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With the Government of India Act , the British government assumed the task of directly administering India in the new British Raj. It gained a foothold in India with the establishment of a factory in Masulipatnam on the Eastern coast of India in and the grant of the rights to establish a factory in Surat in by the Mughal emperor Jahangir. In , after receiving similar permission from the Vijayanagara ruler farther south, a second factory was established in Madras on the southeastern coast.

Bombay island, not far from Surat, a former Portuguese outpost gifted to England as dowry in the marriage of Catherine of Braganza to Charles II , was leased by the Company in Two decades later, the Company established a presence on the eastern coast as well; far up that coast, in the Ganges river delta, a factory was set up in Calcutta. Since, during this time other companies —established by the Portuguese , Dutch , French , and Danish —were similarly expanding in the region, the English Company's unremarkable beginnings on coastal India offered no clues to what would become a lengthy presence on the Indian subcontinent.

The Company thus became the de facto ruler of large areas of the lower Gangetic plain by It also proceeded by degrees to expand its dominions around Bombay and Madras.

In the Courts of Memory 1858 1875

With the defeat of the Marathas , no native power represented a threat for the Company any longer. The expansion of the Company's power chiefly took two forms. The first of these was the outright annexation of Indian states and subsequent direct governance of the underlying regions, which collectively came to comprise British India.

In Berar was annexed, and the state of Oudh two years later. The second form of asserting power involved treaties in which Indian rulers acknowledged the Company's hegemony in return for limited internal autonomy. Since the Company operated under financial constraints, it had to set up political underpinnings for its rule. In return, the Company undertook the "defense of these subordinate allies and treated them with traditional respect and marks of honor. The area encompassed by modern India was significantly fractured following the decline of the Mughal Empire in the first half of the 18th century [14].

The Governors-General locum tenens are not included in this table unless a major event occurred during their tenure. Second Anglo-Mysore War — Ceded and Conquered Provinces established Until Clive's victory at Plassey , the East India Company territories in India, which consisted largely of the presidency towns of Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay, were governed by the mostly autonomous—and sporadically unmanageable— town councils , all composed of merchants. Although Lord North himself wanted the Company's territories to be taken over by the British state, [24] he faced determined political opposition from many quarters, including some in the City of London and the British parliament.

George Madras and Bombay. The Governors of these Presidencies were directed in general terms to obey the orders of the Governor-General-in-Council, and to transmit to him intelligence of all important matters. William Pitt's India Act of established a Board of Control in England both to supervise the East India Company's affairs and to prevent the Company's shareholders from interfering in the governance of India.

Mindful of the reports of abuse and corruption in Bengal by Company servants, the India Act itself noted numerous complaints that "'divers Rajahs, Zemindars, Polygars, Talookdars, and landholders"' had been unjustly deprived of 'their lands, jurisdictions, rights, and privileges'. Still, the new Governor-General appointed in , Lord Cornwallis, not only had more power than Hastings, but also had the support of a powerful British cabinet minister, Henry Dundas , who, as Secretary of State for the Home Office , was in charge of the overall India policy.

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British political opinion was also shaped by the attempted Impeachment of Warren Hastings ; the trial, whose proceedings began in , ended with Hastings' acquittal, in Hastings' defenders countered that his actions were consistent with Indian customs and traditions. Nonetheless, Burke's effort had the effect of creating a sense of responsibility in British public life for the Company's dominion in India.

Soon rumblings appeared amongst merchants in London that the monopoly granted to the East India Company in , intended to facilitate its competition against Dutch and French in a distant region, was no longer needed. By the s British nationals could transact business or engage in missionary work under the protection of the Crown in the three presidencies. The Governor-General and his executive council were given exclusive legislative powers for the whole of British India. Government House, Fort St. George, Madras, the headquarters of the Madras Presidency.

In the remnant of the Mughal Empire revenue system existing in pre Bengal, zamindars , or "land holders," collected revenue on behalf of the Mughal emperor, whose representative, or diwan supervised their activities. This uncertain foray into land taxation by the Company, may have gravely worsened the impact of a famine that struck Bengal in —70 , in which between seven and ten million people—or between a quarter and third of the presidency's population—may have died. In , under Warren Hastings, the East India Company took over revenue collection directly in the Bengal Presidency then Bengal and Bihar , establishing a Board of Revenue with offices in Calcutta and Patna , and moving the pre-existing Mughal revenue records from Murshidabad to Calcutta.

The Company inherited a revenue collection system from the Mughals in which the heaviest proportion of the tax burden fell on the cultivators, with one-third of the production reserved for imperial entitlement; this pre-colonial system became the Company revenue policy's baseline. In , the new Governor-General, Lord Cornwallis , promulgated the permanent settlement of land revenues in the presidency, the first socio-economic regulation in colonial India.

It was named permanent because it fixed the land tax in perpetuity in return for landed property rights for zamindars ; it simultaneously defined the nature of land ownership in the presidency, and gave individuals and families separate property rights in occupied land. According to the Permanent Settlement if the Zamindars failed to pay the revenue on time, the Zmaindari right would be taken from them. Over the next century, partly as a result of land surveys, court rulings, and property sales, the change was given practical dimension.

However, these expectations were not realised in practice, and in many regions of Bengal, the peasants bore the brunt of the increased demand, there being little protection for their traditional rights in the new legislation. Since the zamindars were never able to undertake costly improvements to the land envisaged under the Permanent Settlement, some of which required the removal of the existing farmers, they soon became rentiers who lived off the rent from their tenant farmers.


