How Britishers ruled over India?

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Title: The British Raj: A Chronological Glance at British Rule Over India


The British Raj holds a significant position in world history, particularly in the annals of India. Ruling over the Indian subcontinent for nearly two centuries, British colonial rule predominantly shaped the socio-political and economic landscape of India. Here, we present an article for all UPSC aspirants and history enthusiasts to understand the British era in India in an encapsulated way.

1601-1765: Establishment and Territorial Ascendancy

The British empire first emerged in India through The East India Company. Established in 1601, it aimed to outrank its European peers in the spice trade. Their initial contact started with the erection of trading posts in Bombay (now Mumbai), Madras (now Chennai), and Calcutta (now Kolkata). Affairs took a significant turn post the battles of the Plassey (1757) and the Buxar (1764), translating into immense territorial gains.

1765-1857: Company Rule

Following the battles, the Company acquired taxation rights or “Diwani” over the provinces of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa. Thus, commenced the era of the Company rule (1765-1857). During this period, the British introduced western education, new judicial systems, civil services, modern infrastructure, postal and telegraph systems, and the famous railway network. However, their exploitative agricultural policies led to the horrific Bengal famine in 1770.

The Permanent Settlement Act of 1793, the Mahalwari System (adopted partly in the North-western provinces, Punjab, parts of Madhya Pradesh), and the Ryotwari System (established in Bombay, parts of Madras, Assam and Coorg provinces) were notable land revenue policies, the impacts of which are visible even today.

1857-1858: The Great Rebellion

One of the pivotal epochs during the British Raj was the Great Rebellion or Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. The widespread resentment against the Company’s policies culminated in this uprising, starting from Meerut and ultimately spreading to major parts of North and Central India.

1858-1947: Crown’s Rule

The Crown took over the reins post the mutiny, ushering in a new phase known as the “British Raj”, beginning with the Government of India Act 1858. Queen Victoria’s Proclamation (1858) marked the official beginning of the Crown’s rule. Major reforms were carried out in the administration, the Indian Councils Act (1861, 1892 and 1909), the Indian Universities Act (1904), and the Partition of Bengal (1905) being some of the prominent examples.

Indian Nationalist Movement

The Indian National Congress, established in 1885, played a key role in leading the freedom struggle against the British. Emerging nationalist leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose, etc., fought relentlessly to oust the British. This period also witnessed the historic Khilafat Non-Cooperation Movement (1920-22), Civil Disobedience Movement (1930-34), and the Quit India Movement (1942).

1947: The End of British Rule

After a long stretch of socio-political struggle, economic hardships, communal tensions and global pressure, the British were finally compelled to leave India. The transfer of power took place on August 15, 1947, marking the end of British dominion over India.


The onset and end of British rule in India were major turning points observed in the Indian history dabbed with exploitation, social unrest, transformation, and revolts. The draconian rule left an indelible mark on the Indian civilization, the effects of which are discernible even today. For UPSC aspirants, understanding this period is crucial not only to tackle questions in the examination but also to deepen your perspective regarding India’s socio-political evolution. After all, it is rightly said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

Prince Luthra (UPSC CSE AIR 577)

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