British India

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British India was the area of India in South Asia which for hundreds of years was under the influence of the English (later the British). From the 1600s until 1858 these areas were run by the English East India Company. After 1858 until 1947 they became the British Raj. Some areas were under the direct rule of the Governor-General of India. He was appointed by the Government of the United Kingdom in London, and was a Viceroy, meaning, the deputy of Queen Victoria. In princely states where an agreement was reached, the traditional rule continued, but the British had an influence.

After 1876 when Queen Victoria become Empress of India, British India was part of the British Indian Empire, which also included hundreds of Indian princely states which had never been conquered by the British and still had control of their own affairs. These were each ruled by local rulers under the protection of the British. This empire is sometimes called the British Raj.

British India ruled from the east included the regions of the present-day of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, Republic of India, Burma and Pakistan (1858–13th August 1947).


Aftermath of the Rebellion of 1857: Indian critiques, British response[edit]

Although the rebellion had shaken the British enterprise in India, it had not derailed it. After the war, the British became more circumspect. Much thought was devoted to the causes of the rebellion and three main lessons were drawn. First, at a practical level, it was felt that there needed to be more communication and camaraderie between the British and Indians—not just between British army officers and their Indian staff but in civilian life as well.[1] The Indian army was completely reorganised: units composed of the Muslims and Brahmins of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, who had formed the core of the rebellion, were disbanded. New regiments, like the Sikhs and Baluchis, composed of Indians who, in British estimation, had demonstrated steadfastness, were formed. From then on, the Indian army was to remain unchanged in its organisation until 1947.The 1861 Census had revealed that the English population in India was 125,945. Of these only about 41,862 were civilians as compared with about 84,083 European officers and men of the Army.[2] In 1880, the standing Indian Army consisted of 66,000 British soldiers, 130,000 Natives, and 350,000 soldiers in the princely armies.[3]

Second, it was also felt that both the princes and the large land-holders, by not joining the rebellion, had proved to be, in Lord Canning's words, "breakwaters in a storm". They too were rewarded in the new British Raj by being officially recognised in the treaties each state now signed with the Crown. At the same time, it was felt that the peasants, for whose benefit the large land-reforms of the United Provinces had been undertaken, had shown disloyalty, by, in many cases, fighting for their former landlords against the British. Consequently, no more land reforms were implemented for the next 90 years: Bengal and Bihar were to remain the realms of large land holdings (unlike the Punjab and Uttar Pradesh).[4]


At independence in 1947, British India had seventeen provinces.

India was split into Union of India and Dominion of Pakistan. Twelve provinces (Ajmer-Merwara-Kekri, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Assam, Bihar, Bombay, Central Provinces and Berar, Coorg, Delhi, Madras, Panth-Piploda, Orissa, and the United Provinces) became provinces within India. Three (Baluchistan, North-West Frontier, and Sindh) were in Pakistan. Two (Bengal and Punjab) were shared between India and Pakistan.

In 1950, after the new Indian Constitution, the provinces in India were replaced by states and union territories. Pakistan kept its five provinces. East Bengal, which was renamed East Pakistan in 1956, became the independent nation of Bangladesh in 1971.