Alexander Dow ~ Army Officer and Writer

Alexander Dow (1735/6-1779) army officer and writer. Born in Perthshire, Alexander Dow ran away to sea at a young age joining a private ship of war, the King of Prussia, in 1757. By 1760, he was in Bengal where he joined the East India Company achieving the rank of ensign within a year. In 1763, he was promoted to lieutenant and the following year was made captain. He was in action at the capture of Chunar Fort during the British East India Company’s military seizure of Bengal. A member of the East India Company’s officer association, Dow was involved in the 1766 protest over cuts in field allowances. It was his involvement in the action that probably led to his return to Britain in 1768.

Back home, Dow began writing and published Tales Translated from the Persian Inatulla of Delhi and two volumes of his History of Hindostan. As a writer, Dow also wrote fiction, writing in 1769 a tragedy, Zingis that was performed at the Drury Lane Theatre. In 1769, Alexander Dow set off for Bombay completing the third volume of the History of Hindostan on route. Using his command of Persian, Dow pursued money and made himself wealthy. He lived in a large house in Bombay and kept the company of local royalty. Soon however Dow grew tired of this lifestyle and returned to Britain once again. In Britain, Dow’s writing was very critical of Clive of India and the East India Company and Dow lobbied for mercantile reform in Bengal. A change of leadership within the East India Company led to many other personnel changes so that Dow rejoined at the proposed rank of lieutenant colonel. Initially, he was commissary-general an administrative post, then for a short time commander of the Chunar Fort before intrigue and rivalry within the Company led to his displacement from office. The war with France gave Dow the opportunity to lead troops in action, which he did against the French settlement at Chandemagore in 1778. Alexander Dow died of a liver disorder on 31 July 1779 – he was 43 years of age.