Governor General of British I

Governors-General of the Presidency of Fort William

The office was created in 1774, with the title of Governor-General of the Presidency of Fort William.

The title of Viceroy was abandoned when India and Pakistan gained their independence in 1947, but the office of Governor-General continued to exist in both new dominions until they adopted republican constitutions in 1950 and 1956 respectively.

Warren Hastings (1774-1785)

Sir John Macpherson, 1st Baronet

  • Sir John Macpherson was the acting Governor-General of India from 1785 to 1786.
  • In February 1785, as senior member of the council, he became governor-general on Hastings’s resignation.

Charles Cornwallis (1786 – 1793)

  • Best known as one of the leading British generals in the American War of Independence.
  • Cornwallis Code and the Permanent Settlement in India.
  • 1789 to 1792 he led British and Company forces in the Third Anglo-Mysore War to defeat the Mysorean ruler Tipu Sultan
  • He was reappointed to India in 1805. He died in India not long after his arrival.
  • Cornwallis engaged in reforms of all types that had an impact on many areas of civil, military, and corporate administration.
  • According to historian Jerry Dupont, Cornwallis was responsible for “laying the foundation for British rule throughout India and setting standards for the services, courts, and revenue collection that remained remarkably unaltered almost to the end of the British era.”
  • He also enacted important reforms in the operations of the British East India Company, and, with the notable exception of the Kingdom of Mysore, managed to keep the company out of military conflicts during his tenure.
  • Prior to Cornwallis’s tenure, company employees were allowed to trade on their own accounts and use company ships to send their own goods back to Europe. This practice was tolerated when the company was profitable, but by the 1780s the company’s finances were not in good shape. Cornwallis eliminated the practice, increasing employee salaries in compensation. He also worked to reduce nepotism and political favoritism, instituting the practice of merit-based advancement.

Legal Reforms

  • Criminal and civil justice systems in the company’s territories were a confusing overlay of legal systems, jurisdictions, and methods of administration.
  • Cornwallis had the company take over the few remaining judicial powers of the Nawab of Bengal, the titular local ruler of much of the Bengal Presidency, and gave some judicial powers to company employees.
  • In 1790 he introduced circuit courts with company employees as judges, and set up a court of appeals in Calcutta.
  • He had the legal frameworks of Muslim and Hindu law translated into English, and promulgated administrative regulations and a new civil and criminal code. This work, introduced in 1793, was known as the Cornwallis Code.
  • One consequence of the code was that it instituted a type of racism, placing the British as an elite class on top of the complex status hierarchy of caste and religion that existed in India at the time. Cornwallis held racist views, in a manner common at the time.
  • He introduced legislation to protect native weavers who were sometimes forced into working at starvation wages by unscrupulous company employees.
  • outlawed child slavery
  • He established in 1791 a Sanskrit college for Hindus that is now the Government Sanskrit College in Benaras.
  • He also established a mint in Calcutta that, in addition to benefiting the poor by providing a reliable standard currency, was a forerunner of India’s modern currency.

Permanent Settlement

  • Part of the Cornwallis Code was an important land taxation reform known in India as the Permanent Settlement.
  • This reform permanently altered the way the company collected taxes in its territories, by taxing landowners (known as zamindars) based on the value of their land and not necessarily the value of its produce.
  • In the minds of Cornwallis and its architects, the reforms would also protect land tenants (ryots) from the abusive practices of the zamindars intended to maximize production.
  • Cornwallis, a landed gentleman himself, especially believed that a class of landed gentry would naturally concern themselves with the improvement of the lands, thus also improving the condition of its tenants. Nevertheless, the Permanent Settlement effectively left the peasants at the mercy of the landowners. While the Company fixed the land revenue to be paid by the landowners, the zamindars were left free to extract as much as they could from the peasantry.

Diplomacy and war with Mysore

  • Cornwallis had been sent to India with instructions to avoid conflict with the company’s neighbors.
  • Early in his tenure he abrogated agreements with the Maratha Empire and the Nizam of Hyderabad that he saw as violating the 1784 Treaty of Mangalore that ended the Second Anglo-Mysore War.
  • This ensured the company’s non-involvement in the Maratha-Mysore War (1785–1787).
  • Ventured into Malaysia. Fort Cornwallis in Penang (Malaysia) is named for Cornwallis.
  • The King of Nepal appealed to Cornwallis in 1792 for military assistance. Cornwallis declined the king’s request, sending instead Colonel William Kirkpatrick to mediate the dispute. Kirkpatrick was the first Englishman to see Nepal; by the time he reached Kathmandu in 1793, the parties had already resolved their dispute.


The company was unavoidably drawn into war with Mysore in 1790. Tipu Sultan, Mysore’s ruler, had expressed contempt for the British not long after signing the 1784 Treaty of Mangalore, and also expressed a desire to renew conflict with them.[80] In late 1789 he invaded the Kingdom of Travancore, a company ally according to that treaty, because of territorial disputes and Travancore’s harbouring of refugees from other Mysorean actions. Cornwallis ordered company and Crown troops to mobilize in response.

  • When the war broke out, Cornwallis negotiated alliances with the Marathas and Hyderabad. These forces then marched toward the Mysorean capital at Seringapatam, compelling Tipu to retreat into the city at the Battle of Arakere on 15 May.
  • Treaty of Seringipatnam was signed peace was agreed in 18 March.
  • For conducting the war, Cornwallis was created Marquess Cornwallis in 1792.

John Shore (1793-98)

  • Shore was the first president of the British and Foreign Bible Society.
  • A close friend of the orientalist Sir William Jones
  • He succeeded to the government on 28 October 1793.
  • The period of Shore’s rule as governor-general was comparatively uneventful.
  • His policy was temporising and timid. He acquiesced in the invasion by the Mahrattas of the dominions of Ali Khan Asaf Jah II, the Nizam of Hyderabad; he permitted the growth of a French subsidiary force in the service of more than one native power; he thwarted Lord Hobart‘s efforts for extending the sphere of British influence; he allowed the growth of the Sikh states in northern India; and he looked on while Tipu Sahib was preparing for war. In these matters Shore faithfully obeyed his instructions.
  • Though he showed weakness in dealing with the mutiny of the officers of the Bengal army, he boldly settled the question of the Oudh succession, when he substituted Saadat Ali Khan II for Wazir Ali Khan.


Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley(1798 – 1805)

  • Richard Colley Wesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley (Marquess is a title given by crown like Earl, Viscount etc)
  • He was brother of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, who later became PM of Britain.
  • He first made his name as Governor-General of India between 1798 and 1805 and later served as Foreign Secretary in the British Cabinet and as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
  • In 1793 he became a member of the Board of Control over Indian
  • His period was epoch of enormous and rapid extension of British power in India to compensate for the loss of American Colonies.
  • Soon after his landing, in April 1798, he learned that an alliance was being negotiated between Tipu Sultan and the French republic. The first step was to effect the disbandment of the French troops entertained by the Nizam of Hyderabad.
  • Fourth Anglo Mysore War (1799) – the capture of Seringapatam on 4 May 1799 and the killing of Tipu Sultan.
  • 1803 ( 2nd Anglo Maratha war)
  • The result of these wars and of the treaties which followed them was that French influence in India was extinguished, that forty million people and ten millions of revenue were added to the British dominions, and that the powers of the Maratha and all other princes were so reduced that Britain became the true dominant authority over all India. He found the East India Company a trading body, but left it an imperial power.
  • He was an excellent administrator, and picked two of his talented brothers for his staff: Arthur was his military adviser, and Henry was his personal secretary.
  • He founded Fort William College, a training centre intended for those who would be involved in governing India.
  • 1799 became Marquess Wellesley in the Peerage of Ireland.
  • He formed an enormous collection of over 2,500 painted miniatures in the Company style of Indian natural history.


1805 – Marquess Cornwallis was again sent to India

Sir George Barlow (1805-07)

  • Sir George Hilaro Barlow, served as Acting Governor-General of India from the death of Lord Cornwallis in 1805 until the arrival of Lord Minto in 1807.
  • He was appointed to the Bengal Civil Service in 1778, and in 1788 carried into execution the permanent settlement of Bengal.
  • He rose from ranks of civil service to this post
  • When the Marquess of Cornwallis died in 1805, Sir George Barlow was nominated provisional governor-general
  • His passion for economy and retrenchment in that capacity has caused him to be known as the only governor-general who diminished the area of British territory. This happened during 3rd Anglo Maratha War (1803-1807)
  • Subsequently Barlow was created governor of Madras, where his want of tact caused a Vellore mutiny in 1809, similar to that which had previously occurred under Clive.

Lord Minto (1807 – 1813)

  • Concluded the treaty of Amritsar with Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1809

The treaty settled Indo-Sikh relations for a generation. The immediate occasion was the French threat to northwestern India, following Napoleon’s Treaty of Tilsit with Russia (1807) and Ranjit’s attempt to bring the Cis-Sutlej states under his control.

The British wanted a defensive treaty against the French and control of Punjab to the Sutlej River.

Although this was not a defensive treaty, it did fix the frontier of lands controlled by Ranjit broadly along the line of the Sutlej River.

