Cornwallis to carry out the reform of the Company's Commercial Department. After his return to England he quickly assumed a powerful role in the Indian . . .