Chapter-5 : Expansion and Consolidation of British Rule in India


British Rule in India: Expansion and Consolidation

Early Motivations and Strategies (17th – Mid-18th Centuries)

  • Focus on Trade:The British East India Company prioritized trade, establishing factories (trading posts) in coastal regions.
  • Exploiting Political Instability:The fragmented political landscape in India allowed the British to manipulate local rulers for trade concessions and influence.
  • Military Intervention:Wars secured trade routes and established alliances (e.g., Subsidiary Alliance System) that obligated Indian states to provide military support to the British.

Shifting Goals and Methods (Late 18th Century Onwards)

  • Imperial Ambitions:British officials and politicians in Britain increasingly desired a full-fledged empire in India.
  • Profit Motive:The immense wealth generated from trade in India fueled further expansionist ambitions.
  • Military Victories:Decisive victories like Plassey (1757) weakened rival powers (French) and established British dominance.
  • Aggressive Governors:Governors like Lord Wellesley (1798-1818) actively expanded British control through warfare and alliances.
  • Shift in Terminology:Territories were no longer “acquired” but “conquered,” reflecting a more assertive British stance.

Challenges and Rivalries

  • Maratha Power:The Marathas remained a significant force in India until their defeat at Panipat (1761).
  • European Competition:France also sought influence in India, leading to Anglo-French conflicts.

The Long Road to Consolidation (c. 80 Years)

  • Gradual Process:Establishing complete British control took a long time, marked by continuous warfare and political maneuvering.
  • Lingering Rivalries:Even after key victories, the British didn’t completely eliminate regional powers like Mysore.
  • Historical Context:Modern perspectives might not fully capture the complexities of the era’s power dynamics.

Unresolved Questions

  • Reasons for British Success:Historians debate why the British conquered India with relative ease. Factors like internal conflicts within India and European rivalries are considered.

Additional Notes

  • The British conquest of India can be seen as a multifaceted process driven by a combination of economic, political, and military factors.
  • The timeline of British expansion is not clear-cut, with different historians proposing various turning points (e.g., 1740, 1757, 1761).
  • Understanding British rule in India requires acknowledging both the agency of the British and the complex political landscape of pre-colonial India.

Why Did the British Succeed in India?

Military Superiority

  • British firearms (muskets, cannons) surpassed Indian weaponry in firing speed and range.
  • Indian attempts to modernize (hiring European officers) lacked originality and discipline.

Discipline and Organization

  • The British employed a professional army with regular salaries and strict discipline.
  • Indian rulers often struggled to pay troops, leading to reliance on unreliable mercenaries.

Leadership and Administration

  • British officers were chosen based on merit, leading to a competent and loyal force.
  • Indian leadership relied on hereditary positions and personal ties, compromising effectiveness.

Strong Leadership

  • Figures like Clive, Hastings, and Dalhousie provided exceptional strategic direction.
  • Second-tier British leaders were highly motivated and patriotic.
  • While India had talented leaders (Haider Ali, Tipu Sultan), they lacked a cohesive team or a unified national vision.

Financial Strength

  • The East India Company’s profits funded wars and expansion.
  • England’s global trade provided vast resources and economic power.
  • Most Indian states faced financial constraints, hindering military investment.

Nationalist Drive

  • British national pride and a focus on material advancement fueled their ambition.
  • Fragmented Indian kingdoms lacked a sense of national unity or a shared vision.

Bengal on the Eve of British Conquest

Bengal’s Prosperity

  • Richest province of the Mughal Empire (present-day Bangladesh, Bihar, Odisha)
  • Major exports: saltpeter, rice, indigo, textiles, etc.
  • Flourishing trade attracted the British East India Company (EIC).

British East India Company in Bengal

  • Established factories (trading posts) in Bengal (1630s onwards).
  • Calcutta founded (1690s) as a key commercial center.
  • Paid a small annual tax to the Mughal emperor for trade rights.
  • EIC exports from Bengal far exceeded the tax paid (over £50,000 annually).

Factors Contributing to Bengal’s Prosperity

  • Relatively stable compared to other regions facing conflicts.
  • Population boom in Calcutta (15,000 in 1706 to 100,000 in 1750).
  • Other prosperous cities like Dacca and Murshidabad.

Friction Between Bengal and EIC

  • Nawabs (governors) of Bengal resented EIC’s special privileges.
  • EIC’s trade concessions led to loss of revenue for Bengal.
  • Growing tension laid the groundwork for future conflict.