  • Supporting a policy of non intervention, Minto avoided major war in India; by a show of force he prevented the Pindari bandit leader Amīr Khan from interfering in Berar in 1809.
  • He negotiated an end to the Franco-Russian threat to India in 1810 and in the same year conquered the French islands of Bourbon (now Réunion) and Mauritius in the Indian Ocean and Napoleon’s Dutch East Indies possessions of Amboina (Ambon) and the Spice Islands (Moluccas), followed by the island of Java in 1811.
  • Charter Act of 1813

Lord Hastings (1813-23)

  • Hastings, 1st Marquess of Hastings
  • From his tenure onwards, British tried to expand North east borders like Nepal and later Burma.
  • His tenure as Governor-General was a memorable one, overseeing the victory in the Gurkha War (1814–1816); the final conquest of the Marathas in 1818; and the purchase of the island of Singapore in 1819
  • British India then consisted of Madras, Bengal, and Bombay.

Anglo Nepal War or Gurkha War (1814-15)

In May 1813, the Gurkhas under Amar Singh Thapa declared war. The Gurkhas then sued for peace, under the Sugauli Treaty (1816).

Pindari War

The Pindaris or Free Companions were dispersed throughout the Maratha states and were countenanced and protected by the Maratha chiefs to whom they acted as agents for supplying all the commissariat required by their armies.

They were composed of different tribes who congregated solely for purposes of plunder like dacoits. They came into existence during the 18th century when the Mughal Empire was breaking up.

Third Anglo-Maratha War

  • The Peshwa was defeated by William Fullarton Elphinstone on the Poona. Appa Sahib was defeated at the battle of Nagpur.
  • Hislop defeated Holkar at the Battle of Mahidpur.
  • Peshwa sent to Bithur near Kanpur.


  • He was active diplomatically, protecting weaker Indian states.
  • He oversaw the repair of the Mughul canal system in Delhi in 1820, as well as educational and administrative reforms.
  • He confirmed the purchase of Singapore, from the Sultan of Jahore, by Sir Stamford Raffles, in January 1819.
  • He became increasingly estranged from the East India Company‘s Board of Control.
  • Hastings clashed with London over the issue of lowering the field pay of officers in the Bengal Army, a measure that he was able to avoid through successive wars against Nepal and the Marathas. However, his refusal in the early 1820s during peacetime to lower field pay resulted in the appointment of Amherst, who was expected to carry out the demands from London.
  • Only Governor General to be removed by the Company
  • He was appointed Governor of Malta in 1824. He died at sea off Naples two years later.


John Adam (administrator)

  • served as the acting governor-general of the British East India Company in 1823.
  • During his tenure a territorial dispute arose with Burma near territories of Naaf River.


William Amherst (1823-28)

  • The principal event of his government was the first Burmese war of 1824, resulting in the cession of Arakan and Tenasserim to the British Empire.
  • Amherst was an inexperienced governor
  • He declared war on Burma over a territorial dispute.
  • The war was to take two years, with 15,000 killed on the British side and cost 13 million pounds, contributing to an economic crisis in India.

Governor General of India

Lord William Bentinck (1828-35)

  • His principal concern was to turn around the loss-making Honourable East India Company, in order to ensure that its charter would be renewed by the British government.
  • Bentinck engaged in an extensive range of cost-cutting measures, earning the lasting enmity of many military men whose wages were cut.
  • Although his financial management of India was quite impressive, his modernizing projects also included a policy of westernization, influenced by the Utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham and James Mill, which was more controversial.
  • Reforming the court system, he made English, rather than Persian, the language of the higher courts.
  • He encouraged western-style education for Indians ( English as medium of higher education, after recommendation of Macaulay Committee) in order to provide more educated Indians for service in the British bureaucracy.
  • Bentinck also took steps to suppress suttee, with the help of Raja Ram Mohan Roy.
  • Prohibition of Sati Act (1829)
  • He also took steps to curb Thugs (Cheats and swindlers)
  • His reputation for ruthless financial efficiency and disregard for Indian culture led to the much-repeated story that he had once planned to demolish the Taj Mahal and sell off the marble.
  • Charter Act 1833 made him the first Governor General of India.

The Charter Act of 1833

  • The Charter Act of 1833 was passed during the time of Lord William Bentinck.
  • Accordingly monopoly of the company was abolished.
  • Governor-General in Bengal became the governor-general of India.
  • This Act added a law member to the executive council of the governor-general.

Charles Metcalfe (1835-36)

Acting Governor-General

  • March 1835, after he had acted as the first governor of the proposed new presidency of Agra, he provisionally succeeded Lord William Bentinck as the Governor General of Bengal (1835–36).
  • During his brief tenure of office (it lasted only for one year) he carried out several important measures, including that for the liberation of the press, which, while almost universally popular, complicated his relations with the directors at home to such an extent that he resigned the service of the Company in 1838.
  • He is called Liberator of Indian Press

Lord Auckland (1836-42)

  • As a legislator he dedicated himself especially to the improvement of native schools and the expansion of the commercial industry of India.
  • But complications in Afghanistan interrupted this work in 1838. Lord Auckland decided on war, and on 1 October 1838 in Simla published the Simla Manifesto dethroning Dost Mahommed Khan.
  • After successful early operations he was created Baron Eden, of Norwood in the County of Surrey, and Earl of Auckland. However the Afghan campaign ultimately ended in disaster (see Dost Mohammad and the British in Afghanistan for details of the first Anglo-Afghan war). He handed over the governor-generalship to Lord Ellenborough and returned to England the following year.

