Indian Empire

Dominion of the ‌British Empire
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg 1876–1947 Flag of India.svg
Flag of Pakistan.svg
Flag Coat of arms
God Save the King
Location of India
Government of Burma Act:
Burma (1937)
Flag of the Colony of Burma.svg
Japanese Occupation:
Azad Hind (1943-45)
Capital New Delhi
Government Monarchy
- 1876-1901 Victoria
- 1901-1910 Edward VII
- 1910-1936 George V
- 1936 Edward VIII
- 1936-1947 George VI
- 1876-1880 Lord Lytton
- 1880-1884 Marquess of Ripon
- 1884-1888 Earl of Dufferin
- 1888-1894 Marquess of Lansdowne
- 1894-1899 Earl of Elgin
- 1899-1905 Lord Curzon
Legislature Imperial Legislative Council
- Upper house Council of States
- Lower house Legislative Assembly
August 2, 1858 Government of India Act 1858
May 1, 1876 Proclaimed
December 23, 1919 Government of India Act 1919
August 2, 1935 Government of India Act 1935
April 1, 1937 Colony of Burma established
August 15, 1947 Indian Independence Act
Currency British Indian rupee
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg British India India Flag of India.svg
Pakistan Flag of Pakistan.svg

The Indian Empire (1876-1947) was a dominion of the United Kingdom. In 1876 Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom was proclaimed Empress of India. Burma became a separate colony before India was divided into the dominions of India and Pakistan in 1947. During World War II the Azad Hind existed briefly as a Japanese puppet state.

Government[edit | edit source]

By the act of parliament which transferred the government of India from the company to the crown, the administration in England is exercised by the sovereign through a secretary of state, who inherits all the powers formerly belonging to the Court of Directors and the Board of Control, and who, as a member of the cabinet, is responsible to parliament. In administrative details he is assisted by the Council of India, an advisory body, with special control over finance. This council consists of not more than fifteen and not fewer than ten members, appointed by the secretary of state for a term of seven years, of whom at least nine must have served or resided in India for ten years. A Hindu and a Mahommedan were for the first time appointed to the council in 1907.

At the head of the government in India is the governor-general, styled also viceroy, as representative of the sovereign. He is appointed by the crown, and his tenure of office is five years. The supreme authority, civil and military, including control over all the local government, is vested in the governor-general in council, commonly known as "the Government of India," which has its seat at Calcutta during the cold season from November to April, and migrates to Simla in the Punjab hills for the rest of the year. The executive council of the governor-general is composed of six ordinary members, likewise appointed by the crown for a term of five years, of whom three must have served for ten years in India and one must be a barrister, together with the commander-in-chief as an extraordinary member. A Hindu barrister was first appointed a member of council in 1909.

The several departments of administration -

  • Foreign,
  • Home,
  • Finance,
  • Legislative,
  • Army,
  • Revenue and
  • Agriculture (with Public Works),
  • Commerce and Industry,
  • Education (added in 1910)

- are distributed among the council after the fashion of a European cabinet, the foreign portfolio being reserved by the viceroy; but all orders and resolutions are issued in the name of the governor-general in council and must be signed by a secretary.

For legislative purposes the executive council is enlarged into a legislative council by the addition of other members, The ex officio, nominated and elected. In accordance with regulations made under the Indian Councils Act 1909, these additional members number 61, making 68 in all with the viceroy, so arranged as to give an official majority of three. The only ex-officio additional member is the lieutenant-governor of the province in which the legislative council may happen to meet; nominated members number 35, of whom not more than 28 may be officials; while 25 are elected, directly or indirectly, with special representation for Mahommedans and landholders. Apart from legislation, the members of the council enjoy the right to interpellate the government on all matters of public interest, including the putting of supplementary questions; the right to move and discuss general resolutions, which, if carried, have effect only as recommendations; and the right to discuss and criticize in detail the budget, or annual financial statement.

