Doctrine of Lapse: Meaning, States, Year, Doctrine of Lapse UPSC Notes

By K Balaji|Updated : November 11th, 2022

The Doctrine of Lapse was adopted by the then Governor-General of India, Lord Dalhousie, between 1848 - 1856 on a large scale. The doctrine of lapse was a policy of annexation or acquisition introduced to deal with the big question of succession in certain princely states that did not have a legal or immediate male heir.

The doctrine of lapse annexed states forcibly that were not under any direct control of a ruler or administrative leader. The East India Company even seized such states that did not have a seemingly competent ruler from their point of view. It enabled the abolition of the princely status of these states and thus was abhorrent to most Indian rulers. In this article, aspirants can learn about the Doctrine of Lapse UPSC topic, its meaning, features, etc.

Table of Content

What is Doctrine of Lapse?

The ‘doctrine of lapse’ was an annexation policy adopted by the East India Company and was used until 1858. It was initially established by the East Indian Company in 1847 and applied on a large scale by Lord Dalhousie, which was why he was vastly linked to it.

The doctrine of lapse was mainly a narrative of the rules of succession for the Indian Hindu princely states. As the East India Company was largely influenced and controlled by the British then, all the decisions related to the succession of a kingdom were to be run through the British government.

Doctrine of Lapse PDF

The doctrine of lapsepolicy was majorly a product of the ‘lapse of paramountcy’, closely followed by the British rulers while ruling over India. Lord Dalhousie believed that Western rule was much more effective than Eastern rule and, therefore, should be enforced wherever possible.

Important Features of the Doctrine of Lapse

The doctrine of lapse was majorly looked upon as an imperialistic approach by the Indian rulers. They did not favour this policy as it assigned more power to the British government. The key features of the doctrine of lapse were as follows:

  • The doctrine of lapse policy applied to the states that did not have a competent ruler or a legal heir to the throne.
  • It automatically implied the removal of the princely status of the states and coming under the control of Lord Dalhousie and his administration.
  • The Doctrine of Lapse policy asserted that if a state does not have a legal heir, it has to seek permission from the British government to adopt a son for succession to the throne.
  • The British government had the right to deny a son's adoption for succession outright.
  • It was advertised that the doctrine of lapse was based on Hindu law, but that was not the case, unfortunately. The Hindu law permitted the adoption of a son for succession, but the annexation policy did not favour it.
  • According to this doctrine policy, the adopted son will also not be entitled to any kind of benefits, including the pension and titles that his father might have received earlier.
  • Nana Sahib, the adopted son of Maratha Peshwa Baji Rao II, was also denied his father’s pension and titles.

Doctrine of Lapse: Causes and Effects

The British government's forceful seizure or annexation of the Indian states under the doctrine of lapse was looked down upon by the Indian rulers. It was made to appear as an administrative decision but was a secret mission for Dalhousie to gain more power over the Indian territory. It also had major effects later.

Causes behind the Doctrine of Lapse Policy

The doctrine of lapse was put forward as an administrative decision during the British raj in India. There were several reasons behind this move of Lord Dalhousie & the East India Company, such as

  • The hidden motive of the East India Company & Lord Dalhousie was to gain more power & increase their territory.
  • It was directly proportional to the British government's increased revenue.
  • The doctrine of lapse policy was a solution to the ever-increasing debts of the East India Company and for fulfilling the requirement of funds for various other purposes.
  • This move appeared as a corrective measure for the princely states that did not have a proper heir to the throne or appeared to be incompetent.

Effects of Doctrine of Lapse

The annexation policy of the ‘doctrine of lapse’ had several negative and extensive effects. There was large opposition from the Indian rulers to this policy as it increased power and control of the Indian territory for the East India Company. There were certain effects of the doctrine of lapse that were majorly noticed.

  • Firstly, the policy enforcement led to several states' heavy annexation.
  • The acquisition of the princely Indian states led to an increase in the territory, revenue, and power of the East India Company.
  • The states annexed by the doctrine of lapse lost their freedom to operate and eventually converted into British colonies.
  • The policy also led to heavy resentment among the Indian princes of all the states, eventually leading to a major outbreak of Indian mutiny and the revolt that followed.
  • The adopted son of the famous Jhansi ki rani was also denied succession to the throne which led to a major fallout.

States Annexed under Doctrine of Lapse

The ‘doctrine of lapse’ by Lord Dalhousie aimed at regulating the succession of Indian princely status and bringing it under the control of the East India Company. It aimed to annex the states that did not have a competent ruler or an immediate legal heir.

Satara was the first state annexed under the doctrine of lapse in 1848 as the state's ruler died, and no male heir was present. Here is a list of the states annexed by the doctrine of lapse.

States

Year of Annexation

Satara

1848

Angul

1848

Arcot

1855

Awadh

1856

Assam

1838

Banda State

1858

Jaitpur

1849

Jalaun

1840

Jaswan

1849

Jhansi

1853

Kachar

1830

Kangra

1846

Kannanur State

1819

Kittur

1824

Kodagu

1834

Kozhikode (Calicut)

1806

Ballabhgarh

1858

Kullu State

1846

Kurnool

1839

Kutlehar

1825

Makrai

1890

Nagpur

1853

Nargund State

1858

Punjab

1849

Ramgarh State

1858

Sambalpur

1850

Surat

1842

Siba

1849

Tanjore

1855

Tulsipur

1854

Udaipur

1852

Doctrine of Lapse UPSC

The Doctrine of Lapse was a policy of annexation followed hugely by Lord Dalhousie, who was the Governor-General of India between 1848-1856. Owing to its extensive use, it also had many far-reaching effects. It has therefore been a significant topic for the aspirants preparing for the UPSC exam. All the aspirants preparing to sit for the upcoming IAS examination need to be thorough with the Doctrine of Lapse UPSC topic, as they can expect a few questions arising from it.

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FAQs on Doctrine of Lapse

  • The Doctrine of Lapse was an annexation policy that led to the acquisition or annexation of several Indian princely states without competent rulers.

  • Lord Dalhousie, the Governor-General of India, is said to have introduced the Doctrine of Lapse. Although the policy of initially adopted by the East India Company but was majorly followed in a proper and better manner by Lord Dalhousie.

  • The major conditions of the doctrine of lapse were that any state that did not have a proper ruler would be acquired by the East India Company and would not be allowed to adopt a son for succession without a legal heir.

  • The Doctrine of Lapse was introduced in India in 1848 on a large scale by the then Governor-General of India, Lord Dalhousie.

  • The first state annexed under the Doctrine of Lapse was Satara. Several Indian princely states, such as Awadh and Jhansi, were later annexed under the lapse of paramountcy.

  • The Doctrine of Lapse was used by Lord Dalhousie to take control of all such princely states that did not have a legal heir to the throne for various reasons. The states were also not allowed to choose their heir on their own without the permission of the British government. This automatically increased the power and control of the British, and therefore Lord Dalhousie favoured this policy.

  • The British stopped the Doctrine of Lapse from being used in 1859. It was officially discontinued by Lord Canning (1857-1861). The policy was also one of the major causes of the 1857 mutiny and caused a lot of disturbances among the princely states as well, due to which it was later abolished.

  • The Doctrine of Lapse was an annexation policy under which certain princely states were taken into direct control by the East India Company that did not have a direct legal heir. The states were not allowed to even choose their own heir either by adoption or any other means without the permission of the British government.

    Lord Dalhousie, the Governor-General of India (1848-1857), extensively followed this policy. Therefore he is the one who is majorly linked to this policy in history whenever the subject of the Doctrine of Lapse arises.

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