UPSC Exam Preparation: This Day in History Aug 02

02 Aug 1858

India becomes a British colony


What happened?

On 2 August 1858, Indian administration passed from the East India Company to the British government.

Background:

  • The East India Company had been ruling large parts of India prior to 1858.
  • Company rule started in 1757 with its victory over the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-Daulah in the Battle of Plassey.
  • After many battles such as the Battle of Buxar and the Anglo-Mysore wars, more areas were brought under the company’s control.
  • The Subsidiary Alliance treaties of the company with various Indian princes also ensured that many Indian states lost their sovereignty to the Company.
  • The company rule in India was marred with mismanagement and rampant corruption among Company officials.
  • In order to rule over such a large swathe of land, the company kept its own army. Many Indians were employed as soldiers or sepoys.
  • Resentment against company rule was brewing in India because of various factors.
  • Many Indian princes and landlords were annoyed at their loss of sovereignty and the general high-handedness of company officials. A lot of people were unhappy at British-style reforms which were thought of as interference in the local customs and practices.
  • The people were also not satisfied at the judicial system which was inherently not conducive to Indians. The Indian sepoys also had grievances against their masters because they were not treated on par with British soldiers.
  • All these factors led to the Indian Revolt of 1857, although the trigger of the revolt was the introduction of a new rifle into the army which forced the sepoys to bite off its cartridges greased with cow and pig fat, hurting the religious sentiment of both Hindus and Muslims.
  • After the Indian Revolt was suppressed by the company’s army, the British Parliament decided to liquidate the company in India and bring the British government to administer India. The company’s misrule and insensitive practices were seen as one of the major causes of the revolt.
  • Accordingly, the British Parliament passed the Government of India Act 1858 which passed the Indian administration into the British Crown.
  • This Act received royal assent on 2 August 1858.
  • With this, company rule ended and India became a direct colony of the British Empire. The post of the Governor-General of India became the ‘Viceroy and Governor-General of India’ from this date. Lord Canning, who was the Governor-General of India during the Revolt became the first Viceroy of India.
  • Consequently, the British monarch, Queen Victoria was proclaimed ‘Empress of India’ in 1876.
Also on this day

1876: Birth of Pingali Venkayya, designer of the Indian national flag. 1970: India's first woman diplomat C B Muthamma was appointed the Ambassador to Hungary. 1988: The Supreme Court confirmed the death sentences awarded to the killers of Indira Gandhi, Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh. 1999: The Gaisal train disaster happened in Assam killing 285 people.

 

See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.

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