Alivardi Khan’s Rule (1741-1756)

  • Defeated Maratha incursions, maintained stability.
  • Granted permission to the EIC to fortify Calcutta (later regretted).

Siraj-ud-Daulah Inherits Challenges (1756)

  • Young and inexperienced ruler facing internal conflicts.
  • Rivals within the court and a discontented population.
  • Alarmed by the growing power of the EIC.

The Battle of Plassey and British Expansion in Bengal

Tensions Leading to Plassey (1756)

  • British East India Company (EIC) misused trade privileges, harming Bengal’s finances.
  • EIC fortified Calcutta without permission and harbored a fugitive, Krishna Das.
  • Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah suspected EIC collusion with the French and attacked Fort William (Calcutta).
  • The “Black Hole Tragedy” (disputed by historians) further strained relations.

Clive, Conspiracy, and Conquest (1757)

  • Robert Clive led a reinforced British force from Madras to Bengal.
  • Clive secretly formed an alliance with Mir Jafar, a disloyal nawab official.
  • The pact promised Mir Jafar the throne in exchange for aiding the British.
  • With this betrayal, the British army under Clive defeated Siraj’s larger force at Plassey (June 23, 1757).
  • Siraj was captured and murdered by Mir Jafar’s son.

Aftermath of Plassey

  • Mir Jafar became Nawab, paying a large sum and ceding the zamindari of 24 Parganas to the EIC.
  • The Battle of Plassey is considered a turning point for British dominance in India.
  • The EIC gained:
    • Political influence: Effective control over Bengal’s affairs.
    • Military superiority: Established dominance over French rivals.
    • Economic benefits: Virtual monopoly on Bengal’s trade.

Mir Kasim (1760-1763)

  • Mir Jafar’s growing frustration with EIC interference led to a failed conspiracy with the Dutch.
  • Mir Kasim became Nawab in 1760 after a treaty with the EIC.
    • Key points of the treaty:
      • Ceded territories to the EIC (Burdwan, Midnapur, Chittagong).
      • Agreed to trade concessions and financial obligations.
    • Mir Jafar was forced to resign in favor of Mir Kasim.

Mir Kasim’s Reforms

  • Mir Kasim attempted to assert control by:
    • Shifting the capital from Murshidabad to Munger.
    • Reorganizing the bureaucracy and reforming the army.
  • These reforms clashed with EIC interests, leading to further conflict.

The Battle of Buxar and The Treaty of Allahabad

Friction Between Mir Kasim and EIC (1760s)

  • Mir Kasim, Nawab of Bengal (1760-1763), clashed with the EIC over:
    • EIC officials’ abuse of trade permits (dastaks) for private gain.
    • Loss of tax revenue due to EIC’s duty-free trade privileges.
    • EIC’s support for defiant officials like Ram Narayan of Bihar.

Outbreak of War (1763)

  • Mir Kasim attempted to abolish transit duties, further straining relations.
  • The EIC defeated Mir Kasim’s forces in a series of battles (Katwa, Murshidabad, etc.).
  • Mir Kasim fled to Awadh, forming an alliance with the Nawab of Awadh and the Mughal Emperor.

The Battle of Buxar (1764)

  • A combined army led by Mir Kasim, the Nawab of Awadh, and the Mughal Emperor faced defeat by the British under Major Hector Munro.
  • Significance of Buxar:
    • EIC victory established them as a major power in North India.
    • Mughal Emperor’s defeat signified a decline in Mughal authority.

Aftermath of Buxar

  • Mir Jafar, reinstated as Nawab, ceded territories (Midnapore, Burdwan, Chittagong) for EIC troop maintenance.
  • EIC gained duty-free trade in Bengal (except a 2% salt tax).
  • Najmud-daulah, a minor, became Nawab with a British-appointed naib-subahdar holding real power.

The Treaty of Allahabad (1765)

  • Two treaties negotiated by Robert Clive:
    • With the Nawab of Awadh:
      • Awadh ceded Allahabad and Kara to the Mughal Emperor.
      • Paid 50 lakh rupees as war indemnity.
      • Recognized Balwant Singh’s control over Banaras.
    • With the Mughal Emperor:
      • Emperor resided at Allahabad under EIC protection.
      • Granted the EIC the diwani (tax collection rights) of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa for an annual payment.
      • Received 53 lakh rupees from the EIC for the nizamat (administration) rights.

