Monday, November 2, 2009


Robert Clive

After the victory of the  English in Buxar Clive was appointed the governor and commander in chief of the English possessions in Bengal. Clive took up the task of stabilizing the political status of the territory under him. He settled relations with Oudh by the Treaty of Allahabad in 1765. In his move to settle the problem of administrating Bengal he introduced the Dual system. According to  this system the real power of jurisdiction lay with the company while the responsibility of administration was of the Nawab of Bengal. This system proved a failure. It led to breakdown of the administrative machinery. Law and order  broke down. There was economic disorder with the collection of revenue adding to the misery of the people. Agricultural depression  affected trade and commerce with the company servants monopolizing the internal trade  of Bengal thus adding to their personal wealth other than contributing to the company finances. The cottage industries of Bengal suffered as it was discouraged . The company servants increased the price of raw materials. The artisans who now found their occupation unprofitable left it.

 Robert Clive also brought reforms in the administration of the company and the organisation of the military. He is claimed as the founder of the British political dominion in India and is said to have laid the foundation of all future progresses of the British in India.
Warren Hastings

Warren Hastings was appointed the Governor of Bengal in 1772. Bengal was now a state of disorder. Warren Hastings took over the task of reforming the administration of Bengal. A Board of revenue comprising of the Governor and a council was to manage the revenue. The entire responsibility of internal administration was taken over by the company servants. To bring forth a reform in the affairs of revenue Warren Hastings introduced a five year settlement of land revenue in 1772. But owing to several defects this system was scrapped in 1776. Cornwallis resorted to annual settlement under the  supervision by a committee of Revenue. He was  thus  unsuccessful in his attempt to reform the revenue system in Bengal.

Warren Hastings built  a system of justice in 1772 at the district level by setting up a Diwani Adalat and a Faujdari Adalat. This was based on the Mughal model. In 1773 the Regulating Act was passed which provided for the setting up of a supreme court to try all British subjects. He attempted to codify the Muslim and Hindu laws .It was titled 'Code of Gentoo Laws'. In the field of commerce five custom houses were set up. He brought regulations to prevent misuse of dastaks, check the exploitation of weavers by company agents and developed trade relations with Bhutan and Tibet.

Warren Hasting faced an uphill task in dealing with the Indian rulers. He faced stiff resistance from the Marathas in the north and Hyder Ali in the south. In 1773 he concluded the treaty of Banaras with the Nawab of Oudh appeasing the emperor and getting financial gains  thus blocking alliances between the Marathas and the Nawab of Oudh. Warren Hastings's diplomacy in participating the Rohilla War 1774 was a strategy of his to include Rohilkhand  in the company's jurisdiction.

During the period 1772-1785 the territory of the East India company included Bengal. Bihar  Orissa, Banaras and  Ghazipur. It also included the Northern Sarkars, port of Salsette and the harbours of Madras, Bombay and other minor ports. The Mughal territory included  Delhi and other adjoining areas. The territory of Oudh which was autonomous were bound in an offensive-defensive alliance with the East India Company since 1765. The north western part of India was under the Sikh Misls, who controlled region around the Sultej. The Muslim chiefs ruled in North western Punjab, Multan, Sindh and Kashmir. The Marathas dominated over western India, parts of Central India from Delhi to Hyderabad and Gujarat to Cuttak. The Deccan which consisted of Hyderabad was ruled by the Nizam. Hyder Ali was ruling over Mysore. Tanjore and Travancore were under the Hindu rulers.


