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Fifth Report, 1812


Fifth Report, 1812 a famous document prepared by a Select Committee set up in 1810 by the British Parliament to look into the affairs of the east india company. The terms of reference of the Select Committee were to inquire into the state of the company's territorial possessions with particular focus on revenue and judiciary. A movement led by the free traders and missionary interests demanding immediate abolition of the East India Company preceded the formation of the Select Committee. Their complaint was that the merchant government governed India unjustly and oppressively.

The Select Committee was asked to study the origins and growth of the company's territorial empire in India and make observations on its system of government and its effects on the people. The Select Committee confined themselves to the study of the establishments connected with the Revenue and Judicial Departments of the company's administration. The Committee made a summary of different systems introduced one after another for the management of revenue and administration of justice since the acquisition of diwani in 1765. The practical effects of all such experiments were investigated in depth. Based on the records of the company and interviews with people versed in company affairs, a large report, called the Fifth Report from the Select Committee on the Affairs of the East India Company, was presented to the parliament in 1812.

This report, which was favourable to the East India Company, influenced the Charter Act of 1813 in preserving the company as a ruler as well as a commercial body. Though public opinion was against the continuation of a company vested with a vast territorial empire, the Charter Act of 1813 allowed the company to rule British India on behalf of the crown. However, under the Charter Act, the company lost the monopoly right that it had been enjoying since its inception.

The Fifth Report, 1812, is an invaluable source document for historical inquiries into the early administration of the East India Company. The Select Committee collected all the crucial documents guiding the formation of the colonial state in its first fifty years and used them as annexures to the Report. Among the annexures, which are of crucial importance, are the minutes of John Shore and cornwallis, an analysis of the finance of Bengal by James Grant, revenue and judicial statistics, proceedings of the board of revenue and reports from the district judges and magistrates. All these documents illustrate vividly how the colonial state in Bengal was formed and administered. [Sirajul Islam]