British East India Company chartered by the Crown. A private company devoted to profitable trade.


Robert Clive, a director of the East Indian Company, defeats the Mughal Army. The company established its hold on Calcutta and the Benghal region. It continues to expand its power thereafter through the diplomatic and military annexations of local principalities and through indirect rule through collaborating Indian princes.

1772 A representative of the British East India Company becomes an official of the Mughal Empire, with rights to collect taxes, using exisitng Indian collectors, but keeping the revenue. Gradually this delegated authority was used by the Company to increase its role in provincial administration and justice.

Humanitarian reform initiatives launched from England. Reforms inspired by the Enlightenment and to be carried out by the British government and civil service as well as by private citizens serving as missionaries. One could call this a kind of "Enlightened Despotism."

  • In the 1820s, British schools established by missionaries.
  • From the 1820s, British women in growing numbers came to India to serve as wives of British officials and officers, as missionaries, and generally as the carriers of Victorian morality and civilization.
    • Organized family and social life, the work of servants
    • Fostered moral conduct, especially the ideal of monogamous marriage
    • As mothers and wives provided the basis for British population growth within the colony
    • As missionaries (single or married) carved out an alternative to the prescribed roles of wife, mother, and homemaker, while carrying these ideals to Indian women.
  • 1833, Thomas Macaully, historian, poet, and chair of a Parliamentary Committee on the Reform of Indian Education, recommended that all British sponsored education be taught in English using English books and literature. Even at the time, he recognized that such a reform would create a growing Anglophone Indian elite that would eventually demand self-government.
1805-1840 By 1805, the British East India Company (British East India Company) was the most powerful, single territorial power in the Indian subcontinent. By 1840, the BEI had extensive influence beyond "British India" via its influence over princes ruling in other parts of the subcontinent. (See maps)
1857 The Indian Mutiny. Indian soldiers in the BEI army rise in revolt and threaten the continued control of the BEI in northern India. After the eventual defeat of the revolt, the BEI is dissolved and Parliament in London takes over the governing of all of British Indian.
1860s-1880s A new wave of reform unfolds, in part to prevent future revolts and to secure the loyalties of Indian elites, through education, service in the British civil service, and lucrative arragnements with large Indian landowners. An effort to expand education is launched around 1880, but includes support for expanded schooling in English as well as schooling in Hindu and Muslem institutions. By far the largest numbers of children drawn into this effort were attending Hindu and Muslem schools.
1883 Ilbert Bill, introduced by British Indian Viceroy Ripon to extend the authority of Anglophone Indian magistrates to cover cases involving Europeans, fails to pass in Parliament.
1885 The foundation of the Indian National Congress Party, made up of Indian elites who worked to gain an independent role for their countryment in British India and eventually for full self-government.