Subsidiary Alliance – Meaning, States, Features, Introduced By

By Balaji

Updated on: February 17th, 2023

Subsidiary Alliance was regarded as an agreement between Indian princely states and the East India Company of British under which the kingdoms of India lost their superiority to the British. It is understood as a major policy that caused the establishment of the Empire of British in the Indian nation. The subsidiary alliance is an important topic for the upcoming exam.

The Governor-General of India, Lord Wellesley, pioneered the term Subsidiary alliance during his rule between 1798 to 1805. However, Marquis Dupleix, a French Governor-General, first used the term. The first monarch to join a subsidiary alliance after the War of Buxar was Nawab of Awadh. Nevertheless, the first to acquire a well-formed subsidiary alliance was the Nizam of state Hyderabad.

Table of content

  • 1. What is Subsidiary Alliance? (more)
  • 2. Subsidiary Alliance States (more)
  • 3. System of Subsidiary Alliance (more)
  • 4. Policy of Subsidiary Alliance (more)
  • 5. Merits and Demerits of Subsidiary Alliance (more)
  • 6. Impacts of the Subsidiary Alliance (more)
  • 7. Subsidiary Alliance UPSC (more)

What is Subsidiary Alliance?

The Subsidiary alliance system was introduced by Lord Wellesley, which was essentially a contract between the princely states and the British East India Company. Under the system of a subsidiary alliance, the princely states lost their sovereignty to the British in return for protection. After the subsidiary alliance, the states ought to do the following-

  • Maintain the East India Company’s troops at their state capital.
  • Provide funds or settlements to the group for maintaining the armies.
  • Dismiss all Europeans from their respective states, even if they are engaged in civil services or part of the army.
  • The monarch was prohibited from keeping a fixed army or waging battles.
  • The ruler was required to retain a European official named a ‘resident’ who would address all negotiations and contacts with different states and provide approval to the ruler.

Subsidiary Alliance States

The Nawab of Hyderabad assented to signing the subsidiary alliance first, and later many other states followed. Hyderabad became the first state to accept the alliance agreement. The order in which the Indian States entered into subsidiary alliances from 1798 to 1803 is as follows:

States under Subsidiary Alliance Year
Hyderabad 1798
Mysore 1799 – After Tipu Sultan was overthrown in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War
Tanjore 1799
Awadh 1801
Peshwa (Marathas) 1802
Scindia (Marathas) 1803
Gaekwad (Marathas) 1803
The Rajput states 1818
The Holkars 1818

System of Subsidiary Alliance

Below is the structure of the subsidiary alliance that came into being to expand the Company’s Indian region. There were four stages that led to the establishment of the alliance, get the complete details-

  • First stage: The British promised to provide a set army to the native rulers in exchange for a specified capital sum.
  • Second stage: The English committed to keeping an enduring martial force to assist their partner in exchange for a set annual sum of money.
  • Third stage: British promised to support a limited subsidiary power to assist their partner in exchange for a certain annual sum of funds and keep the pressure within the ally’s borders.
  • Fourth and last stage: British pledged to keep a constant and static subsidiary force initiated by Lord Wellesley, within their partner’s territory.
  • They were given access to a part of the ally’s territory instead of receiving money.

Policy of Subsidiary Alliance

The policies of the subsidiary alliance and doctrine of lapse weakened the administration of India. The characteristics of the alliance treaty are as follows. French Governor Dupleix introduced the subsidiary alliance.

  • In India, the subsidiary alliance was introduced by lord Wellesley.
  • The rulers of India who decided to enter into a Subsidiary Alliance had to disband their military forces and willingly accept the British troops in their colony.
  • The monarch was required to spend for the maintenance of British troops. It is believed that a part of the ruler’s territory was surrendered to the English people if he failed to complete the expenditure.
  • The British responsibility was to safeguard the Indian states against alien invasion or inner rebellion.
  • The British rarely kept their pledge of non-intervention in the interior happenings of the states of India.
  • The states of India were not allowed to join any partnership with additional foreign authorities.
  • The idea of a Subsidiary alliance was to deprive the influence of the French. Considering this, rulers could not employ foreign individuals other than British men in various services.
  • Indian states required approval from the British to penetrate political associations with different states of India.
  • The monarchs of India lost all their control regarding military and foreign affairs and finally evolved as a British ‘protectorate.’

Merits and Demerits of Subsidiary Alliance

Below were the significant pros and cons of establishing a Subsidiary alliance in any state. Indian rulers faced misery and remained entirely under the control of the British administration.

Pros of Subsidiary Alliance Disadvantages of Subsidiary Alliance
The British attained useful territories as subsidiary income. The states of India remained poor as the expense of the subsidies exhausted their resources.
The Indian rulers maintained large British troops. The high expenditure on maintaining the British army, and the ongoing needs of the citizen, depleted the treasury.
The British handled the foreign and defense matters of the partner indirectly. The rulers of India had no independence and were fully supervised by the English people.
The British could overpower the Indian rulers and take over their colonies’ anytime. The Indian rulers lost interest in the people’s welfare with British custom and safety.

Impacts of the Subsidiary Alliance

The British subsidiary alliance policy had many consequences. Many individuals were affected and ultimately became unemployed as Indian rulers dissolved their armies.

  • Most of India’s regions came under British authority.
  • Due to this, the states of India lost their independence.
  • The Nizams rulers of Hyderabad, who ruled from the 18th to 20th century, were the first to adopt a Subsidiary coalition in 1798.
  • Lord Robert Clive also presented the system of subsidiary alliance in Oudh.
  • Allahabad accord was signed, and the British pledged the Oudh colony from opponents like the Marathas.

Subsidiary Alliance UPSC

The subsidiary alliance is an essential topic of the IAS exam, the candidates must prepare well and get hold of the core concepts and fundamentals. Understanding and comprehending the concepts will help the candidates in answering the questions accurately in the upcoming exam. You can note the pattern and the ideation of the types of questions asked in the exam by referring to the previous year papers.

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