Annexation of Awadh - February 11th 1856 [UPSC Modern History Notes]

The Annexation of Awadh on 11th February 1856, was an important event in modern Indian history. In this article, you can read about the events leading to the annexation of Awadh by the East India Company and its aftermath for the IAS exam.

Background about the Kingdom of Awadh

The Oudh (called Awadh by the British) State was a princely state in the Awadh region of North India. A few important facts about Oudh State are:

    1. The first capital of Oudh/Awadh was Ayodhya, later Faizabad.
    2. Awadh became one of the provinces where governors upon the decline of the Mughal Empire (following the death of Emperor Aurangazeb) began to consolidate their own power.
  1. The governors of Awadh began to exert greater autonomy until Awadh evolved into an independent state that controlled the fertile lands of the Central and Lower Doab region.
  2. The British East India Company checked its power following the Battle of Buxar in 1764. In its aftermath, Awadh came under the nominal control of the British colonial powers.

Awadh After Battle of Buxar

The capital of Awadh was Faizabad. Asaf-ud-Daula (1775 AD-1797 AD) shifted the capital from Faizabad to Lucknow in 1775 AD. British agents, then going by the term “residents”, had their base of operations in Lucknow. The Nawab of Awadh erected a Residency in Lucknow as a wider programme of civic reforms.

  • The Battle of Buxar, saw the combined armies of the Nawab of Awadh (Shuja-ud-daulah), the Nawab of Bengal and the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II defeated by the British. Following the battle, the British became the paramount power in the region.
  • In 1765 the Treaty of Allahabad was signed. The treaty stated that the East India Company would receive Rs. 50 lakh from Awadh. In return, both the parties were to help each other in case of war with any other power.
  • In May 1816 the Kingdom of Awadh became a British protectorate.
  • Wajid Ali Shah was the Nawab of Awadh from 1822. He was the tenth Nawab and was to be the final one.

Annexation of Oudh/Awadh

  • Although Wajid Ali Shah was a capable ruler, the British residents gave exaggerated reports about his incompetence to the company authorities. This gave the East India Company a Casus Belli (cause for war in Latin) to conquer Awadh.
  • On 7th February 1856, Lord Dalhousie ordered to depose Wajid Ali Shah on the account of alleged internal misrule. This was in line with Dalhousie’s Doctrine of Lapse, in which the British would take over a kingdom if there was misrule also.
  • The Kingdom of Awadh was annexed in February 1856. 

Read about Lord Dalhousie in the linked article.

Know about Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, various land revenue systems by EIC and related articles below:

The Aftermath of the Awadh Annexation

The loss of Awadh only added to the existing tensions between the British and the local populace. The simmering resentment would only boil over as the revolt of 1857, with Awadh being one of the many focal points of the rebellion.

There were many uprisings in the region between 5th July 1857 and 3rd March 1858 during the rebellion. The British lost control momentarily before crushing the rebellion. The reprisals campaigns lasted for 18 months.

Later on, Awadh’s territory merged to form the larger province of North-Western Provinces and Awadh. It was renamed the United Provinces of Agra and Awadh in 1902, before finally being renamed, Agra Province. 

Also, read how India became a British Colony in the linked article.

The Annexation of Awadh (UPSC Notes):- Download PDF Here

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