The rule of the British Government on India from 1858 to 1947 had an impact on our Constitution, governance, society, economy, culture, and on almost all aspects of the Indian life: our Constitution bears a clear imprint of the British system of governments; our civil service system follows almost all the procedural techniques of the British bureaucracy; the English language is not only spoken in the country, it has, in fact, become a lingua franca in our public dealings; our attire style is by and large, English; our behaviour and conduct have an Anglican touch. Despite our struggle against the British, seeking the country’s liberation, we still had, in Gandhiji’s words. ‘the tiger’s nature but not the tiger’, i.e., the British way of governance without the British.
The British Government took over the administration of the English East India Company’s Indian territories in 1858, following what the Indian terms it as the first war of independence in 1857. The British rule between 1858 and 1947 had far-reaching impact, which impact can be stated, briefly, as under :
Though there was no expansion of the British territories in India as was promised by the Queen’s Proclamation of November, 1858, the British Government’s paramountcy rights tightened over the princely states (called the Princely India) whose number exceeded more than 560 states at the time of India’s independence in 1947, covering about two-fifths of the area of the Indian sub-continent. Additionally, at various times, the British India included Aden (from 1858 to 1937), Lower Burma (from 1858 to 1937), upper Burma (1886 to 1937), Somaliland (from 1884 to 1898), Singapore (1858 to 1867). The British fought against Nepal and Bhutan, but they were later spared and became independent; Sikkim was established as a princely state in 1861 while the Maldives Islands were a British protectorate from’ 1887 to 1965. The main provinces of the British included Bengal, Madras, United Provinces, Central Provinces, Punjab, Assam while the minor provinces included North West Frontier Provinces, British Baluchistan,
The administration of India, after 1858, was drastically changed. It was a despotism controlled from home’, as Charles Wood had described it. The Secretary of State for India, a cabinet’level minister, and a member Council of India, controlled all the affairs related to India’s administration. In comparison to the Council’s members, the Secretary of State for India was more powerful, almost a despot. From 1858 to 1947, there were 27 individuals who served as Secretary of State, controlling and directing the India ocean. The Council’s members were all Englishmen. The powers of the Secretary of State for India and those of the India Council kept declining as the nationalist pressure went on mounting on the government.
In India, the Governor General, also called the Viceroy (being the representative of the British Crown) after 1858, was the head of the government and was assisted by an executive council to conduct the administration at the center while in each province, the government was headed by the Governor and his executive council, all subordinates to the central Government. For new laws, the councils were expanded by additional members, mostly officials and later added the non-officials and further later elected members, making up, thus, what may be called the legislative councils. With every act passed for India by the British Parliament, the members of the executive councils and legislative councils kept increasing, together with their respective powers, functions and responsibilities. e Government of India Act, 1935, for example, had a bicameral legislature, with the Council of States having 260 (156 elected and 104 nominated) and the Federal Assembly having 375 members (250 elected and 125 nominated) while, in each province, there was a legislature, somewhere unicameral and somewhere bicameral, with members both elected and nominated. To train the Indians in the art of administration, some of them were appointed ministers along with the executive councillers in the provinces through the Act of 1919 while later the provincial administration was completely handed over to the Indians as ministers through the Act of 1935.