Hastings was the first Governor-General of India (1772–1785). He transformed the East India Company from a trading organisation into a great military and naval power. He established full-scale British civil administration in India, but his methods led to a trial for corruption at which he was acquitted in 1795. Warren Hastings was Governor-General of Bengal and epitomised the luck, spirit and ruthlessness on which the British empire was built. Arriving in India aged seventeen, he rose swiftly through the ranks of the East India Company, the trading body that held the political reigns of Britain's Asian territories. Though a considerable statesman, doubts began to surface over Hastings's methods and morals. In a parliamentary attack, mounted by the statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke, Hastings was accused of embezzling funds and ordering the judicial murder of a native official. His impeachment and trial, which lasted from 1788-95, became one of the great causes célêbres of the age. Though Hastings was not convicted, Burke's speeches during the trial, outlining the responsibilities owed by conquering powers to subject peoples, prompted a serious re-evaluation of Britain's imperial policy.
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National Portrait Gallery, London
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