Minto, Lord

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MINTO, LORD (1845–1914), viceroy of India (1905–1910). Gilbert Elliot, the fourth earl of Minto, was viceroy of India from 1905 to 1910. Great-grandson of the first earl, who had been Whig governor-general of India from 1807 to 1813, Lord Minto served as governor-general of Canada from 1898 to 1904 before being sent to India by A. J. Balfour's Tory government. Though his name is historically linked to Secretary of State for India John Morley (as coauthors of the Morley-Minto Reforms), "Mr. Rolly" (Minto's nickname) was more interested in riding horses than in constitutional reforms.

Soon after Minto reached India, Balfour's Tory government was soundly defeated in the 1905 general elections in Britain by Henry Campbell-Bannerman's Liberals, bringing reform-minded John Morley to Whitehall as India's secretary of state. Imperial London's old palace guard feared, however, that recalling Viceroy Minto from India so soon after he had reached Calcutta (Kolkata), in the heart of recently partitioned, rebellious Bengal, might send a "dangerous" signal of "weakness" to India's National Congress leadership. They chose to leave India to suffer four years of harsh repression under Minto's inept governance, rather than immediately replacing him. Minto's predecessor, Lord Curzon, had left India following his October 1905 division of Bengal through its Bengali-speaking midland. This most provocative legacy was viewed by India's National Congress as "perfidious Albion's" plan to divide and rule with a vengeance.

Minto's own major legacy was to receive a delegation of thirty-five Muslim aristocrats, led by the Aga Khan, at his viceregal mansion in Simla on 1 October 1906, and to assure them that any "electoral representation" granted by any constitutional reform would "safeguard" their "Mohammedan community," giving them special weight and separate electorates. That promise, made from Minto's viceregal "throne," irrevocably committed British India to granting its Muslim minority a disproportionate number of separately elected representatives on every legislative council, central as well as provincial, from that time until the British left India divided in 1947. That single promise was, as one of Minto s officials so effusively told him, nothing less than "the pulling back of sixty-two million" Muslims from joining the "seditious opposition" of India's National Congress. Two months later, the All-India Muslim League held its first meeting in Dacca (Dhaka), capital of the newly created Muslim-majority province of Eastern Bengal and Assam. Forty-five years after that, the Muslim League's Dominion of Pakistan was born, carved out of Muslim-majority provinces of northern India.

Minto left India in 1910, when Morley, after appointing Liberal Viceroy Lord Hardinge to succeed Minto, left Whitehall. One of Hardinge's first acts was to propose the belated reunification of Bengal, announced by King George V at his coronation durbar in Delhi on 12 December 1911. But Minto's separatist legacy assured its second division in 1947, and along the very same line as the first; with the latter partition, what had been Eastern Bengal became East Pakistan (and after 1971, Bangladesh).

Stanley Wolpert

See alsoAll-India Muslim League ; Bengal ; British Crown Raj ; Morley, John


Buchan, John. Lord Minto: A Memoir. London and New York: T. Nelson and Sons, 1924.

Das, M. N. India under Morley and Minto: Politics behind Repression and Reforms. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1964.

Minto, Mary, Countess of. India, Minto and Morley, 1905–1910. London: Macmillan, 1934.

Wasti, Syed Razi. Lord Minto and the Indian Nationalist Movement, 1905 to 1910. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964.

Wolpert, Stanley. Morley and India, 19061910. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1967.