Lawrence John Lumley Dundas

Other names: 

Second Marquess of Zetland and Earl of Zetland, Earl of Ronaldshay in the county of Orkney

Date of birth: 
11 Jun 1876
City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Date of death: 
06 Feb 1961
Location of death: 
Aske, Yorkshire

Lawrence John Lumley Dundas, second Marquess of Zetland, was an administrator in India, politician, and author. Zetland was educated at Harrow School and at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1900, he became aide-de camp to Lord Curzon, who was viceroy of India at the time. While in India, Zetland travelled widely through Asia. His experiences would later become the inspiration for a number of fictional and non-fictional works. From 1917 to 1922 he was appointed Governor of Bengal. He held the post at one of the most critical times, having to deal with the fall-out from the partition (1905) and re-unification (1911) of Bengal and rising political activism and unrest in the province. While his appointment initially provoked protests from Bengali nationalists because of his close association with Curzon, by the end of his governorship, he was widely respected even among initially critical nationalist politicians.

Zetland returned to Britain in 1922 and changed careers to become a writer. He was an active member of the Royal Central Asian, the India, and the Royal Asiatic societies. He was elected President of the Royal Geographical Society in 1922. He published a travel book, Lands of the Thunderbolt: Sikhim, Chumbi and Bhutan (1923), followed by The Heart of Aryavarta (1925), for which he was elected to the British Academy in 1929. In the book Zetland explores Indian religion and philosophy, which he saw as closely connected to an understanding of Indian nationalism. Zetland admired many of Gandhi's ideas, but differed with him on the point of his rejection of Western civilization and British rule. In 1928 Zetland published the three-volume official biography of Lord Curzon to critical acclaim. 

During the 1930s, Zetland played an important role in the ongoing constitutional reform process of the Government of India. He was present at the Round Table conferences in the early 1930s and also served on the joint select committees of the House of Lords and House of Commons. Prime Minister Baldwin invited him to join his government in 1935 as Secretary of State for India, to help guide the 1935 Government of India Act through parliament. With his political skills he was able to by-pass conservative opposition and implement further steps towards future dominion status for India and a devolution of power, by granting complete provincial responsibility which he saw part of a new conceptualization of ‘cooperative imperialism’.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, Zetland had to deal with the fall-out from the constitutional crisis triggered by Linlithgow’s unilateral declaration of war, without consulting Indian representatives. This led to Congress’s non-cooperation in the war effort. In March 1940, Zetland survived Udham Singh’s assassination of Michael O’Dwyer at Caxton Hall. Zetland was present at the lecture, when Singh shot at the podium from close range. Zetland was only grazed by a bullet, receiving bruises to his ribs. After Neville Chamberlain’s resignation as Prime Minister, Zetland also resigned from office, conscious that his approach to Indian affairs differed markedly with Winston Churchill, who succeeded Chamberlain as Prime Minister.

After leaving office, Zetland pursued his other interests. He was made a Knight of the Order of the Garter. He served as Lord Lieutenant of the North Riding, devoted more time to his long-standing role as provincial grand master of the freemasons of the North and East Ridings of Yorkshire and was Governor of the Bank of Scotland.


Stanley Baldwin, Albion Rajkumar Banerji, Surendranath Banerjea, Jagadish Chandra Bose, Maharaja of Cooch Behar, Stafford Cripps, George Curzon, Bhalabhai Desai, Samuel Hoare, M. K. Gandhi, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Chaudry Khaliquzzaman, Lord Linlithgow, Jawaharlal Nehru, Firoz Khan Noon, Mr Siddiqi, Lord Templewood.

British Academy, India Office, Royal Asiatic Society, Royal Central Asian Society, Royal Geographical Society (President).

Involved in events: 

Partition of Bengal, 1905

Round Table Conferences, 1930-2

Government of India Bill, 1935

Published works: 

Sports and Politics under an Eastern Sky (Blackwood, 1902)

A Wandering Student in the Far East (Blackwood, 1908)

India: An Eastern Miscellany (Edinburgh & London: William Blackwood, 1911)

Tour of his Excellency The Right Honourable Lawrence John Lumley Dundas, Earl of Ronaldshay, Governor of Bengal (Dacca, 1917-1919)

Speeches Delivered by His Excellency the Right Honourable Lawrence John Lumley Dundas, Earl of Ronaldshay Governor of Bengal during 1919-20 (Calcutta: Private Secretary Press, 1920)

Lands of the Thunderbolt: Sikhim, Chimbi and Buthan (Constable & Co., 1923)

India: A Bird's Eye View (London: Constable and Co., 1924)

The Heart of Aryavarta: A study of the psychology of Indian Unrest (London: Constable & Co., 1925)

The Life of Lord Curzon: Being the Authorized Biography of George Nathaniel Marquess Curzon of Kedlestone KG, 3 Vols. (London: Ernest Benn, 1928)

Great Britain and India (Birmingham and Midland Institute: Presdiential Addresses, 1930)

Lord Cromer: Being the Authorized Life of Evelyn Baring First Earl of Cromer (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1932)

Steps towards Indian Home Rule (London: Hutchinson, 1935)

India: Retrospect and Prospect (Nottingham, 1935)

'Essayez': The Memoires of Lawrence, Second Marquess of Zetland (London: John Murray, 1956)

Secondary works: 

Laithwaite, Gilbert, The Marquess of Zetland, 1876-1961 (London: Oxford University Press)

Rizvi, Gowher, Linlithgow and India: A Study of British Policy and the Political Impasse in India, 1936-1943 (London: Royal Historical Society, 1978)

‘Lord Zetland’, Obituary, The Guardian (7 February 1961), p. 13

Obituary of Marquess of Zetland, The Times (7 February 1961), p. 13
Archive source: 

Mss Eur D 609, Indian correspondence and papers, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras