Establishment of British rule in India (1757-1856)

Image: Establishment of British rule in India (1757-1856)

Phase 1: Establishment of British Rule in India (1757-1798)

  1. After the establishment of control over Bengal and prior to the coming of Wellesly, the company was unable to formulate any concrete and permanent policy vis-a-vis the native powers.
  2. The period following the battle of Plassey was a difficult one for the company from the politico-military perspective.
    • After the third battle of Panipat the Maratha power had recuperated.
    • Mysore emerged as the power under Haider Ali.
    • The policies of Nizam were not stable in nature and hence posed a challenge to the company.
    • French did not have a positive view with respect to the Treaty of Paris 1763. So French challenge had not ended.
    • Along with this under the Pitts India Act, 1784 the policy of war and expansion was prohibited.
  3. During this period the company’s policy was mainly defensive. This was in response to keep Bengal safe.
  4. As per this policy, the company tried to safeguard Bengal by way of creating a Buffer Zone. During this period Awadh was used as a Butter zone, which was to protect Bengal from other powers particularly Marathas.
  5. This policy of the company is termed as Ring fence Policy.
  6. But during this period company had to fight wars with two powers i.e., Mysore (1767) and Maratha (1775).

Phase 2: Establishment of British Rule in India (1798-1813)


  1. The changes that took place during Wellesly’s period were favorable for the company.
    • The Maratha power was deteriorating day by day owing to internal struggle.
    • The power of Mysore under Tipu was weakening owing to the Anglo-Mysore wars.
    • The Battle of Kharda 1795 further weakened the Nizam’s power.
    • Indian political system was heading towards decline.
  2. During this changing scenario in India’s political scene, Wellesly tried to expand British influence through the policy of subsidiary alliance (1798).
  3. Through the subsidiary alliance, specific kinds of relations were established with the main local powers, on the basis of which the British adversaries were to be counterbalanced.
  4. The subsidiary alliance was in fact extension of the ring-fence policy, on the basis of which many buffer areas were established like Hyderabad (1798) Mysore (1799), Tanjore (1799) Peshwa (Treaty of Bassien, 1802), Awadh, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Bundi, Bharatpur.


  1. It was during this period efforts were waded towards ending the Mughal emperorship. Mughal ruler during this period was under the protection of Scindhia.
  2. During the Anglo-Maratha war by way of the treaty of Surji Arjungaon (1803), Daulat Rao Scindhia renounced the regentship of the Mughal emperor. Now Shah Alam became the protege of the British.
  3. Wellesly made a new arrangement for the Mughal emperor, under which the entire power was vested in British residents of Delhi.
  4. In the year 1803, the Mughal’s lost their importance as a political power & authority and the Mughal emperor became a protege of the British

Phase 3: Establishment of British Rule in India (1813-1848)

  1. Lord Hastings (1813-1823) imparted a new direction to the British policies. He adopted the policy of interference and war. Along with this, he introduced the concept of Paramountacy and brought it into practice.
  2. The treaties that came into existence during 1817-1823 were based on the principles of imperial paramountcy. For example, the treaties made with Maratha rulers and with the rulers of Rajasthan and Central India.
  3. Hastings negated Mughal authority. This was in fact a facet of British policy to establish its paramountcy. He laid emphasis on ending the remnant of Mughal sovereignty.
  4. Although the Mughal emperor was a protege of the British since 1803 he received all the respect from the British resident of Delhi for which he was entitled to in the capacity of the emperor of India.
  5. On the official stamp, the governor-general was presented as the servant of the emperor and the governor-general presented Nazar to the Mughal emperor.
  6. Hasting criticized this type of attitude and worked towards ending it. He encouraged the Nawabs of Awadh to assume the royal title in order to undermine Mughal.
  7. During the period of Hastings, the areas of Kumaon, Garhwal, and Shimla were acquired through the Anglo-Nepal war (1813-1823), the Maratha power was defeated in the third Anglo Maratha war (1818) and the Peshwa was exiled to Bithur.
  8. The policy of interference in native states was extensively used during the Hastings period and it had become an important facet of British policy.
  9. During Amnerst’s tenure, there was an interference in the states of Alwar and Bharatpur.
  10. During Ellenborough’s tenure, there was interference in the state of Gwalior, Indore, and Hyderabad.
  11. The annexation of Sindh (1843) an important event, in the direction of expansion of the British Empire took place during Ellenborough’s tenure. This annexation had special political, strategic, and commercial importance. The control over Sindh consolidated the position of English on the north-west border.
  12. Bentinck continued the interference in the Mysore state on a permanent basis and deposed its ruler on the basis of Maladministration.
  13. The English policy of interference was not confined to interference only but it also acquired the form of annexation. During this period many areas were annexed on different grounds.
AreaYear Governor-generalCause
Coorg1834BentinckCruelity of ruler
Cachar1834BentinckAbsence of rightful successor
Jainlia1835BentinckPromotion of human sacrifice by ruler
Kaythal1843EllenboroughAbsence of Male heir
  1. Amherst, the successor of Hastings met Mughal emperor Akbar Il without any formalities, and during this meet, he did not present Nazar to the emperor.
  2. Finally, in 1835, the image of the British emperor replaced the name of the Mughal emperor on the company’s coins.

Phase 4: Establishment of British Rule in India (1848-1856)

  1. In practical terms, the period of Dalhousie was the final phase of the expansion of the British Empire in India.
  2. The expansion that took place during Dalhausie’s period and the way areas were assimilated into the British empire was unique and none of the other Governor-General assimilated even half of this area.
  3. Dalhousie gave impetus to expansion not only by way of wars but also through other means these other means were
    • The ground of Misgovernance,
    • The doctrine of Lapse.
  4. The doctrine of lapse was termed as peaceful annexation.
  5. Under the doctrine of lapse, he defined personal property and right over territory and separated them.
  6. Under right over territory, the necessity of special permission of paramount power was emphasized (in case of adopted successor) failing which the provision of its lapsing into paramount power was put forward.
  7. Dalhousie presented an elaborate framework of the Doctrine of lapse and presented a new classification of native states. According to which these were divided into three classes:
    • Class – 1 – This class included those native states which were never under any paramount power, they maintained their independent state and were never tributary to the company.
    • Class – 2 – This class included those native states which were tributary states of company and had remained under paramount power for example Mughals, Peshwa.
    • Class – 3 – This class included those native states that were created, established, or reinstated by the English government.
  8. On the basis of this classification, Dalhousie created the base for special permission.
  9. In the context of class I states, the English had no right to withhold permission. In the case of class 2 states normally the permission was to be granted but the company had the right to negate it. For class 3 states that permission was not to be granted.
  10. On the basis of the doctrine of lapse, the following many native states were annexed:
    • Satara – 1848
    • Jaitpur – 1849
    • Sambalpur – 1849
    • Bghat – 1850
    • Udaipur – 1852
    • Jhansi – 1853
    • Nagpur – 1854
    • Karauli – Annexation was proposed but the court of directors refused to give permission.
  11. Dalhousie annexed Awadh (1856) on the basis of Maladministration. The ruler of Awadh Wajid Ali shah was deported to Calcutta.
  12. Dalhousie annexed lower Burma (Pegu) and some areas of Sikkim through war.
  13. Punjab was annexed through war (1848) and its ruler Dilip Singh and his caretaker Rani Jindan were deported to London.
  14. Dalhousie also planned to abolish the title of Mughal emperor but the court of directors did not approve it.

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