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The Writers Building in Calcutta

Originally the most junior employee of the East India Company whilst it was a trading company. Later, as it became involved in administration, it retained the term "writer" for its most junior civil servants. The term is also used in the Royal Navy for clerks.

Career progression

In 1810, the following arrangements were reported in place.

“After five years Writers become Factors,
after three years Junior Merchants, and
after three years further Senior Merchants,
the first of which period includes time spent at our College at Haileybury." [1]

By 1869, promotion through the various Civil Service grades was by length of service as this list shows.

First Class – from 34th year of service in India
Second Class – from 21st to 34th year in India
Third Class – from 13th to 20th year in India
Fourth Class – from 9th to 12th year in India
Fifth Class – from 5th to 8th year in India
Sixth Class – first 4 years in India [2]

By 1905, First Class was achieved with 30 years service, Second Class with 23 years of service, Third Class with 18 years and Fourth Class with 12 years of service.[3]


Names of many applicants who petitioned for the position of writer between 1806 to 1856 are shown online at Writer’s petitions. These relate to British Library series IOR/J/1 – however, it is thought this series may be incomplete. Where a name is found and papers are held, then these often show details of parentage, educational background and date of appointment.

Writers' petitions and Haileybury records 1749-1856 are available on the findmypast website.

Related articles


  1. The Bengal and Agra annual guide and gazetteer, for 1841, 3rd edition, 1:240 (Calcutta: William Rushton & Co, nd). Google Books
  2. "British India Records," FindMyPast (accessed online 23 March 2012).
  3. The India List and the India Office List for 1905 (London: Harrison & Sons, 1905), 173-174. Google Books