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British India

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British India

"British India" redirects here. For the history of the British Empire in India, see British Raj. For the British East India Company's rule in India, see Company rule in India. For the Australian band, see British India (band).
"Provinces of India" redirects here. For the modern states, see States and territories of India.

Colonial India
Dutch India 1605–1825
Danish India 1620–1869
French India 1769–1954
Portuguese India 1505–1961
Casa da Índia 1434–1833
Portuguese East India Company 1628–1633
British India 1612–1947
East India Company 1612–1757
Company rule in India 1757–1858
British Raj 1858–1947
British rule in Burma 1824–1948
Princely states 1721–1949
Partition of India
1947

Provinces of India, earlier Presidencies of British India, still earlier, Presidency towns were the administrative divisions of British governance in India. Collectively they were called British India. In one form or other they existed between 1612 and 1947, conventionally divided into three historical periods.

  • During 1612–1757, the East India Company set up factory towns in several locations in coastal India by the consent (and implied non-interference) of India's native states. Its rivals were the merchant trading companies of Holland and France. By the mid-18th century, three "Presidency towns": Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta had grown in size.
  • During Company rule in India, 1757–1857, the Company gradually acquired sovereignty over large parts of India, now called "Presidencies." However, it also increasingly came under British government oversight, in effect sharing sovereignty with the Crown. At the same time it gradually lost its mercantile privileges.
  • Following the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Company's remaining powers were transferred to the Crown. In the new British Raj (1858–1947), sovereignty extended to a few new regions, such as Upper Burma. Increasingly, however, unwieldy presidencies were broken up into "Provinces".[1]

British India


In 1608, the English East India Company established a settlement at Surat (now in the state of Gujarat), and this became the company's first headquarters town. It was followed in 1611 by a permanent factory at Machilipatnam on the Coromandel Coast, and in 1612 the company joined other already established European trading companies in Bengal.[2] However, following the decline of the Mughal Empire in 1707 and after the East India Company's victory at the Battle of Plassey in 1757 and Battle of Buxar, both in Bengal 1764, the Company gradually began to formally expand its dominions and collectively call the area India.[3] The Maratha Empire suffered defeat at the hands of the Afghans at Panipat in 1761 and this opened the way for British influence in India, which had however made a start under the Mogul Emperor Jehangir in 1607.[4] However it was not until 1818 that the Marathas were finally defeated. With the defeat of the Marathas, no native power represented a threat for the Company any longer.[5] The end of the last Anglo-Maratha War in 1818 marked the era of British paramountcy over India.[6] By the mid-19th century, the East India Company had become the paramount political and military power in South Asia, its territory held in trust for the British Crown.[7]

Company rule in Bengal, however, ended with the Government of India Act 1858 following the events of the Bengal Rebellion of 1857.[7] From then known as British India, it was thereafter directly ruled by the British Crown as a colonial possession of the United Kingdom, and India was officially known after 1876 as the British Indian Empire.[8] India consisted of regions referred to as British India that were directly administered by the British, with Acts established and passed in the British Parliament, House of Commons.[9] and other regions, the Princely States,[10] that were ruled by local rulers of different ethnic backgrounds. These rulers were allowed a measure of internal autonomy in exchange for British suzerainty. British India constituted a significant portion of India both in area and population; in 1910, for example, it covered approximately 54% of the area and included over 77% of the population.[11] In addition, there were Portuguese and French exclaves in India. Independence from British rule was achieved in 1947 with the formation of two nations, the Dominions of India and Pakistan, the latter also including East Bengal, present-day Bangladesh.

The term British India also applied to Burma for a shorter time period: starting in 1824, a small part of Burma, and by 1886, almost two thirds of Burma had come under British India.[9] This arrangement lasted until 1937, when Burma commenced being administered as a separate British colony. British India did not apply to other countries in the region, such as Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), which was a British Crown colony, or the Maldive Islands, which were a British protectorate. At its greatest extent, in the early 20th-century, the territory of British India extended as far as the frontiers of Persia in the west; Afghanistan in the northwest; Tibet in the northeast; and China, French Indo-China and Siam in the east. It also included the Colony of Aden in the Arabian Peninsula.[12]

Presidency towns (1600–1765)

The East India Company, which was incorporated on 31 December 1600, established trade relations with Indian rulers in Masulipatam on the east coast in 1611 and Surat on the west coast in 1612.[13] The company rented a trading outpost in Madras in 1639.[13][13] Bombay, which was ceded to the British Crown by Portugal as part of the wedding dowry of Catherine of Braganza in 1661, was in turn granted to the East India Company to be held in trust for the Crown.[13]

Meanwhile, in eastern India, after obtaining permission from the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan to trade with Bengal, the Company established its first factory at Hoogly in 1640.[13] Almost a half-century later, after Emperor Aurengzeb forced the Company out of Hooghly, Calcutta was founded by Job Charnock in 1686.[13] By the mid-18th century the three principal trading settlements, now called the Madras Presidency (or the Presidency of Fort St. George), the Bombay Presidency, and the Bengal Presidency (or the Presidency of Fort William) were each administered by a Governor.[14]

Presidencies of British India (1772–1858)

