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East India Company and Raj 1785-1858

Parliament continued to control the East India Company by extending its charter for only twenty years at a time.

Those granted in 1793, 1813, 1833 and 1853 successively whittled away the Company's commercial rights and trading monopolies.

Losing privileges

Its last remaining monopoly over the China tea trade was abolished in 1833. Parliament allowed the Company to maintain its political and administrative duties in India, but the charter of 1813 included a clause asserting the Crown's undoubted sovereignty over all of the Company's territories and required it to open up India to Christian missionaries.

The 1833 Charter Act invested the Board of Control with full authority over the Company and further increased the power of the governor-general.

Gaining territory

Successive governors-general – particularly Marquess Wellesley (1798-1805), and the Marquess of Hastings (1813-23) – continued to add territory to the Company's holdings in India through conquest and alliance.

By 1856, with the annexation of Oudh, all the Indian subcontinent up to the Himalayas, and much of Burma, was ruled directly by the Company itself or by local allied rulers.

Indian Rising

In 1857 the Indians rose in revolt against high-handed and oppressive Company rule – particularly its insensitivity towards their religions – and it took excessively brutal action by the Company's army to regain control of its possessions.

Following this failure of governance, the British state formally took over the East India Company's rule in India.

End of Company rule

The Company lost all its administrative powers following the Government of India Act of 1858, and its Indian possessions and armed forces were taken over by the Crown.

Rule of the country shifted from the directors of the Company to a Secretary of State for India advised by a council, whose members were appointed by the Crown.

The Crown also directly appointed the governor-general, or viceroy, and provincial governors in India. The East India Company itself was formally dissolved by Act of Parliament in 1874. Thus began the British Raj, direct imperial rule of India by the British state.

Did you know?

Did you know?

The 1857 uprising started because both Hindu and Muslim soldiers in the sepoy, or Indian, regiments of the East India Company, objected to having to bite open rifle cartridges rumoured to be smeared with fat from animals which were forbidden or sacred in their religions.