Strategic Considerations Behind the Treaty

  • Clive avoided annexing Awadh to escape the burden of defending a large territory.
  • A friendly Awadh served as a buffer state against Afghan and Maratha threats.
  • The Mughal Emperor, weakened by the defeat, became a mere figurehead, legitimizing EIC’s gains through a farman (decree).

Fate of Mir Kasim

  • Lived in exile until his death in 1777.

Dual Government in Bengal (1765-1772)

The System

  • Introduced by Robert Clive after the Battle of Buxar (1764).
  • Divided power between the EIC and the Nawab of Bengal.
  • EIC controlled:
    • Diwani (revenue collection) through appointed deputy diwans (Mohammad Reza Khan for Bengal).
    • Nizamat (administration) indirectly through the right to appoint the deputy subahdar (also often Mohammad Reza Khan).

Advantages for the EIC

  • Maintained a facade of Mughal authority with the Nawab as a puppet ruler.
  • EIC held real power by controlling finances and administration.

Disadvantages for Bengal

  • Disastrous for the people:
    • Neither EIC nor Nawab focused on good governance or public welfare.
    • Administrative breakdown led to problems.

End of the Dual System

  • Abolished by Warren Hastings in 1772 due to its inefficiencies.


Mysore’s Resistance to the East India Company (EIC)

The Rise of Haidar Ali (1761-1782)

  • Weakened Mysore:After the Battle of Talikota (1565), Mysore emerged as a small kingdom under the Wodeyars. By the mid-18th century, it faced financial and political weakness due to repeated Maratha and Nizam incursions.
  • Haidar Ali’s Rise:A soldier who rose to become Mysore’s de facto ruler in 1761. He possessed strong military skills and diplomatic acumen.
  • Modernization Efforts:
    • Established an arms factory with French help to counter European weaponry.
    • Introduced Western training methods for his army.
    • Used diplomacy to outmaneuver opponents.

First Anglo-Mysore War (1767-1769)

  • Context:EIC’s expansion in Bengal threatened Mysore’s trade and political influence.
  • Alliances:EIC with the Nizam, Haidar Ali with the Marathas (later, the Nizam).
  • Outcome:Inconclusive war; Treaty of Madras (1769) with prisoner exchange and no territorial gains.

Second Anglo-Mysore War (1780-1784)

  • Causes:
    • EIC viewed Haidar Ali’s French alliance as a threat.
    • Haidar Ali felt betrayed by the EIC for not aiding him against the Marathas.
  • Alliances:Haidar Ali with the Marathas and the Nizam (switched sides later).
  • Major Battles:
    • Haidar Ali captured Arcot and defeated Colonel Baillie’s British army (1781).
    • British victories at Porto Novo (1781) and against Braithwaite (1782).
  • Treaty of Mangalore (1784):Mutual restoration of conquered territories.

Tipu Sultan Takes Over (1782-1799)

  • Haidar Ali’s death in 1782 led his son, Tipu Sultan, to continue his father’s policies of modernization and resistance to the EIC.

Third Anglo-Mysore War (1790-1792)

  • Cause:Dispute between Mysore and Travancore (a British ally) over territory.
  • Course of War:
    • Tipu defeated the British under General Meadows (1790).
    • British captured Bangalore and besieged Seringapatam (Tipu’s capital) twice.
  • Treaty of Seringapatam (1792):Harsh terms for Mysore:
    • Loss of nearly half its territory to the British, Marathas, and the Nizam.
    • Heavy war indemnity of 3 crore rupees.
    • Tipu’s sons held hostage until payment completed.

Fourth Anglo-Mysore War (1799)

  • Causes:
    • Tipu’s refusal to accept British dominance and attempts to expand his power.
    • Lord Wellesley’s desire to eliminate Tipu as a threat.
  • Alliances:EIC with the Marathas and the Nizam.
  • Outcome:British victory at Seringapatam (1799).
  • Consequences:
    • Tipu Sultan’s death and end of Mysore as an independent kingdom.
    • British imposition of a puppet ruler and the Subsidiary Alliance system.

Significance of the Anglo- Mysore Wars

  • Weakened Mysore’s power and paved the way for eventual British dominance in South India.
  • Highlighted the strategic importance of the Mysore region for controlling South Indian trade routes.
  • Established a pattern of alliances and betrayals among Indian powers and the EIC.

Tipu Sultan: A Complex Legacy

Military Leader and Modernizer

  • Son of Haidar Ali, rose to power in 1782.
  • Known as the “Tiger of Mysore” for his military prowess.
  • Modernized his army with European influence and introduced rocket technology.
  • Patron of science and technology, interested in naval development.