First Anglo-Afghan War (1839-42)

  • The First Anglo-Afghan War (also known as Auckland’s Folly)
  • Resulted in the deaths of 4,500 British and Indian soldiers, plus 12,000 of their camp followers by the warring Afghan tribal fighters. It was one of the first major conflicts duringthe Great Game, the 19th century competition for power and influence in Asia between the United Kingdom and Russia.
  • In the 1830s, the British Empire was firmly entrenched in India but by 1837, Lord Palmerston and John Hobhouse, fearing the instability of Afghanistan, the Sindh, and the increasing power of the Sikh kingdom to the north, raised the spectre of a possible Russian invasion of India through Afghanistan. The Russian empire was slowly extending its dominions into central Asia, and this was seen as an encroachment south that might prove fatal for the British Company rule in India.
  • The British sent an envoy to Kabul to form an alliance with Afghanistan’s Emir Dost Mohammad Khan against Russia. Dost Mohammad had recently lost Afghanistan’s second capital of Peshawar to the Sikh Empire and wanted support to retake it, but the British were unwilling.
  • When Governor-General Lord Auckland heard about the arrival of a supposed Russian envoy in Kabul and the possibility that Dost Mohammad might turn to Russia for support, his political advisers exaggerated the threat. British fears of a Russian invasion of India took one step closer to becoming a reality when negotiations between the Afghans and Russians broke down in 1838. The Persians, with Russian support, attempted the Siege of Herat (1838) but backed down when Britain threatened war.
  • Russia, wanting to increase its presence in South and Central Asia, had formed an alliance with Persia which had territorial disputes with Afghanistan as Herat had been part of the Safavids before 1709.
  • Lord Auckland’s plan was to drive away the besiegers and install a ruler in Afghanistan who was pro-British in place of the current Afghan ruler. The British chose Shuja Shah Durrani to return as the ruler of Afghanistan.
  • “To justify his plan, Lord Auckland issued the Simla Manifesto in October 1838, setting forth the necessary reasons for British intervention in Afghanistan. The manifesto stated that in order to ensure the welfare of India, the British must have a trustworthy ally on India’s western frontier. The [official] British [position] that their troops were merely supporting [Shah] Shuja’s small army in retaking what was once his throne” was generally seen as pretext for incorporating Afghanistan into the British empire. “Although the Simla Manifesto stated that British troops would be withdrawn as soon as Shuja was installed in Kabul, Shuja’s rule depended entirely on British arms to suppress rebellion and on British funds to buy the support of tribal chiefs.
  • The British denied that they were invading Afghanistan, claiming they were merely supporting its legitimate Shuja government “against foreign interference and factious opposition.” It may have been the case that Britain was trying to install a pro-British leader in Afghanistan to prevent Russia from becoming the dominant power and threatening India’s North-West Frontier.
  • The British achieved a decisive victory over Dost Mohammad’s troops, led by one of his sons.
  • The majority of the British troops returned to India (only 8,000 remained in Afghanistan), but it soon became clear that Shuja’s rule could only be maintained with the presence of a greater number of British forces. The Afghans resented the British presence and the rule of Shah Shuja. As the occupation dragged on, British allowed their soldiers to bring their families to Afghanistan in order to improve morale; this further infuriated the Afghans, as it appeared the British were setting up a permanent occupation. Dost Mohammad unsuccessfully attacked the British and their Afghan protégé, and subsequently surrendered and was exiled to India in late 1840.

Destruction of Elphinstone’s army

  • On 1 January 1842, following some unusual thinking by Elphinstone, which may have had something to do with the poor defensibility of the cantonment, an agreement was reached that provided for the safe exodus of the British garrison and its dependants from Afghanistan. Five days later, the withdrawal began. The departing British contingent numbered around 16,500, of which about 4,500 were military personnel, and over 12,000 were camp followers. The military force consisted mostly of Indian units and one British battalion, 44th Regiment of Foot.
  • They were attacked by Ghilzai warriors as they struggled through the snowbound passes and massacred at the Gandamak pass before a survivor reached the besieged garrison at Jalalabad. The only Briton to reach Jalalabad was Dr. William Brydon.
  • Lady Butler‘s famous painting of Dr. William Brydon, initially thought to be the sole survivor, gasping his way to the British outpost in Jalalabad, helped make Afghanistan’s reputation as a graveyard for foreign armies and became one of the great epics of empire.


