“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers…

An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.

“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers……….
An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.

The Knowledge Library

British Conquest of India From 1756 – 1818


The province of Bengal was the most fertile and suitable for trade and commerce. The British saw its importance and established a factory in Calcutta. The Farman issued by the Mughal emperor allowed free trade in Bengal but the Farman didn’t apply to private trade by Company officials. The Nawabs of Bengal had forced the British to pay heavy taxes due to the wrong interpretation of the Farman. Yet the Company officials continued to break rules whenever given a chance. Nawab of Bengal was now Siraj Ud Dawlah, he learned of fortification by the British and French. He ordered them to cease from this but the British continued. The Nawab waged a battle and defeated the British. But in haste he allowed them to escape to an island guarded by the British navy. The Company officials waited there for reinforcements from madras. Meanwhile, they managed to lure Mir Jafar and other nobles of the Nawabs court to their side. In the battle between the English army led by Robert Clive and Admiral Watson and Nawab at Plessey, the Nawab was defeated. He was captured and executed. Mir Jafar replaced him. Mir Jafar paid tributes to the Company but soon even he couldn’t meet their demands and the British felt that he wasn’t able to fulfill their expectations soon he too was replaced by his son-in-law Mir Qasim.

Mir Qasim proved to be a threat to the British power in Bengal. He wanted to free Bengal from British control. For this, he wanted to build a strong army and good administration. On the other hand, the British wanted a titular Nawab. This led to a confrontation between them and soon the Nawab with the help of Shuja Ud Dawlah, Nawab of Awadh, and Shah Alam II, the fugitive Mughal emperor waged a war against the British. In this battle of Buxar, they were defeated.

The battle of Buxar established British supremacy in India. The British got the Diwani rights of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa. All conquerors of Odessa wanted domination over the Puri temple as it gave legitimacy to their rule in minds of locals.

The Diwani rights gave the British full and legitimate control over Bengal. The governor of Bengal Robert Clive started a dual system of government where the British were in charge of collecting revenue and the army but Nawab and his officials were in charge of administration. In effect, this system meant no responsibility for both sides. The Nawab was entrusted with the responsibility of collecting revenue on behalf of the British so they plundered the peasants for as much as they could and passed on a share to the British. This led to untold oppression in Bengal.

Sind: The British feared that Russia might try to attack India through Persia or Afghanistan. This had to be prevented and hence British had to increase their influence in both these countries. To do this Sind had to be brought under control.

The policy of annexation from 1848 to 1856

    Lord Dalhousie came to India as the governor-general and he wanted to extend his rule to all parts of India. This he felt as he believed the British rule was better than the corrupt and oppressive native rulers. He did this by his doctrine of lapse method. This meant that if the ruler of a protectorate state died without a natural heir then the state would be annexed by the British. The right of inheritance of the adopted child wasn’t recognized.


  1. Warren Hastings.

He followed Robert Clive as the governor of fort William. He was a reformist and the steps he took were:

  1. Abolished dual government system and the now the Company servants collected revenue on their own.
  2. A Board of revenue was created and collectors were established to collect revenue. The treasury was moved to a safer location in Calcutta from Murshidabad. Calcutta soon became the capital of Bengal and then India.
  3. To remove the highly corrupt judicial system. Civil courts were created presided by the collectors and criminal courts by an Indian judge. Appellate courts for civil and criminal cases were there in Calcutta. Highest court of appeal for civil cases was sadar diwani adalat and criminal cases were sadar Nizamat adalat.
  4. A bank was established in Calcutta. The prepaid postal system was introduced. Police too were created to stop dacoits.
  5. He was a patron of Indian languages and arts. He was a person of oriental tastes.

Regulating Act, 1773:

The controller of east India Company was the court of proprietors and court of directors. The three presidencies were independent and managed by the governor and his council. The court of directors was elected annually and managed the affairs of the Company. The mismanagement of Indian territories led to the bankruptcy of the Company and the directors asked for a loan. The government passed this act as a precondition for the loan.

It laid the foundations for a centralized administration in India. Governor of Bengal became the governor-general of Bengal with an executive council of four to assist him. Decisions would be taken by the majority and the governor-general could only vote in case of a tie. The presidencies of Madras and Bombay lost their independence and became subordinate to Bengal.

It established a supreme court of justice at Calcutta. It prohibited the servants of EIC from accepting gifts and engaging in private trade.

Pitts Act, 1784:

    The Board of control was established to control political affairs in India. So a system of dual government was created. The number of members in the governor’s council was reduced to 3. The board of control was responsible to the parliament and controlled political affairs. The court of directors was in control of commercial affairs.

