NCERT Notes: Doctrine Of Lapse [Modern Indian History Notes For UPSC]

NCERT notes on important topics for the UPSC civil services exam. These notes will also be useful for other competitive exams like banking PO, SSC, state civil services exams and so on. This article talks about the Doctrine of Lapse.

The Doctrine of Lapse was an annexation policy followed widely by Lord Dalhousie when he was India’s Governor-General from 1848 to 1856.

Features of Doctrine of Lapse
  • According to this, any princely state under the direct or indirect (as a vassal) control of the East India Company where the ruler did not have a legal male heir would be annexed by the company.
  • This was not introduced by Lord Dalhousie even though it was he who documented it, and used it widely to acquire territories for the British.
  • As per this, any adopted son of the Indian ruler could not be proclaimed as heir to the kingdom. The adopted son would only inherit his foster father’s personal property and estates.
  • The adopted son would also not be entitled to any pension that his father had been receiving or to any of his father’s titles.
  • This challenged the Indian ruler’s long-held authority to appoint an heir of their choice.
States annexed by the Doctrine of Lapse
  • In 1824, before the time of Dalhousie, the princely state of Kittur was acquired by the East India Company by this doctrine.
  • Other states were also annexed in 1830’s and 1840’s through this doctrine.
  • After Dalhousie became the Governor-General, in 1848, Satara was acquired as per this doctrine.
  • Other major states annexed by the British as per the Doctrine of Lapse:
    • Jaipur – 1849
    • Sambhalpur – 1849
    • Udaipur – 1852
    • Jhansi – 1853
    • Nagpur – 1854
  • It was as per this policy that Nana Sahib, the adopted son of the Maratha Peshwa Baji Rao II was denied his titles and pension.
Effects of Doctrine of Lapse
  • Many Indian states lost their sovereignty and became British territories.
  • This led to a lot of unrest among the Indian princes.
  • A lot of people were unhappy with the ‘illegal’ nature of this doctrine and this was one of the causes of the Indian Revolt of 1857.
  • Nana Sahib and the Rani of Jhansi had grievances against the British because the former’s pension was stopped by the British after his foster father died, and the Rani’s adopted son was denied the throne under the doctrine of lapse.
  • Dalhousie returned to Britain in 1856. After the Indian Revolt broke out in 1857, his governance was widely criticised as one of the causes of the rebellion.




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