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Spectrum – Lecture 05 : British Annexation Administration Policies | Modern Indian History – Free PDF Download


  • The process of imperial expansion and consolidation of
  • British paramountcy was carried on by the Company during the 1757–1857 period through a two-fold method: (a) policy of annexation by conquest or war;
  • and (b) policy of annexation by diplomacy and administrative mechanisms
  • In this context, we may cite examples of Warren Hastings’ ‘ring-fence’ policy, Wellesley’s system of ‘subsidiary alliance’, and Dalhousie’s ‘doctrine of lapse’ to see how the British dominion expanded in India

Policy of Ring-Fence

  • Warren Hastings followed a policy of ring-fence. It aimed at creating buffer zones to defend the Company’s frontiers. It reflected in his war against the Marathas and Mysore
  • States brought under the ring-fence system were assured of military assistance against external aggression.
  • But that state has to pay to maintain military forces.
  • Wellesley’s policy of subsidiary alliance was, in fact, an extension of ring-fence system.

Subsidiary Alliance

  • Subsidiary Alliance policy was used by Lord Wellesley.
  • Under Subsidiary Alliance system, allying Indian state’s ruler has to accept
  • Keep British force within his territory and pay a subsidy for its maintenance
  • Posting a British resident in his court
  • Could not employ any European without approval of British
  • Could not negotiate with any other Indian ruler without governor general
  • In return British would defend the ruler from his enemies.
  • Non-interference in the internal matters of the allied state by British.
  • During 7 year rule of Wellesley alone, over 100 small and big states of India signed the Subsidiary Alliance treaty.

Evolution & Perfection

  • Probably Dupleix, who first gave on hire European troops to Indian rulers to fight their wars.
  • 1st Indian state to fall into protection system was Awadh, signed a treaty in 1765.
  • 1787, Company decided that subsidiary alliance state should not have foreign relations.
  • This was included in the treaty with the Nawab of Carnatic which Cornwallis signed in 1787.
  • By means of this system, the Company could station its forces at strategic locations and keep the French at bay. Besides, the subsidiary alliance would expand the Company’s hold over the Indian states and gradually bring more and more territory into the Company’s fold
  • The Indian rulers lost their independence by buying security. They were not free of interference from the British Resident. They lost much of their revenue, paying for the British troops. Also, the alliance made the Indian rulers weak and irresponsible; the subjects were exploited and it was practically impossible to depose the oppressive rulers as they were protected by the British.

Stages of Application of Subsidiary Alliance

  • 1st stage
  • In the process of Subsidiary Alliance, company offered to help a friendly Indian state with its troops to fight any war.
  • 2nd stage
  • It consisted of making a common cause with the Indian state.
  • Made friendly and taking the field with its own soldiers and those of the state.
  • 3rd stage
  • When the Indian ally was asked not for men but for money.
  • Company promised that it would recruit, train, and maintain a fixed number of soldiers under British officers for his state. All for a fixed sum of money.
  • 4th stage Money or the protection fee was fixed, usually at a high level. If state failed to pay money in time, it was asked to cede certain parts of its territories to the Company in lieu of payment.
  • States which Accepted Alliance The Indian princes who accepted the subsidiary system were:
  • the Nizam of Hyderabad (September 1798 and 1800),
  • the ruler of Mysore (1799), the ruler of Tanjore (October 1799),
  • the Nawab of Awadh (November 1801),
  • the Peshwa (December 1801),
  • the Bhonsle Raja of Berar (December 1803),
  • the Scindia (February 1804),
  • the Rajput states of Jodhpur, Jaipur, Macheri, Bundi, and the ruler of Bharatpur (1818).
  • The Holkars were the last Maratha confederation to accept the Subsidiary Alliance in 1818.
  • Doctrine of Lapse
  • In simple terms, the doctrine stated that the adopted son could be the heir to his foster father’s private property, but not the state; it was for the paramount power (the British) to decide whether to bestow the state on the adopted son or to annex it.
  • The doctrine was stated to be based on Hindu law and Indian customs, but Hindu law seemed to be somewhat inconclusive on this point, and the instances of an Indian sovereign annexing the state of his vassal on account of ‘lapse’ (i.e., leaving no issue as heir) were rather rare.
  • Maharaja Ranjit Singh had annexed a few of his feudatory principalities on account of ‘lapse’. Likewise, the Company in 1820 acquired a few petty Cis-Sutlej states on the absence of heirs. Nonetheless, there was no clear-cut instance of an adopted son being deprived of an entire state or of such a state being regarded as a ‘lapse’
  • Ranjit Singh had annexed a few of his feudatory principalities on account of ‘lapse’.
  • Kittur state ruled by Queen Chennamma was taken over in 1824 by imposing a ‘doctrine of lapse’.
  • Lord Dalhousie was not its originator, but he made it official by documenting it.
  • His predecessors had acted on the general principle of avoiding annexation if it could be avoided.
  • Dalhousie in turn acted on the general principle of annexing if he could do so legitimately.
  • 7 states were annexed under the Doctrine of Lapse Policy
  • Satara 1848
  • Jaitpur (Bundelkhand), Sambhalpur (Orissa) 1849
  • Baghat (south of Sutlej) 1850 – canceled
  • Udaipur (central province) 1852 – canceled
  • Jhansi 1853
  • Nagpur 1854
  • Tore and Arcot 1855

