From Trade to Territory

The claim to paramountcy

Governor General Lord Hastings (1813-1823) initiated a new policy of paramountcy. According to this policy, the Company claimed that its authority was paramount or supreme. It could annex or threaten to annex any Indian kingdom to protect its interests. The later British policies were guided by this policy.

Rani Channamma: Rani Channamma was the ruler of small state of Kitoor (in modern Karnataka). She took to arms and led an anti-British resistance. She was arrested in 1824 and died in prison in 1829. But a poor chowkidar of Sangoli in Kitoor; named Rayanna; carried on the resistance. He was caught and hanged by the British in 1830.


Annexation of Punjab: In the late 1830s, the Company feared a threat from Russia. In order to prevent Russia from entering India, the Company wanted to get control over the north-west. The Company established indirect control over Afghanistan after a prolonged war between 1838 and 1842. It took over Sind in 1843. After the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839, the Company fought two prolonged wars with the Sikh kingdom. Finally, Punjab was annexed in 1849.

The Doctrine of Lapse

Governor General Lord Dalhousie (1848-1856) devised the policy of the Doctrine of Lapse. According to this policy, if an Indian ruler died without a male heir his kingdom would “lapse” and would become a part of the Company territory. Many kingdoms were annexed by using this doctrine, e.g. Satara (1848), Sambalpur (1850), Udaipur (1852), Nagpur (1853) and Jhansi (1854).

Annexation of Awadh: The British argued that people of Awadh were suffering from misrule of the nawab. It was the duty of the Company to relieve people from that misrule. Awadh was annexed in 1856.


Setting up a New Administration

The Company army

By 1857 the Company came to exercise direct rule over about 63 per cent of the territory. About 78 per cent of the population of the Indian subcontinent was under Company rule.



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