List of Viceroys of India: Work and Major Events


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Prelims:  History of India and Indian National Movement.

Mains: Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, and issues. The Freedom Struggle – it's various stages and important contributors /contributions from different parts of the country.

Viceroys of India - Chronology, Accomplishments, Reforms 

After the 1857 battle, the British government, having observed mismanagement by the East India Company, decided to appoint a representative head to oversee the governance of the region. As a result, the British introduced the Government of India Act 1858.  

The act established two offices:

  • Secretary of State of India: Who was assisted by a Council of 15 members, which had an advisory role, and the secretary acted as the channel of communication between the British government and Indian administration.
  • Viceroy of India: The Governor General/Viceroy, appointed by the Crown, represented the British government in India and was assisted by an Executive Council.


Viceroys of India

The viceroys of India, were appointed by the British monarchy as representatives to govern British India, following the title's introduction in 1858 after the Revolt of 1857, which led to the end of the rule of the East India Company and the beginning of direct British rule over India.


Name of the Viceroy

Notable Work and Events 

Lord Canning (1858 - 1862)

-The introduction of the Indian Penal Code in 1860, replacing English Criminal Law, and the Civil Procedure Code of 1859 and Criminal Procedure Code of 1861, which regulated court procedures in civil and criminal matters.

  • The Indian High Courts Act of 1861 abolished the existing Supreme Court and established High Courts.
  • The withdrawal of the Doctrine of Lapse.
  • The Indian Police Act of 1861 recommended guidelines for the police set up in the provinces.
  • The establishment of the Universities of Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras in 1857, as recommended by Wood's Dispatch.

Lord Elgin-I (1862 - 1863)

-Experienced the Wahabi Movement, which involved the suppression of the fanatic Muslim tribe known as the Wahabis.

Lord Lawrence (1864 - 1869)

-Established the Indian Forest Department and introduced a telegraph line connecting India with Europe.

  • Known for the policy of "Masterly inactivity," which emphasised a cautious and non-interventionist approach.
  • Engaged in a war with Bhutan (1864-65)
  • Enacted the Punjab and Oudh Tenancy Acts.

Lord Mayo (1869 - 1872)

-He was the sole Viceroy to be assassinated while in office.

  • The first-ever census in Indian history was conducted in 1871.
  • The Statistical Survey of India was established, and Financial Decentralization was initiated in India.

Lord Northbrook (1872 - 1876)

-The removal of the Gaikwad of Baroda in 1875, the Prince of Wales's visit, the Bihar Famine, and the Kuka Movement in Punjab were notable occurrences during his reign.

Lord Lytton (1876 - 1880)

-He gained notoriety as the most infamous viceroy in India.

  • The Delhi Durbar was organised in 1877 to commemorate Queen Victoria's assumption of the title "Kaiser-i-Hind."
  • In response to the Great Famine of 1876-78, General Richard Strachey led the Famine Commission in 1878.
  • The Arms Act of 1878 made it mandatory for Indians to obtain a license to possess arms.
  • In 1879, the enactment of the Statutory Civil Service brought about a significant change, stating that 1/6 of covenanted posts would now be occupied by Indians from high-status families. Additionally, the maximum age for Indian candidates was lowered from 21 to 19 years.

Lord Ripon (1880 - 1884)

-Known as the most liberal Lord, he sympathised with Indians and earned the title of "Father of Local Self-Government in India."

  • As the first Viceroy in India, he repealed all controversial Acts, including the Vernacular Press Act of 1882.
  • The introduction of the First Factory Act in 1881 aimed to ban child labour.
  • To address the recurrence of famines in India, a Famine Code was implemented.
  • The resolution for Local Self-Government in India in 1882 aimed to continue financial decentralisation in order to improve administration.

-The Provincial Government divided revenue sources into three groups: Centre, Provincial, and those to be shared between the Centre and the Provinces.

  • The Hunter Commission on Education (1882) was constituted to review the progress of education in India since the Wood's Dispatch of 1854.
  • The age requirement for the Civil Service exam was raised back to 21 years from 19.
  • The Ilbert Bill (1883) Controversy, which aimed to authorise Indian judges to hear cases involving Europeans, resulted in a revolt by the Europeans, leading to the withdrawal of the bill.

