Victorian Colonial Governors

Although the period 1815-1870 has been called ‘The Age of Reform’, in the England of the 1840s eighteenth century norms persisted in administration and politics. Despite the Reform Act of 1832, many of the small boroughs still remained under the dominance of a great territorial magnate whose nominee was almost automatically returned. Civil servants were chosen for the different government departments by internal, closed nomination under a ‘spoils’ system; commissions in the army and the promotion of military officers was still by purchase. Only in India was there the beginning of a professional cadre of administrators, educated at Haileybury College (opened, 1809) and enjoying a monopoly of all the higher administrative positions. Promotion was the avenue whereby the most able became governor; or rather lieutenant governor, with only the Bombay and Madras Presidencies reserved for grandees from British public life. If colonial governors were chosen in a haphazard manner, this merely followed the general practice.

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