  • Lord Dalhousie annexed Awadh in 1856 after deposing Nawab Wajid Ali Shah on grounds of misgovernment. Thus, Dalhousie annexed eight states during his eight year tenure (1848–56) as governor general.
  • In these eight years, he annexed some quarter million square miles of the territory of India. His reign almost completed the process of expansion of British power in India, which began with the victory over Siraj-ud-Daulah at Plassey in 1757

Effects of Doctrine of Lapse

  • Many Indian states lost their sovereignty and became British territories.
  • This led to a lot of unrest among the Indian princes.
  • A lot of people were unhappy with the ‘illegal’ nature of this doctrine and this was one of the causes of the Indian Revolt of 1857.
  • Nana Sahib and the Rani of Jhansi had grievances against the British because the former’s pension was stopped by the British after his foster father died, and the Rani’s adopted son was denied the throne under the doctrine of lapse.
  • Dalhousie returned to Britain in 1856. After the Indian Revolt broke out in 1857, his governance was widely criticised as one of the causes of the rebellion

  • Factors Which Gave Success to British in India
  • Superior Arms, Military Discipline, Civil Discipline , Brilliant Leadership (which did not bother about adopting unscrupulous practices)
  • Financial Strength, Nationalist Pride, Conflict Between English and Nawabs of Bengal
  • Battle of Plassey (June 23, 1757): Robert Clive’s victory over Siraj-ud-Daulah laid the territorial foundation of British rule in India.
  • Battle of Buxar (1764): Clive’s victory over the combined armies of Nawab of Bengal, Nawab of Awadh, and the Mughal Emperor at Buxar laid the real foundation of the English power
  • Treaty of Allahabad (1765): Granted the Diwani Rights of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa to the English.
    • (i) Treaty with Nawab of Awadh
    • (ii) Treaty with Shah Alam II, Mughal Emperor
  • Dual Government—1765–72
  • British Conquest of Mysore
  • First Anglo-Mysore War (1767–69); Treaty of Madras
  • Second Anglo-Mysore War (1779–1784); Treaty of Mangalore
  • Third Anglo-Mysore War (1790–92); Treaty of Seringapatam
  • Fourth Anglo-Mysore War (1799); Mysore is conquered by British forces
  • Anglo-Maratha Struggle for Supremacy
  • First Anglo-Maratha War (1775–82); Treaty of Surat (1775),
  • Treaty of Purandhar (1776), and Treaty of Salbai (1782)
  • Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803–05); Treaty of Bassein,1802

Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817–19)

  • Causes for the defeat of the Marathas (i) Inept leadership (ii) Defective nature of state (iii) Loose political set-up (iv) Inferior military system (v) Ustable economic policy (vi) Superior English diplomacy and espionage (vii) Progressive English outlook
  • Conquest of Sindh (1843) Lord Ellenborough was the Governor General of India
  • Conquest of Punjab
  • Treaty of Amritsar (1809), Ranjit Singh, and the British
  • First Anglo-Sikh War (1845–46)
  • Second Anglo-Sikh War (1848–49)
  • British Paramountcy in Action
  • Ring-fence Policy of Warren Hastings
  • Subsidiary Alliance of Wellesley
  • Subsidised States: Hyderabad (1798; 1800) Mysore (1799) Tanjore (October 1799) Awadh (November 1801) Peshwa (December 1801) Bhonsle of Berar (December 1803) Sindhia (February 1804) Jodhpur (1818) Jaipur (1818) Macheri (1818 Bundi (1818) Bharatpur (1818)
  • Doctrine of Lapse
  • Lapsed States under Lord Dalhousie (1848-56) Satara (1848) Sambhalpur (1849 Baghat (1850) Udaipur (1854) Nagpur (1854) Jhansi (1854) Awadh (1856; on charge of mal-administration)




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