The court of Directors sent Cornwallis in 1786 to carry out the policy of peace outlined in Pitts in India Act , to reorganise the administrative set up of the country. He had to find a satisfactory land revenue system, reform the judicial machinery and reorganise the commercial set up of the company. Lord Cornwallis introduced several judicial reforms. He set up the criminal courts. The  lowest was the Darogas followed by the district courts headed by an European magistrate. Civil courts were also setup. The distinction between revenue and civil case was abolished. The Diwani courts could try all civil cases. At the lowest level was the Munsiff court presided over by Indian officers. Above the district courts were the four provincial courts of Appeal at Calcutta, Murshidabad, Dacca and Patna. Cornwallis brought about reforms introducing a police system. Each district had a Daroga,the district was divided in to areas under a Superintendent of police. In the matter of revenue Cornwallis divided the provinces of Bengal in 1787,each under a collector. The committee of Revenue was renamed as Board of Revenue. In 1790 Cornwallis got the approval of the Board of Directors who recognised the Zamindars as the owners of land.They were subjected to annual payment of land revenue. In 1793 the settlement was declared permanent. This Permanent Settlement introduced by Cornwallis on the basis of an enquiry conducted by Sir John Shore had its positive and negative implications.

Sir John Shore

Sir John Shore succeeded Cornwallis. He looked after the affairs of the company till 1798 when he was recalled due to failure in tackling with the mutiny of army officials of Bengal in 1785. Sir John Shore followed a policy of non-intervention in the affairs of the native states. This resulted in the Nizam employing French officers to train his army thus decreasing the English influence. The Marathas and Tipu Sultan also sought the help of the French thus undermining the British.

Lord Wellesley (1789-1805) 

Lord Wellesley is considered to be one of the most brilliant Governor General of Bengal. Under his rule from 1798 the extended the dominions of the British. During his early period the French influence in Mysore, Hyderabad Gwalior was the first task to be tackled. He introduced the Subsidiary  Alliance system to undo with the French influence and bring the Indian states within the purview of the British power of Jurisdiction. This was a very advantageous system  that asserted British supremacy in India besides expansion of the company's dominion. Under the subsidiary system the ruler who accepted  the sustem had to recognise the company ,who in return would ensured protection of the territory. In 1798 the Nizam of Hyderabad accepted it, followed by the Nizam of Oudh and Mysore. Pehwa Baji Rao also accepted this treaty after his defeat at the hands of Holkar. The rulers of the Baroda and many Rajputs accepted this system. This system increased the resources of the company besides increasing the territory of the company too . The company had the right to exercise its military power in the affairs of the native states. This made the native states dependent on the company and ended foreign influence on the native rulers. Lord Wellesley gave up the policy of the non invention followed by sir John Shore. By 1805 the East India company territory in India extended from Sind to the west coast of Cape comorin and, to the north east along the Bay of Bengal to Burma. In northern India the company exercised control over Bengal, upper Sind and Punjab. The princely states of Oudh, Nagpur, Gwalior, Indore, Baroda. Hyderabad, and Mysore formed parts of the East India company's territories.

Lord Cornwallis(1805)

In 1805 Lord Cornwallis came back as the Governor General for the second time. The directors of the company who were not in support of the policy of  extension of British dominions followed by Wellesley aspired to follow the policy of non-intervention.

Sir George Barlow

After his death in 1805 Sir George Barlow a senior member of the Governor general council became the Governor-General. He followed a policy of non intervention and withdrew the company protection for the Rajputs.

Lord Minto

George Barlow was followed by Lord Minto who was the president of the Board of control before he became the governor general of the company. Lord Minto intervened in the affairs of Berar in 1809 when it was attacked by Amir Khan. He also took strong steps to put down the French and Dutch.

Lord Warren Hastings

Lord Minto was followed by Lord Hastings who governed from 1813 to 1823. When he took up charge the prestige of the company was low. The Indian rulers were not ready to cooperate with the company. The company faced threats from the Gorkhas of Nepal. The Pindaris expanded their territories and activities by plundering, the Marathas wanted to expand their territory by recovering their lost territories. The company faced the threats of Holkar, the Sindia's, Bhonsle, the Peshawa and the Pindaris. Warren Hastings concluded that the policy of non intervention had to be done with . He involved the Gorkhas in a war from 1814 to 1816. The Treaty of Saguali was signed in 1816 and a friendly relation with the Gorkhas was established which in due course of time proved very advantageous for the company. The Pindaris were exterminated from central India. The Marathas were also defeated in the Third Maratha war . The Maratha confederacy was dissolved and their territories became the company's area of administration.

