Hamilton, Charles (1753?–1792), orientalist, was born, probably in 1753, in Belfast, the only son of Charles Hamilton (although according to Alexander Gordon (1841–1931) his father was James Hamilton and his grandfather was Charles), merchant in Belfast, and Katherine Hamilton (née Mackay or McCay). His maternal uncle was a presbyterian minister in Belfast; his cousins were the notable Crawford brothers, Thomas, John (qv), Adair (qv), and Alexander Crawford (qv); and one of his two sisters was Elizabeth Hamilton (qv) (d. 1816). His father died of typhus in 1757, his mother in 1767, and the Belfast home was broken up. Hamilton may have been educated by David Manson (qv), the famous Belfast schoolmaster, as was his sister Catherine. He spent two years in a mercantile house in Dublin, possibly apprenticed to a relative, and at some point after 1769 (possibly in 1773) went to India as a cadet with the East India Company's Bengal establishment. He was made a lieutenant in 1778, and was involved with a punitive expedition against the Rohilla Afghan tribes. Despite the distractions of military life, he enthusiastically studied eastern languages, and was one of the first members of the Asiatic Society in 1784; he set himself to write a history of the Rohillas, using native manuscript materials. This was published in London in 1787. Hamilton was granted five years' furlough by Warren Hastings, governor-general of Bengal, to prepare an edition of the Hedaya, an important commentary on Muslim law. In 1786 Hamilton was reunited with his sisters in Scotland and in Dublin. His sister Elizabeth went to stay in London with him, assisting with the work on the Hedaya, which was published in 1791. Hamilton was appointed resident at the court of the grand vizier of Oudh, but became ill as he planned his return to India; he died in Hampstead of tuberculosis on 14 March 1792. He was buried in Bunhill Fields, London, but his heartbroken sisters erected a memorial to him in their uncle's former church in Belfast. Hamilton is also credited with a verse tragedy, adapted from the Italian, The patriot (1784), published in London while he was in India.
R. Ryan, Biographical dictionary of the worthies of Ireland (1819; reprinted in BBA); DNB; Alexander Gordon, ‘Elizabeth Hamilton’, UJA, i (1895), 24–7; O'Donoghue; L. S. Sutherland, The East India Company in eighteenth-century politics (1952), 301