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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A Mezzotint engraving of Fort William, Calcutta, which formed the Bengal Presidency in British India 1735.

Provinces of India, earlier Presidencies of British India, still earlier, Presidency towns, and collectively British India, were the administrative units of the territories of India under the tenancy or the sovereignty of either the English East India Company or the British Crown between 1612 and 1947.

The term "British India" has also been used secondarily as a shortened form for "the British nation in India."[1]


British India

Britanya Hindistanı.PNG

Italic text

Colonial India
Portuguese India 1510–1961
Dutch India 1605–1825
Danish India 1696–1869
French India 1759–1954
British India 1612–1947
East India Company 1612–1757
Company rule in India 1757–1857
British Raj 1858–1947
British rule in Burma 1826–1947
Princely states 1765–1947
Partition of India 1947

The East India Company established its first permanent factory in India in 1612. For the next century and a half the Company functioned primarily as a trading company, establishing trading posts with the permission of the Mughal emperor of India and competing for business with other European trading companies.[2] However, following the decline of the Mughal Empire in 1707 and after the East India Company's victory at the Battle of Plassey in 1757, the Company gradually began to formally administer its expanding dominions.[3] By the mid-19th century, the East India Company had become the paramount political and military power on the subcontinent, its territory held in trust for the British Crown.[4]

Company rule in India, however, ended with the Government of India Act 1858 following the events of the Indian rebellion of 1857.[4] British India was thereafter directly ruled by the British Crown as a colonial possession of the United Kingdom, and India was officially known after 1876 as the Empire of India.[5] India consisted of regions referred to as British India that were directly administered by the British,[6] and other regions, the Princely States,[7] that were ruled by Indian rulers. These rulers were allowed a measure of internal autonomy in exchange for British suzerainty. British India constituted a significant portion of India both in area and population; in 1910, for example, it covered approximately 54% of the area and included over 77% of the population.[8] In addition, there were Portuguese and French exclaves in India. Independence from British rule was achieved in 1947 with the formation of the Dominions of India and Pakistan, the latter also including present-day Bangladesh.

The term British India also applied to Burma (present-day Myanmar) for a shorter time period: starting in 1824, a small part of Burma, and by 1886, almost two thirds of Burma had come under British India.[6] This arrangement lasted until 1937, when Burma commenced being administered as a separate British colony. British India did not apply to other countries in the region, such as Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), which was a British Crown Colony, or the Maldive Islands, which were a British protectorate. At its greatest extent, in the early 20th-century, the territory of British India (shown in the second map in two shades of pink) extended as far as the frontiers of Persia in the west; Afghanistan in the northwest; Tibet in the northeast; and China, French Indo-China and Siam in the east. It also included the Colony of Aden in the Arabian Peninsula.[9]

Presidency towns (1600–1765)

The East India Company, which was incorporated on December 31, 1600, established trade relations with Indian rulers in Masulipatam on the east coast in 1611 and Surat on the west coast in 1612.[10] The company rented a trading outpost in Madras in 1639.[10][10] Bombay, which was ceded to the British Crown by Portugal as part of the wedding dowry of Catherine of Braganza in 1661, was in turn granted to the East India Company to be held in trust for the Crown.[10]

Meanwhile, in eastern India, after obtaining permission from the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan to trade with Bengal, the Company established its first factory at Hoogly in 1640.[10] Almost a half-century later, after Emperor Aurengzeb forced the Company out of Hooghly, Calcutta was founded by Job Charnock in 1686.[10] By the mid-eighteenth century the three principal trading settlements, now called the Madras Presidency (or the Presidency of Fort St. George), the Bombay Presidency, and the Bengal Presidency (or the Presidency of Fort William) were each administered by a Governor.[11]

Presidencies of British India (1765–1858)