Warren Hastings brought reforms in the social, economic and political affairs of the people. In this he was assisted by John Malcolm, Sir Thomas Murnroe, Elphinstone and Sir Charles Metcalfe. In the area of Judicial reforms William Hastings suggested the setting up of more courts to dispose the cases quickly. In 1814 Lord Hastings provided a Munsif for every Thana appointed by the Judges of the Diwani Adalat. sardar Amins were appointed in every district. The power of the registrars were increased and magistrates were given the power of imprisonment. In the matters of Revenue he suggested a permanent settlement in the North western Provinces. The representatives of each village community had to adjust the share of the individual cultivators. Besides this the Bengal Tenancy Act  was passed in 1822 by which the cultivators had hereditary right of possession of the land as long as they paid the rent. In 1820 Sir Thomas Monroe who became the Governor of Madras and he introduced the Ryotwari system by which the ryots became the direct payers of revenue without the intervention of the Zamindars or other middle men. For the promotion of the Education many schools were established. A college for promotion of English language was established in Calcutta. This was followed in Bombay and Madras. Warren Hastings ensured the liberty of the press which was restricted during the time of Wellesley The first Vernacular paper was published called 'Samachar Darpan' In the year 1823  William Hastings resigned and for a period of seven months a senior member of the Calcutta Council took charge in 1823.

Lord Amherst

 After this period Lord Amherst took charge as Governor general. During his reign he was compelled by the force of circumstances to wage war against Burma. The first Burmese war started in 1824 and continued till 1826. The treaty of Yandaboo was concluded in 1826 was of great advantage for the British as they could now penetrate deep into North east.

Lord William Bentick (1828-1835)

William Cavendish Bentick succeeded Lord Amherst as Governor-General of India in 1828. He was appointed Governor of Madras in 12803. William Bentick pursued a liberal attitude. To improve the financial state of the company and the territories under the British he undertook many steps.. Firstly the sinecure jobs were abolished. Secondly Bhatta of the military personals were reduced. He abolished the provioncial court of Appeal. In 1823 the collectors were directed to check the validity of rent free lands . The opium trade of Malwa was regulated . The land revenue settlement of North west province was made in 1833. Lord William Bentick removed the ban on employing Indians, and started employing Indians to government jobs. To improve the Judicial system the provincial court of Appeal  set up by Cornwallis were abolished. The power of the Magistrates were enhanced. A system of jury was introduced. The use of Vernaculars as court languages and codification of laws were introduced. In the administrative field Indians were re-employed based on the charter Act of 1823 and separate Board of  revenue was set up at Allahabad. The educational reforms brought about by William Bentick was a milestone. He supported western education through English medium.This was supported by Indian social reforms likeRaja Ram Mohan Roy. In 1835 a medical college was started at Calcutta. In the matters of social reforms Williams Bentick abolished the practice of Sati with the support of Raja Ram Mohan Roy.

The suppression of the Thuggee ,a band of robbers was another remarkable achievement. The prohibition of female infanticide was another social reform which was declared punishable. Besides this William Bentick took up Public works. Relations with the Indian states  during the time of Wiliam Bentick extended to the taking over of the administration of Mysore in 1831. In 1832, Cachar on the North east frontiers of Bengal was annexed and the plantation of tea was introduced. In 1834 Coorg was annexed and plantation of coffee was also started. Lord William Bentick established friendship with Maharaj Ranjit Singh at Rupar in  1831.A treaty with the Amirs of Sind was signed in 1832 for commercial purpose.

