Lord Liverpool 30

One of the delightful things about historical research is when it throws up completely unexpected facts irrelevant to what you are looking for. I remember thirty years ago finding that Richard Cobden had investments in railways in Illinois which increased sharply in value after the repeal of the Corn Laws opened up new trade routes for the vast agricultural produce of the mid-West.

I discovered today that Lord Liverpool – Britain’s most repressive Prime Minister bar Tony Blair – was an Anglo-Indian, though whether his Indian blood was an eighth or a quarter I am not quite sure. I had no idea of this. It is also a great thing that, though it seems the fact was well known, even in the bitterest period of modern British politics (1815-20) I can find no evidence of any racial jibe being made against him.

Lord Liverpool an Anglo-Indian. A black Prime Minister two hundred years before Barack Obama. Well I never.

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30 thoughts on “Lord Liverpool

  • Suhayl Saadi

    I never knew that, Craig! Thanks! Funny that no-one seems to have pointed it out, at least not widely. Glad you’ve done so now! Shame he was a reactionary bastard, though.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Is it in one of Wm Dalrymple’s books, by any chance? ‘White Moghuls’, perhaps? I can’t recall. So, we have Lord Liverpool, the Anglo-Indian Naboob of Westminster and now Boris Johnson, the Ottoman Pasha of Londonabad! Well I never!

  • Suhayl Saadi

    It was also before the Victorian High Imperial Psychology had come to dominate, remember, though it had already begun, post-Warren Hastings.

  • craig Post author


    Yes, I am really astonished I didn’t know this. I found it in Michael H Fisher, “Counterflows to Colonialism”.

    Weirdly, White Mughals is the only one of Dalrymple’s books I haven’t read, though it’s on my current to read list. Could well feature in there, I would think.

    Yes; the Victorianism thing is important, bacause much criticism of Burnes judge him by moral standards of Victorian times. But he was only a Victorian for four years, being born in the reign of George III and living through George IV and Willaim IV. His sexual relationships with Indian women were entirely normal in his period.

  • gyges

    Queen Philippa is interesting as our first black queen. Although I can’t believe that the Roman Conquest didn’t add a huge amount of colour to the British Isles.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Indeed, Gyges. I’m sure various Syrian legions were stationed in Britain, guarding the northern frontier from those blue-painted Picts! Yes, Craig, good point. That interaction, which was an important one, was all hushed-up during Victorian and Edwardian times. Such a shame, I always thought, but of course deliberate policy at the time. We are only just emerging from that suffocating, constipated and stupefying legacy. There were many excellent things about Victorians and Edwardians, but that wasn’t one of them. I once met a Victorian woman, btw (well, I met more than one), named (what else!) Alice, who, in the late 1960s, aged 80, was still driving the village taxi – a lovely, curvaceous 1950s car, I still remember the smell of brown leather (“smiling, beguiling…”). They don’t make ’em like that any more, eh what, old boy!!

  • angrysoba

    One of the earliest Archbishops of Canterbury, Theodore of Tarsus, was a Syrian and, according to MacCulloch, his abbot of St Augustine’s Abbey, Hadrian, was from North Africa. And as MacCulloch points out (though it’s probably all in Bede), it was the foreign missionaries beginning with St Augustine of Canterbury who invented the English nationality by, paradoxically, converting all the various rulers of England into a common allegiance to Rome.

  • Tom Welsh

    This is fun! May I join in? Who said:

    “In a progressive country change is constant; change is inevitable”.


    “The governments of the present day have to deal not merely with other governments… but also with the secret societies which have everywhere their unscrupulous agents, and can at the last moment upset all the governments’ plans”.

    No, it wasn’t Tony Blair but Benjamin Disraeli.

    • Jaded.

      Unfortunately the government of today’s today, for the most part, has already been taken over by the secret societies.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Fascinating, Tom! Wow. Plus ca change…

    Did you know that the first superstar of the Indian recording industry (her existence subsequently covered-up by ‘Victorian’ mid-C20th bourgeois and patriarchal Indian society) was a woman, an ex-courtesan, named Gauhar Jan? Her original name was Angelina Yeoward and she was the daughter of William Yeoward, an Armenian Jewish engineer and Malka Jan (original name Victoria Hemmings). Victoria Hemmings was herself the daughter of an Indian woman and an Englishman. A chap called Vikram Sampath has written a fascinating book on Gauhar Jan, well worth a read if you;re interested in that kind of history or indeed music. Malka Jan was a superb poet and wroite a diwan which remains poignant today. Gauhar Jan could speak six languages, played loads of instruments, etc.

