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Subsidiary Alliance System, Meaning, Introduction, Features & Stages

Subsidiary Alliance System

A deal known as the Subsidiary Alliance was thought to have been made between Indian princely states and the British East India Company, ending the superiority of the Indian kingdoms over the British. It is acknowledged as a significant policy that led to the foundation of the British Empire in the Indian nation.

During his reign from 1798 to 1805 as the Governor-General of India, Lord Wellesley, popularized the subsidiary alliance. However, the phrase was first used by Marquis Dupleix, a French Governor-General. Nawab of Awadh was the first king to join a supplementary alliance following the War of Buxar. Nevertheless, the Nizam of state Hyderabad was the first to establish a strong subsidiary alliance.

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What is Subsidiary Alliance

Lord Wellesley established the Subsidiary Alliance System, which was effectively an agreement between the princely kingdoms and the British East India Company. Princely states gave over their sovereignty to the British under the subsidiary alliance system in exchange for safety.

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Who Introduced Subsidiary Alliance

Governor Joseph Francois Dupleix of the French East India Company was the first to develop the subsidiary alliance system. Later, Lord Wellesley, who served as Governor-General of India from 1798 to 1805, used it. Lord Wellesley established a policy of non-intervention in the princely kingdoms early on in his tenure as governor. But afterwards, he adopted a strategy of creating subsidiary alliances, which significantly contributed to the spread of British power in India.

Subsidiary Alliance System Features

Under the subsidiary alliance plan, the monarch of the Allied Indian State was expected to consent to the permanent stationing of a British military within his jurisdiction and to provide a stipend for its upkeep. An Indian king had to disband his own military troops and consent to British forces in his territory in order to establish a Subsidiary Alliance with the British.

The upkeep of the British troops was another expense he had to cover. He would lose ownership of a portion of his land and relinquish it to the British if he didn’t pay. The British agreed to safeguard the Indian state in return from any external invasion or internal insurrection. The British promised not to meddle in the internal affairs of the Indian state, but this promise was rarely kept.

The Indian state forbade alliances with any other foreign nation. In addition, he was only able to employ Englishmen as foreign workers. As soon as the partnership agreement was finalized, he had to fire any employees he might have had. The intention was to reduce French influence. There were no political links among Indian states without British approval.

As a result, the Indian king was stripped of all authority over the military and foreign policy. He almost completely lost his independence and was turned into a British “protectorate.” A British resident was also stationed in the Indian Court.

Subsidiary Alliances UPSC Various Stages

First Stage

The British pledged to give the native leaders a specific army in exchange for a set capital payment.

Second Stage

In exchange for a predetermined annual payment, the English agreed to maintain an everlasting military force to support their partner.

Third Stage

In exchange for a set amount of money each year, the British agreed to support a small subsidiary power to help their ally and keep pressure on them within their own boundaries.

Fourth and Last Stage

British promised to maintain a constant and stationary subsidiary force within their partner’s territory that was started by Lord Wellesley.

Subsidiary Alliance Policy

The Nizam of Hyderabad

It severed the Nizam’s ties to France in 1798 and forbade him from forming alliances with the Maratha without British consent. The Subsidiary Alliance was first signed by the Nizam of Hyderabad.

The Nawab of Awadh

Mysore was made the second state in 1799. The Nawab of Awadh was then coerced by Wellesley to join the Policy of Subsidiary Alliance in AD 1801.

Peshwa Baji Rao II

This strategy was employed by Peshwa Baji Rao II to rule his domain in 1802 AD. Many Maratha states, including Bhosle and Scindia, consented to the terms of the strategy in AD 1803. The terms of the subsidiary alliance were also accepted by the final Maratha Confederation, the Holkars.

Treaty of Allahabad

Lord Clive also implemented the subsidiary system in Oudh, and the Treaty of Allahabad was established, in which the British vowed to defend the region against enemies like the Marathas. The Company compelled the transfer of Gorakhpur, Rohilkhand, and the Doab for the purpose of maintaining troops.

