Papers of Lord William H. Cavendish Bentinck (1774-1839), soldier, politician and statesman, in the Portland (Welbeck) Collection

Scope and Content

The Collection covers Lord William's military and official postings in some detail, with separate groups of papers concerning his career in Madras, Sicily, and Bengal. The pre-1803 series refers to his activities as a young officer in the English armies in Flanders and Italy during the Revolutionary wars. Correspondence and related papers are also present for his time with the British armies in the Penninsular War, when he took part in the retreat to Coruña under Sir John Moore.From his experience as a local landlord, there are records concerning his interest in agricultural improvement and the Fen drainage system. His life and interests after his return from India to England are also reflected, particularly his energetic efforts as M.P. for Glasgow to set up a company to promote steam ship communication with India via Suez and Socotra.

Administrative / Biographical History

Lord William Cavendish Bentinck (1774-1839) was the second son of the third Duke of Portland and a professional soldier. His extensive correspondence and associated official papers cover his distinguished career. He saw service in Minorca and Egypt before being posted to India in 1803 as Governor of Madras. In 1811 he returned to Europe as commander-in-chief of the British forces in Sicily, and later served in Spain. He served briefly as M.P. for Kings Lynn before returning to India in 1827 as governor general of Bengal, where he effected important financial reforms, reorganized the judicial department and extended the system of employment of natives in official positions. In 1833 he became the first governor general of India. Lord William returned to England in 1835, serving as Liberal M.P. for Glasgow from 1837.


Lord William's papers are divided according to notable stages in his career, with different finding aids devoted to the seven different series. Due to the extensive size of these series, each one is presented separately on the Manuscripts Online Catalogue. Browseable links to each of the series can be found towards the end of this catalogue record, under 'Related Record':Pw Ja. Early military career to 1803Pw Jb. Governor of Madras, 1803-1807Pw Jc. Military Service during the Peninsular War, 1807-1811Pw Jd. Envoy to the Court of Sicily, 1811-1814Pw Je. King's Lynn and political career, 1814-1827Pw Jf. Governor-General of Bombay and India, 1827-1835Pw Jg. Political Career after India, 1835-1839In most cases, the surviving papers reflect the organization of his files during his official duties.

Access Information

Accessible to all registered readers.

Other Finding Aids

Copyright in all Finding Aids belongs to the University of Nottingham. In the Reading Room, King's Meadow Campus:4 Typescript Catalogues, 529 pp At the National Register of Archives, London:4 Typescript Catalogues, 529 pp On the World Wide Web:Catalogue accessible from the website for Manuscripts and Special Collections, Manuscripts Online Catalogue.Catalogue also available online through The National Archives Access to Archives (A2A) web site.

Conditions Governing Use

Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the Keeper of Manuscripts and Special Collections (email and photographic copies can be supplied for educational use and private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

Custodial History

These papers form a sub-group of the Portland (Welbeck) Collection (Pw) and were received from the 7th Duke of Portland in the first deposit from Welbeck Abbey in 1949. A second deposit was received in 1968.

Related Material

Papers of William Henry Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, 4th Duke of Portland (1768-1854) in the Portland (Welbeck) Collection GB 159 Pw H

Papers of William Henry C. Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland (1738-1809), statesman, in the Portland (Welbeck) Collection GB 159 Pw F

Literary Manuscripts in the Portland (Welbeck) Collection, 16th-19th centuries GB 159 Pw V

British Library

Other collections listed through the National Register of Archives


John Rosselli, 'Lord William Bentinck: The Making of a Liberal Imperialist 1774-1839' (Chatto and Windus, 1974)C.H. Philips, (ed.), 'The Correspondence of Lord William Cavendish-Bentinck' (2 vols., Oxford University Press, 1977)