William Wilberforce Bird (governor)

William Wilberforce Bird (1784–1857) was a British colonial administrator who served as Deputy-Governor of Bengal Presidency and, in 1844, as the acting Governor General of India.

William Wilberforce Bird had the same name as his father, who was Member of Parliament for Coventry. He was born in 1784 and educated in Warwick and Geneva before being nominated to join the British East India Company in 1802. After training, he arrived in Calcutta in 1803, where he undertook further training at the Fort William College and was then posted to Benares.[1]

Bird conducted himself well in Benares, including on occasions when he had to deal with civil disturbances involving local people. He was involved in both financial and judicial work before being appointed to the Supreme Council of India, of which in due course he became president when the then Governor-General of India was absent. He served as Deputy-Governor of Bengal Presidency throughout the period when Lord Ellenborough was Governor, standing in for him while Ellenborough was engaged in the North-Western Provinces. Bird then replaced Ellenborough as Governor-General of India, acting in that capacity until the arrival of Sir Henry Hardinge from England in 1844. Hardinge reappointed Bird as Deputy-Governor of Bengal Presidency but Bird had retired from service and returned to England by the end of that year.[1] In the same year, until October, he was President of The Asiatic Society.[2]

Bird married H. E. Brown in Benares around 1819.[3] He died at home on 1 June 1857.[1]

In the long-running debate concerning education in India, Bird favoured the secular cause, along with people such as Thomas Macaulay, as opposed to one that desired further to promote a Christian basis for schooling. He said in 1835 that secular education was having good results in India and raised concerns that a Christian approach might upset the native people, potentially leading to what he described as "catastrophes of a very serious description".[4]


  1. 1 2 3 "Obituaries". Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London. II: 253–254. 1858.
  2. "Presidents and Secretaries of The Asiatic Society". The Asiatic Society. Retrieved 2016-07-28.
  3. "Marriages". Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine: 768. March 1819.
  4. Ivermee, Robert (2015). Secularism, Islam and Education in India, 1830–1910. Routledge. p. 30. ISBN 978-1-31731-705-0.
Government offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Ellenborough
Governor-General of India

Succeeded by
The Viscount Hardinge

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