  • However, following a change of government in Britain, Lord Auckland had suffered a stroke and had been replaced as Governor-General by Lord Ellenborough, who was under instructions to bring the war to an end. He ordered the forces at Kandahar and Jalalabad to leave Afghanistan through Khyber Pass after inflicting reprisals and securing the release of prisoners taken during the retreat from Kabul.
  • Dost Muhammad was released, reestablished his authority in Kabul, and died on June 9, 1863.



The Great Game was a term for the strategic rivalry and conflict between the British Empire and the Russian Empire for supremacy in Central Asia.


Lord Ellenborough (1842-44)

  • His Indian administration of two and a half years, or half the usual term of service, was from first to last a subject of hostile criticism. The events chiefly in dispute are his policy towards Afghanistan and the army and captives there, his conquest of Sind, and his campaign in Gwalior.
  • Ellenborough went to India in order to “restore peace to Asia” but the whole term of his office was occupied in war.
  • On his arrival there the news that greeted him was that of the massacre of Kabul, and the sieges of Ghazni and Jalalabad, while the sepoys of Madras (now known as Chennai) were on the verge of open mutiny.
  • He sent army to rescue the hostages but they suffered heavy losses.
  • Dost Mahommed Khan was quietly dismissed from a prison in Calcutta to the throne in the Bala Hissar.

Conquest of Sind

  • Then Ellenborough was at war with the amirs of Sind.
  • British conquered the Sindh province and the Indus became a British river from Karachi to Multan.

Campaign in Gwalior

  • In Gwalior to the south, the feudatory Mahratta state, there were a large mutinous army, a Ranee only twelve years of age, an adopted chief of eight, and factions in the council of ministers. These conditions brought Gwalior to the verge of civil war. Ellenborough marched his army into Gwalior.The treaty that followed was merciful and restored peace.
  • But by this time the patience of the directors was exhausted. They had no control over Ellenborough’s policy; his despatches to them were haughty and disrespectful; and in June 1844 they exercised their power of recalling him.

Henry Hardinge (1844-48)


  • The Sikh kingdom of Punjab was expanded and consolidated by Maharajah Ranjit Singh during the early years of the nineteenth century, about the same time as the British-controlled territories were advanced by conquest or annexation to the borders of the Punjab. Ranjit Singh maintained a policy of wary friendship with the British (1809 Treaty of Amritsar), ceding some territory south of the Sutlej River, while at the same time building up his military forces both to deter aggression by the British and to wage war against the Afghans. He hired American and European mercenary soldiers to train his artillery, and also incorporated contingents of Hindus and Muslims into his army.
  • Aided by disunity among the Afghans, the Sikhs conquered the cities and provinces of Peshawar and Multan from them, and also incorporated the states of Jammu and Kashmir into their empire. Once order was restored in Afghanistan, the British became obsessed with idea that Emir Dost Mohammed Khan of Afghanistan was conspiring with Imperial Russia and launched the First Anglo-Afghan War to replace him with the compliant Shuja Shah Durrani. This move had Sikh support, in return for the formal cessation of Peshawar to the Sikhs by Shuja Shah.
  • Initially successful, the British invasion took a disastrous turn with the Massacre of Elphinstone’s Army, which lowered the prestige of the British, and the Bengal Army of the British East India Company in particular. The British finally withdrew from Afghanistan, and from Peshawar which they held as an advance base, in 1842.

Events in the Punjab

  • Ranjit Singh died in 1839. Almost immediately, his kingdom began to fall into disorder. Ranjit’s unpopular legitimate son, Kharak Singh, was removed from power within a few months, and later died in prison under mysterious circumstances. It was widely believed that he was poisoned. He was replaced by his able but estranged son Kanwar Nau Nihal Singh, who also died within a few months in suspicious circumstances; he was crushed by a falling archway at the Lahore Fort while returning from his father’s cremation.
  • There were at the time two major factions within the Punjab contending for power and influence: the Sikh Sindhanwalias and the Hindu Dogras. The Dogras succeeded in raising Sher Singh, the eldest illegitimate son of Ranjit Singh, to the throne in January 1841. The most prominent Sindhanwalias took refuge on British territory, but had many adherents among the Army of the Punjab.
  • The army was expanding rapidly in the aftermath of Ranjit Singh’s death, from 29,000 (with 192 guns) in 1839 to over 80,000 in 1845 as landlords and their retainers took up arms. It proclaimed itself to be the Khalsa, or embodiment of the Sikh nation.
  • Its regimental panchayats (committees) formed an alternate power source within the kingdom, declaring that Guru Gobind Singh‘s ideal of the Sikh commonwealth had been revived, with the Sarbatt Khalsa or the Sikh as a whole assuming all executive, military and civil authority in the State, which British observers decried as a “dangerous military democracy”.
  • Maharajah Sher Singh was unable to meet the pay demands of the Khalsa, although he reportedly lavished funds on a degenerate court. In September 1843 he was murdered by his cousin, an officer of the Khalsa, Ajit Singh Sindhanwalia.
  • The Dogras took their revenge on those responsible, and Jind Kaur, Ranjit Singh’s youngest widow, became Regent for her infant son Duleep Singh.

