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Presidencies and provinces of British India

Presidencies and provinces of British India
presidencies-and-provinces-of-british-india

Provinces of India, earlier Presidencies of British India, still earlier, Presidency towns, and collectively British India, were the administrative units of the territories of India under the tenancy or the sovereignty of either the English East India Company or the British Crown between 1612 and 1947.

British India is divided into three periods. From the early 17th century to the middle of the 18th century, the East India Company traded in India on the sufferance of the native powers. Its rivals were the merchant trading companies of Holland and France. In the next hundred years, referred to as Company rule in India, the Company acquired paramountcy, but increasingly shared its sovereignty with the Crown, gradually losing its mercantile privileges. Following the Mutiny of 1857, the Company's remaining powers were transferred to the Crown initiating the period of the British Raj (1858–1947). The term "British India" has also been used secondarily as a shortened form for "the British nation in India


Colonial India
a rigged sailing ship
The East Indiaman Repulse (1820)
Colonial India
Portuguese India1510–1961
Dutch India1605–1825
Danish India1620–1869
French India1759–1954
British India 1613–1947
East India Company1612–1757
Company rule in India1757–1857
British Raj1858–1947
British rule in Burma1824–1867
Princely states1765–1947
Partition of India
1947
v · d · e

The East India Company established its first permanent factory in India, in 1612, by the European trading companies.[2] However, following the decline of the Mughal Empire in 1707 and after the East India Company's victory at the Battle of Plassey in 1757 and Battle of Buxar in 1764, the Company gradually began to formally expand its dominions.[3] By the mid-19th century, the East India Company had become the paramount political and military power on the subcontinent, its territory held in trust for the British Crown.[4]

Company rule in India, however, ended with the Government of India Act 1858 following the events of the Indian rebellion of 1857.[4] British India was thereafter directly ruled by the British Crown as a colonial possession of the United Kingdom, and India was officially known after 1876 as the Empire of India.[5] India consisted of regions referred to as British India that were directly administered by the British,[6] and other regions, the Princely States,[7] that were ruled by Indian rulers. These rulers were allowed a measure of internal autonomy in exchange for British suzerainty. British India constituted a significant portion of India both in area and population; in 1910, for example, it covered approximately 54% of the area and included over 77% of the population.[8] In addition, there were Portuguese and French exclaves in India. Independence from British rule was achieved in 1947 with the formation of the Dominions of India and Pakistan, the latter also including present-day Bangladesh.

The term British India also applied to Burma for a shorter time period: starting in 1824, a small part of Burma, and by 1886, almost two thirds of Burma had come under British India.[6] This arrangement lasted until 1937, when Burma commenced being administered as a separate British colony. British India did not apply to other countries in the region, such as Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), which was a British Crown Colony, or the Maldive Islands, which were a British protectorate. At its greatest extent, in the early 20th-century, the territory of British India extended as far as the frontiers of Persia in the west; Afghanistan in the northwest; Tibet in the northeast; and China, French Indo-China and Siam in the east. It also included the Colony of Aden in the Arabian Peninsula.[9]

[edit] Presidency towns (1600–1765)

The East India Company, which was incorporated on December 31, 1600, established trade relations with Indian rulers in Masulipatam on the east coast in 1611 and Surat on the west coast in 1612.[10] The company rented a trading outpost in Madras in 1639.[10][10] Bombay, which was ceded to the British Crown by Portugal as part of the wedding dowry of Catherine of Braganza in 1661, was in turn granted to the East India Company to be held in trust for the Crown.[10]

Meanwhile, in eastern India, after obtaining permission from the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan to trade with Bengal, the Company established its first factory at Hoogly in 1640.[10] Almost a half-century later, after Emperor Aurengzeb forced the Company out of Hooghly, Calcutta was founded by Job Charnock in 1686.[10] By the mid-18th century the three principal trading settlements, now called the Madras Presidency (or the Presidency of Fort St. George), the Bombay Presidency, and the Bengal Presidency (or the Presidency of Fort William) were each administered by a Governor.[11]

[edit] Presidencies of British India (1772–1858)

After Robert Clive's victory in the Battle of Plassey in 1757, the puppet government of a new Nawab of Bengal, was maintained by the East India Company.[12] However, after the invasion of Bengal by the Nawab of Oudh in 1764 and his subsequent defeat in the Battle of Buxar, the Company obtained the Diwani of Bengal, which included the right to administer and collect land-revenue (land tax) in Bengal, the region of present-day Bangladesh, West Bengal and Bihar.[12] In 1772, the Company also obtained the Nizāmat of Bengal (the "exercise of criminal jurisdiction") and thereby full sovereignty of the expanded Bengal Presidency.[12] During the period, 1773 to 1785, very little changed; the only exceptions were the addition of the dominions of the Raja of Banares to the western boundary of the Bengal Presidency, and the addition of Salsette Island to the Bombay Presidency.[13]

Portions of the Kingdom of Mysore were annexed to the Madras Presidency after the Third Anglo-Mysore War ended in 1792. Next, in 1799, after the defeat of Tipu Sultan in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War more of his territory was annexed to the Madras Presidency.[13] In 1801, Carnatic, which had been under the suzerainty of the Company, began to be directly administered by it as a part of the Madras Presidency.[14]

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