Warren Hastings, the first Governor-General of India, was in favour of creating an English bureaucracy, which would be well versed in Indian languages and responsible to Indian traditions. For Hastings the mastery over traditional Indian languages provided the key to understanding India an’ communicating with the subject population.
With this end in mind he drafts a proposal for creating a professorship in Persian at Oxford. Civil servants were encouraged to learn Persian and Hindustani before coming to India- Since the Company took official action on the issue of language training as late as late as 1790, Hastings as an immediate solution, gathered around himself a group of civil servants who were dedicated to the study and translate of Indian texts on law and jurisprudence.
To encourage such activity. Nathaniel galched, a close aide of Hastings compiled and translated into English a set of Hindu customary and religious laws. In 1788 he published a Grammar of the Bengali language.
The cultural and social policy during Hasting’s governor generalship has often been explained as one inspired by the ideology of British Orientalism.
It must be kept in mind that this ideology also fitted in with the requirements and limits 0f the British Empire in India. Knowledge about the subject population, their social customs, manners and codes were essential prerequisites for developing permanent institutions of rule in India.
Hasting’s policy to rule the conquered in their own way and resist Anglicisation reflected a combination of Orientalist conceptions and elements of political pragmatism.
Early British official reports on the conditions of the Malabar on the West Coast exhibit the above discussed tendency to view native social practices sympathetically even when they differed from Western norms. For instance late 18th century reports describe the Nair custom of matrilineal and polyandry without contempt.
Company officials reported on polyandry amongst Nair women, explaining it as a consequence of the marital profession of the Nayar males. Later in the 19″1 century matrilineal inheritance came to be viewed as ‘unnatural’ and Nayar female polyandry was condemned as ‘concubinage’ and ‘immoral’.