After Robert Clive's victory in the Battle of Plassey in 1757, the puppet government of a new Nawab of Bengal, was maintained by the East India Company.[15] However, after the invasion of Bengal by the Nawab of Oudh in 1764 and his subsequent defeat in the Battle of Buxar, the Company obtained the Diwani of Bengal, which included the right to administer and collect land-revenue (land tax) in Bengal, the region of present-day Bangladesh, West Bengal and Bihar.[15] In 1772, the Company also obtained the Nizāmat of Bengal (the "exercise of criminal jurisdiction") and thereby full sovereignty of the expanded Bengal Presidency.[15] During the period, 1773 to 1785, very little changed; the only exceptions were the addition of the dominions of the Raja of Banares to the western boundary of the Bengal Presidency, and the addition of Salsette Island to the Bombay Presidency.[16]

Portions of the Kingdom of Mysore were annexed to the Madras Presidency after the Third Anglo-Mysore War ended in 1792. Next, in 1799, after the defeat of Tipu Sultan in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War more of his territory was annexed to the Madras Presidency.[16] In 1801, Carnatic, which had been under the suzerainty of the Company, began to be directly administered by it as a part of the Madras Presidency.[17]

Provinces of India (1858–1947)

  • Central Provinces: Created in 1861 from Nagpur Province and the Saugor and Nerbudda Territories. Berar administered since 1903, renamed the Central Provinces and Berar in 1936.
  • Burma: Lower Burma annexed 1852, established as a province in 1862, Upper Burma incorporated in 1886. Separated from British India in 1937 to become administered independently by the newly established British Government Burma Office.
  • Assam: separated from Bengal in 1874. Incorporated into new province of Eastern Bengal and Assam in 1905. Re-established as a province in 1912.
  • Andaman and Nicobar Islands: established as a province in 1875.
  • Baluchistan: Organised into a province in 1887.
  • North-West Frontier Province: created in 1901 from the north-western districts of Punjab Province.
  • Eastern Bengal and Assam: created in 1905 upon partition of Bengal, together with the former province of Assam. Re-merged with Bengal in 1912, with north-eastern part re-established as the province of Assam.
  • Bihar and Orissa: separated from Bengal in 1912. Renamed Bihar in 1936 when Orissa became a separate province.
  • Delhi: Separated from Punjab in 1912, when it became the capital of British India.
  • Aden: separated from Bombay Presidency to become province of India in 1932; separated from India and made the Crown Colony of Aden in 1937.
  • Orissa: Separated from Bihar in 1936.
  • Sind: Separated from Bombay in 1936.
  • Panth-Piploda: made a province in 1942, from territories ceded by a native ruler.

Major provinces

At the turn of the 20th century, British India consisted of eight provinces that were administered either by a Governor or a Lieutenant-Governor. The following table lists their areas and populations (but does not include those of the dependent Native States):[18] During the partition of Bengal (1905–1912), a new Lieutenant-Governor's province of Eastern Bengal and Assam existed. In 1912, the partition was partially reversed, with the eastern and western halves of Bengal re-united and the province of Assam re-established; a new Lieutenant-Governor's province of Bihar and Orissa was also created.

Province of British India[18] Area (in thousands of square miles) Population (in millions of inhabitants) Chief Administrative Officer
Burma 170 9 Lieutenant-Governor
Bengal 151 75 Lieutenant-Governor
Madras 142 38 Governor-in-Council
Bombay 123 19 Governor-in-Council
United Provinces 107 48 Lieutenant-Governor
Central Provinces and Berar 104 13 Chief Commissioner
Punjab 97 20 Lieutenant-Governor
Assam 49 6 Chief Commissioner

Minor provinces

In addition, there were a few minor provinces that were administered by a Chief Commissioner:[19]

Minor Province[19] Area (in thousands of square miles) Population (in thousands of inhabitants) Chief Administrative Officer
North-West Frontier Province 16 2,125 Chief Commissioner
British Baluchistan 46 308 British Political Agent in Baluchistan served as ex officio Chief Commissioner
Coorg 1.6 181 British Resident in Mysore served as ex officio Chief Commissioner
Ajmer-Merwara 2.7 477 British Political Agent in Rajputana served as ex officio Chief Commissioner
Andaman and Nicobar Islands 3 25 Chief Commissioner

Provinces at independence, 1947

At independence in 1947, British India had 17 provinces:

Upon the Partition of British India into the Union of India and Dominion of Pakistan, 11 provinces (Ajmer-Merwara-Kekri, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Bihar, Bombay, Central Provinces and Berar, Coorg, Delhi, Madras, Panth-Piploda, Orissa, and the United Provinces) joined India, 3 (Baluchistan, North-West Frontier and Sindh) joined Pakistan, and 3 (Punjab, Bengal and Assam) were partitioned between India and Pakistan.

In 1950, after the new Indian Constitution was adopted, the provinces in India were replaced by redrawn states and union territories. Pakistan, however, retained its five provinces, one of which, East Bengal, was renamed East Pakistan in 1956 and became the independent nation of Bangladesh in 1971.

See also

Notes

References

  • The Imperial Gazetteer of India (26 vol, 1908–31), highly detailed description of all of India in 1901. online edition

Further reading

  • .
  • Riddick, John F. The history of British India: a chronology (2006) excerpt and text search, covers 1599-1947
  • Riddick, John F. Who Was Who in British India (1998), covers 1599-1947

External links

  • .
  • Statistical abstracts relating to British India, from 1840 to 1920 at uchicago.edu
  • Digital Colonial Documents (India) Homepage at latrobe.edu.au
  • Provinces of British India at worldstatesmen.org
  • Collection of early 20th century photographs of the cities of Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras with other interesting Indian locations from the magazine, India Illustrated, at the University of Houston Digital Library
  • Coins of British India
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