Fonds GB 0210 ROBCLI - Robert Clive Papers

Identity area

Reference code



Robert Clive Papers


  • 1727-1791 (accumulated [c. 1743]-1791) (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

0.515 cubic metres.

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

Robert Clive, governor of Bengal, was the eldest son of Richard and Rebecca Clive (nee Maskell) of Styche, Shropshire. He was born on 29 September 1725. In 1743 he was appointed a writer with the East India Company at Madras. He proved to be a quarrelsome colleague and suffered from 'melancholy' which was to plague him for most of his life. During his early years in Madras he twice attempted suicide and fought a duel. The outbreak of hostilities between Britain and France in southern India enabled him to reveal hitherto unsuspected military talent. By the end of his first period in India he had proved himself a guerrilla commander of genius; he had also amassed a considerable fortune, having been appointed a commissary for the supply of provisions to the troops in 1749. During his first stay in India he married Margaret Maskeleyne, daughter of Edmund Maskeleyne of Purton in Wiltshire.
After unsuccessfully standing for Parliament he was sent out again to India in 1755 as governor of Fort St. David with the reversion of the governorship of Madras. On his arrival in 1756 he almost immediately became involved with the affairs of Bengal which was ruled by the Mogul viceroys, and under whose protection the East India Company carried on its trade. The new nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-Daula, took Calcutta and Clive set out to relieve the city in October 1756, which he took in January 1757. Instead of returning to Madras he eliminated the French settlement of Chandernagore and installed Mir Jafar as nawab in place of the hostile Siraj-ud-Daula who was decisively defeated at the battle of Plassey in June 1757.
His first governorship of Bengal lasted until February 1760 by which time Mir Jafar's authority was unchallenged in Bengal and Bihar. Clive had also became a very wealthy man. He had received £234,000, a Mogul title and an estate or jagir worth about £30,000 a year. On his return to Britain he was created Baron Clive of Plassey in 1762, knighted in 1764 and also entered parliament as MP for Shrewsbury in 1760, a seat he held until his death in 1774. He also purchased extensive estates mainly in Shropshire, including Montford near Shrewsbury, in 1761, Walcot, near Bishop's Castle, in 1763, and Oakly Park in 1771.
Clive returned for his third and last stay in India in 1765 and became governor of Bengal for the second time. His services in Bengal were required because Mir Jafar had been ousted by Mir Kasim who in turn had been deposed in 1763. Shah Alam, the Mogul emperor, attacked again and the East India Company seemed to be on the verge of extinction. It was during this, his second governorship of Bengal, that his claim as a statesman rests. The Mogul emperor was pacified; Bengal was settled with a grant by the Mogul of the revenue administration or dewanee of Bengal to the East India Company which gave the company legal authority to collect the revenues of Bengal and Bihar; the East India Company was reformed and the instincts of its officers for plunder curtailed, if only for a while; and military discipline restored.
Clive left India for the last time in February 1767. Soon after his return his enemies, returned nabobs and politicians, attacked him and tried to blame him as the instigator of corruption amongst the servants of the East India Company. He defended himself vigorously and successfully in parliament in 1772. However, the strain on his health proved too much. Already addicted to opium, he committed suicide at his house in London on 22 November 1774. He had several children; his eldest son and successor, Edward Clive, was created earl of Powis in 1804.

Archival history

Clive's papers were originally held in their entirety at Powis Castle together with the records of the Powis estate (presumably the papers were brought from Clive's various houses and estates to Powis Castle during the late eighteenth century). Part of his archive was loaned by his son Edward to Clive's biographer, Sir John Malcolm, who made extensive transcripts during his governorship of Bombay, 1827-1830. How much of Clive's papers Malcolm took with him is unclear, though a list of letters and papers taken by him from Walcot in 1825 is NLW, Powis Castle 12196. The papers loaned to Malcolm were returned sometime after the biography was completed in 1836 (by an anonymous author, Malcolm having died in 1833). Thereafter the transcripts became so inextricably confused with Clive's own papers that it was not until 1985 that the historian Huw Bowen realised that earlier researchers had used the transcripts in the mistaken belief that they were originals. Malcolm's transcripts were removed from Clive's papers by NLW in 1999 and are now listed as a separate archive. Most of Clive's incoming letters were transferred from Powis Castle to the British Library, whilst NLW acquired his copy outgoing letters, Indian financial papers and some estate and personal papers as part of a much larger archive of the Powis estate. Most of Clive's papers were separated from the Powis estate archive at NLW in 1954.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Deposited by George William Herbert, seventh earl of Powis in 1952, and by the Trustees of the Powis Estates in January 1990. Both deposits were subsequently purchased from John George Herbert, eighth earl of Powis, in January 1996; B1996/7.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Papers, 1727-1791, relating to both Clive's public and private life but mostly to the former. They include letter books of outgoing letters sent from both England and India, 1752-1774; Clive's financial records, mainly relating to his financial concerns in India, 1752-1774; estate and household records, 1761-1781; records relating to his official duties in India, particularly as governor of Bengal, including records he acquired of earlier East India Company employees, 1727-1772, political papers, including canvassing lists and poll books, [c. 1761]-1775; and records of Clive's trustees and executors, 1774-1791.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling

All of Clive's papers purchased by NLW have been retained..


Accruals are not expected.

System of arrangement

The papers are arranged into the following groups: India papers, 1727-1772, papers relating to the administration of Clive's estates, 1762-1780, papers relating to the management of his households, 1775-1781, political papers, [c. 1761]-1775, papers of Clive's attorneys, 1764-1768, papers of his trustees/executors, 1774-1791, and personal papers, 1742-1775.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

No restrictions.

Conditions governing reproduction

Usual copyright laws apply.

Language of material

  • Bengali
  • English
  • French
  • Latin
  • Persian

Script of material

Language and script notes

English, Persian, a few in Bengali, French and Latin.

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

A hard copy of the catalogue is available at NLW. A hard copy of an earlier catalogue of the first deposit is also available which includes more details about the family correspondence listed here in CR12. A hard copy of a summary list of the 1990 deposit is also available at NLW.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Online version of Clive's India papers only are available on British Online Archives' website:

Related units of description

Further Clive papers are British Library MSS Eur G 37 and MSS Eur G; see also series level descriptions.

Related descriptions

Publication note

The papers have provided source material for numerous biographies of Clive and books on India. They include Sir John Malcolm, Life of Robert, Lord Clive (London, 1836); Sir George Forrest, Life of Lord Clive (London, 1918); Mark Bence-Jones, Clive of India (London, 1974); P. J. Marshall, East Indian Fortunes (Oxford, 1976) and Robert Harvey, Clive - The Life and Death of a British Emperor (London, 1998).

Notes area


The archive includes records of Clive's trustees/executors who continued to function until 1791, seventeen years after Clive's death.


Previously Clive MSS & Papers (Second Series) and Clive of India Papers.


The archive was acquired with financial support from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.


The section of the catalogue containing Letters in Persian (CR9) is currently unavailable.


Title based on contents of fonds.

Alternative identifier(s)

Virtua system control number


GEAC system control number


Access points

Subject access points

Place access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used


Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion




The following sources were used to compile this description: Concise D.N.B, I, pp. 582-3; Robert Harvey, Clive - The Life and Death of a British Emperor (London, 1998); Sir John Malcolm, Life of Robert, Lord Clive (London, 1836).

Archivist's note

Description compiled by Tudor Barnes.

Accession area

Related subjects

Related genres

Related places