Administration and Diplomacy

  • Supported French revolutionaries and adopted some of their ideals (Jacobin Club).
  • Promoted economic development, including sericulture.
  • Viewed by some as a tolerant ruler, by others as a bigot.
  • Suppressed rebellions from both Hindus and Muslims.
  • Maintained some Hindu temples within his kingdom.

Controversial Legacy

  • British portrayed him as a fanatic, a view challenged by modern historians.
  • Complexities in religious policies: protected some temples, demolished others.
  • Ruled during a time of warfare and political instability.

Mysore After Tipu

  • British divided Mysore’s territory among themselves, Marathas, and the Nizam.
  • Re-established the Wodeyar dynasty under British control (Subsidiary Alliance).
  • Mysore briefly taken over by the British in 1831 due to misrule, then restored in 1881.

The Anglo-Maratha Wars for Supremacy

Rise of the Marathas

  • Mughal decline created an opportunity for the Marathas to expand their power.
  • Controlled vast territories and collected tributes beyond their direct rule.
  • Aimed to become rulers of North India in the mid-18th century.
  • Maratha Confederacy:
    • Formed by Peshwa Bajirao I to manage Maratha expansion.
    • Key Maratha families: Gaekwad, Bhonsle, Holkar, Sindhia, Peshwa.
    • Weakened after the Third Battle of Panipat (1761) and death of Madhavrao I (1772).

Entry of the English

  • Late 18th-Early 19th century: Three Anglo-Maratha Wars for supremacy.
  • Causes:
    • English ambition to expand control.
    • Internal divisions within the Marathas.
    • English desire to replicate Bengal’s governance model in Bombay.

First Anglo-Maratha War (1775-1782)

  • Background:
    • Power struggle following Madhavrao I’s death (1772).
    • Raghunathrao sought English aid against the Peshwa regency.
    • Treaty of Surat (1775): Raghunathrao ceded Salsette, Bassein to the English.
    • Treaty of Purandhar (1776): Peshwa regency renounced Raghunathrao.
  • Course of War:
    • Initial Maratha victories under Mahadji Shinde.
    • Treaty of Wadgaon (1779): English surrendered after being surrounded.
    • Renewed conflict: English captured key Maratha territories.
  • Treaty of Salbai (1782):
    • Ended the first phase of the war.
    • Key points:
      • Salsette remained with the English.
      • Most conquered territories returned to the Marathas.
      • Raghunathrao received a pension.
      • 20-year peace agreement.

Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803-1805)

Seeds of Conflict

  • Similar to the first war, internal Maratha divisions provided an opportunity for the British.
  • Peshwa Madhavrao Narayan’s suicide (1795) led to Bajirao II becoming Peshwa.
  • Tension between Bajirao II and Nana Phadnavis (chief minister) created instability.
  • Nana Phadnavis’ death in 1800 further weakened Maratha unity.

Course of War

  • 1801: Peshwa Bajirao II murdered Jaswantrao Holkar’s brother, sparking conflict.
  • Holkar defeated Peshwa and Scindia at Hadapsar (1802), installing Vinayakrao as Peshwa.
  • Fearing Holkar, Bajirao II signed the Treaty of Bassein with the British (1802).

Treaty of Bassein (1802): A Turning Point

  • Key terms for the Peshwa:
    • Accept a British subsidiary force stationed in his territory.
    • Cede territories to the British.
    • Surrender control over Surat city.
    • Give up claims on certain taxes.
    • Accept British arbitration in disputes.
    • Restrict foreign relations with European powers.
  • Significance:
    • Gave the British a strategic foothold in Maratha territory.
    • Weakened Maratha independence by placing the Peshwa under British control.
    • Paved the way for further British expansion in India.

Maratha Resistance and British Victory

  • Scindia and Bhonsle opposed the treaty and fought the British.
  • Defeated by British forces under Arthur Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington).
  • 1803-1804: Separate subsidiary treaties forced upon Scindia, Bhonsle, and Holkar.
  • Marathas were reduced to vassals of the British and isolated from each other.

Impact of the Treaty of Bassein

  • Though controversial, the treaty significantly benefited the British.
  • Increased British military presence in central India.
  • Set the stage for eventual Maratha defeat and British dominance.

Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817-1819)


  • British Expansion:Lord Hastings sought to expand British control in India.
  • Pindari Raids:Maratha mercenaries (Pindaris) raided British territories, creating tension.
  • Treaty of Bassein:Angered other Maratha chiefs who saw it as a loss of independence.
  • Maratha Unity:A temporary alliance formed against the British threat.

