The son of William Bell, he was educated in Wandsworth, London. In 1841 he went to Madras in the East India Company's service. He was a secularist and supporter of George Jacob Holyoake, who gave Bell's name in 1856 on a short list of those who had done most for the free-thought movement, and he had a share in Holyoake's "British Secular Institute of Secularism and Propagandism". In 1851 he spoke at the first Free Discussion Festival, at the City Road Hall of Science. He was also one of John Chapman's authors. Bell was strongly critical of the East India Company, and its impact on peasant proprietorship in India.
After the Indian Rebellion of 1857, Bell lost his position in Nagpur, for complaining over the head of his immediate superior about the treatment of the Ranis of the Nagpur kingdom. In Madras in the early 1860s, he was secretary of the Madras Literary Society, and edited its Madras Journal in 1861. When Whitley Stokes moved to India, he successfully identified an anonymous translator of Omar Khayyám as Edward FitzGerald, much before this fact was generally known, and named him in the Journal. In 1864 Stokes attributed the Madras (pirate) edition of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam to Bell.
Bell retired on half pay in 1866. He was a member of the London National Society for Women's Suffrage in 1866. In 1871 and 1875 he was on the council of the East India Association, where he supported trust as a principle of imperial policy. He was on the Greek Committee of 1879.
Evans's works included:
- Task of To-day (1852)
- The English in India (1859)
- The Empire in India (1864)
- The Rajah and Principality of Mysore: With a Letter to the Right Hon. Lord Stanley, M.P. (1865)
- The Mysore Reversion (1865)
- Remarks on the Mysore Blue Book (1866)
- Retrospects and Prospects of Indian Policy (1868)
- The Oxus and the Indus (1869)
- The Great Parliamentary Bore (1869). On the treatment of the Nawabs of the Carnatic and family.
- Our Great Vassal Empire (1870)
- Is India a Conquered Country And, If So, what Then? (1870, pamphlet)
- Public Works and the Public Service in India (1871), with Frederick Tyrrell
- The Bengal Reversion (1872)
- Last Counsels of an Unknown Counsellor (1877, editor)
- The Annexation of the Punjaub and the Maharajah Duleep Singh (1882)
- Memoirs of General John Briggs (1886)
Bell married Emily Magnus (c.1839–1893), another freethinker who was an actor and classical musician. They had a daughter Ernestine (1871–1959); an older daughter had died in an outbreak of typhoid at Barnes, London, where they had moved to be close to Henry Davis Pochin and his wife Agnes. Ernestine married the doctor Herbert Mills (1868–1947) who shared her Fabian views; and is known as an artist.
- Edward Royle (1974). Victorian Infidels: The Origins of the British Secularist Movement, 1791–1866. Manchester University Press. p. 307. ISBN 978-0-7190-0557-2.
- Emil Weller (1 January 1977). Lexicon Pseudonymorum. Georg Olms Verlag. p. 277. ISBN 978-3-487-40056-3.
- Dictionary of Indian Biography. Ardent Media. 1971. pp. 33–4. GGKEY:BDL52T227UN.
- The History of the Fleet Street House: a report of sixteen years, note p. 15, Cowen Tracts (1856). Contributed by: Newcastle University. Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/60202777
- Joseph McCabe, Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake vol. 1 (1908), p. 215; archive.org.
- Edward Royle (1974). Victorian Infidels: The Origins of the British Secularist Movement, 1791–1866. Manchester University Press. pp. 174–5. ISBN 978-0-7190-0557-2.
- Elizabeth Crawford (2 September 2003). The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866–1928. Routledge. p. 576. ISBN 978-1-135-43402-1.
- Citoyenneté, empires & mondialisation. Presses Univ Blaise Pascal. 2006. p. 99. ISBN 978-2-84516-313-3.
- Adrian Poole; Christine van Ruymbeke; William H. Martin; Sandra Mason (15 November 2013). FitzGerald's Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám: Popularity and Neglect. Anthem Press. pp. 97–8. ISBN 978-1-78308-071-7.
- 2010 Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Lecture, V. Irene Cockroft
- Elizabeth Crawford (15 April 2013). The Women's Suffrage Movement in Britain and Ireland: A Regional Survey. Routledge. p. 201. ISBN 978-1-136-01054-5.
- George Birdwood, On competition and the Indian Civil Service: a paper read before the East India Association, Tuesday, 21 May 1872, p. 2, Bristol Selected Pamphlets (1872). Contributed by: University of Bristol Library. Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/60243628
- James Long, The position of Turkey in relation to British interests in India, p. 32, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Collection (1876). Contributed by: The University of Manchester, The John Rylands University Library. Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/60235578
- Sabyasachi Bhattacharya (1 January 2005). The Financial Foundations of the British Raj: Ideas and Interests in the Reconstruction of Indian Public Finance 1858–1872. Orient Blackswan. p. 11. ISBN 978-81-250-2903-8.
- Report of the meeting at Willis' rooms, Saturday, 17 May 1879, in support of the claims of Greece, p. 4. Earl Grey Pamphlets Collection (1879). Contributed by: Durham University Library. Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/60226976
- Joseph Mazzini Wheeler (1889). A Biographical Dictionary of Freethinkers of All Ages and Nations. Library of Alexandria. p. 38. ISBN 978-1-4655-6286-9.
- Evans Bell (1865). The Rajah and Principality of Mysore: With a Letter to the Right Hon. Lord Stanley, M.P. T. Richards.
- Evans Bell (1868). Retrospects and Prospects of Indian Policy. Trübner.
- The Westminster Review. J. Chapman. 1869. p. 536.
- Evans Bell (1870). Is India a Conquered Country And, If So, what Then?. W. C. Johnson.
- Thomas Evans Bell; Frederick Tyrrell (1871). Public Works and the Public Service in India.
- Evans Bell (1882). The Annexation of the Punjaub and the Maharajah Dulcep Singh. Trubner & Company.