UPSC History Uprising against British Rule 1857 Revolt NCERT Extracts - Administrative Changes after 1858

NCERT Extracts - Administrative Changes after 1858

Category : UPSC



  • Facing a challenge to its dominant position in the world capitalism from newcomers, Britain began a vigorous effort to consolidate its control over its existing empire and to extend it further.
  • It was necessary that, to render this British capital secure from economic and political dangers, British rule in India be clamped down even more firmly.
  • An Act of Parliament in 1858 transferred the power to govern from the East India Company to the British Crown.
  • While authority over India had previously been wielded by the directors of the Company and the Board of Control, now this power was to be exercised by a Secretary of State for India aided by a Council.
  • Under the Act, government was to be carried on as before by the Governor-General who was also given the title of Viceroy of Crown's personal representative.
  • The Act of 1858 provided that the Governor-General would have an Executive Council whose members were to act as heads of different departments and as his official advisers.
  • The Indian Councils Act of 1861 enlarged the Governor-General's Council for the purpose of making laws, in which capacity it was known as the Imperial Legislative Council.


Provincial Administration

  • The British had divided India for administrative convenience into provinces, three of which - Bengal, Madras and Bombay - were known as Presidencies.
  • The Presidencies were administered by a Governor and his Executive Council of three, who were appointed by the Crown.
  • The provincial governments enjoyed a great deal of autonomy before 1833 when their power to pass laws was taken away and their expenditure subjected to strict central control.
  • The first step in the direction of separating central and provincial finances was taken in 1870 by Lord Mayo.


Local Bodies

  • Financial difficulties led the Government to further decentralise administration by promoting local government through municipalities and district boards.
  • Local bodies were first formed between 1864 and 1868, but almost in every case they consisted of nominated members and were presided over by District Magistrates.
  • A step forward, though a very hesitant and inadequate one, was taken in 1882 by Lord Ripon's Government.
  • The result was that except in the Presidency cities of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay, the local bodies functioned just like departments of the Government and were in no way good examples of local self-governments.


Changes in the Army


  • Several steps were taken to minimise the capacity of Indian soldiers to revolt. Firstly, the domination of the army by its European branch was carefully guaranteed.
  • Moreover, the European troops were kept in key geographical and military positions. The crucial branches of the army like artillery and, later in the 20th century, tanks and armoured corps were put exclusively in European hands.
  • The older policy of excluding Indians from the officer corps was strictly maintained.
  • The organisation of the Indian section of the army was based on the policy of 'balance and counterpoise' or 'divide and rule" so as to prevent its chance of uniting again in an anti-British uprising.
  • Soldiers from Awadh, Bihar, central India, and south India were declared to be non- martial. On the other hand, Punjabis, Gurkhas, and Pathans who had assisted in the suppression of the Revolt, were declared to be martial and were recruited in large numbers.
  • Indian regiments were made a mixture of various castes and groups which were so placed as to balance each other.
  • Communal, caste, tribal and regional loyalties were encouraged among the soldiers so that the sentiment of nationalism would not grow among them.
  • It was isolated from nationalist ideas by every possible means. Newspapers, journals and nationalist publications were prevented from reaching the soldiers.
  • This led to a big increase in the size of the Indian army. Secondly, the Indian troops were not maintained for India's defence alone. The Indian army was the chief instrument for the expansion and consolidation of British power and possessions in Asia and Africa.


Public Services


  • All positions of power and responsibility in the administration were occupied by the members of the Indian Civil Service who were recruited through an annual open competitive examination held in London.
  • Indians also could sit in this examination. Satyendranath Tagore, brother ofRabindranath Tagore, was the first Indian to do so successfully in 1863.
  • In practice, the doors of the Civil Service remained barred to Indian for they suffered from numerous handicaps.
  • The competitive examination was held in the far away London. It was conducted through the medium of the alien English language.
  • It was based on Classical Greek and Latin learning which could be acquired only after a prolonged and costly course of studies in England.
  • In addition, the maximum age for entry into the Civil Service was gradually reduced from twenty-three in 1859 to nineteen in 1878.


Relations with the Princely States


  • Before 1857, they had availed themselves of every opportunity to annex princely states.
  • This policy was now abandoned. Most of the Indian princes had not only remained loyal to the British but had actively aided the later in suppressing in the Revolt.
  • As Lord Canning, the Viceroy, put it, they had acted as "breakwaters in the storm". Their loyalty was now rewarded with the announcement that their right to adopt heirs would be respected and the integrity of their territories guaranteed against fixture annexation.
  • The princes were made to acknowledge Britain as the Paramount power. In 1876, Queen Victoria assumed the title of the Empress of India to emphasise British sovereignty over the entire Indian subcontinent.
  • Lord Curzon later made it clear that the princes ruled their states merely as agents of the British Crown.


Administrative Policies


Divide and Rule

  • The British had conquered India by taking advantage of the disunity among the Indian powers and by playing them against one another.
  • After 1858 they continued to follow this policy of divide and rule by turning the princes against the people, province against province, caste against caste, group against group and above all, Hindus against Muslims.
  • Immediately after the Revolt they repressed Muslims, confiscated their lands and property on a large scale, and declared Hindus to be their favourites.
  • After 1870 this policy was reversed and an attempt was made to turn upper class and middle class Muslims against the nationalist movement.
  • The Government cleverly used the attractions of government service to create a split a along religious lines among the educated Indians.