Course of War

  • The Marathas launched attacks against British residencies in Pune and Nagpur.
  • However, the Marathas were weakened by internal issues:
    • Poor administration and leadership.
    • Lack of unity among Maratha states.
  • The British responded swiftly and decisively, defeating the Peshwa, Bhonsle, and Holkar.


  • Key Treaties:
    • Treaty of Poona (1817) with the Peshwa.
    • Treaty of Gwalior (1817) with Scindia.
    • Treaty of Mandasor (1818) with Holkar.
  • Peshwa surrendered in 1818, ending the Maratha confederacy.
  • Peshwaship abolished and Bajirao II became a British pensioner.
  • A small state of Satara established under a descendant of Shivaji.


  • Marked the end of Maratha power and established British dominance in India.

Why the Marathas Lost to the British

The Marathas’ defeat stemmed from several factors contributing to their decline:

  • Ineffective Leadership:Later Maratha leaders lacked vision and unity compared to British officials like Elphinstone and Wellesley.
  • Flawed State Structure:The Maratha state lacked a strong national identity and focus on social reforms unlike the British.
  • Loose Political Confederacy:Internal rivalries and semi-independent Maratha chiefs weakened their collective power.
  • Inferior Military:The Marathas lagged behind in military organization, weaponry, and discipline compared to the British.
  • Unstable Economy:The Maratha leadership failed to develop a sound economic system to support their military and infrastructure.
  • British Diplomatic Superiority:The British skillfully exploited Maratha disunity through alliances and a strong spy network.
  • Outdated Social Structure:The Marathas clung to traditional social hierarchies, hindering national unity.

In essence, the Marathas’ weaknesses left them vulnerable to a more organized and strategically superior British force.


Conquest of Sindh by the British (Early 19th Century)

British Interest in Sindh

  • Early 19th century: British interest in Sindh grew due to existing trade privileges granted by the Mughals.

Rise of Talpur Amirs

  • 18th century: Talpuras, a Baluch tribe, rose to power in Sindh.
  • Established control by 1783 under Mir Fath Ali Khan.
  • Divided Sindh among brothers (Amirs) after his death (1800).

Early British Interactions

  • 1758: British factory built at Thatta under Kallora rule.
  • 1761: Kallora ruler confirmed trade privileges and excluded other Europeans.
  • 1775: Tensions rose under a new ruler, leading to the closure of the British factory.

Napoleon and the “Great Game”

  • Late 18th century: Fear of a Napoleon-Tipu Sultan alliance against India.
  • 1799: Negotiations with Mir Fath Ali Khan to counter the perceived threat (unsuccessful).
  • 1807: Treaty of “Eternal Friendship” signed under Lord Minto’s administration.
    • Aimed to create a barrier between Russia and British India.
    • Key points:
      • Excluded French from Sindh.
      • Exchanged diplomatic agents.

Treaty of 1832 (Bentinck Era)

  • Provisions:
    • Free passage on the Indus for trade (excluding warships and war materials).
    • No British settlements in Sindh (travelers needed passports).
    • Amirs to cooperate with Jodhpur to control bandits.
    • Renewed old treaties.

Lord Auckland and Escalation

  • 1836: Lord Auckland saw Sindh as strategic for Afghan affairs.
  • 1838: New treaty imposed after Ranjit Singh captured a Sindhi town.
    • Offered protection in exchange for British troops stationed in the capital (at Amir’s expense).
    • Established a British resident with unrestricted movement.
  • Tripartite Treaty of 1838:
    • Britain, Ranjit Singh, and Shah Shuja agreed on Afghan policy.
    • Shah Shuja surrendered claims on Sindh for British support.

Subsidiary Alliance (1839)

  • British pressured Amirs to accept a subsidiary alliance.
  • Key terms:
    • British troops stationed at Shikarpur and Bukkar.
    • Annual payment of Rs. 3 lakh for troop maintenance.
    • No foreign negotiations without British consent.
    • Provide supplies and abolish tolls on the Indus.
    • Assist in the Afghan War (1839-1842).

Capitulation and Annexation (1843)

  • Amirs accused of disloyalty and hostility after the Afghan War.
  • Forced to cede territories and accept further restrictions.
  • Uprising led by the Amirs crushed by Charles Napier.
  • Sindh annexed to the British Empire in 1843 under Governor-General Ellenborough.


  • Historians condemn the conquest as a case of manufactured justifications.
  • Seen as a power grab to compensate for British failures in Afghanistan.


