James Outram was born on 29th January 1803, in Derbyshire. After the death of his father in 1805, his mother moved to Aberdeenshire in 1810. At the age of seventeen, he started his long career as a soldier and political officer in India, and fought in the 1st Afghan War (1839–1842) and Sind (1842–1843) as well. In 1854 he was appointed Resident at Lucknow, and annexed Oudh on behalf of the East India Company, and against the wishes of its inhabitants.
Outram was undoubtedly a brilliant soldier and a shrewd diplomat too.He brought about many triumphs in military operations to serve the interest of the British. In recognition of his extraordinary services, he was conferred the dignity of a baronet. Ironically, the prevailing social and political situation that followed after the annexation of Oudh, was not to the entire satisfaction or comfort for the East India Company or the British Government. So to make the situation under control, they made every attempt to create terror in the minds of the locals by glorifying the heroic deeds of Outram.
Duties apart, there was another side of his character. He collected books and periodicals, designed to serve the needs of the British troops. When he left Calcutta, he gifted his books to the Soldiers’ Library at Fort William. He also established the Soldiers’ Institute at Dum Dum, and equipped it with the greater part of the amount of Rs 10000 that he received from the British community in Calcutta as the parting gift. This Institute happened to be one of the earliest of its kind, with the view to create an honest mental setup of the ordinary soldiers to enable them to avoid possible temptations to which they were particularly exposed. The Institute was opened with high spirit, soon after his departure on July 16, 1860, and named the Outram Institute after him. But ultimately it was reunited with the Fort William soldiers’ library and lost its own identity.