Background of British rule in India
The British arrived in India as a trading company. The British East India company also called "John company" was granted rights to establish a factory (a trading post) in Surat by Mughal Emperor Jahangir in 1612. Portuguese (1505 - 1961) were the first colonial power to arrive in India. Other colonial powers were Dutch India (1605-1825), Danish India (1620- 1869), French India (1668- 1954).
Among all these, only the British and the French remained dominant powers by the beginning of 18th century. During this period the Mughal Empire began to decline after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707. To fill the political vacuum several independent states like Hyderabad, Bengal, Maratha Kingdom, Awadh, Mysore, Punjab etc. emerged in India.
The regional kingdoms were weak and could not provide lasting political stability in India. This provided the British East India company a major opportunity to establish their territorial empire in India. They started with the militarization and building of forts in Calcutta, Bengal and other parts of India. With their growing power, they began to interfere with the succession rights of native rulers in Arcot and Hyderabad.
The French were the other major colonial power in India. The British and the French fought with each other and supported opposite camps in the war of succession in Arcot and Hyderabad. This finally ended with the final British victory against French in 1763. The British used various annexation policies to expand their territorial Empire in India.
British annexation policies in India
The British adopted three major annexation policies in India to expand their territorial empire and make themselves the major political force in India. These were: 1) war, conquest, and invasion 2) system of Subsidiary Alliance, and 3) The policy of Doctrine of lapse.
War and conquest as a policy of annexation
The first policy of annexation adopted by British India was through war and conquest. It was the direct military invasion of territories of Indian rulers. The Kingdoms of Bengal, Mysore and the Marathas was annexed by the British through a series of wars. Later on the Sikhs of Punjab, the Sind and Burma were major kingdoms annexed by British through the policy of War and conquest.
Conquest of Bengal
Bengal was the richest province in India. The company had secured a royal Farman in 1717 from the Mughal emperor to avoid paying taxes for the export and import of goods and the right to issue passes or Dastaks for the movement of these goods. However, all the Nawabs from Murshid Quli Khan to Alivardi Khan compelled the company to pay lump sums taxes for their treasury and suppressed the misuse of Dastaks.
After the death of Alivardi Khan, Siraj-Ud-Daulah succeeded his grandfather in 1756. The unfair trade policies and the Company's interference in his succession to the throne angered him. The company had begun fortification in Calcutta, mainly for the struggle against the French who were stationed at Chandernagore.
The Nawab ordered to stop fortification, to the French and the British. The French obeyed his orders, but the British refused to do so. In response, the Nawab ceased the English Factory at Kasimbazar and then Fort Williams of Calcutta on June 20, 1956. The English fled to Fulta near the sea and waited for aid from Madras. The British bribed the nawab's officials like Mir Jafar, Mir Bakshi and bankers like Jagat Seth, and military commanders like Khadim Khan etc. Under Colonel Robert Clive and Admiral Watson, the British reconquered Calcutta at the beginning of 1857 and forced the Nawab to concede all demands.
Later they sent an impossible set of demands to the Nawab, which led to the Battle of Plassey in 1857. As the major part of his Army led by Mir Jafar and Rai Durlabh did not participate in the battle, the Nawab was defeated and put to death. Mir Jafar was proclaimed as the new Nawab of Bengal.
The company and its officials gained large amounts of money after this war, which led to the drain of wealth from Bengal. Mir Jafar, the new Nawab could not fulfill the demands of British, so the British proclaimed Mir Qasim as the next Nawab in place of Mir Jafar. Mir Qasim was an effective ruler, he removed all internal trade duties to provide the level playing field for Indian merchants. This lead to the clash with the Britishers, as they wanted to put trade duties and taxes on Indian merchants. Mir Qasim formed an alliance with Shuja Ud Daulah, the Nawab of Awadh and Shah Alam II, the Mughal emperor. The three allies were thoroughly defeated by the British in the Battle of Buxar on 22nd October 1964.
After this War, the British got Diwani rights of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa from Mughal emperor Shah Alam II in return for an annual payment of 26 lakh rupees. British emerged as a major power in India after this war. Awadh became buffer state for the British. In Bengal, a dual system of governance was introduced; the British collected revenue, while the Puppet nawabs looked after the administration.