After Robert Clive's victory in the Battle of Plassey in 1757, the puppet government of a new Nawab of Bengal, was maintained by the East India Company.[12] However, after the invasion of Bengal by the Nawab of Oudh in 1764 and his subsequent defeat in the Battle of Buxar, the Company obtained the Diwani of Bengal, which included the right to administer and collect land-revenue (land tax) in Bengal, the region of present-day Bangladesh, West Bengal and Bihar.[12] In 1772, the Company also obtained the Nizāmat of Bengal (the "exercise of criminal jurisdiction") and thereby full sovereignty of the expanded Bengal Presidency.[12] During the period, 1773 to 1785, very little changed; the only exceptions were the addition of the dominions of the Raja of Banares to the western boundary of the Bengal Presidency, and the addition of Salsette Island to the Bombay Presidency.[13]

Next, in 1799, after the defeat of Tipu Sultan in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War a large part of his territory was annexed to the Madras Presidency.[13] In 1801, Carnatic, which had been under the suzerainty of the Company, began to be directly administered by it as a part of the Madras Presidency.[14]

Provinces of India (1858–1947)

  • North-West Frontier Province: created in 1901 from the north-western districts of Punjab Province.
  • East Bengal: separated from Bengal from 1905. Re-merged with Bengal in 1912
  • Bihar and Orissa: separated from Bengal in 1912. Renamed Bihar in 1935 when Orissa became a separate province.
  • Delhi: Separated from Punjab in 1912, when it became the capital of British India.
  • Aden: separated from Bombay Presidency to become province of India in 1932; separated from India and made the Crown Colony of Aden in 1937.
  • Orissa: Separated from Bihar in 1935.
  • Sindh: Separated from Bombay in 1935.
  • Panth-Piploda: made a province in 1942, from territories ceded by a native ruler.

Major Provinces

A map of the British Indian Empire in 1909 during the partition of Bengal (1905–1911), showing British India in two shades of pink (coral and pale) and the princely states in yellow.

At the turn of the 20th century, British India consisted of eight provinces that were administered either by a Governor or a Lieutenant-Governor. The following table lists their areas and populations (but does not include those of the dependent Native States):[15] During the partition of Bengal (1905–1911), a new province, Assam and East Bengal was created as a Lieutenant-Governorship. In 1911, East Bengal was reunited with Bengal, and the new provinces in the east became: Assam, Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.[15]

Province of British India[15] Area (in thousands of square miles) Population (in millions of inhabitants) Chief Administrative Officer
Burma 170 9 Lieutenant-Governor
Bengal 151 75 Lieutenant-Governor
Madras 142 38 Governor-in-Council
Bombay 123 19 Governor-in-Council
United Provinces 107 48 Lieutenant-Governor
Central Provinces and Berar 104 13 Chief Commissioner
Punjab 97 20 Lieutenant-Governor
Assam 49 6 Chief Commissioner

Minor Provinces

In addition, there were a few minor provinces that were administered by a Chief Commissioner:[16]

Minor Province[16] Area (in thousands of square miles) Population (in thousands of inhabitants) Chief Administrative Officer
North West Frontier Province 16 2,125 Chief Commissioner
British Baluchistan 46 308 British Political Agent in Baluchistan served as ex-officio Chief Commissioner
Coorg 1.6 181 British Resident in Mysore served as ex-officio Chief Commissioner
Ajmer-Merwara 2.7 477 British Political Agent in Rajputana served as ex-officio Chief Commissioner
Andaman and Nicobar Islands 3 25 Chief Commissioner

Provinces at independence, 1947

Map of the British Indian Empire on the eve of independence in 1947. The provinces are shown in different (non-yellow) colours.

At Independence in 1947, British India had seventeen provinces:

Upon the Partition of India into Union of India and Dominion of Pakistan, twelve provinces (Ajmer-Merwara-Kekri, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Assam, Bihar, Bombay, Central Provinces and Berar, Coorg, Delhi, Madras, Panth-Piploda, Orissa, and the United Provinces) became provinces within India, three (Baluchistan, North-West Frontier, and Sindh) within Pakistan, and two (Bengal and Punjab) were partitioned between India and Pakistan.

In 1950, after the new Indian Constitution was adopted, the provinces in India were replaced by redrawn states and union territories. Pakistan, however, retained its five provinces, one of which, East Bengal, was renamed East Pakistan in 1956 and became the independent nation of Bangladesh in 1971.