British actions

  • Immediately after the death of Ranjit Singh, the British East India Company had begun increasing its military strength, particularly in the regions adjacent to the Punjab, establishing a military cantonment at Ferozepur, only a few miles from the Sutlej River which marked the frontier between British-ruled India and the Punjab.
  • In 1843, they conquered and annexed Sindh, to the south of the Punjab, in a move which even many British regarded as cynical and ignoble. This did not gain the British any respect in the Punjab, and increased suspicions of British motives.
  • Punjab was the only remaining formidable force that could threaten the British hold in India and the last remaining independent kingdom not under British influence.
  • The kingdom was also renowned for being the wealthiest, the Koh-i-Noor being but one of its many treasures.
  • Despite this, it is unlikely that the British East India Company would have deliberately attempted to annex the Punjab had the war not occurred, as they simply did not have the manpower or resources to keep a hold on the territories (as proven by the outbreak of the Second Anglo-Sikh War).
  • After mutual demands and accusations between the Sikh Durbar and the East India Company, diplomatic relations were broken and war broke out.

Treaty of Lahore

  • In the Treaty of Lahore on 9 March 1846, the Sikhs were made to surrender the valuable region (the Jullundur Doab) between the Beas River and Sutlej River.
  • The Lahore Durbar was also required to pay an indemnity of 15 million rupees (1.5 crore). Because it could not readily raise this sum, it ceded Kashmir, Hazarah and all the forts, territories, rights and interests in the hill countries situated between the Rivers Beas and Indus to the East India Company, as equivalent for one crore of rupees.
  • In a later separate arrangement (the Treaty of Amritsar), the Raja of Jammu, Gulab Singh, purchased Kashmir from the East India Company for a payment of 7,500,000 rupees (75 lakh) and was granted the title Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Maharaja Duleep Singh remained ruler of the Punjab and at first his mother, Maharani Jindan Kaur, remained as Regent. However, the Durbar later requested that the British presence remain until the Maharaja attained the age of 16.
  • Although the Khalsa was weakened by the war, resentment at British interference in the government led to the Second Anglo-Sikh War within three years.


Lord Dalhousie (1848-56)

  • Dalhousie assumed charge of his dual duties as Governor-General of India and Governor of Bengal on 12 January 1848
  • During this period, he was said to be an extremely hard worker, often working sixteen to eighteen hours a day. During this period, he sought to expand the reach of the empire.
  • In contrast to many of the past leaders of the British Empire in India, he saw himself as an Orientalist monarch and believed his rule was that of a modernizer, attempting to bring the English intellectual revolution to India. A staunch utilitarian, he sought to improve Indian society under the prevalent Benthamite ideals of the period. However, in his attempt to do so he ruled with authoritarianism, believing these means were the most likely to increase the material development and progress of India.
  • His policies, especially the doctrine of lapse, contributed to a growing sense of discontent among sectors of Indian society and therefore greatly contributed to the Great Indian Uprising of 1857, which directly followed his departure from India.
  • In 1849, under Dalhousie’s command, the British captured the princely state of Punjab.
  • He also commanded the Second Burmese War in 1852 (First Burmese War during Lord Amherst), resulting in the capture of parts of Burma.
  • Under his reign, the British implemented the policy of ‘lapse and annexation’ which ensured that if a king did not have any sons for a natural heir, the kingdom would be annexed to the British Empire. Using this policy, the British annexed some of the princely states.
  • The unfair annexation of Oudh made Dalhousie very unpopular in the region. This and other callous actions of the governor-general created bitter feelings among the Indian soldiers in the British Army, which finally led to the First War of Independence of 1857. Dalhousie and the British called this uprising the ‘Sepoy mutiny’
  • Lord Dalhousie was an able administrator, though forceful and tough. His contribution in the development of communication – railways, roads, postal and telegraph services – contributed to the modernization and unity of India. His notable achievement was the creation of modern, centralized states

Second Anglo-Sikh War

  • On 19 April 1848 Vans Agnew of the civil service and Lieutenant Anderson of the Bombay European regiment, having been sent to take charge of Multan from Diwan Mulraj, were murdered there, and within a short time the Sikh troops and sardars joined in open rebellion.
  • Dalhousie resolutely delayed the strike to organize strong enough force for entire subjugation of Punjab.
  • In spite of substantial attempts by Sikh and Muslim forces to polarize opposition through religious and anti-British sentiment, Dalhousie’s military commanders were able to maintain the loyalty of troops, with the exception of a small number of Gurkha deserters.
  • The war being now over, Dalhousie, without specific instructions from his superiors, annexed the Punjab.
  • Believing in inherent superiority of British rule over the “archaic” Indian system of rule, Dalhousie attempted to dismantle local rule, fulfilling the imperial goals of the Anglicizer Lord Bentinck.
  • Punjab was systematically divided into districts and divisions, governed by District officers and Commissioners respectively. This lasting system of rule established governance through a young maharaja under a triumvirate of the Governor General.

