Trevelyan was a Victorian colonial administrator and the father of the modern British civil service.
Charles Edward Trevelyan was born on 2 April 1807 in Taunton where his father was a clergyman. His ability to learn foreign languages resulted in his posting as a writer to the East India Company's civil service in Bengal in 1826. A year later he was named assistant to the English commissioner at Delhi. For the next four years he made it his special work to improve the living conditions of the local population and to modernise trade, by eliminating duties on internal trade.
The 1830s were important to Trevelyan for a number of reasons, chief among them that he married Hannah Moore, the sister of Thomas Macaulay, the great historian, who was then a member of the supreme council of India.Trevelyan himself had taken a post in the government in Calcutta where he devoted himself to the cause of education, particularly of providing Indians with schooling in European science and literature.
By 1840, Trevelyan had returned to London where for the next 19 years he served as assistant secretary to the Treasury. In this position, he had responsibility for administering relief during the famine in Ireland (1845-1847). He has come to represent the British government's controversial policies of minimal intervention and attempting to encourage self-reliance, and he remains a contentious figure in Ireland.
His most lasting contribution, however, began in the 1850s with the publication of his and Sir Stafford Northcote's report on 'The Organisation of the Permanent Civil Service'. The report led to the transformation of the civil service. Educational standards and competitive admission examinations ensured that a more qualified body of civil servants would become administrators.
In 1858, after the Indian Mutiny, Trevelyan returned to India as governor of Madras. He was recalled after he released some government information that was deemed an act 'subversive to all authority.' He was vindicated and returned to India as finance minister from 1862 to 1865. In his later years in England, he was involved in various charitable enterprises and supported other important reforms regarding the purchase of army commissions and advancements, as well as the organisation of the army. He died on 19 June 1886.
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