Warren Hastings, PC (6 December 1732 – 22 August 1818) was the first Governor-General of Bengal, from 1772 to 1785. He was famously accused of corruption in an impeachment in 1787, but was acquitted in 1795. He was made a Privy Councillor in 1814.
Warren Hastings was born at Churchill, Oxfordshire in 1732 to a poor father and a mother who died soon after he was born. He attended Westminster School where he was a contemporary of the future Prime Ministers Lord Shelburne and the Duke of Portland as well as the poet William Cowper. He joined the British East India Company in 1750 as a clerk and sailed out to India reaching Calcutta in August 1750. Hastings built up a reputation for hard work and diligence, and spent his free time learning about India and mastering Urdu and Farsi. He was rewarded for his work in 1752 when he was promoted and sent to Kasimbazar, an important British trading post in Bengal where he worked for William Watts. While there he received further lessons about the nature of East Indian politics.
At the time British traders still operated by the whim of local rulers and Hastings and his colleagues were unsettled by the political turmoil of Bengal with the elderly moderate Nawab Alivardi Khan likely to be succeeded by his grandson Siraj ud-Daulah and several other rival claimants also eyeing the throne. This made the British trading posts throughout Bengal increasingly insecure as Siraj ud-Daulah was known to harbour anti-European views and was likely to launch an attack once he took power. When Alivardi Khan died in April 1756 the British traders and small garrison at Kasimbazar were left vulnerable. On 3 June, after being surrounded by a much larger force, the British were persuaded to surrender to prevent a massacre taking place. Hastings was imprisoned with others in the Bengali capital Murshidabad while the Nawab's forces marched on Calcutta and captured it. The garrison and civilians were then locked up in the Black Hole of Calcutta.