Lord Dufferin (1884 - 1888)

-Witnessed the establishment of the Indian National Congress in 1885. 

  • The annexation of Burma (1886) took place during the Third Burmese War, resulting in the exile of the Burmese ruler to India.
  • The Panjdeh Incident occurred in 1885, where Russian forces seized Afghan territory south of the Amu Darya.
    • This event led to a diplomatic crisis between Russia and the United Kingdom.

Lord Lansdowne (1888 - 1894)

-The Indian Council Act of 1892 brought an increase in the number of Indian Representatives in the government, allowing them to discuss the budget but without the right to vote on it.

  • The Second Factory Act of 1891 was introduced to establish regulations on working hours for female workers.
  • The Durand Commission was established in 1893 with the purpose of defining a borderline between India and Afghanistan.

Lord Elgin-II (1894 - 1899)

  • The devastating Great Famine of 1896-1897 had a widespread impact across India, resulting in significant loss of life and property.

Lord Curzon (1899 - 1905)

-The Bengal Province was divided into two parts, Bengal and East Bengal, in 1905.

  • Various institutions were established under his leadership, including the Archaeological Survey of India, the Department of Commerce and Industry and Agricultural banks.
  • The Cooperative Credit Societies Act of 1904 was passed under his administration.
  • To improve the police administration, the Police Commission in 1902 was appointed, which was led by Sir Andrew Frazer, and recommended the establishment of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).
  • Establishment of the Agriculture Research Institute at Pusa.
  • The appointment of the Raleigh Commission in 1902 aimed to suggest improvements to universities, and the Indian Universities Act was passed in 1904 based on its recommendations.

Lord Minto-II (1905 - 1910)

-His reign is marked as the "Era of Great Political Unrest" in India.

  • The Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909, known for its 'Divide & Rule Policy', introduced Separate Electorates for Muslims.
  • The Anti-Partition and Swadeshi Movement aimed to prevent the unjust partition of Bengal through the boycott of foreign goods.
  • The foundation of the Muslim League in 1906.
  • The split in Congress occurred during the Surat Session in 1907.

Lord Hardinge-II (1910 - 1916)

-The annulment of the Partition of Bengal in 1911 was done to suppress revolutionary activities. 

  • Delhi became the new capital in 1912.
  • The 3rd Delhi Durbar was held in 1911 to celebrate the coronation of King George V.

Lord Chelmsford (1916 - 1921)

-The Government of India Act 1919, also known as the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms, introduced constitutional reforms and the concept of "Diarchy" or dual administration in India. 

  • The Rowlatt Act 1919, referred to as the "Black Act," allowed for imprisonment without trial.
  • S.P. Sinha became the first Indian to be appointed as the Governor of Bihar.
  • The Women's University was founded in Pune in 1916.
  • The Saddler's Commission (1917) was formed to propose reforms in educational policy.

Lord Reading (1921 - 1926)

-The Rowlatt Act was repealed.

  • Prince of Wales visited India in 1921.
  • The Moplah Rebellion, a communal riot by Muslim peasants, broke out in Kerala.
  • The decision to hold simultaneous examinations for the Indian Civil Service (ICS) in both Delhi and London was made, starting from 1923.

Lord Irwin (1926 - 1931)

-The Gandhi-Irwin Pact of  a compromise between Gandhi and Lord Irwin was concluded. 

  • In 1928, the boycott of the Simon Commission was organised.
  • In response to the inadequacy of the Simon Report, Three Round Table Conferences in London were convened to discuss the future of India.
  • The First Round Table Conference in 1930 concluded without substantial results and was deemed unsuccessful.

Lord Willingdon (1931 - 1936)

-Introduction of the Government of India Act, 1935.

  • The Second Round Table Conference, held in 1931, saw the participation of Gandhi as a representative of the Congress. 
  • British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald introduced the Communal Award in 1932. The Poona Pact of 1932 was reached between Gandhi and Ambedkar to address provisions related to fair representation of backward classes.
  • The Third Round Table Conference, held in 1932, failed as neither Gandhi nor Congress attended.

Lord Linlithgow (1936 - 1944)

-Viceroy of India with the longest reign.

