A Liberal, Wood served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in Lord John Russell's government (1846 - 1852), as President of the Board of Control under Lord Aberdeen (1852-1855), as First Lord of the Admiralty in Lord Palmerston's first administration (1855-1858), and as Secretary of State for India in Palmerston's second government (1859–1866). He was created Viscount Halifax in 1866.
As the President of the Board of Control, Charles Wood did a yeoman's job in spreading education in India when in 1854 he sent a despatch to Lord Dalhousie, the then Governor-general of India. It was recommended therein that:
In accordance with the wood's despatch, Education Departments were established in every province and universities were opened at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras in 1857 and in Punjab in 1882 and at Allahbad 1887.