An amendment to this act in 1786 allowed the governor-general to overrule the majority of his council.

  1.  Lord Cornwallis

He was a respected aristocrat. He led the British army in the war against America. Although he had to surrender he still commanded deep respect amongst his fellow countrymen.

Salient points of his rule were:

  1. He increased the salaries of the Company servants and prohibited their private trade.
  2. He removed collectors from the post of judges of the civil courts. Separated judiciary and administration.
  3. Indian judges were appointed at the lowest judicial levels. District and city courts had European judges. The provincial court of appeals had European judges. The highest court of appeal in civil and criminal courts was the governor-general in the council.
  4. He appointed dark gas in every thana for policing.
  5. He was the father of the Indian civil service.
  6. He was responsible for implementing permanent settlements in Bengal and Bihar.
  7. He was responsible for the reformation, modernization, and rationalization of civil service. He started the covenanted civil service with only Europeans and un-covenanted civil service for others.

III. Richard Wellesley

He was famous for introducing the subsidiary alliance system.

  1. Pindaris rose during his regime as the thousands of soldiers became unemployed as they were dismissed due to the subsidiary alliance. These soldiers became dacoits.
  2. He was the maker of the madras presidency and creator of Agra province.
  1.  Lord Hastings.

Salient features of his administration:

  1. Nepal and British territories were bordering each other. The Gurkha was aggressive and this led to the confrontation. Lord Hastings declared war on Nepal and defeated them.
  2. Ended the menace of the Pindaris.
  3. Defeated the Marathas.
  4. He was the maker of the Bombay province.

   William Bentinck

He was the first governor-general to believe in serving the Indian people.

Salient features of his administration:

  1. He followed a policy of non-intervention and non-aggression with Indian princely states.
  2. He abolished the provincial court of appeals.
  3. Introduction of local languages in lower courts and English in higher courts.
  4. Responsible for the abolition of sati, female infanticide, and suppression of thugs.
  5. English became the official language of India. Calcutta medical college was established.
  6. Introduction of English education.

Charter Act, 1813: It reduced the monopoly of EIC to trade with India. But it kept a monopoly on trade with China. It also allocated an amount of Rs. 1 lakh for the promotion of Indian education.

Charter Act, 1833: Ended all monopolies of EIC with respect to trade. The Governor-General of Bengal became the governor-general of India. It laid the foundation for the Indianisation of public services.

  1.  Lord Dalhousie

He was the youngest governor-general.

Salient features of his administration:

  1. He followed the policy of annexation by annexing Punjab, lower Burma, Oudh, and central provinces to the British Empire.
  2. He annexed the princely states if the rulers died without natural heirs. His doctrine of lapse was the reason many kingdoms were added to the British Empire. This policy was one of the reasons for princes joining the 1857 mutiny.
  3. The annexation of Oudh affected the sepoys of the British army as many came from Oudh. They had privileged positions in the army but after the annexation, they became the same as the remaining population. This too became a reason for 1857 mutiny.
  4. He molded the new provinces into a centralized state. He shifted the Bengal artillery to Meerut and shiplap became the permanent headquarters of the army.
  5. Railways were started in India by him. The reasons were commercial, administrative, and defense.
  6. A Telegraph line was laid from Calcutta to the diamond harbor. Telegraph and railways were very useful for crushing the 1857 mutiny.
  7. Post stamps were introduced. A Uniform rate of half Anna was charged on posts throughout the country.
  8. The universities of Calcutta, Madras, and Mumbai were founded in 1857. John Wilson was the first chancellor of Mumbai University and KT Telang was the first Indian chancellor.
  9. He modernized the public works department and laid the foundation for engineering service in India.

He introduced the process of modernization in India and is hailed as The Maker of Modern India.

VII. Lord Lytton

Salient features of his administration:

  1. The vernacular press act was passed to muzzle periodicals in Indian languages and curtail freedom of the press.
  2. Arms act was passed to prevent Indians from keeping arms without license.

VIII. Lord Ripon

  1. Repealed the vernacular press act.
  2. Father of local self-government. Started telephone in Kolkata in 1881.
  3. Appointed hunter commission for expansion and improvement in elementary education for the masses.
  4. Passed the factory act to improve working conditions in factories.
  5. Tied to pass the Illbert bill which would have allowed Indian magistrates to try Europeans. But the bill was rejected due to the popular protest against it.
  1.  Lord Curzon
  2. Passed the universities act that brought all universities under government control.
  3. Police training schools were started for officers and constables.
  4. Passed the legislation making it mandatory for the government to protect archaeological monuments.
  5. Partition of Bengal was done by him.

Note: The first census and statistical survey of India was conducted by Lord Mayo

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