Charles Grant (British East India Company)

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Charles Grant (Teàrlach Grannd in Scottish Gaelic; 16 April 1746 – 31 October 1823) was a British politician influential in Indian and domestic affairs who, motivated by his evangelical Christianity, championed the causes of social reform and Christian mission, particularly in India. He served as Chairman of the British East India Company, and as a member of parliament (MP), and was an energetic member of the Clapham Sect.


  • Of the Mahomedans, who mix in considerable numbers with the former inhabitants of all the countries subdued by their arms in Hindostan, it is necessary also to say a few words. Originally of the Tartar race, proud, fierce, and lawless ; attached also to their superstition,... they were rendered ... yet more proud, sanguinary, sensual, and bigotted.
    • Observations on the state of society [1]
  • The Persians and Tartars, who have poured into it from early ages, have generally been soldiers of fortune, who brought little with them but their swords. With these they have not unfrequently carved their way to dignity and empire. Power has been, and is their darling object ; nothing was scrupled by them to obtain it; the history of Mahomedan rule in Hindostan is full of treasons, affaffinations, fratricides, even parricide is not unknown to it.
    • Observations on the state of society [2]
  • Upon the whole, then, we cannot avoid recognizing in the people of Hindostan, a race of men lamentably degenerate and base, retaining but a feeble sense of moral obligation, yet obstinate in their disregard of what they know to be right, governed by malevolent and licentious passions, strongly exemplifying the effects produced on society by great and general corruption of manners, and sunk in misery by their vices, in a country peculiarly calculated by its natural advantages to promote the happiness of its inhabitants.
    • Charles Grant, in Craufurd, Quintin, Sketches Chiefly Relating To The History, Religion, Learning, And Manners of The Hindoos, 2 vols., 1977, first published 1792. quoted from Jain, M. (editor) (2011). The India they saw: Foreign accounts. New Delhi: Ocean Books. Volume IV Chapter2
  • In contrast to the Orientalists, Grant ([1790] 1970) stressed the absolute difference, in all respects, between the British and the despicable natives of the subcontinent: "In the worst parts of Europe, there are no doubt great numbers of men who are sincere, upright, and conscientious. In Bengal, a man of real veracity and integrity is a great phenomenon" (21). Most significantly, he made absolutely no reference to the kinship of Sanskrit and the European languages except, possibly, to note that "the discoveries of science invalidate none of the truths of revelation" (71). Nor did Grant have any regard for enthusiastic depictions of India. Grant was quick to criticize scholars who had never even visited India, thereby undermining the relevance of their scholarship to the real world: "Europeans who, not having resided in Asia, are acquainted only with a few detached features of the Indian character" (24).
    • quoted in Bryant, E. F. (2001). The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture : the Indo-Aryan migration debate. Oxford University Press. ch 1

Observations on the State of Society among the Asiatic Subjects of Great Britain (1796)

  • It has suited the views of some philosophers to represent that people as amiable and respectable; and a few late travellers have chosen rather to place some softer traits of their characters in an engaging light, than to give a just delineation of the whole. The generality, however, of those who have written concerning Hindostán, appear to have concurred in affirming what foreign residents there have as generally thought, nay, what the natives themselves freely acknowledge of each other, that they are a people exceedingly depraved. (1796:20)
    • in Trautmann, Thomas R. (2008). Aryans and British India. p. 103
  • They have had among themselves a complete despotism from the remotest antiquity; a despotism, the most remarkable for its power and duration that the world has ever seen. It has pervaded their government, their religions, and their laws. It has formed by its various ramifications the essentials of the character which they have always had, as far as the light of history goes, and which they still posess; that character, which has made them a prey to every invader, indifferent to all their rulers, and easy in the change of them; as a people, void of public spirit, honour, attachment; and in society, base, dishonest, and faithless. (1796:32)
    • in Trautmann, Thomas R. (2008). Aryans and British India.
  • We proceed then to observe, that it is perfectly in the power of this country, by degrees, to impart to the Hindoos our language; afterwards, through that medium, to make them acquainted .... with the simple elements of our arts, our philosophy and religion. These acquisitions would silently undermine, and at length subvert, the fabric of error...


  • ‘Hindooism’, the word that came to fill the gap, had originally been coined back in the 1780s. The first man known to have used it was an Evangelical. Charles Grant, a Scot who had served the Company both as a soldier and on its board of trade, had initially felt little sense of Christian mission. He had travelled to India with the goal of getting rich. Accordingly, he had seen no reason to disagree with the settled policy of the Company: that its only business was business. Any attempt to convert Hindus to Christianity would risk the precarious foundations of its rule. Its purpose was the making of money, not the winning of souls. But then had come the great crisis in Grant’s life. Gambling debts had threatened his finances. Two of his children had died of smallpox within ten days of each other. Grant, in the depths of his agony, had found himself redeemed by grace. From that moment on, the great object of his life had been to win the Hindus for Christ. Convinced that they were lost in ignorance, he had pledged himself to saving them from all their idolatries and superstitions. These were what he had meant by ‘Hindooism’.
    • Tom Holland - Dominion_ The Making of the Western Mind-Little, Brown (2019)

Aryans and British India

Trautmann, Thomas R. (2008). Aryans and British India
  • British Indomania did not die of natural causes; it was killed off. The Indophobia that became the norm in early-nineteenth-century Britain was constructed by Evangelicalism and Utilitarianism, and its chief architects were Charles Grant and James Mill.
    • Trautmann, Thomas R. (2008). Aryans and British India. p. 99
  • This uncompromising judgment falls especially upon those Indians who are under British rule, the Bengalis, and among them especially the Hindus, and the content of their moral depravity (which Grant descants upon at length) is that they are lacking in truth, honesty, and good faith to a degree not found in European society. Grant is blunt in the interest not of condemning the Indians but of determining "their true place in the moral scale," ... What he insists upon is the universality of this great depravity in Hindu society, giving it a general moral hue, "between which and the European moral complexion there is a difference analogous to the difference of the natural colour of the two races" (1796:25). But the purpose is neither condemnation for its own sake nor to assert the permanent inferiority of another race.
    • 103
  • The argument from silence was once regarded as a weak argument, to be used sparingly and with care, but for some time now authors have become responsible for the infinity of what they do not say, and they are liable to be charged with erasures, elisions, suppressions, guilty silences, and significant omissions. The argument from silence is made more easily today, but even by the higher standard of the past, the complete silence of Grant and Mill on the core argument of Jones is surely significant of a tendency to stress the difference "every way" of the Indians and the British.
    • 121
  • It is worth saying again: Indophobia did not spring up naturally from the soil of Britain, it was deliberately built. India was very different from Britain, to be sure, but Britons did not believe they were "every way different" from the Indians until Grant taught them to think so.
    • 130