Second Burmese War

  • One further addition to the empire was made by conquest. The Burmese court at Ava was bound by the Treaty of Yandaboo, 1826 (After Ist Burmese war during time of Amherst), to protect British ships in Burmese waters.
  • But there arose a dispute between the Governor of Rangoon and certain British shipping interests
  • In defending the pretext for invasion after the fact, Dalhousie quoted the maxim of Lord Wellesley that any insult offered to the British flag at the mouth of the Ganges should be resented as promptly and fully as an insult offered at the mouth of the Thames. Dalhousie, then announced a war.
  • The Burmese Kingdom offered little in the way of resistance. Martaban, Rangoon, Bassein, province of Pegu were annexed.
  • In practice, the new province was in language and culture very different from India. It could never successfully integrate into the Indian system. The end result of the war was to add an expensive new military and political dependency which did not generate sufficient taxes to pay for itself. British Indian rule of Arakan and Tenasserim had been a financial disaster for the Indian Administration. Multiple times in the 1830s questions were raised about getting rid of these territories altogether. Why Dalhousie was so obsessed with increasing the size of a territory that did not generate sufficient revenue to pay for its own administration has never been explained.
  • One consequential factor of this war was Dalhousie’s continuation of the requirement that Sepoys be forced to serve abroad. This created great discontent among Indian sepoys, because it violated the Hindu religious prohibition against travel. In fact, this resulted in the mutiny of several regiments in the Punjab.

Policies of Reform

Doctrine of Lapse

  • The most controversial and tainted ‘reform’ developed and implemented under Dalhousie
  • Dalhousie, driven by the conviction that all India needed to be brought under British administration, began to apply what was called the doctrine of lapse.
  • Under the doctrine, the British annexed any non-British state where there was a lack of a proper male lineal heir.
  • Under the policy he recommended the annexation of Satara in January 1849, of Jaitpur and Sambalpur in the same year, and of Jhansi and Nagpur in 1853.
  • The first Kingdom to be annexed under doctrine of lapse was Satara
  • In these cases his action was approved by the home authorities, but his proposal to annex Karauli in 1849 was disallowed, while Baghat and the petty estate of Udaipur, which he had annexed in 1851 and 1852 respectively, were afterwards restored to native rule.
  • These annexations are considered by critics to generally represent an uneconomic drain on the financial resources of the company in India.

Development of Infrastructure

  • Bengal, long ruled by the Governor-General or his delegate, was placed under its own Lieutenant-Governor in May 1854.
  • The military boards were swept away; selection took the place of seniority in the higher commands; an army clothing and a stud department were created, and the medical service underwent complete reorganization.
  • A department of public works (origin of PWD) was established in each presidency, and engineering colleges were provided.
  • 1853 Postal Service Started
  • An imperial system of telegraphs
  • The first link of railway communication was completed in 1855.
  • First Railway established between Bombay and Thane
  • Dalhousie encouraged private enterprise to develop railways in India for the good of the people and also to reduce absolute dependence on the government.
  • However, as an authoritarian, utilitarian ruler, Dalhousie brought the railways under state control-attempting to bring the greatest benefit to India from the expanding network.
  • In addition, the Ganges canal was completed; and despite the cost of wars in the Punjab and Burma, liberal provision was made for metalled roads and bridges. The construction of massive irrigation works such as the 350-mile Ganges Canal, which contains thousands of miles of distributaries was a substantial project that was particularly beneficial for the largely agricultural India.
  • Europeanization and consolidation of authority were the keynote of his policy.
  • In his administration Dalhousie vigorously asserted his control over even minor military affairs, and when Sir Charles Napier (Commander of military) ordered certain allowances, given as compensation for the dearness of provisions, to be granted to the sepoys on a system which had not been sanctioned from headquarters, and threatened to repeat the offense, the Governor-General rebuked him to such a degree that Napier resigned his command.
  • He created an imperial system of post-offices, reducing the rates of carrying letters and introducing postage stamps.
  • He created the department of public instruction
  • he improved the system of inspection of goals
  • he abolished the practice of branding convicts
  • freed converts to other religions from the loss of their civil rights
  • inaugurated the system of administrative reports
  • He enlarged the Legislative Council of India.
  • His wide interest in everything that concerned the welfare of British economic interests in the country was shown in the encouragement he gave to the culture of tea, in his protection of forests, in the preservation of ancient and historic monuments.