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The zamindari system was one of two principal revenue settlements undertaken by the Company in India. Subsequently, developed by Thomas Munro, this system was gradually extended all over South India. This was, in part, a consequence of the turmoil of the Anglo-Mysore Wars , which had prevented the emergence of a class of large landowners; in addition, Munro and others felt that ryotwari was closer to traditional practice in the region and ideologically more progressive, allowing the benefits of Company rule to reach the lowest levels of rural society.

Land revenue settlements constituted a major administrative activity of the various governments in India under Company rule. A riverside scene in rural east Bengal present-day Bangladesh , A Kochh Mandai woman of east Bengal now Bangladesh with an agricultural knife and a freshly harvested jackfruit. Paddy fields in the Madras Presidency , ca. Two-thirds of the presidency fell under the Ryotwari system. In , when Hastings became the first Governor-General one of his first undertakings was the rapid expansion of the Presidency's army. Consequently, these soldiers dined in separate facilities; in addition, overseas service, considered polluting to their caste, was not required of them, and the army soon came to recognise Hindu festivals officially.

The Bengal Army was used in military campaigns in other parts of India and abroad: to provide crucial support to a weak Madras army in the Third Anglo-Mysore War in , and also in Java and Ceylon. In Maharashtra and in Java, the sepoys were regarded as the embodiment of demonic forces, sometimes of antique warrior heroes. Indian rulers adopted red serge jackets for their own forces and retainers as if to capture their magical qualities. In , under pressure from the Company's Board of Directors in London, the Indian troops were re-organised and reduced during the tenure of John Shore as Governor-General.

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Thus in , at the time of the Vellore Mutiny , the combined strength of the three presidencies' armies stood at ,, making them one of the largest standing armies in the world. As the East India Company expanded its territories, it added irregular "local corps," which were not as well trained as the army. In the Indian rebellion of almost the entire Bengal army, both regular and irregular, revolted. The Punjab Irregular Force not only didn't revolt, it played an active role in suppressing the mutiny.

The reforms initiated after were designed to create an elite civil service where very talented young Britons would spend their entire careers. Advanced training was promoted especially at the Haileybury and Imperial Service College until Many students held to Whiggish, evangelical, and Utilitarian convictions of their duty to represent their nation and to modernise India. At most there were about of these men who managed the Raj's customs service, taxes, justice system, and its general administration.

That changed after , as the forces of reform in the home country, especially evangelical religion, Whiggish political outlook, and Utilitarian philosophy worked together to make the Company an agent of Anglicization and modernisation. Christian missionaries became active, but made few converts. The Raj set out to outlaw sati widow-burning and thuggee ritual banditry and upgrade the status of women.

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In the Courts of Memory, 1858-1875; from Contemporary Letters

Schools would be established in which they would teach the English language. The s and s, however, were not times of prosperity: After its heavy spending on the military, the Company had little money to engage in large-scale public works projects or modernisation programs.

A palanquin transport awaits him. After gaining the right to collect revenue in Bengal in , the Company largely ceased importing gold and silver , which it had hitherto used to pay for goods shipped back to Britain. In addition, as under Mughal Empire rule, land revenue collected in the Bengal Presidency helped finance the Company's wars in other parts of India. At this time, the East India Company's trade with China began to grow as well.

In the early 19th century demand for Chinese tea had greatly increased in Britain; since the money supply in India was restricted and the Company was indisposed to shipping bullion from Britain, it decided upon opium , which had a large underground market in China and which was grown in many parts of India, as the most profitable form of payment.

Another major, though erratic, export item was indigo dye , which was extracted from natural indigo , and which came to be grown in Bengal and northern Bihar. Opium Godown Storehouse in Patna , Bihar c. Patna was the centre of the Company opium industry.

Indigo dye factory in Bengal. Bengal was the world's largest producer of natural indigo in the 19th century. In the rural areas, or the Mofussil , the zamindars —the rural overlords with the hereditary right to collect rent from peasant farmers—also had the power to administer justice.

By the midth century, the British too had completed a century and a half in India, and had a burgeoning presence in the three presidency towns of Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta. During this time the successive Royal Charters had gradually given the East India Company more power to administer justice in these towns.


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In the charter granted by Charles II in , the Company was given the power to establish "courts of judicature" in locations of its choice, each court consisting of a lawyer and two merchants. In , however, the Court of Directors of the Company felt that more customary justice was necessary for European residents in the presidency towns, and petitioned the King to establish Mayor's Courts.

The petition was approved and Mayor's courts, each consisting of a Mayor and nine aldermen, and each having the jurisdiction in lawsuits between Europeans, were created in Fort William Calcutta , Madras, and Bombay. Judgments handed down by a Mayor's Court could be disputed with an appeal to the respective Presidency government and, when the amount disputed was greater than Rs.


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In , the Mayor's courts were renewed under a revised letters patent ; in addition, Courts of Requests for lawsuits involving amounts less than Rs. This makeshift arrangement continued—with much accompanying disarray—until , when the Court of Directors of the Company decided to obtain for the Company the jurisdiction of both criminal and civil cases.

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Soon afterwards Warren Hastings arrived in Calcutta as the first Governor-General of the Company's Indian dominions and resolved to overhaul the Company's organisation and in particular its judicial affairs. These in their turn were supervised by provincial civil courts of appeal constituted for such purpose, each consisting of four British judges.

Also constituted were Courts of circuit with appellate jurisdiction in criminal cases, which were usually presided over by the judges of the civil appellate courts. Around this time the business affairs of the East India Company began to draw increased scrutiny in the House of Commons. After receiving a report by a committee, which condemned the Mayor's Courts, the Crown issued a charter for a new judicial system in the Bengal Presidency. Fort William.