The British came to India as traders and set up the British East India Company to establish trade routes between India and Britain. However, while they set up their trade companies across the country, the British took part in India's political activities and soon usurped dominion over several regions.
Begin of Company Rule [1773 - 1858]
The Company Rule [1773 - 1858] thus began in India, starting from the Regulating Act in 1773 up to 1857, when it was dismantled due to largescale uprising among Indian sepoys (the Sepoy Mutiny or the First War of Indian Independence) supported by many Indian rulers and kingdoms.
This article will look at the significant constitutional amendments and regulations that led to the subsequent evolution of the Indian Constitution, which can be segregated into two phases. The first phase was under Company Rule [1773 - 1858] and later the Crown Rule (1858 - 1947).
Acts Introduced by the British Government under the Company Rule [1773 - 1858]
Regulating Act, 1773
- This Act officially permitted the East India Company to retain territorial possessions in India and regulate activities and functioning
- Through this Act, the British cabinet was given the right to exercise control in India's affairs and introduced the post of Governor-General
- Warren Hastings was the first Governor-General of Bengal, who had a council of members and Governors of Bombay and Madras reporting to him
- The Act made it important for the court of directors of EIC to report on revenue and civil and military affairs in India
Amending Act, 1781
- The Declaratory Act of 1781 was passed to rectify the defects in the Regulating Act
- It mandated that the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court be restricted to just Calcutta, and the Governor-General in Council was empowered to issue rights, ordinances, and regulations in the Supreme Court.
Pitt's India Act 1784
- The Act introduced the Dual Control System in India, where the Company became the subordinate department of State, and its Indian territories were termed ‘British Possessions'
- The Company held control over commerce and day-to-day administration
- A Board of Control was established to control Company's civil, military, and revenue affairs
- It consisted of the Chancellor of Exchequer, The Secretary of State, and the Four Member Privy Council appointed by the Crown
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Charter Act of 1813
- Due to losses in trade crippled by Napoleonic wars, the English traders demanded a share in the Indian trade
- This Act deprived the Company of its commercial monopoly, allowing English traders to get a fair share
- The Company, however, retained a monopoly of trade with China and in tea
- Under the Act, a sum of Rs. 1,00,000 was provided annually to revive literature, promote scientific knowledge, and teach English to Indian natives
- This Act also permitted Christian missionaries to propagate English and preach Christianity in India officially
Charter Act of 1833
- The Act introduced several laws to improve the centralization of administration
- The Governor-General of Bengal was made the Governor-General of India
- All military and civil powers were vested in him
- It deprived the Governor of Madras and Bombay of making any laws, and law-making powers were vested with the Governor-General of India
- An Indian Law Commission was appointed under this Act, and Lord Macaulay became the first Chairman of this commission
Charter Act of 1853
- Under this Act, the Company's patronage over services was dissolved, and the services were now open to competitive examination
- Civil services were not open to Indians as well
- It also provided the separation of executive and legislative functions of the council, adding six new members to the Indian Central Legislative Council
End of Company Rule [1773 - 1858]
Post the 1857 Revolt, the British Crown took over the Company's administration. With the Government of India, 1858 Act, Company Rule [1773 - 1858] officially ended, and India came to be governed by the British Crown through its secretary of State and council.
This period is crucial because it exposed the limitations and faultlines in how India was administered, eventually leading to uprisings and revolts that led to India's freedom struggle.
FAQs on Company Rule [1773 - 1858]
Q1. What is Company Rule [1773 - 1858]?
The period of British Rule in India can be divided into two phases. The first was the Company Rule [1773 - 1858] when the British East India Company regulated Indian territories. And the second phase began to post the 1857 uprising, which led to the removal of Company Rule and the British Crown taking control of the Indian domains.
Q2. Who introduced the Regulating Act in 1773 and was it during the Company Rule [1773 - 1858]?
The British Parliament passed the Regulating Act of 1773 to regulate the British East India Company's Indian territories, mainly Bengal, during the Company Rule (1773 to 1858.
Q3. How did the Company Rule [1773 - 1858] start in India?
The Company Rule [1773 - 1858] in India began in 1757 after the British won the Battle of Plassey and established dominion over large parts of Indian territory. It was soon cemented by the Regulating Act 1773.
Q4. How did the British East India Company come to rule India and what does it have to do with the Company Rule [1773 - 1858]?
While the British came to India as traders in the 1600s, the first port acquired by the East India Company was in Bengal in the year 1757. As an agent of British imperialism, the Company extended its influence slowly to other parts, gaining political control over different kingdoms and areas in the country. The Regulating Act (1773) and the India Act (1784) during the Company Rule [1773 - 1858] helped establish the government's control of political policy in India.