British Conquest of India 1753–1914


Map Code: Ax01147

In 1600 the East India Company was established to run British trading operations in the Indian Ocean. It established numerous coastal trading posts and factories against competition from its Dutch, Portuguese and French counterparts. British influence was extended after victory against the Nawab of Bengal at the Battle of Plassey in 1757 and subsequent installation of a ruler under British control. Over the next century, the Company extended its rule both militarily (four wars with Mysore, three with the Marathas) and through coercive diplomacy: two-thirds of India was occupied by puppet rulers who retained titular power but accepted the Company’s suzerainty. Through subsidiary alliances, protection against other regional powers was provided in return for payment and nominal British control. This practice led to a widespread revolt against British rule; the Mutiny of 1857–58 saw the capture of Delhi, while the massacre of British civilians at Kanpur provoked a ruthless suppression, by the ‘army of retribution’. The Company, held responsible for these violent events, was replaced by the British colonial government, which took control of India through a network of local rulers under the British Raj. It became known as the Indian Empire in 1876, when Queen Victoria became Empress of India. The ‘minor’ provinces of Burma, which had come under British rule between 1824 and 1852, were consolidated into the ‘major’ province of Burma, following the Third Anglo-Burmese War and annexation of Upper Burma in 1885. In 1897 Burma became a Lieutenant-Governorship, with its capital at Rangoon.

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