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Lord Dalhousie

Lord Dalhousie

  • Lord Dalhousie came to India as the Governor-General in 1848.
  • He was from the beginning determined to extend direct British rule over as large area as possible.

  • Dalhousie had declared that “the extinction of all native states of India is just a question of time”.
  • The ostensible reason for this policy was his belief that British administration was far superior to the corrupt and oppressive administration of the native rulers.
  • The underlying motive of Dalhousie’s policy was the expansion of British exports to India.
  • Dalhousie, in common with other aggressive imperialists, believed that British exports to the native states of India were suffering because of the maladministration of these states by their Indian rulers.
  • Doctrine of Lapse
  • The chief instrument through which Lord Dalhousie implemented his policy of annexation was the ‘Doctrine of Lapse.’
  • Under the Doctrine of Lapse, when the ruler of a protected state died without a natural heir, his/her state was not to pass to an adopted heir as sanctioned by the age-old tradition of the country.
  • Instead, it was to be annexed to the British dominions unless the adoption had been clearly approved earlier by the British authorities.
  • Many states, including Satara in 1848 and Nagpur and Jhansi in 1854, were annexed by applying this doctrine.
  • Dalhousie also refused to recognize the titles of many ex-rulers or to pay their pensions.
  • Thus, the titles of the Nawabs of Carnatic and of Surat and the Raja of Tanjore were extinguished.
  • After the death of the ex-Peshwa Baji Rao II, who had been made the Raja of Bithur, Dalhousie refused to extend his pay or pension to his adopted son, Nana Saheb.
  • Lord Dalhousie was keen on annexing the kingdom of Avadh.
  • But the task presented certain difficulties.
  • For one, the Nawabs of Avadh had been British allies since the Battle of Buxer.
  • Moreover, they had been most obedient to the British over the years.
  • The Nawab of Avadh had many heirs and could not therefore be covered by the Doctrine of Lapse.
  • Some other pretext had to be found for depriving him of his dominions.
  • Lord Dalhousie hit upon the idea of alleviating the plight of the people of Avadh.
  • Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was accused of having misgoverned his state and of refusing to introduce reforms.
  • His state was therefore annexed in 1856.
  • Undoubtedly, the degeneration of the administration of Avadh was a painful reality for its people.
  • The Nawabs of Avadh, like other princes of the day, were selfish rulers absorbed in self-indulgence who cared little for good administration for the welfare of the people.
  • However, the responsibility for this state of affairs was in part that of the British who had at least since, 1801 controlled and indirectly governed Avadh.
  • In reality, it was the immense potential of Avadh as a market for Manchester goods which excited Dalhousie’s greed and aroused his ‘philanthropic’ feelings.


For similar reasons, to satisfy Britain’s growing demand for raw cotton, Dalhousie took

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