The term ‘Company Rule’ is used to refer to the rule of the British East India Company. The British came to India as traders in 1757 and set up the British East India Company to establish trade routes between India and Britain. Eventually, Company Rule spread to the entirety of the Indian subcontinent and established dominance of the British crown.
While the British set up their trade companies across the country, they also took part in India's political activities and soon usurped dominion over several regions. In this article, we have shared details about Company Rule in India and its complete history.
Company Rule: Overview
The Company Rule established by the Britishers lasted for almost a century, from 1773 to 1858. After this period, the Britishers established Crown Rule in India, meaning that India was now directly under the rule of the Queen of England. The Company Rule started a series of uprisings in various parts of India, which eventually led to a full-scale independence struggle.
When the Company got the status of ‘diwan’ in Bengal, it gradually abolished the local Nizam rule and established its own rule. Here is an overview of the Company Rule in India.
British Crown Rule
Beginning of the Company Rule (1773-1858)
The Company Rule (1773-1858) started from the Regulating Act in 1773 and lasted up to 1857 when it was dismantled due to a large-scale uprising among Indian sepoys. The Sepoy Mutiny or the First War of Indian Independence was 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)
While the East India Company was in India, it expanded its Company Rule in major Indian capitals, including one in Calcutta. Here, we have shared some of the Acts introduced by the Britishers under the Company Rule to establish full control over the Indian subcontinent.
Regulating Act, 1773
- This Act officially permitted the East India Company to retain territorial possessions in India and regulate activities and functioning. This helped establish the Company Rule in India.
- 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 under the Company Rule. He 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 and strengthen the Company Rule in India.
- It mandated that the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court be restricted to just Calcutta.
- On the other hand, 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 the State.
- The Indian territories of the Company were termed ‘British Possessions'.
- The Company held control over commerce and day-to-day administration, strengthening the Company Rule.
- 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.
Charter Act, 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, 1833
- The Act introduced several laws to improve the centralization of administration through Company Rule.
- The Governor-General of Bengal was made the Governor-General of India.
- All military and civil powers were vested in him.
- The Company Rule 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, 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)
The revolt of 1857 marked the end of the Company Rule in India. Post the 1857 Revolt, the British Crown took over the Company's administration. When the Company Rule officially ended, 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. Even after the end of the Company Rule, India kept striving for total independence.
FAQs on Company Rule (1773-1858)
Q1. What was the Company Rule?
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. 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. How did the Company Rule start in India?
The Company Rule 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 of 1773. Company Rule was revoked in 1858 and was replaced by the Crown Rule.
Q3. How many years did the Company rule in India?
The Company or the British East India Company rules in India from 1773 to 1858. So, the Company Rule lasted for about a century in India. After 1858, the Company Rule in India was replaced by the Crown Rule.
Q4. How did Company Rule lead to British Raj in India?
While the British came to India as traders, the first port acquired by the East India Company was in Bengal in the year 1757. 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 helped establish British control in India.
Q5. What is the difference between Company Rule and Crown Rule?
Company Rule lasted from 1773 to 1858 when the British East India Company regulated Indian territories. After that, the second phase began post the 1857 uprising, which led to the removal of Company Rule and the Crown Rule taking control of the Indian domains.