See also


  1. ^ Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. IV 1908, p. 5 Quote: "The history of British India falls ... into three periods. From the beginning of the seventeenth to the middle of the eighteenth century the East India Company is a trading corporation, existing on the sufferance of the native powers, and in rivalry with the merchant companies of Holland and France. During the next century the Company acquires and consolidates its dominion, shares its sovereignty in increasing proportions with the Crown, and gradually loses its mercantile privileges and functions. After the Mutiny of 1857, the remaining powers of the Company are transferred to the Crown ..." (p. 5)
  2. ^ Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. II 1908, pp. 452-472
  3. ^ Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. II 1908, pp. 473-487
  4. ^ a b Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. II 1908, pp. 488-514
  5. ^ Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. II 1908, pp. 514-530
  6. ^ a b Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. IV 1908, pp. 46-57
  7. ^ Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. IV 1908, pp. 58-103
  8. ^ Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. IV 1908, pp. 59-61
  9. ^ Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. IV 1908, pp. 104-125
  10. ^ a b c d e f Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. IV 1907, p. 6
  11. ^ Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. IV 1907, p. 7
  12. ^ a b c Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. IV 1907, p. 9
  13. ^ a b Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. IV 1907, p. 10
  14. ^ Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. IV 1907, p. 11
  15. ^ a b c Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. IV 1907, p. 46
  16. ^ a b Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. IV 1907, p. 56


  • Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. II (1908), The Indian Empire, Historical, Published under the authority of His Majesty's Secretary of State for India in Council, Oxford at the Clarendon Press. Pp. xxxv, 1 map, 573. 
  • Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. III (1907), The Indian Empire, Economic (Chapter X: Famine, pp. 475–502, Published under the authority of His Majesty's Secretary of State for India in Council, Oxford at the Clarendon Press. Pp. xxxvi, 1 map, 520. 
  • Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. IV (1907), The Indian Empire, Administrative, Published under the authority of His Majesty's Secretary of State for India in Council, Oxford at the Clarendon Press. Pp. xxx, 1 map, 552. 
  • Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. II (1908), The Indian Empire, Historical, Published under the authority of His Majesty's Secretary of State for India in Council, Oxford at the Clarendon Press. Pp. xxxv, 1 map, 573. 

Further reading

  • Bandyopadhyay, Sekhar (2004), From Plassey to Partition: A History of Modern India, New Delhi and London: Orient Longmans. Pp. xx, 548., ISBN 8125025960 .
  • Brown, Judith M. (1994), Modern India: The Origins of an Asian Democracy, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Pp. xiii, 474, ISBN 0198731132 .
  • Copland, Ian (2001), India 1885-1947: The Unmaking of an Empire (Seminar Studies in History Series), Harlow and London: Pearson Longmans. Pp. 160, ISBN 0582381738 
  • Judd, Dennis (2004), The Lion and the Tiger: The Rise and Fall of the British Raj, 1600-1947, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Pp. xiii, 280, ISBN 0192803581 
  • Majumdar, R. C.; Raychaudhuri, H. C.; Datta, Kalikinkar (1950), An Advanced History of India, London: Macmillan and Company Limited. 2nd edition. Pp. xiii, 1122, 7 maps, 5 coloured maps. .
  • Markovits, Claude (ed) (2005), A History of Modern India 1480-1950 (Anthem South Asian Studies), Anthem Press. Pp. 607, ISBN 1843311526 .
  • Metcalf, Barbara; Metcalf, Thomas R. (2006), A Concise History of Modern India (Cambridge Concise Histories), Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. Pp. xxxiii, 372, ISBN 0521682258 .
  • Peers, Douglas M. (2006), India under Colonial Rule 1700-1885, Harlow and London: Pearson Longmans. Pp. xvi, 163, ISBN 058231738 .
  • Sarkar, Sumit (1983), Modern India: 1885-1947, Delhi: Macmillan India Ltd. Pp. xiv, 486, ISBN 0333904257 
  • Smith, Vincent A. (1921), India in the British Period: Being Part III of the Oxford History of India, Oxford: At the Clarendon Press. 2nd edition. Pp. xxiv, 316 (469-784) .
  • Spear, Percival (1990), A History of India, Volume 2: From the sixteenth century to the twentieth century, New Delhi and London: Penguin Books. Pp. 298, ISBN 0140138366 .

