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Michael Freeman and Fiona Smith

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199673667

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199673667.001.0001

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Reading and Writing the Law: Macaulay in India

Reading and Writing the Law: Macaulay in India

(p.187) 12 Reading and Writing the Law: Macaulay in India
Law and Language

Michael Hancher

Oxford University Press

On 5 February 1835, Thomas Babington Macaulay prepared a memorandum or ‘minute’ for the governor general of India, Lord William Bentinck, in which he interpreted aspects of 53 Geo. III c. 155 (1813), known as the East India Act or Charter Act. That Act was one of the series of statutes that at twenty-year intervals revised and renewed the charter of the East India Company, which administered British interests in India. Macaulay advised Bentinck that it would be within the meaning of the statute to stop subsidizing advanced instruction and scholarship in Arabic and Sanskrit and to subsidize advanced instruction in English literature instead. This chapter develops one ground for construing the statute so as to uphold the ‘Orientalist’ position (as it was called) favouring Arabic and Sanskrit, against the ‘Anglicist’ position that Macaulay advocated. That ground is the legislative history of the relevant sections of the East India Act, a history that has been slighted since the nineteenth century.

Keywords:   Thomas Babington Macaulay, Charter Act, East India Act, English instruction

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