Subsidiary Alliance Advantages

Increases in the Company’s Resources

The English Company’s resources increased as a result of the subsidiary structure, and it was in large part thanks to these resources that the English Company was able to become the dominating force in the nation. The Indian States that established subsidiary alliances gave the English Company money or territories from which to support troops.

They were always subject to the whims of the English Company. As a result, the troops actually enhanced the English Company’s resources even though they were purportedly paid for by the Indian States to defend them.

Enhanced Military Power and Influence at the Expense of Local Authority

The concept of subsidiary alliances allowed the English Company to push their military frontier before their political frontier. Despite not being given responsibility for managing the States that joined the subsidiary system, the English Company’s influence grew nonetheless.

Lower Risk of Damage from War

Because the majority of the wars were fought on the territory of the States joining the subsidiary alliance, the English Company’s territories did not suffer..

Indian States Lost their National Authority

Indian states lost their right to be sovereign. They were not allowed to establish diplomatic relations with one another without the knowledge or consent of the firm. The likelihood that their coordinated efforts to overthrow the firm would be successful was reduced. They never on their own presented a danger to the Company’s survival. As a result, the English gradually took over as the de facto rulers of his state. The British subjugated the local kings to a “protectorate.”

French Influence was Reduced

Due to their inability to work in the courts of the native rulers, the French influence was completely eradicated.

Continued Growth

The local Indian ruler faced a huge financial burden from maintaining the subsidiary force, which he mainly failed to meet. The British pushed him to cede more of his territory as a result of the subsidiary alliance policy, which also facilitated the Company’s ongoing Indian expansion.

Subsidiary Alliance Disadvantages

Powers Over State-Related Issues

Most of the fertile and strategically important areas owned by the original Indian monarch were progressively seized by the English. By placing the whole financial burden of supporting the army on the original state’s inhabitants, it drove them into abject poverty.

The policy exempted English citizens from interfering with the internal affairs of the native sovereign. However, in reality, the British had total control over the monarchs in all affairs of state..


The growth of chaos due to the hundreds of soldiers sent by the Indian rulers going without work was another drawback of the establishment of subsidiary forces. In central India, where the Pindaris menace presented a major threat to the inhabitants, the freebooting acts of dissolving soldiers were particularly visible.

Indian Patriotism has Weakened

The local rulers gradually lost their authority, sense of patriotism, and even their capacity to rule and build up their armies. As a result, their moral character and capacity for state leadership declined, which made it simpler for the British to seize total control of the state.

The inhabitants of the state were no longer able to overthrow their incompetent king by revolting against him because the English, with considerably more resources than a single ruler, protected every allied ruler against every foreign attack and home insurrection. This strategy allowed the British to take complete control of the state’s operations, rendering the native monarch and his subjects completely helpless.

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What is subsidiary alliance?

The Subsidiary Alliance was essentially a pact between the British East India Company and the princely states of India, through which the English gained control over the Indian kingdoms. It was also a significant factor in the development of the British Empire in India.

Who started subsidiary alliance in India?

While serving as the Governor-General of India from 1798 to 1805, Lord Wellesley developed the subsidiary alliance in India. - The princely Indian nations and the British East India Company signed the Subsidiary Alliance, which required the Indian kingdoms to cede control to the English.

What was the policy of subsidiary alliance?

In order to build the British Empire in India, Lord Wellesley, the Governor-General (1798–1805), used the subsidiary alliance system as part of his "non-intervention policy." Each Indian king was required, under this system, to consent to giving the British a stipend for the upkeep of their army.

Who started the subsidiary alliance system and why?

Governor Joseph Francois Dupleix of the French East India Company was the first to develop the subsidiary alliance system. Later, Lord Wellesley, who served as Governor-General of India from 1798 to 1805, used it. Lord Wellesley established a policy of non-intervention in the princely kingdoms early on in his tenure as governor.

What is meant by subsidiary system?

In exchange for the East India Company's assurances that it would defend them from outsiders, the Subsidiary Alliance system forced Indian kings to accept the Company's sovereignty over themselves. The Nizam of Hyderabad served as the first leader of the Subsidiary Alliance.

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