  • The Government of India Act was implemented in provinces participating in the 1937 elections.
  • Congress formed the government at the federation level during the General Elections of 1936-37.
  • Subhas Chandra Bose formed the Forward Bloc in 1939
  • The August Offer in 1940 proposed Dominion status for India in exchange for Indian support in World War II.
  • The Cripps Mission arrived in India in 1942 with a constitutional proposal.
  • The Quit India Movement was launched in 1942 after the failure of the Cripps Mission. 

Lord Wavell (1944 - 1947)

-The "Wavell Plan" aimed to achieve a balanced representation of all Indians and resolve the constitutional deadlock in India caused by the Muslim League's demand for Partition. 

  • The C.R. Formula (1944), devised by C.Rajagopalachari, aimed to address the political impasse between the Muslim League and Congress concerning the independence of British India by fostering cooperation.
  • The Cabinet Mission of 1946 was established to facilitate the peaceful transfer of power to India.
  • On August 16, 1946, the Muslim League observed "Direct Action Day" to protest against the rejection of their demands for a separate Muslim state.
  • Clement Atlee, the Prime Minister of England, made the "Atlee's Declaration", announcing the end of British rule in India by June 1948.
  • The Sergeant Plan of Education in 1944 proposed a comprehensive scheme to achieve universal literacy in India, inspired by educational standards prevalent in England.

Lord Mountbatten (1947 - 1948)

-Lord Mountbatten served as the last Viceroy of British India and later became the first Governor General of independent India.

  • The Indian Independence Act of 1947, passed by the British Parliament, ratified the plan for dividing India into two separate states, India and Pakistan, with Lord Mountbatten and Jinnah serving as their respective Governor Generals.
  • The Mountbatten Plan, proposed on June 3, 1947, outlined the partition of India.


Previous Years Questions (PYQs) 



Q) The Governor-General who followed a spirited "Forward" policy towards Afghanistan was: [1999]

(a) Minto 

(b) Dufferin

(c) Elgin 

(d) Lytton

Answer: (d)


Q) Lord Mountbatten came to India as a Viceroy with specific instruction to: [1998]

(a) balkanise the Indian sub-continent

(b) keep India united if possible

(c) accept Jinnah's demand for Pakistan

(d) persuade the Congress to accept the partition

Answer: (b) 


Q) Who was the Viceroy of India when the Rowlatt Act was passed? [2008]

(a) Lord Irwin 

(b) Lord Reading

(c) Lord Chelmsford 

(d) Lord Wavell

Answer: (c)


Q) The First Factory Act restricting the working hours of women and children and authorising the local government to make necessary rules was adopted during whose time? [2007]

(a) Lord Lytton 

(b) Lord Bentinck

(c) Lord Ripon 

(d) Lord Canning

Answer: (c)


Q) The Partition of Bengal made by Lord Curzon in 1905 lasted until [2014]

(a) the First World War when Indian troops were needed by the British and the partition was ended

(b) King George V abrogated Curzon’s Act at the Royal Durbar in Delhi in 1911

(c) Gandhiji launched his Civil Disobedience Movement

(d) the Partition of India in 1947 when East Bengal became East Pakistan

Answer: (b) 


 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Q) Who was the last Governor-General of Free India? 

C. Rajagopalchari was the last Governor General of Free India, the First and the Last Indian to have the post of Governor General of India.


Q) Who is a Viceroy?

After the British Parliament passed a new Act in 1858, the Governor-General of India received the designation of Viceroy, signifying their role as the direct representative of the Crown.


Q) What were the duties of a Viceroy?

The Viceroy was bestowed with an advisory council known as the India Council.


Q) Who was the Viceroy During Quit India Movement?

From 1936 to 1944, Lord Linlithgow served as the Viceroy during the Quit India Movement. He played a significant part in the Lahore Resolution of the Muslim League in 1940, where he advocated for a separate state for Muslims.


Q) How Many Viceroys of India Were There?

The list of Viceroys of India comprises 20 individuals, with Lord Canning as the first Viceroy and Lord Mountbatten as the last. Notable names on the Viceroy of India list include Lord Elgin, Lord Lawrence, Lord Mayo, Lord Northbrook, Lord Lytton, Lord Ripon, and several others.