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The East India College

Although the Haileybury we know today was founded in 1862, the Quadrangle with its elegant South Front was designed and built for the East India Company and constructed between 1806 and 1809. These buildings were home to the East India College until 1858, when the college closed for good.

The East India College

Early beginnings

On 23 October 1805, "Hailey Bury House near Hertford" and its surrounding 60-acre estate was sold by auction at Garraway's Coffee House in London to the Directors of the East India Company for the site of their proposed college. The price paid was £5,900.

The Company’s aim was to build a college to educate civil servants to work in India with the mission to “qualify them for governing themselves.”

Original buildings

The College was based initially at Hertford Castle. In terms of space, cost and the limitations of a proposed lease, it was obvious that this could never be more than a temporary occupancy. In consequence, the Building Committee of the East India Company selected William Wilkins to design a purpose-built college on their new site.

Already well known for his work on Downing College, Cambridge, Wilkins designed an elegant building in the Greek revival taste, the heart of which, the South Front and the Quadrangle, still survive to this day. The new East India College at Haileybury opened for business at its new premises in 1809.

The East India College

The East India College had a specific mission. In the past, its administrators had been largely employed to oversee commercial transactions. By the late eighteenth century, they had become increasingly involved in the legal and fiscal administration of, and providing the government to, millions of people of various languages, manners, customs and religions.

By 1800, a system which had also been based significantly on patronage was ill-equipped for the new world. The East India College was set up to provide a thorough training environment for all new civil servants in India and to ensure that no such official should go to India until he was at least 18.

From 1806 to 1857, the East India College thrived at Haileybury, training more than 2,000 pupils for a future in the administration of the Indian subcontinent. The depth and breadth of subjects taught were seen as crucial to the effective education of this new generation of "writers", as they were known.

Lessons offered a broad but detailed curriculum designed best to equip each new pupil for their future careers. Subjects taught included political economy and history, mathematics and natural philosophy, classics, law and humanity and philology. Crucially, languages played a significant part in the curriculum and included Hindustani, Sanskrit, Telugu and Persian.

The best tutors

The College was determined to offer the best possible education and recruited some of the finest minds of the day, often sourced from Oxford and Cambridge, on salaries of up to £500 per annum - a great sum in those days.

Perhaps the most well-known of these was the Reverend Thomas Malthus, the most distinguished political economist of his day. Known by many as “Pop” (Population) Malthus he was author of the famous “Essay on the Principle of Population” (1798) and originator of what we now refer to as Malthusian economics.

The Demise of the East India College

Despite its grand beginnings and early promise, the East India College was on borrowed time; the East India Company itself was seen as being too powerful for its own good.

By the mid 1850s, there was a movement in the land against patronage and a greater desire to see open competition and reward by meritocracy.

It was also now felt that students leaving Universities in Great Britain should have equal opportunity to serve in India rather than have to be channelled through the College.

So, on July 16th, 1855 an Act of Parliament was passed "to relieve the East India Company from the obligation to maintain the College at Haileybury" and the first open competitive examinations for service in India were held at King's College, London in the same year.

The East India College closed its doors, seemingly for good, on 31st January 1858.

Learn more about Haileybury's history

Since 1809, the buildings at Haileybury have been associated with a number of educational establishments, fundamentally entwined with the history of the College as it stands today, Read more about these here:

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