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to South Asia article)

From Wikitravel

Asia : South Asia

South Asia comprises those countries lying between the Himalaya range of mountains and the Indian Ocean (north to south) and between the Ganga and Indus river valleys (east to west). The Indian Ocean shoreline is divided between the Arabian Sea (in the west) and the Bay of Bengal (in the east). The extensive, triangular-shaped landmass of South Asia is sometimes referred to as "the Indian Subcontinent", or simply "the Subcontinent"

  • Bangladesh - home of beautiful mangroves and the worlds longest beach
  • Bhutan - the last Shangri-la
  • India - Rich and exotic culture , several languages and a billion people.
  • Maldives - paradise found
  • Nepal - home to Mount Everest, adventure tourism, and smiling people
  • Pakistan - rich in culture and history, varying climates and terrains from hot deserts to mountains
  • Sri Lanka - pearl of the Orient

Afghanistan is sometimes considered part of the region. Its recent moves towards joining the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) may some day firmly place it in South Asia.

Myanmar (formerly Burma) may be considered a part of South Asia for long-standing historical and political ties to India.

Other destinations

See Islands of the Indian Ocean.


Some commonalities exist to this area, mainly climate and culture.

Climate: Apart from the Himalaya, the climate is tropical, with monsoon in summer and dry winter. However, you have the extremes of this climate, i.e. in Western Pakistan monsoon is quite non-existent and in Southern India, it lasts for six months. Sri Lanka even has two monsoons, one in May, one in October/November.

Culture: The influence of historical Indian culture can be seen everywhere. Two of the main "world religions" have their origins within South Asia: Hinduism and Buddhism. A third, Islam, was introduced by Muslim invaders starting around the 7th century and rose to prominence during the Mughal Empire.

An additional layer of South Asian cultural unification derives from the influence of British culture, and especially the frequent and growing use of the English language, as a result of India having formed the "Jewel in the Crown" of the British Empire before Independence in 1947.

Population density: South Asia is one of the world's most densely populated regions - approximately 1.6 billion people (or roughly a quarter of humanity) make their home there. The average population density of 305 people per square km is 7 times the world average.


The region does not have a lingua franca. However, as much of South Asia was under British rule, English is widely spoken by educated people. Hindi and Urdu are spoken over much of India and Pakistan. As the two languages are mutually intelligible, if you have to learn one before visiting, pick one of these. Hindi will also help you in Nepal, as the Nepali language is quite similar. Bengali is another major languge spoken in Bangladesh, West Bengal and understood in some other eastern states of India.

Other than these, South Asia has a fascinating diversity of languages. India, in particular, is home to hundreds of them, and Pakistan too has quite a few. In the major cities and tourist destinations, you will be able to get by with English with varying degrees of difficulty.

By plane

International airports include:

Many flights from the west coast of North America arrive via Singapore and Bangkok, while flights originating on the east coast usually have a stopover somewhere in Europe depending on the airline.

Flights from Europe arrive via Dubai, Doha and several other major airline hubs.

The number of direct flights between India and U.S/U.K is increasing.


For most countries in the region, haggling is essential while shopping--see How to haggle.

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Simple English

British India was the area of India in Southeast Asia which for hundreds of years were controlled by the British. From the 1600s until 1858 these areas were run by the English East India Company. After 1858 until 1947 they came under the rule of the Government of the United Kingdom in London and those it put in charge in India.

After 1877, British India was part of the British Indian Empire, which also included hundreds of Indian princely states. These were each ruled by local rulers under the protection of the British. This empire is now often known as the British Raj.

British India included regions of the present-day Republic of India, Pakistan (1st November 1857- 13th August 1947), Bangladesh, and Burma.

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