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Government of British India originally evolved from a few British settlements, known as English factories. The early settlements of the East India Company in Bengal at first worked in subordination to Fort St. George, Madras until Calcutta became the headquarter in 1690. The old Fort William was constructed in 1710. In 1765, the Dewani of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa was conferred in perpetuity on the East India Company by the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam. In 1774 the Presidency of Fort William was given jurisdiction over the Presidencies of Madras and Bombay. The centre of British power was transferred from Madras to Calcutta; latter becaming the seat of supreme government of India.

In its early phase, the business of a factory was related only to trade and other allied subjects. With the acquisition of fresh territories by the East India Company and the consequent increase in business, the volume of work increased and subjects other than trade and commerce had to be dealt with. Therefore for the sake of administration, it became necessary to divide the business of the Company into various sub-heads. With the creation of each such department, separate proceedings were started and this gave rise to different series of records, which may be considered as the best source of knowledge of the crucial first phase of the rise and consolidation of the colonial polity and economy in our country.

During the first two decades of the nineteenth century, the Company’s government in India gradually realized that an efficient management and maintenance of the judicial and revenue records were essential for the security of their own interest and for the protection of right of individual. Thus with the gradual expansion of administrative network of the East India Company, the system of record keeping became a major concern of the rulers and in response to the need of administration, General Record office(1820), Imperial Record Department and the Secretariat Record Room(renamed as State Archives) came into existence.

The Imperial Record Department (renamed as the National Archives of India after independence) was established at Calcutta in March, 1891. G.W. Forrest was appointed as the first Keeper of Records. In 1911, the capital of India was transferred from Calcutta to Delhi which necessitated the transfer of records of the Government of India to the new metropolis.

The Secretariat Record Room was organized under the administrative control of the Home Department in 1909 and a permanent post of Keeper of Records was created in 1910. In 1951, the control of the Record office passed from the Home (Political) Department to the Education Department. Archives has earned the status of a full-fledged Directorate under the Higher Education Department with functional autonomy in February, 2009. Till 1962 all records of the State Government were accommodated in the Secretariat Record Room at Writers’ Buildings. The space available at Writers’ Buildings being considered inadequate for the preservation of records on modern line, a building was acquired in 1959-60, at 6, Bhawani Dutta Lane. In 1962, records up to 1900 were shifted from Writers’ Buildings to the new premises. The Secretariat Record Room was reorganized and designated as State Archives. Since archival holdings are ever-growing, in 1998, a new functional building at 43, Shakespeare Sarani was constructed to accommodate post-independence and Intelligence Branch records.