Demystifying the History of Madras Presidency and Madras Presidency Notes

The Madras Presidency was also called by two other names – Presidency of Fort St. George and Madras Province. It was basically an administrative subdivision falling under British India. At its peak, the presidency covered the whole of current-day Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh along with certain areas of Odisha, Kerala, Karnataka and Lakshadweep. It had two capitals; the winter capital was located in Madras while the summer capital was located in Ooty. Another unknown fact about the history of Madras Presidency was that the island of Ceylon was a part of Madras Presidency from 1793 to 1798.


Madraspatnam was bought by the English East India Company in 1639. The Agency of Fort St George was set up in 1640. Company factories already existed at Machilipatnam and Armagon since early 1600s. In 1652, the agency was formally turned into a Presidency. It was termed as an Agency once again in 1655 and finally in 1684, it regained its status as a Presidency. Elihu Yale was appointed as president of the organisation. Madras became one of three provinces under the East India Company in 1785 under the Pitt’s India Act. After that point in time, the head was called a “Governor” who was a subordinate to the Governor-General in Calcutta till 1947. The Governor had Judicial, legislative and executive powers. He was helped by a Council whose constitution was changed by reforms of 1861, 1909, 1919 and 1935. Elections were conducted in Madras till the Second World War in 1939. It comprised of 22 districts in 1908. Each district was sub-divided into taluks and firqas. Villages were the smallest unit of administration.

The Bank of Madras was responsible for issuing Madras Presidency Notes. These were issued in different denominations featuring interesting subjects and designs. Madras Presidency Notes were used as legal tender within the Madras Presidency.


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