Hostility of Educated Indians

  • The Government of India had actively encouraged modem education after 1833.
  • The officials became actively hostile to higher education and to the educated Indians when the later began to organise a nationalist movement among the people and founded the Indian National Congress in 1885.
  • Thus the British turned against that group of Indians who had imbibed modem western knowledge and who stood for progress along modern lines.


Attitude Towards the Zamindars

  • The British now turned for friendship to the most reactionary group of Indians, the princes, the zamindars, and landlords. The zamindars and landlords were now hailed as the traditional and ''naturaT leaders of the Indian people.
  • The zamindars and landlords in return recognised that their position was closely bound up with the maintenance of the British rule and became its firm supporters.


Attitude towards Social Reforms

  • As a part of the policy of alliance with the conservative classes, the British abandoned their previous policy of helping the social reformers.
  • They believed that their measures of social reform, such as the abolition of the custom of sati and permission to widows to remarry, had been a major cause of the Revolt of 1857.
  • The few halting steps that were taken in the direction of providing services were usually confined to urban areas, and that too to the so-called civil lines or British or modem parts of the cities.


Labour Legislation

  • The first Indian Factory Act was passed in The Act dealt primarily with the problem of child labour.
  • The second Indian Factories Act was passed in 1891. It provided for a weekly holiday for all workers.
  • Neither of the two Acts applied to British-owned tea and coffee plantations.


Restrictions on the Press

  • The British had introduced the printing press in India and thus initiated the development of the modem Press.
  • The Indian Press was freed of restrictions by Charles Metcaife in 1835.
  • But the nationalists gradually began to use the Press to arouse national consciousness among the people and to sharply criticise the reactionary policies of the Government.
  • This turned the officials against the Indian Press and they decided to curb its freedom, This was attempted by passing the Vernacular Press Act in 1878.
  • But the rise of the militant Swadeshi and Boycott Movement after 1905 once again led to the enactment of repressive Press laws in 1908 and 1910.


Racial Antagonism


  • The British in India had always held aloof from the Indians believing that social distance from Indians had to be maintained to preserve their authority over them. They also felt themselves to be racially.
  • Railway compartments, waiting rooms at railways stations, parks, hotels, swimming pools, clubs, etc., reserved for 'Europeans only" were visible manifestations of this racialism, The Indians felt humiliated.


Foreign Policy


  • The British Government had two major aims in Asia and Africa : protection of its invaluable Indian Empire and the expansion of British commerce and other economic interests in Africa and Asia.
  • Both these aims led to British expansion and territorial conquests outside India's natural frontiers. But, while Indian foreign policy served British imperialism, the cost of its implementation was borne by India,


War with Nepal, 1814

  • In October, 1814 a border clash between the border police of the two countries led to open war. In the end, the Nepal Government had to make peace on British terms, It accepted a British Resident
  • It ceded the districts ofGarfiwal and Kumaon and abandoned claims to the Tarai areas,
  • They gained greater facilities for trade with Central Asia, They also obtained sites for important hill-stations such as Shimla, Mussoorie and Nainital.


Conquest of Burma

  • Burma was united by King Alaungpaya between 1752-60. His successor, Bodawpaya ruling from Ava on the river Irrawaddi, repeatedly invaded Siam, repelled many Chinese invasions, and conquered the border states ofArakan (1785) and Manipur (1813) bringing Burma's border upto that of British India.
  • Finally, in 1822, the Burmese conquered Assam. In 1824, the British Indian authorities declared war on Burma.
  • Peace came in February, 1826 with the Treaty of Yandabo. The Government of Burma agreed to cede its coastal provinces of Arakan and Tenasserim to abandon all claims to Assam, Cachar, and Jaintia; to accept a British Resident at Ava while posting a Burmese envoy at Calcutta
  • The Second Burmese War which broke out in 1852 was almost wholly the result of British commercial greed.
  • They also wanted to strengthen their hold over Burma by peace or by war before their trade competitors, the French or the Americans, could establish themselves there.
  • The British invaded Burma on 13 November, 1885. King Thibaw surrendered on 28 November, 1885 and his dominions were annexed to the Indian Empire soon after
  • After the First World War, a vigorous modem nationalist movement arose in Burma In 1935 the British separated Burma from India in the hope of weakening the Burmese struggle for freedom.


Relations with Afghanistan

  • Afghanistan was placed in a crucial position geographically from the British point of view.
  • It could serve as an advanced post outside India's frontiers for checking Russia's potential military threat as well as for promoting British commercial interests in Central Asia.
  • The British decided to replace the independent ruler of Afghanistan, Dost Muhammed with a 'friendly', i.e., subordinate, ruler.
  • British launched an attack on Afghanistan in February, 1839. Kabul fell to the English on 7 August, 1839, and Shah Shuja was immediately placed on the throne. But Shah Shuja was detested and despised by the people of Afghanistan.
  • To force British terms on Sher Ali, the Afghan ruler, a new attack on Afghanistan was launched in 1878.
  • This is known as the Second Afghan War. Peace came in May, 1879 when Sher Alls son, Yakub Khan, signed the Treaty of Gandamak by which the British secured all they had desired.
  • They secured certain border districts, the right to keep a Resident at Kabul, and control over Afghanistan's foreign policy.


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