    I love these stories, they live and breathe, don’t they, when one sees old photographs and one can almost imagine the sound of their voices. You can check out her singing on youtube!!! It was a German who organised the recordings by various Englishmen, in Calcutta, mainly.

    Dig it!

    • Azra

      Suhayl,You are referring to the book “My name is Gauhar Jan”, a Fascinating book, even though to be truthful I have no interest in Indian music whatsover! the book is not well know in UK, and when a friend recommended it, I had a real tough time finding a copy.. even Amazon do not seem to offer it.

  • Tom Welsh

    Yes, Suhayl, those old stories are wonderful. I think we need to make a huge effort to remember that people who lived in earlier generations were NOT, for that reason alone, inferior to us. On the contrary, we must bear in mind the possibility that they were superior (sometimes, greatly superior) to most of us.

    Among the many things that Blair said that made me laugh incredulously, one of the foremost was his repeated suggestion that the Victorian era was a fusty medieval period when people were benighted and ignorant and nothing useful was accomplished.

    Ironically, of course, most of the “modern” technology of which people like Blair are so proud had its origins precisely in the Victorian era, with inventions such as electricity, the steam engine, the internal combustion engine, wireless, the germ theory of disease leading to improvements in hygiene and sterilisation, effective anaesthesia, mass production and distribution, steamships and railways, Babbage’s computer, etc. etc. etc.

  • John K

    Most societies apart from geopgraphically or religiously isolated ones include a much greater degree of intermingling than their political classes are prepared to admit – even many Native American tribes include large numbers of African-American mixed race members.

    IIRC when the BBC did some DNA testing of various people for a geneological series, they found even the most “white” English people in their sample had very mixed ancestry.

    And in any case, as we all descended from African stock in the view of most researchers, we are ALL “black” under the “one drop” rule…

    BTW Tom, the steam engine, steam ship, mass production, railways, and many other developments predate the Victorians(1837 – 1901) by decades, and in the case of the steam engine by over a century!

  • angrysoba

    Jaded: “Unfortunately the government of today’s today, for the most part, has already been taken over by the secret societies.”
    How do you know this if they’re so secret?

  • Roderick Russell

    Angrysoba — Just responding to your comment to Jaded on Secret Societies and their influence with Government. As you commented “How do you know this if they’re so secret?” Well, I think everybody knows how influential freemasonry is with its significant membership among the Judiciary, Politicians, and Police Officers, not to mention MI5/MI6.

    Indeed you yourself partially answered the question on your own blog when you quoted President Kennedy saying on this very same topic **** “The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceeding”*** I think most would agree with JFK (and with Disraeli whom Tom Welsh so interestingly quotes above) that secret societies can indeed have significant influence within government. Indeed you and I had a somewhat lengthy discussion around this topic on your own blog some six months ago. The URL of that discussion is:


    Though from your commentary on secrt societies you are clearly in a humorous mood, I just can’t let you away with your other joke (above) that the steam engine was “invented by the Ancient Greeks”. Absolute nonsense, anybody can boil a kettle and call it a steam engine. The practical, economic, functioning steam engine that revolutionized our way of life was invented by a Scotsman, James Watt.

  • Paul Johnston

    A steam engine is for harnessing the power of steam (heat) and converting it into another form of energy (mechanical)
    Think the Greeks aeolipile does just that.
    The definition including practical, economic is your invention, by that definition not sure where the Wankel engine fits 🙂
    Also it would suggest early steam engines such as those built by Watt are no longer engines as by no stretch of the imagination are they economic, hardly aproaching the Carnot cycle are they?
    Finally fyi Thomas Newcomen is generally credited with the first practical steam engine, about 1710 although some credit Thomas Savery in the late 1690’s.
    They were both from Devon, which I am not 🙂
    If you are going to get all patriotic do some research first please 😉

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Tom, thanks. Indeed. As I said, “There were many excellent things about Victorians and Edwardians…” And Malka Jan and Gauhar Jan themselves were both Victorians. Of course, wrt matters Mediaeval, Mediaeval north-western Europe was not the universally barbaric place Whig histories might have us believe. So, as you rightly suggest, let us allow preconceptions of all kinds to fall away in the face of historical analysis.

    Azra, yes, ‘My Name is Gauhar Jan’ is a good book – I think you can get it via the author’s website, no? It ought to be available everywhere, though, you’re right.