The local or provincial governments are fifteen in all, with varying degrees of responsibility. First stand the two presidencies of Madras (officially Fort St George) and Bombay, each of which is administered by a governor and council appointed by the crown. The governor is usually sent from England; the members of council may number four, of whom two must have served in India for ten years. Next follow the five lieutenant governorships of Bengal, the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, the Punjab, Burma, and Eastern Bengal and Assam, for each of which a council may be appointed, beginning with Bengal. Last come the chief commissionerships, of which the Central Provinces (with Berar) rank scarcely below the lieutenant-governorships, while the rest - the North-West Frontier Province, British Baluchistan, Ajmer-Merwara, Coorg and the Andamans - are minor charges, generally associated with political supervision over native states or frontier tribes. The two presidencies and also the five lieutenant-governorships each possesses a legislative council, modelled on that of the governor-general, but so that in every case there shall be a majority of non-official members, varying from 13 to 3.

Within the separate provinces the administrative unit is the district, of which there are 249 in India. In every province except Madras there are divisions, consisting of three or more districts under a commissioner. The title Districts. of the district officer varies according to whether the province is " regulation " or " non-regulation." This is an old distinction, which now tends to become obsolete; but broadly speaking a larger measure of discretion is allowed in the nonregulation provinces, and the district officer may be a military officer, while in the regulation provinces he must be a member of the Indian civil service. In a regulation province the district officer is styled a collector, while in a non-regulation province he is called a deputy-commissioner. The chief nonregulation provinces are the Punjab, Central Provinces and Burma; but non-regulation districts are also to be found in Bengal, Eastern Bengal and Assam, the United Provinces and Sind.

The districts are partitioned out into lesser tracts, which are strictly units of administration, though subordinate ones. The system of partitioning, and also the nomenclature, vary in the different provinces; but generally it may be said that the subdivision or tahsil is the ultimate unit of administration. The double name indicates the twofold principle of separation: the subdivision is properly the charge of an assistant magistrate or executive officer, the tahsil is the charge of a deputy-collector or fiscal officer; and these two offices may or may not be in the same hands. Broadly speaking, the subdivision is characteristic of Bengal, where revenue duties are in the background, and the tahsil of Madras, where the land settlement requires attention year by year. There is no administrative unit below the subdivision or tahsil. The thana, or police division, only exists for police purposes. The pargana, or fiscal division, under native rule, has now but an historical interest. The village still remains as the agricultural unit, and preserves its independence for revenue purposes in most parts of the country. The township is peculiar to Burma.

Bengal (including Eastern Bengal and Assam), Madras, Bombay and the old North-Western Provinces each has a high court, established by charter under an act of parliament, with judges appointed by the crown. The Of the other provinces the Punjab and Lower Burma Judici Servicale. have chief courts, and Oudh, the Central Provinces, Upper Burma, Sind and the North-West Frontier Province have judicial commissioners, all established by local legislation. From the high courts, chief courts and judicial commissioners an appeal lies to the judicial committee of the privy council in England. Below these courts come district and sessions judges, who perform the ordinary judicial work of the country, civil and criminal. Their jurisdictions coincide for the most part with the magisterial and fiscal boundaries. But, except in Madras, where the districts are large, a single civil and sessions judge sometimes exercises jurisdiction over more than one district. In the non-regulation territory judicial and executive functions are to a large extent combined in the same hands.

The chief of the Indian services is technically known as the Indian civil service. It is limited to about a thousand members, who are chosen by open competition in England between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-four. SeIndian rv ices. Nearly all the higher appointments, administrative and judicial, are appropriated by statute to this service, with xlv. 13 the exception of a few held by military officers on civil duty in the non-regulation provinces. Other services mainly or entirely recruited in England are the education department, police, engineering, public works, telegraph and forest services. In addition to the British officials employed in these services, there is a host of natives of India holding superior or subordinate appointments in the government service. According to a calculation made in 1904, out of 1370 appointments with a salary of goo a year and upwards, 1263 were held by Europeans, 15 by Eurasians and 92 by natives of India. But below that line natives of India greatly preponderate; of 26,908 appointments ranging between Boo and 60 a year, only 5205 were held by Europeans, 5420 by Eurasians and 16,283 by natives.

