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The Bengal Presidency, officially the Presidency of Fort William in Bengal and later Bengal Province, was a territorial unit of British India. It was the largest presidency among all the presidencies of British India. At the height of its territorial jurisdiction, it covered large parts of what is now South Asia and Southeast Asia. Bengal proper covered the ethno-linguistic region of Bengal (present-day Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal). Calcutta, the city which grew around Fort William, was the capital of the Bengal Presidency. For many years, the Governor of Bengal was concurrently the Governor-General of India and Calcutta was the de facto capital of India until 1911.
• 1699–1701 (first)
|Sir Charles Eyre|
• 1946–1947 (last)
|Sir Frederick Burrows|
• 1937–1943 (first)
|A. K. Fazlul Huq|
• 1946–1947 (last)
|H. S. Suhrawardy|
|Legislature||Legislature of Bengal|
|Bengal Legislative Council (1862–1947)|
|Bengal Legislative Assembly (1935–1947)|
|Currency||Indian rupee, Pound sterling, Straits dollar|
Part of a series on the
|History of Bangladesh|
The Bengal Presidency emerged from trading posts established in Mughal Bengal during the reign of Emperor Jahangir in 1612. The East India Company (HEIC), a British monopoly with a Royal Charter, competed with other European companies to gain influence in Bengal. After the decisive overthrow of the Nawab of Bengal in 1757 and the Battle of Buxar in 1764, the HEIC expanded its control over much of the Indian subcontinent. This marked the beginning of Company rule in India, when the HEIC emerged as the most powerful military force in the subcontinent. The Bengal Army was made up of recruits from Bengal, Bihar and Oudh. The British Parliament gradually withdrew the monopoly of the HEIC. Charles Cornwallis introduced the Permanent Settlement in 1793. After the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the British government assumed direct administration of India. The Bengal Presidency was re-organized. In the early 20th century, Bengal emerged as a hotbed of the Indian independence movement and the Bengali Renaissance. From the late eighteenth century till the early twentieth century, Bengal was the center of the British colonial administration in India, as well as education, politics, law, science and the arts. It was home to the largest city in British India and the second-largest city in the British Empire.
At its territorial height in the mid nineteenth century, the Bengal Presidency extended from the Khyber Pass to Singapore. In 1853, the Punjab was established as a province. In 1866, Assam was separated from Bengal. The Straits Settlements became a Crown Colony in 1867. In 1886, Burma became a province. In 1902, the North Western Provinces were separated from Bengal and became the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. In 1905, the first partition of Bengal resulted in the short-lived province of Eastern Bengal and Assam (1905-1912). In 1912, Bengal was reunited while Bihar and Orissa became a separate province. In 1947, voters in the Sylhet referendum opted to leave Assam and merge with Bengali areas during the final months before the partition of India.
In 1862, the Bengal Legislative Council became the first legislature in British India with native representation, after a petition from the British Indian Association of Calcutta. As part of efforts towards home rule, the Government of India Act, 1935 created a bicameral legislature, with the Bengal Legislative Assembly becoming the largest provincial assembly in India in 1937. The office of the Prime Minister of Bengal was established as part of growing provincial autonomy. After the 1946 election, rising Hindu-Muslim divisions across India forced the Bengal Assembly to decide on partition, despite calls for a United Bengal. The Partition of British India in 1947 resulted in the second partition of Bengal on religious grounds into East Bengal (present-day Bangladesh) and West Bengal.