  • Roderick Russell

    @Paul – Of course Newcomen’s engines were first but their use was limited due to economic factors (relatively high operating costs) largely to the mining industry (for pumping); whereas Watt’s engines revolutionized manufacturing industry and were a major factor in creating the industrial revolution. Of course as you say Watt’s engines are not in use today – the guy lived two centuries ago. As for ancient Greek inventions; I’m not sure that they had any practical, economic value at all. The value of an engine is not just that it harnesses steam to produce mechanical power, but that it does so in a manner that is cost effective – Watt’s engines met that test.

  • John K


    Your analysis of the role of steam power in the industial
    revolution is very outdated, I’m afraid.

    Watt’s engines were initially technically superior (in the 1770s and 80s), and were used extensively where coal was expensive, but were too costly for most applications and Newcomen engines continued to be produced in large numbers.

    In fact Boulton and Watt were responsible for less than 500 steam engines in the 18th century, whereas over 1,500 Newcomen ones were constructed. The industrial revolution (especially in the textile industries) was, moreover, largely based on water power until well into the nineteenth century. Watt’s improvements to the Newcomen engine were at best a minor factor.

    Watt’s enduring fame is based as much on his partner Matthew Boulton’s clever exploitation of patent law and talent for publicity as on the superiority of their engines.

    IN FACT, After Watt’s initial innovation of the separate condenser and to a lesser extent double-acting engines, Boulton and Watt in fact held back further progress by inhibiting the introduction of higher pressure steam (a Cornishman, Richard Trevithick, was the hero here); pursuing inventors of other, sometimes better, engines which infringed his patents; and refusing to allow his innovations to be applied more widely.

    This may or may not have been in B&W’s commercial interests, but it definitely held back the spread of steam power after the mid-1780s. As soon as the patents expired (1800) steam engine design and efficiency advanced by leaps and bounds.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Well, I guess human endeavour is seldom singular – they all, even Isaac Newton, ‘stood on the shoulders of giants’. And sometimes, in their rivalries and pride, were only human. Edison’s position is also somewhat contested in such terms. So let’s just say thank you to them all!

    Here is a haunting voice from 1860!


  • Roderick Russell

    @John K.

    Quote from Wikipedia on James Watt’s contribution to the steam engine. HE .. “converted it from a prime mover of marginal efficiency into the mechanical workhorse of the Industrial Revolution …. The availability of efficient, reliable motive power made whole new classes of industry economically viable, and altered the economies of continents.” I liked your earlier comments, but I guess we will just have to disagree on the conclusion.

  • John K


    Wikipedia is great for facts and figures stuff like how many goals Aberdeen scored in 2003/4 but if you rely on it for specialist briefings you are taking a big risk, as it depends on how up-to-date and expert the authors are.
    None of the sources quoted in the Watt article are from modern economic historians and the analysis therein is very dated. But if you are really interested in the subject I can post a modern booklist on the subject.
    Watt’s engines, while very elegant and relatively sophisticated for their time, were by no means “the mechanical workhorse for the industrial revolution.” Numerically they were not that significant and there were plenty of alternatives from other manufacturers.
    And the statement that “The availability of efficient, reliable motive power made whole new classes of industry economically viable, and altered the economies of continents” does not depend on Watt, but on a whole range of new innovations, particularly high pressure steam, the steamship and railway locomotive, to which Watt contributed nothing and arguably held up by his fear of high-pressure steam.
    Only in Cornwall, where mines were very profitable but coal very expensive; and to a lesser extent in textile mills located for in places where water power was not abundant and his steam engine governor helped make his engines sufficiently smooth for spinning wool and cotton, was the Watt engine really dominant in the market before 1800.
    Everywhere else engines built by competitors were equally successful, even in the textile mills where early on (c.1780-1790) the Watt engine’s more regular motion was a considerable advantage. And as I said earlier, after c.1785 B&W were a brake on progress rather than its wellspring.
    I’m afraid that while James Watt was a very important and historically significant engineer and innovator for a short period (1760s to late 1780s), his reputation as the “father of the Industrial Revolution” is wholly undeserved. It depends more on the “great man” school of history-writing, Matthew Boulton, nineteenth century biographers, their voluminous records preserved in Birmingham Library (and dare I say it a bit of Scottish pride) than on a hard-headed analysis of economic history.
    A shame really because James Watt WAS a fascinating and very clever scientist and inventor and a major contributors among a host of others. And some of his other innovations, like the painstaking work on measuring power, get relatively little attention from historians.

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