Annexation of Mysore
Mysore had become a powerful Kingdom under Haider Ali and his son Tipu Sultan. Haider Ali was the commander of Army of Mysore since 1749. He became the ruler in 1761 and ruled in 1782. He was succeeded by his son Tipu Sultan. The British fought four wars with Mysore (1767- 1769), (1780- 84), (1790- 1792) and 1799. Tipu Sultan was killed in 1799 while defending Seringapatam, the capital of Mysore. Only in the last battle, the British had a complete victory.
British annexation policies against the Marathas
The Marathas were the rising power who could have filled the political vacuum generated due to the decline of Mughal Empire. However, there Prestige and power suffered after their defeat in the battle of Panipat 1761. Further, they wear divided into many chiefs such as the Sindhias, the Gaikwad, the Holkar and the Bhonsle. They were held together in a confederacy under principal Minister, the Peshwa. The British fought three major wars with them. The first Anglo- Maratha War fought in 1782, which ended without a clear winner. The second Anglo- Maratha war was fought between (1803- 05), which weekend in the Maratha Sardars. However only after third Anglo- Maratha war of (1817- 19), the Marathas were completely defeated.
The second policy of annexation was of forming subsidiary alliances
The policy of Subsidiary Alliance was framed by Lord Wellesley Governor General of British India (1798- 1805). Earlier he adopted the policy of non-intervention but later on shifted to the policy of Subsidiary Alliance. The subsidiary Alliance was an agreement between the ruler and the British, through which the British agreed to protect the Indian ruler and princess against any external attack or internal disorder. In return, the rulers agreed for the stationing of British troops in their territory and paid a subsidy for the maintenance of these troops. Through this agreement, the ruler accepted in the paramountcy of East India company over his state.
Under the policy, the native ruler could not enter into an alliance with other powers and could not fight any war without the permission of Britishers. The rulers also agreed to allow stationing of a British resident, who could interfere in the matters of the state politics. If the rulers failed to make the payments for maintenance of troops, a part of their territory was taken by the British as compensation. This system allowed the British to maintain large forces without even spending a single penny. It also removed any foreign influence is in these States.
Most subordinate States disbanded their troops and instead depended on British troops for their protection. After signing the Subsidiary Alliance the rulers lost their Independence and Sovereignty. They lost their strength of self-defense and lost the power to maintain relations with external powers or settle disputes with their neighbors. The amount paid to the British for the maintenance of British troops were in most cases beyond their paying capacity, which were mostly arbitrarily fixed by the Britishers.
In most cases, the rulers disbanded their army which led to the loss of livelihood and misery for the soldiers. Many of them became Roberts or Pindaries. It also led to the neglect of common people as the rulers were now protected by the British and had no fear of revolt by the masses.
The first ruler to accept subsidiary Alliance was the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1798. The French officers, from the court of Nizam, were replaced by British officers. The Nizam had to grant the areas of Cuddappa and Bellari for maintaining British troops in his territory. The main reason behind this policy was the expansion of British Empire in India and to reduce the French influence from India. This policy allowed the British to emerge as the prominent Paramount power in India.
The third policy of annexation was through Doctrine of lapse
This annexation policy was aggressively used by Lord Dalhousie, the British Governor-General in India(1848- 56). At that time, there was a custom of adoption among the kings and princes in the absence of their male heirs. This allowed them to secure a heir in the absence of their natural successor. But as per the Doctrine of lapse. Any state under the paramountcy of British East India company would automatically lapse and will be annexed by British if the ruler died without a male successor or if the ruler was incompetent.
The Doctrine of lapse reason was the expansion of direct British rule in India. The annexation policy of British was widely regarded by the kings and princes and even by the common Indians as an illegitimate and cruel policy. The Policy was framed by the Court of Directors of East India company and smaller States where already annexed since 1834 under this policy. However, Lord Dalhousie used doctrine of lapse most vigorously and aggressively point
The annexation made by Dalhousie under the Doctrine of Lapse policy includes states of Nagpur, Jaipur, Jhansi Satara etc. The State of Awadh was annexed in 1856, on grounds of mal-administration and incompetency of the ruler. The annexation of princely states under the Doctrine of lapse was one of the main reasons for the revolt of 1857 against the British.