Charles Metcalfe

After William Bentick Charles Metcalfe became the Governor General from 1835 to 1836. During his rule the restriction on the press was removed. He was recalled by the Board of Directors and the Governor Generalship was conferred on Lord Auckland who governed from 1836-1842.

Lord Auckland

 It was during his period that the First Afghan War was fought in which the English suffered reverses. He was succeeded by Lord Ellenborough who governed from 1842-44. 

Lord Ellenborough

His period witnessed the end of the Anglo Afghan relations, annexation of Sind in 1843. He was also recalled by the Board of directors because his relation with them was not satisfactory. He was succeeded by Lord Hardinge. 

Lord Hardinge

Lord Hardinge governed from 1844 to 1848. During this period first Sikh was fought from (1845 -1846).

British Governors and Governor Generals 

Lord Dalhousie (1848-56)

Lord Dalhousie was appointed Governor General of India in 1848. His eight years of rule is considered one of the greatest period of British rule. His policy of Annexation was a lethal weapon of conquest which raised the rule of the East India Company to the height of glory. It was also during his rule that various reforms were brought to improve the conditions of India. Though these directly benefited the British yet they were foundations on which  the country built itself after independence. The policy of annexation known as the Doctrine of Lapse was based on the forfeiture of the right to rule in the absence of a natural heir. By this policy the state of Satara was annexed in 1848, in 1849 the state of Sambhalpur and in 1853 Jhansi was also annexed. After the death of the Raja of Nagpur in 1853 the policy claimed yet another victim. By 1854 owing to the failure to have a natural heir Nagpur too was annexed.

Another method of annexation was by conquest. In 1849 Punjab was annexed after the Second Anglo Sikh War. In 1852 after the Second Burmese Lower Burma known as Pegu was annexed. In 1850 part of the state of Sikkim was annexed on the pretext of maltreatment of English officials. Other territories were annexed on the grounds of misgovernment and Assignment.To this policy fell the territories of Berar in 1853 and Oudh in 1856.

Dalhousie proved his worth in the matters of administration by the demarcation of various departments of the administrative machinery and  appointment of Lieutenant Governor for Bengal. He introduced the non-regulation system under which the non-regulation provinces was to be under a Chief Commissioner responsible to the Governor-General in council. Punjab, Oudh, Burma were a few non-regulating provinces.

Dalhousie introduced Railways and Telegraph in India with a purpose to improve communication which was essential to administer the far flung areas of this vast country. He also reformed the postal system. To undertake works for the public benefit he introduced the public works department. In the educational field ,Dalhousie's reforms such as the system of vernacular education was praise worthy. Anglo Vernacular Schools were established. In the matters of commerce the policy of free trade was introduced by declaring free ports. Indian trade by now was dominated by the English. The military reforms of Dalhousie included the shift of the Bengal Artillery  from Calcutta to Meerut. The Army head quarter shifted to Simla from Calcutta. Sensing the dangers of the increasing Indian troops he proposed reduction of Indian soldiers. He encouraged the inclusion of Gorkhas to the Indian Army; and organised an irregular force for Punjab.

Dalhousie policy of annexations and reforms only appealed to the English interests in India and this is said to have created the grounds for a rise of the Indian opposition which reflected as the mutiny of 1857. Though started by the sepoys of the Indian army, it gave an opportunity for the discontent Indian rulers to express their discontent. It also was an attempt  aimed at erasing the British rule in India. Before the revolt of 1857 several revolts preceded reflecting the Indian opposition to the British domination. They included the Sanyasi revolt of 1770, the Chuar and Ho rebellion of Midnapur in 1768, 1820-22 and 1831. They continued their stand against the British till 1837. The Santhals of Rajmahal hills rebelled in 1855. In 1828 and 1830 the Ahoms in Assam rebelled against the company followed by the Khasi's in the Jaintia and Garo hills.