Civil Service Reform

  • To the civil service he gave improved leave and pension rules
  • He purified its moral by forbidding all share in trading concerns, by vigorously punishing insolvents, and by his personal example of careful selection in the matter of patronage.
  • No Governor-General ever penned a larger number of weighty papers dealing with public affairs in India.
  • Even after laying down office and while on his way home, he forced himself, ill as he was, to review his own administration in a document of such importance that the House of Commons gave orders for its being printed (Blue Book 245 of 1856).
  • Another consequential set of reforms, were those aimed at modernizing the land tenure and revenue system. Throughout his time in office, Dalhousie disposed large landowners from portions of their estates. He also implemented policies attempting to end the rule of the zamindar tax farmers, as he viewed them as destructive “drones of the soil.”
  • However, thousands of smaller landlords had their holdings completely removed as did the relatively poor who leased small parcels of their land while farming the rest. This was particularly significant as the sepoys were often recruited from these economic groups.

Foreign Policy

  • His foreign policy was guided by a desire to reduce the nominal independence of the larger native states, and to avoid extending the political relations of his government with foreign powers outside India.
  • Pressed to intervene in Hyderabad, he refused to do so, claiming on this occasion that interference was only justified if the administration of native princes tends unquestionably to the injury of the subjects or of the allies of the British government. He negotiated in 1853 a treaty with the nizam, which provided funds for the maintenance of the contingent kept up by the British in support of that princes authority. This Berar treaty, he told Sir Charles Wood, is more likely to keep the nizam on his throne than anything.
  • The control thus acquired over a strip of territory intervening between Bombay and Nagpur promoted his policy of consolidation and his schemes of railway extension.
  • He refrained from punishing Dost Mohammad for the part he had taken in the Sikh War, and resolutely to refuse to enter upon any negotiations until the amir himself came forward. He himself drafted the short treaty of peace and friendship which Lawrence signed in 1855 with the Afgan Chief.
  • After the conquest of the Punjab, he began the expensive process of attempting to police and control the Northwest Frontier region. The hillmen, he wrote, regard the plains as their food and prey, and the Afridis, Mohmands, Black Mountain tribes, Waziris and others had to be taught that their new neighbours would not tolerate outrages. But he proclaimed to one and all his desire for peace, and urged upon them the duty of tribal responsibility. Nevertheless, the military engagement on the northwest frontier of India he began grew yearly in cost and continued without pause until the British left Pakistan.

Annexation of Oudh

  • The annexation of Oudh was reserved to the last.
  • In 1854, he appointed James Outram as resident at the court of Lucknow, directing him to submit a report on the condition of the province. This was furnished in March 1855. The report provided the British an excuse for action based on “disorder and misrule”.
  • Dalhousie, looking at the treaty of 1801, decided that he could do as he wished with Oudh as long as he had the king’s consent. He then demanded a transfer to the Company of the entire administration of Oudh, the king merely retaining his royal rank, certain privileges in the courts, and a liberal allowance. If he should refuse this arrangement, a general rising would be arranged, and then the British government would intervene on its own terms.
  • On 21 November 1855 the court of directors instructed Dalhousie to assume the control of Oudh, and to give the king no option unless he was sure that his majesty would surrender the administration rather than risk a revolution.
  • The king refused to sign the ultimatum (in the form of a “treaty”) put before him, and a proclamation annexing the province was therefore issued on 13 February 1856.

Santhal Rebellion

  • The insurrection of the Kolarian Santhals of Bengal against the extortions of landlords and moneylenders had been severely repressed, but the causes of the insurrection had still to be reviewed and a remedy provided.
  • By removing the tract of country from local rule, enforcing the residence of British officers there, and employing the Santal headmen in a local police, he created a system of administration which proved successful in maintaining order.

Established in 1854 by the British Empire in India as a summer retreat for its troops and bureaucrats, the town was named after Lord Dalhousie who was Governor-General of India at that time.

Charles Canning (1856-62)

  • Governor-General of India during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
  • He was derisively called “Clemency Canning” on account of lenient treatment meted out to rebellious soldiers of 1857 mutiny.
  • Prior to the rebellion, Canning and his wife had desired to produce a photographic survey of Indian people, primarily for their own edification. This project was transformed into an official government study as a consequence of the rebellion, when it was seen to be a useful part of a process of documentation intended to provide more knowledge regarding native communities and thereby better understand them. It was eventually published as an eight-volume work, The People of India, between 1868 and 1875.
  • He also passed Widow Remarriage Act, 1856
  • Established first three University of Mumbai, University of Madras and University of Calcutta in India.
January 2, 2018

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