Conquest of Punjab by the British

Consolidation of Sikh Power

  • After Guru Gobind Singh’s death, Sikhs faced Mughal persecution and internal divisions.
  • In 1721, Bhai Mani Singh helped reunite the Sikhs.
  • Kapur Singh Faizullapuria formed the Dal Khalsa in 1784, uniting Sikhs politically and militarily.
  • The weakness of the Mughals and Afghan invasions created opportunities for the Sikhs.
  • Sikhs consolidated power through Misls, independent military groups with democratic structures.
  • By the 18th century, numerous Misls ruled Punjab under Sikh chieftains.

Rise of Ranjit Singh

  • Ranjit Singh, born in 1780, belonged to the Sukerchakiya Misl.
  • He displayed political acumen from a young age.
  • By the late 18th century, many Misls weakened, while Afghanistan faced internal struggles.
  • Ranjit Singh used this instability to expand his territory through military conquest.
  • He captured Lahore (political capital) and Amritsar (religious capital) by 1805.
  • He maintained good relations with Dogras and Nepalese, incorporating them into his army.

Ranjit Singh and the British

  • Fearing a Franco-Russian invasion, the British sent a mission to Lahore in 1807.
  • Negotiations failed as Ranjit Singh wanted British neutrality in the Sikh-Afghan conflict and control of all Punjab, including territories south of the Sutlej River.
  • In 1809, Ranjit Singh signed the Treaty of Amritsar, recognizing the Sutlej as the boundary between his kingdom and British India.
  • He then focused on expanding westward, capturing Multan (1818), Kashmir (1819), and Peshawar (1834).
  • In 1838, he signed the Tripartite Treaty with the British but refused them passage through his land to attack Afghanistan.
  • Ranjit Singh’s reign (1809-1839) was marked by cautious diplomacy due to British power.

Punjab After Ranjit Singh

  • After Ranjit Singh’s death in 1839, the Sikh empire began to decline.
  • His successor, Kharak Singh, was weak, and court factions emerged.
  • Kharak Singh and his son Nau Nihal Singh died within a year, creating chaos.
  • The Sikh army, once strong, was weakened by internal conflicts, indiscipline, and unpaid troops.
  • The Lahore government allowed British troops passage through Punjab during their Afghan campaign (1838-1842), disrupting the region.

Power Struggles and British Intervention

  • A series of assassinations and power struggles between various groups followed.
  • Rani Jindan, regent for the young Maharaja Daleep Singh, and her allies jockeyed for control.
  • The Sikh army became increasingly dissatisfied with the Lahore government.
  • British intervention grew as they saw an opportunity to exploit the instability.

The Anglo-Sikh Wars (1845-1849)

First Anglo-Sikh War (1845-1846)

  • Causes:
    • Instability in Lahore after Ranjit Singh’s death (power struggle between Lahore court and the Sikh army).
    • Sikh suspicion of British expansionism (annexation of Gwalior, Sindh, and Afghan campaign).
    • British troop build-up near the Sikh border.
  • Course of the War:
    • December 1845: War begins with Sikh army crossing the Sutlej.
    • Sikhs outnumbered British but suffered defeats due to treachery (Lal Singh and Teja Singh).
    • Key Battles: Mudki, Ferozeshah, Buddelwal, Aliwal, Sobraon (British victories).
    • February 1846: Lahore falls to British without resistance.
  • Treaty of Lahore (March 1846):
    • Heavy war indemnity for Sikhs.
    • Jalandhar Doab annexed by British.
    • British resident established in Lahore.
    • Sikh army reduced in size.
    • Kashmir sold to Gulab Singh (separate treaty).
    • Daleep Singh remains ruler under Rani Jindan (regent) and Lal Singh (wazir).

Treaty of Bhairowal (December 1846):

  • Sikhs dissatisfied with Lahore Treaty, particularly Kashmir’s loss.
  • Rani Jindan removed as regent, replaced by a British-controlled council.

Second Anglo-Sikh War (1848-1849):

  • Causes:
    • Humiliation of Sikh defeat and treaty terms.
    • Mistreatment of Rani Jindan.
    • Multan governor’s revolt against British revenue demands.
    • Sher Singh joining the revolt, triggering a wider uprising.
    • Lord Dalhousie’s expansionist ambitions.
  • Course of the War:
    • British forces led by Lord Dalhousie.
    • Key Battles: Ramnagar, Chillianwala, Gujarat (British victories).
    • February 1849: Sikh surrender at Rawalpindi.
  • Result:
    • Annexation of Punjab.
    • Sikh army and Sher Singh surrender.
    • Dalhousie promoted for his “services.”
    • Three-member board (Lawrence brothers and Charles Mansel) established to govern Punjab (later replaced by a chief commissioner).


