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 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
- Governor General Warren Hastings (1773-1785) introduced several administrative reforms, notably in the sphere of justice.
- A new system of justice was established from 1772. Each district was to have two courts; a criminal court and a civil court. The criminal court was called fauzdari adalat and the civil court was called diwani adalat. The European district collectors presided over civil courts. The criminal courts were still under a qazi and a mufti but they were also supervised by the collector. Maulvis and Hindu pundits interpreted the Indian laws for the collector.
- Different interpretations by different Brahman pundits created lot of confusion. To bring a uniformity, eleven pundits were asked to compile a digest of Hindu laws; in 1775. N. B. Halhed translated this digest into English. Muslim law was also compiled in similar way by 1778.
- A new Supreme Court was established under the Regulating Act of 1773. A court of appeal; the Sadar Nizamat Adalat; was also set up at Calcutta.
- The Collector was the principal figure in an Indian district. His main job was to collect revenue and taxes and maintain law and order. His office was called the Collectorate. The Collectorate became the new center of power and patronage. Gradually, it replaced the previous holders of authority.
The Company army
- As warfare technology changed from the 1820s, the Company army had to keep pace with changing military requirements. Now, the infantry regiment became more important.
- In the early nineteenth century the British began to develop a uniform military culture. Soldiers were increasingly subjected to European-style training. Now, drill and discipline regulated their life far more than before.
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.