The council was established under the Indian Councils Act 1861. It was dominated by Europeans and Anglo-Indians, with natives as a minority, until reforms in 1909. Under the Indian Councils Act 1892 and Indian Councils Act 1909, representatives of municipalities, district boards, city corporations, universities, ports, plantations, zamindars, Muslim electorates and chambers of commerce were inducted. Native Bengali representation gradually increased. Its voting power was limited, particularly on budgets. It was delegated "transferred subjects" of education, public health, local government, agriculture and public works; while the "reserved subjects" of finance, police, land revenue, law, justice and labour remained with the Executive Council headed by the Governor of Bengal. Between 1905 and 1912, the council's geographical coverage was divided and partly delegated to the Eastern Bengal and Assam Legislative Council. During the period of dyarchy, the council was boycotted by the Congress Party and Swaraj Party; but constitutionalists in the Bengal Provincial Muslim League continued to be active members.
Under the Government of India Act, 1935, the council became the upper chamber of the legislature of Bengal.