  • Despite initial animosity, the wars fostered a sense of mutual respect between Sikhs and British for their fighting skills.
  • Sikhs later served loyally in the British army, including the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny.


British Expansion Through Administrative Policy (1757-1857)

Methods of Expansion:

  • Annexation by Conquest:Covered previously.
  • Annexation by Diplomacy and Administration:This section explores three key policies.
  1. Ring Fence Policy (Warren Hastings):
  • Goal:Create buffer zones to protect British territories.
  • Method:Ally with neighboring states and offer military support in exchange for financial contributions.
  • Example:Awadh paid to defend against Afghan invaders and Marathas.
  1. Subsidiary Alliance (Lord Wellesley):
  • Goal:Establish British control over Indian states without direct conquest.
  • Key Features:
    • Indian ruler stations British troops within their territory (financed by the ruler).
    • British Resident stationed at the Indian court.
    • Indian ruler cannot employ Europeans without British approval.
    • Indian ruler cannot wage war or negotiate with other states independently.
    • British offer military protection from external threats.
  • Benefits for British:
    • Strategic troop placement.
    • Weakened Indian militaries.
    • Increased revenue from troop maintenance payments.
    • Control over Indian foreign policy.
  • Drawbacks for Indian states:
    • Loss of independence.
    • Financial burden of maintaining British troops.
    • Limited ability to defend themselves.
    • Vulnerability to British interference in internal affairs.
  • Evolution:
    • Started with offering military aid.
    • Progressed to demanding territory for troop maintenance.
    • Ended with potential annexation for non-payment.
  • States Accepting Alliance:
    • Hyderabad, Mysore, Tanjore, Awadh, Peshwa, Bhonsle Raja of Berar, Scindia, Rajput states, Holkars.
  1. Doctrine of Lapse (Lord Dalhousie):
  • Claim:An Indian ruler without a natural heir could not adopt a successor; the state “lapsed” to the British.
  • Justification (disputed):Based on Hindu law and custom (though unclear).
  • Application:
    • Dalhousie enthusiastically applied the doctrine, annexing several states.
    • Most significant annexations: Satara, Jhansi, Nagpur.
  • Criticisms:
    • Doctrine potentially misused for expansion.
    • Ignored the legitimacy of adopted heirs.
    • Increased resentment among Indian rulers.

Impact of Administrative Policies:

  • Gradual expansion of British control across India.
  • Weakening of Indian states through financial burdens and military limitations.
  • Increased British influence in internal affairs.
  • Seeds of discontent sown among Indian rulers (played a role in the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny).

Additional Notes:

  • Annexation of Awadh (1856):
    • Justified by Dalhousie due to alleged misrule.
    • Seen as a harsh political move that contributed to the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny.


British India’s Relations with Neighboring Countries

Anglo-Bhutanese Relations

  • British Occupation of Assam (1826):Increased interaction with Bhutan.
  • Bhutanese Raids and Treaty (1863-1864):
    • Bhutanese raided Bengal and Assam.
    • British forced to surrender passes to Assam through a harsh treaty.
  • British Annexation and Subsidy (1865):
    • British annexed the surrendered passes.
    • Bhutan ceded land in exchange for an annual subsidy.
    • Annexed land became productive with tea plantations.

Anglo-Nepalese Relations

  • Gorkha Expansion (1760s-1800s):
    • Gorkhas took control of Nepal and expanded southward.
    • British annexed Gorakhpur (1801), bordering Nepal.
  • Anglo-Nepalese War (1813-1816):
    • Caused by Gorkha capture of Butwal and Sheoraj.
    • Ended with Treaty of Sagauli (1816) favoring the British.
  • Treaty of Sagauli (1816):
    • Nepal accepted a British resident.
    • Ceded Garhwal, Kumaon districts and abandoned claims to Terai.
    • Withdrew from Sikkim.
  • Benefits for British:
    • Extended empire to the Himalayas.
    • Improved trade with Central Asia.
    • Gained hill stations (Shimla, Mussoorie, Nainital).
    • Gorkhas recruited into the British Indian Army.

Anglo-Burmese Relations

  • Burmese Expansion and British Interests:
    • Early 19th century, Burma sought westward expansion.
    • British desired Burmese resources, markets, and to counter French influence.
  • Three Anglo-Burmese Wars (19th Century):Resulted in Burma’s annexation (1885).

