Elgin II, Lord

Elgin II, Lord (1849-1917) was the Governor General and Viceroy of India from 11 October 1894-6 January 1899. Son of lord elgin (1811-1863), he was born on 16 May 1849 in Montreal, Canada and educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford. Soon after his assumption of government, trouble arose in Chitral in 1895 and it spread to the rest of the neighboring tribal areas inhabited by Mohmands and Afridis. There was considerable fighting and because of the hilly region a large number of troops had to be deployed. The military operations in the northwest frontier were severest since the sepoy revolt, 1857. By 1898 the tribes were compelled to surrender. Their fortifications were destroyed and the whole area was brought to order.

During Elgin’s tenure of office a terrible epidemic called bubonic plague broke out in Bombay and this terrible disease took a heavy toll of lives. A famine, which occurred almost throughout India about the same time, made matters worse. The plague and famine devastated the country and it is reported that three quarters of a million died in British territory alone and another four million were brought under relief. To have a financial respite during these adversities a duty of five percent was imposed on all imports to India with the exception of Manchester goods. This was regarded as a kind of indirect protection given to British products, which proved harmful to Indian cotton textile manufactures.

Elgin's administration witnessed a notable reform in the military organisation. The entire Indian Army was put under the Commander-in-Chief with four Lieutenant Generals for Bengal, Madras, Bombay and the Northwest Provinces including the Punjab.

Troubles and sufferings in fact marked Lord Elgin's administration. Yet Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee was celebrated all over the subcontinent in 1897. He died on 18 January 1917. [KM Mohsin]