In 1817-19 the Bhils of the Western Ghats revolted and continued their struggle in 1831 and 1846. The rulers of the Kutch, the Wagheras of Okha Mandal, the Ramosis also revolted against the British. In South India the Raja of Vizianagram, the Poligars of Dindigul and Malabar rose in 1856. The imposition of the subsidiary alliance of 1805 on the ruler of Travancore led to the rise of Diwan Velu Tampi with the Nair battalion.

The revolt of 1857 broke out owing to political, administrative and economic causes besides the social and religious causes. The discontented sepoys of the British army were fuelled by the immediate reason, said to be the use of the greased cartridges. An infuriated sepoy Mangal Pandey is said to have shot dead an officer leading to punishment and disbanding of  the soldiers of that regiment. The revolt spread to the North Central part of India. Owing to poor organisation and superiority of the British forces the revolt was subdued.

The revolt of 1857 was followed by several changes that included the transfer of Indian administration from East India Company to the crown, respect of the honour, dignity and territorial possession of the native princes. Thus the revolt witnesses the end of an era of the rule of the few in the company. It also marked the beginning of an organised struggle for freedom from the British yoke.

Lord Lytton (1876-80)

Lord Lytton took charge in 1876. Though he had excelled as a poet, a novelist and essayist, he was not an able administrator. He brought reforms in trade bringing the policy of free trade. His policy towards the Afghans led to the second Afghan war. The Criticisms of the British policy led to the passing of the Vernacular press Act in 1878 and Indian Arms Act. In the field of financial reforms he brought reduction of Import duties, financial decentralization and equality of tax duties.
During 1876-78 a severe famine affected Madras, Bombay, Mysore and Hyderabad. In 1878 a Famine commission was appointed. Lord Lytton's rule was unpopular.

Lord Ripon (1880-84)

Lord Ripon was appointed the Viceroy of India in 1880. During his rule the Vernacular Press Act of 1882 was repeated. The first Factory Act was passed in 1881 to improve the condition of the factory labourers. The Financial decentralization was further extended. To make the central administration effective a system of Local Self Government was established in 1882. He also brought reforms on Land Revenue policy and the educational fields. The controversial Ilbert bill was passed in 1883 which sought to abolish every judicial disqualification based to have been favourable to India.

Lord Dufferin (1884-88)

Lord Dufferin assumed the Viceroyalty from 1884-88. He was an able administrator who averted a war between the Russian and the Afghans. The third Burmese War of 1885 during his rule resulted in the annexation of Upper Burma. It was during his period that the Indian National Congress was founded. Its first session was held at Bombay.

Lord Lansdowne (1888-93)

During the rule of Lord Lansdowne the British troops occupied Manipur. The Indian Councils Act of 1892 was passed which increased the number of members of the Legislature at the Centre and of Provincial legislatures. The second census of India was held in 1891. The boundary between India and Afghanistan was fixed, known as the Durand line this was to avert confrontations between the Afghans and the British.

Lord Elgin II (1893-99)

During the Viceroyalty of Lord Elgin II the main happenings included the Chitral expedition, the Tirah campaign. The Bubonic Plague that started at Bombay in 1896, the famine of 1896-98 was also note worthy.

Lord Curzon (1899-1905)

Lord Curzon became the Viceroy of Indian in 1899. He brought forth administrative reforms by changes in various aspects of the society. In 1902 a police commission was appointed to look into the police administration. It dealt with the various activities, from recruitment to the internal set up of the department, and the other matters like salaries etc.

To improve the educational system Lord Curzon appointed a Universities commission in 1902 and on the basis of its recommendation, the Indian Universities Act was passed in 1904.

With a view to bring economic reforms legislations regarding famine, land revenue, Irrigation, agriculture, railways, taxation, currency was passed. He also brought judicial reforms besides reorganising the army. In 1904 he passed the Ancient Monument Act with an aim to protect and preserve historical monuments.

The most important change which Lord Curzon was known for, was the partition of Bengal in 1905. This partition was vehemently opposed by the nationalists of Bengal as it sought to segregate the Mohammedan from the Hindus and create a border of separation. It worsened the Indo-British relations.