These figures show that less than 6500 Englishmen are employed to rule over the 300 millions of India. On the other hand, natives manage the greater part of the administration of the revenue and land affairs and magisterial work. The subordinate courts throughout India are almost entirely manned by native judges, who sit also on the bench in each of the High Courts. Similarly in the other services. There are four engineering colleges in India, which furnish to natives access to the higher grades of the public works department; and the provincial education services are recruited solely in India.[1]

History[edit | edit source]

The British expanded their influence from these footholds until, by the 1850s, they controlled most of present-day India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. In 1857, an unsuccessful rebellion in north India led by Indian soldiers seeking the restoration of the Mughal Emperor led the British Parliament to transfer political power from the East India Company (|) to the Crown. Great Britain began administering most of India directly and maintained both political and economic control, while controlling the rest through treaties with local rulers. India became the "crown jewel" of the rapidly expanding British Empire.

In the late 1800s, the first steps were taken toward self-government in British India with the appointment of Indian councilors to advise the British Viceroy and the establishment of Provincial Councils with Indian members; the British subsequently widened participation in Legislative Councils. Beginning in 1920, Indian leader Mohandas K. Gandhi transformed the Indian National Congress (|) political party into a mass movement to campaign against British colonial rule. The party used both parliamentary and nonviolent resistance and non-cooperation to agitate for independence. During this period, however, millions of Indians served with honor and distinction in the British Indian Army (|), including service in both World Wars and countless other overseas actions in service of the Empire.

With Indians increasingly united in their quest for independence, a war-weary Britain led by Labor Prime Minister Clement Attlee began in earnest to plan for the end of its suzerainty in India. On August 15, 1947, India became a dominion within the Commonwealth, with Jawaharlal Nehru as Prime Minister. Strategic colonial considerations, as well as political tensions between Hindus and Muslims, led the British to partition British India into two separate states: India, with a Hindu majority; and Pakistan, which consisted of two "wings," East Pakistan and West Pakistan - currently Bangladesh and Pakistan - with Muslim majorities.[2]


  • Victoria () (May 1, 1876 - January 22, 1901)
  • Edward VII () (January 22, 1901 - May 6, 1910)
  • George V () (May 6, 1910 - January 20, 1936)
  • Edward VIII () (January 20, 1936 - December 10, 1936)
  • George VI () (December 10, 1936 - August 15, 1947)


  • Lord Lytton () (May 1, 1876 - June 8, 1880)
  • Marquess of Ripon () (June 8, 1880 - December 13, 1884)
  • Earl of Dufferin () (December 13, 1884 - December 10, 1888)
  • Marquess of Lansdowne () (December 10, 1888 - October 11, 1894)
  • Earl of Elgin () (October 11, 1894 - January 6, 1899)
  • Lord Curzon () (January 6, 1899 - November 18, 1905)
  • Earl of Minto () (November 18, 1905 - November 23, 1910)
  • Lord Hardinge () (November 23, 1910 - April 4, 1916)
  • Lord Chelmsford () (April 4, 1916 - April 2, 1921)
  • Earl of Reading () (April 2, 1921 - April 3, 1926)
  • Baron Irwin () (April 3, 1926 - June 29, 1929)
  • Earl of Willingdon () (June 29, 1929 - April 18, 1936)
  • Marquess of Linlithgow () (April 18, 1936 - October 1, 1943)
  • Viscount Wavell () (October 1, 1943 - February 21, 1947)
  • Viscount Mountbatten () (February 21, 1947 - August 15, 1947)


British Empire


  1. Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.)
  2. The United States Department of State - Background Note: India
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