Thackeray, William Makepeace

William Makepeace Thackeray

Thackeray, William Makepeace (1749-1814) was born in Harrow, England, 20 June 1749. Son of Dr. Thomas Thackeray, head-master of Harrow School, and Ann Woodward, William Makepeace Thackeray, known as 'Sylhet Thackeray', joined the east india company at 15 as a book-keeper. He sailed for India on the Lord Camden in February 1766.

By December of 1767 Thackeray had been promoted to the post of Assistant to the President of the board of trade and in August 1771 became the fourth member in Council at Dhaka, then the chief seat of the Company in Eastern Bengal. He travelled from Kolkata to Dhaka accompanied by his sister Jane, who married the cartographer james rennell on 15 October 1772.

Thackeray, in that year, was appointed Collector of Sylhet, with instructions to impose order on the Company’s procedures for collecting tax revenues. There Thackeray served as tax collector, road and bridge builder and magistrate, and ensured the Company’s monopoly over the lime, salt and tobacco trades.

Following continued incursions by parties of Jaintia hill tribesmen onto the Sylhet plain, Thackeray led a military campaign against the Raja to secure the free passage of Company trade along the Surma river. Thackeray's troops overwhelmed resistance in the Jaintia hills in March 1773, following which Sylhet was attached to the Dhaka district on 22 July of that year.

Between 1774 and 1776 Thackeray was involved in a celebrated case which he brought against the East India Company after their failure to pay him for elephants which he had caught in Sylhet and supplied to the Company for use by the British army. Having won the case, he married Amelia Webb in Kolkata on 31 January 1776. They left India permanently on 19 January 1777. Six of their seven sons served in India, the second, Richmond, was the father of the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, born in Bengal in 1811. 'Sylhet Thackeray' died in Hadley Green, Middlesex, England in 1814. [Aled George Jones]