Lord Minto III (1905-1910)

Lord Minto succeeded as Viceroy when the country was in a state of political unrest owing to Lord Curzon's partition of Bengal. British goods were boycotted and there was a state of lawlessness. Repressive laws were passed to curb it. The Minto Morley reforms of 1909 increased the number of members in the central and provincial legislative councils. The system of communal electorates for Muslims was introduced.

Lord Hardinge (1910-1916)

During the viceroyalty of Lord Hardinge George V who ascended the throne in 1910 visited India in 1911. It was during this that the capital of India was transferred from Calcutta to Delhi. His period also witnesses the outbreak of the First World War. The Indians contributed their part in various battles in Europe and Central Asia.

Lord Chlemsford (1916-1921)

In the event of the on going world war and the Indian contribution in the interest of Britain ,the August declaration of 1917 was passed. It sought to increase the involvement of the Indians in every branch of administration, gradually bringing self government ,to realise a responsible government in India. In 1919 the Government of India Act 1919 was passed which sought to introduce the system of dyarchy in the provinces. The Third Afghan war was fought in 1919. The non-cooperation movement introduced by Mahatma Gandhi was in full swing. It was amidst this that the Jallianwallah Bagh Massacre in Amritsar was inflicted upon by General dyer. The Indian Muslims had started the Khilafat Movement to protest the injustice shown to Turkey by the Allics of the first World War.
Lord Reading (1921-1926)

It was during the viceroyalty of Lord Reading that the Duke of Connaught came to India to inagurate the Montague-Chelemsford reforms. There was a period of boycott and demonstrations by Indian nationalists. The Prince of Wales visited India. This period also witnessed the Khilafat movement, followed by the Chawri chaura incident which resulted in the calling off of the non-cooperation movement started under Mahatma Gandhi.

Lord Irwin (1926-1931)

During this period the important events that occured in India were the appointment of the Simon Commission in 1927 to report the working of the Montague- Chlemsford reforms of 1919. There was demonstrations and boycott. This was followed by the Civil disobedience movement in 1930, led by Mahatma Gandhi. The first round table conference was held in London to discuss the report of the Simon Commission. The Gandhi Irwin pact put at rest the Civil disobedience movement and Gandhi was to attend the second round table conference.

Lord Willingdon (1931-1936)

The second round table conference was held at London. The famous communal Award was instituted by Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald in August 1932. It granted separate electorates to the depressed classes. As this basically aimed at separating Hindus the  Poona Act to eliminate the communal nature of the communal award was passed. The third round table conference was held in 1932. In 1935 the Government of India Act was passed based on the White Paper of the British government of 1933.

Lord Linlithgow (1936-1944)

The provincial part of the Government of India Act of 1935 was introduced. Elections were held in the early part of 1937. The second world war broke out in 1939. The congress split into the Moderates and Extremists. Subhash Chandra Bose formed the Forward bloc. In 1940 Lord Linlithgow offered to solve the constitutional crisis with the Congress. In 1942 Sir Stafford Cripps brought a proposal to settle the constitutional problems. The mission was a failure.
In 1942 the congress passed the Quit India Resolution which aimed to shed off the British control

Lord Wavell  (1944-1947)

Lord Wavell's period marked the end of the world war II. The Simla conference was held in 1941 to resolve the constitutional problems but it failed. In 1946 the cabinet mission plan provided for an interim government laid the procedure for the framing of a constitution for India. A Constituent Assembly was elected and it had its first meeting in 1946.

Lord Mountbatten (1947-1948)

Under Lord Mountbatten the proposal to divide India into India and Pakistan was given shape. The Indian Independence Act was passed as proposed by the June 3rd plan, under Lord Mountbatten. India became Independent on Aug 15, 1947. Lord Mountbatten became the first Governor General of Free India.

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