First Burma War (1824-1826):

  • Caused by:
    • Burmese expansion into Arakan, Manipur, threatening Assam.
    • Ill-defined border leading to friction.
  • Treaty of Yandabo (1826):
    • Burma paid war compensation (1 crore rupees).
    • Ceded Arakan and Tenasserim provinces.
    • Abandoned claims on Assam, Cachar, Jaintia.
    • Recognized Manipur’s independence.
    • Agreed to a commercial treaty and British resident in Ava.

Second Burma War (1852):

  • Caused by:
    • British desire for Burmese resources and market access.
  • Outcome: British occupied Pegu (remaining coastal province).

Third Burma War (1885):

  • Caused by:
    • Anti-British King Thibaw and French influence in Burma.
    • British commercial grievances and fines.
  • Outcome: British annexed Upper Burma.
    • Led to Burmese guerrilla resistance and later nationalist movements.
    • Burma separated from India (1935) and gained independence (1948).


Anglo-Tibetan Relations


  • Tibet ruled by Buddhist monks (lamas) under loose Chinese control.
  • British attempts at friendly relations had failed.
  • British concerns:
    • Growing Russian influence in Lhasa.
    • Rumors of Russian arms in Tibet.

British Expedition (1904):

  • Viceroy Curzon sent a military mission (led by Younghusband) to pressure Tibet.
  • Tibetans refused negotiations and offered non-violent resistance.
  • Younghusband forced his way to Lhasa (August 1904), Dalai Lama fled.

Treaty of Lhasa (1904):

  • Harsh terms dictated by Younghusband:
    • Indemnity of 75 lakh rupees.
    • British occupation of Chumbi Valley for 75 years.
    • Recognition of Sikkim’s frontier.
    • Trade marts opened in Tibetan towns.
    • Tibet restricted foreign concessions and gave Britain some control over foreign affairs.
  • Treaty revised later:
    • Indemnity reduced to 25 lakh rupees.
    • Chumbi Valley evacuated after 3 years (actually in 1908).


  • China ultimately benefitted:
    • Anglo-Russian convention (1907) limited outside influence in Tibet.
  • British achieved:
    • Countering Russian influence (though temporary).


Anglo-Afghan Relations


  • Early 19th century:
    • Increased Russian influence in Persia worried the British.
    • British sought a “scientific frontier” for India’s defense.
    • Desire for a friendly Afghanistan.

Forward Policy (1830s):

  • Governor-General Auckland advocated for an active defense strategy.
  • Goals:
    • Secure borders through treaties or annexation.
    • Install a friendly ruler in Afghanistan.

First Anglo-Afghan War (1839-1842):

  • Dethroning Dost Mohammed and installing Shah Shuja failed.
  • Afghan rebellion forced British retreat.
  • British defeat:
    • Costly war (1.5 crore rupees, 20,000 casualties).
    • Reinforced Afghan independence sentiment.

Masterly Inactivity (1860s):

  • Viceroy John Lawrence adopted a cautious approach.
  • Policy:
    • Non-interference in Afghan internal affairs.
    • Maintain peace on the frontier.

Proud Reserve (1870s):

  • Viceroy Lytton reversed the previous policy.
  • Sought to define clear borders and influence spheres.

Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1880):

  • Lytton’s forceful diplomacy alienated Sher Ali Khan (Afghan ruler).
  • British invasion followed by Treaty of Gandamak (1879).
  • Popular uprising forced British back into war.
  • Abdur Rahman Khan became new Amir.
  • British abandoned plans to dismember Afghanistan.


  • Afghanistan remained a buffer state between British India and Russia.
  • Afghans regained full independence after World War I (1919).


British India and the North-West Frontier

British Expansion:

  • Conquest of Sindh (1843) and Punjab (1849) brought them to the border with Afghanistan.

Tribal Control:

  • Faced independent Baluch and Pathan tribes with nominal Afghan suzerainty.

Durand Line (1893):

  • Defined Afghan and British territories.
  • Aimed to maintain peace but led to tribal uprisings.

Curzon’s Policies (1899-1905):

  • Withdrew troops from advanced posts.
  • Replaced them with trained tribal levies led by British officers.
  • Encouraged peace among tribes.
  • Established North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) under central control.


  • Curzon’s policies brought temporary peace to the region.
  • NWFP became a Governor’s province in 1932 (now part of Pakistan).


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