Government of the Raj 1858-1914

As the Crown took over rule in India in 1858, so Parliament's involvement in Indian affairs increased. The governance of India was often reviewed and the British Parliament passed a total of 196 Acts concerning the continent between 1858 and 1947.

Government of the Raj

The government of the Raj consisted wholly of British officials and was headed by the viceroy and the appointed members of his council. After the Indian Councils Act was passed in 1861 this executive council acted as a cabinet and also as part of an imperial legislative council.

Each of British India's eleven provinces had its own governor, assisted by similar provincial legislative councils of appointed officials. There were also a small number of Indian council members who were part of the local elite, appointed solely for consultative purposes.

Empress of India

British rule over India was reinforced when in 1876 Parliament passed the Royal Titles Act, which formally endowed Queen Victoria with the title of Empress of India.

Indian nationalists

In 1885 a group of Indian nationalists founded the India National Congress and slowly Indians began to play an increasing role in politics in both India and the Empire.

In the 1890s both Dadabhai Naoroji, a founder of the Indian National Congress fiercely critical of British rule, and Sir Macherjee M. Bhownaggree, who supported the government of the Raj, sat in the Westminster Parliament as MPs for London constituencies.

Indian electors

Two Indian Councils Acts, of 1892 and 1909, allowed a small number of Indians –39 in 1892 rising to 135 in 1909 - to be elected to both the imperial legislative council and the provincial legislative councils.

The 1909 Act ensured that these representatives were chosen by small groups of Indian electors as representatives of specific religious and social groups, such as Muslims or landowners. These councils remained merely advisory and the governor was in no way responsible to these elected representatives.

Parliament's legislation of 1892 and 1909 did not adequately address the wide-scale dissatisfaction with British rule. But it was events after the First World War that caused a crisis for the Raj.

Related information

Did you know?

A leading founder of the Indian National Congress was a Briton, Alan Octavian Hume, who felt that "a studied and invariable disregard... for the opinions and feelings of our subjects, is ... the leading characteristic of our government".