Who was James Augustus Hicky?

The contribution of Irishman James Augustus Hicky, who, via the columns of his weekly Bengal Gazette, the first Indian newspaper published from Kolkata on January 29, 1779, established the framework and guidelines of journalism in India.

Hicky’s Bengal Gazette was the first English-language newspaper to be printed on the Indian subcontinent.

It was founded in 1779 in Calcutta, the then-capital of British India. The first page’s news stories are written in British English. Nonetheless, other places in the literature openly and untranslatable use Anglo-Indian idioms.

Who was James Augustus Hicky?

India received its first newspaper in the year 1780, and James Augustus Hickey was the sole person responsible for making it happen.

The leading journalist has motivated a new generation of fearless journalists in India. The framework of journalism was established in the 18th century by an Irishman named James Hickey, who was dubbed the “Father of Indian Press” by the British.

Calcutta, which the East India Company governed at the time. Bengal Gazette, also known as “Hickey’s Bengal Gazette” or the “Calcutta General Advertiser,” was founded by Hickey and initially appeared on newsstands on January 29, 1780.

It was the first instance of journalism in India, acting as a watchdog for the general public against government mismanagement, wrongdoings, and societal corruption.

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The early life of James Augustus Hicky

Hicky was born in Ireland in the year 1740. He relocated to London to work as an apprentice for Scottish printer William Faden.

Hicky, however, never exercised his independence from the printers’ guild and instead sought out a clerkship with an English lawyer named Sarjeant Davy.

Hicky eventually ended his legal profession. In 1772, he boarded an East Indiaman as a surgeon’s mate headed for Bengal after a brief battle to complete his surgical training in London.

After Hicky arrived in Calcutta, he began working as a merchant and a medic, transporting and trading commodities along the Indian coastline.

His maritime Company folded by 1776 when his ship returned to port with severely damaged goods. In October 1776, Hicky went into debtors’ prison after failing to persuade his creditors.

Hicky acquired a printing press and typing while inside, and by 1777, he had started a printing company from inside.

Hicky employed William Hickey, an attorney who was not related to him, in 1778 to help him discharge his debts and get out of jail.

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 All about “The Bengal Gazette of Hicky”

The Bengal Gazette of Hicky On January 29, 1780, Hicky launched Hicky’s Bengal Gazette.

According to the young American historian Andrew Otis, the powerful and wealthy of British Calcutta were challenged by a four-page weekly newspaper that cost one rupee.

“He tried to cover anything that might be important for Calcutta, devoting a lot of space to politics, world news, and Indian events. 4 Road maintenance issues and unsanitary conditions came up frequently.

The dwellings of the poor Indians had thatched roofs, which were prone to catching fire.


Hicky’s article frequently reported on the fire outbreak. The editor provided a voice to Calcutta’s underprivileged through the letters he solicited and published.

He denounced the high society and the East India Company for being corrupt. According to the Bengal Gazette, Sir Thomas Rumbold, the governor of Madras, had been summoned to London to defend himself in front of Parliament against allegations of corruption.


Otis informs us that “Hicky cynically wrote” that Rumbold was a great man despite only earning a wealth of roughly 600,000 pounds, while in India, much of it through bribes and extortion.


Hicky didn’t spare any establishments. He brought attention to the issues with the Company’s army’s subaltern ranks’ inadequate pay.

It also focused on the Company’s unsuccessful wars.
Hyder Ali, the then-ruler of Mysore, handily defeated the Company’s army at the Battle of Pollilur. Hicky questioned why the Brits were fighting in India as the disaster’s news came in.

He charged that the Company had wasted its troops’ lives. He also commended Hyder Ali for his honorable treatment of the captive Company troops.

Hicky initially adhered to a fair-minded editing stance. But when he learned about a rival publication, The India Gazette, he accused Simeon Droz, a worker for the East India Company. Because he (Hicky) had declined to pay a bribe to Droz and Marian Hastings, Warren Hastings’ wife, he was accused of aiding the editors of the India Gazette.

Hastings’ Supreme Council forbade Hicky from mailing his newspaper through the post office in retaliation for his complaint.

In addition to charging Hastings with corruption, despotism, and even erectile dysfunction, Hicky claimed that the order infringed his right to free expression.

Hicky also accused several British officials in Calcutta of corruption, including Johann Zacharias Kiernander, the head of the Protestant Mission, and Elijah Impey, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William.

Hicky’s editorial independence was short-lived since he was accused of lying by Hastings and Kiernander. In June 1781, the Supreme Court declared Hicky guilty and jailed him following four dramatic trials.

From behind bars, Hicky continued to publish his journal and accuse Hastings and others of corruption.
As Hastings filed new lawsuits against him, he was eventually shut down. The Supreme Court ordered the seizure of Hicky’s Bengal Gazette’s types on March 30, 1782, which resulted in the publication ceasing.

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Conclusion

In Calcutta, Hickey’s newspaper enjoyed popularity among people of many ethnicities. Indians, who were enthralled by the new print medium, also read it.

Hickey started publishing articles in Indian languages like Hindi, Bengali, and Persian after he saw the potential of the Indian market.

His newspaper was now more widely available and had a higher circulation as a result.

The Bengal Gazette served as a forum for discussion and debate in addition to being a newspaper.

Letters to the editor were welcomed by Hickey, who would publish them in his newspaper.
This promoted a sense of community among the readers and provided a platform for diverse voices and viewpoints.

The changing social and political climate in India was reflected in Hickey’s newspaper, which also significantly impacted popular opinion.

Hicky cleared the path and encouraged numerous Indians to create newspapers, despite the fact that the then-Governor-General of India, Warren Hastings, detested his journal.

Many later, printers who went on to create their newspapers received their training at Hicky’s printing office, creating a thriving newspaper scene in Bengal. Hicky has no surviving pictures today. Yet, older documents still bear his handwriting and signature.

ReadWhat are the Top Newspapers in India?

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