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- For usage, see British rule in India
British Raj (rāj, lit. "reign" in Hindustani) primarily refers to the British rule in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947; it can also refer to the period of dominion, and even the region under the rule. The region, commonly called India in contemporary usage, included areas directly administered by the United Kingdom, as well as the princely states ruled by individual rulers under the paramountcy of the British Crown. After 1876, the resulting political union was officially called the Indian Empire and issued passports under that name. As India, it was a founding member of the League of Nations, the United Nations, and a member nation of the Summer Olympics in 1900, 1920, 1928, 1932, and 1936.
The system of governance was instituted in 1858, when the rule of the British East India Company was transferred to the Crown in the person of Queen Victoria (and who, in 1876, was proclaimed Empress of India), and lasted until 1947, when the British Indian Empire was partitioned into two sovereign dominion states, the Union of India (later the Republic of India) and the Dominion of Pakistan (later the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the eastern half of which, still later, became the People's Republic of Bangladesh).
 Geographical extent of the Raj
The British Raj extended over all regions of present-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. In addition, at various times, it included Aden Colony (from 1858 to 1937), Lower Burma (from 1858 to 1937), Upper Burma (from 1886 to 1937), British Somaliland (briefly from 1884 to 1898), and Singapore (briefly from 1858 to 1867). Burma was directly administered by the British Crown from 1937 until its independence in 1948.
Among other countries in the region, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), was ceded to the United Kingdom in 1802 under the Treaty of Amiens. Ceylon was a British Crown Colony, but not part of British India. The kingdoms of Nepal and Bhutan, having fought wars with the British, subsequently signed treaties with them, were recognized by the British as independent states. The Kingdom of Sikkim was established as a princely state after the Anglo-Sikkimese Treaty of 1861. However, the issue of sovereignty was left undefined. The Maldive Islands were a British protectorate from 1887 to 1965, but not part of British India.
 British India and the Native States
The British Indian Empire (contemporaneously India) consisted of two divisions: British India and the Native States or Princely States. In its Interpretation Act of 1889, the British Parliament adopted the following definitions:
The expression British India shall mean all territories and places within Her Majesty's dominions which are for the time being governed by Her Majesty through the Governor-General of India, or through any Governor or other officer subordinate to the Governor-General of India. The expression India shall mean British India together with any territories of an Native Prince or Chief under the suzerainty of Her Majesty, exercised through the Governor-General of India, or through any Governor or other officer subordinate to the Governor-General of India. (52 & 53 Vict. cap. 63, sec. 18)
(It should be noted that in general the term "British India" had been used (and is still used) to also refer to the regions under the rule of the British East India Company in India from 1600 to 1858. The term has also been used to refer to the "British in India.")
Suzerainty over 175 Princely States, some of the largest and most important, was exercised (in the name of the British Crown) by central government of British India under the Viceroy; the remaining, approximately 500, states were dependents of the provincial governments of British India under a Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, or Chief Commissioner (as the case might have been). A clear distinction between "dominion" and "suzerainty" was supplied by the jurisdiction of the courts of law: the law of British India rested upon the laws passed by the British Parliament and the legislative powers those laws vested in the various governments of British India, both central and local; in contrast, the courts of the Princely States existed under the authority of the respective rulers of those states.
 Administrative Divisions of British India
 Major Provinces
At the turn of the 20th century, British India consisted of eight provinces that were administered either by a Governor or a Lieutenant-Governor. The following table lists their areas and populations (but does not include those of the dependent Native States): During the partition of Bengal (1905–1911), a new province, Assam and East Bengal was created as a Lieutenant-Governorship. In 1911, East Bengal was reunited with Bengal, and the new provinces in the east became: Assam, Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.
|Province of British India||Area (in thousands of square miles)||Population (in millions of inhabitants)||Chief Administrative Officer|
|Bengal (including present-day Bangladesh, West Bengal, Bihar and Orissa)||151||75||Lieutenant-Governor|
|United Provinces (present-day Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand)||107||48||Lieutenant-Governor|
|Central Provinces (including Berar)||104||13||Chief Commissioner|
 Minor Provinces
In addition, there were a few minor provinces that were administered by a Chief Commissioner:
|Minor Province||Area (in thousands of square miles)||Population (in thousands of inhabitants)||Chief Administrative Officer|
|North West Frontier Province||16||2,125||Chief Commissioner|
|British Baluchistan (British and Administered territory)||46||308||British Political Agent in Baluchistan served as ex-officio Chief Commissioner|
|Coorg||1.6||181||British Resident in Mysore served as ex-officio Chief Commissioner|
|Ajmer-Merwara||2.7||477||British Political Agent in Rajputana served as ex-officio Chief Commissioner|
|Andaman and Nicobar Islands||3||25||Chief Commissioner|
 Native states
 Organization of British India
Following the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Act for the Better Government of India (1858) made changes in the governance of India at three levels: in the imperial government in London, in the central government in Calcutta, and in the provincial governments in the presidencies (and later in the provinces).
In London, it provided for a cabinet-level Secretary of State for India and a fifteen-member Council of India, whose members were required, as one prerequisite of membership, to have spent at least ten years in India and to have done so no more than ten years before. Although the Secretary of State formulated the policy instructions to be communicated to India, he was required in most instances to consult the Council, but especially so in matters relating to spending of Indian revenues. The Act envisaged a system of "double government" in which the Council ideally served both as a check on excesses in imperial policy-making and as a body of up-to-date expertise on India. However, the Secretary of State also had special emergency powers that allowed him to make unilateral decisions, and, in reality, the Council's expertise was sometimes outdated. From 1858 until 1947, twenty seven individuals would serve as Secretary of State for India and direct the India Office; these included: Sir Charles Wood (1859 - 1866) , Marquess of Salisbury (1874 - 1878) (later three-time Prime Minister of Britain), John Morley (1905 - 1910) (initiator of the Minto-Morley Reforms), E. S. Montagu (1917 - 1922) (an architect of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms), and Frederick Pethick-Lawrence (1945 - 1947) (head of the 1946 Cabinet Mission to India). The size of the advisory Council would be reduced over the next half-century, but its powers would remain unchanged; in 1907, for the first time, two Indians would be appointed to the Council.
In Calcutta, the Governor-General remained head of the Government of India and now was more commonly called the Viceroy on account of his secondary role as the Crown's representative to the nominally sovereign princely states; he was, however, now responsible to the Secretary of State in London and through him to British Parliament. A system of "double government" had already been in place in the East India Company rule in India from the time of Pitt's India Act of 1784. The Governor-General in the capital, Calcutta, and the Governor in a subordinate presidency (Madras or Bombay) was each required to consult his advisory council; executive orders in Calcutta, for example, were issued in the name of "Governor-General-in-Council" (i.e.the Governor-General with the advice of the Council). The Company's system of "double government" had its critics, since, from the time of the system's inception, there had been been intermittent feuding between the Governor-General and his Council; still, the Act of 1858 made no major changes in governance However, in the years immediately thereafter, which were also the years of post-rebellion reconstruction, the Viceroy Lord Canning found the collective decision-making of the Council to be too time-consuming for the pressing tasks ahead. He therefore requested the "portfolio system" of an Executive Council in which the business of each government department (the "portfolio") was assigned to and became the responsibility of a single Council member. Routine departmental decisions were made exclusively by the member, however, important decisions required the consent of the Governor-General and, in the absence such consent, required discussion by the entire Executive Council. This innovation in Indian governance was promulgated in the Indian Councils Act of 1861.
If the Government of India needed to enact new laws, the Councils Act allowed for a Legislative Council—an expansion of the Executive Council by up to twelve additional members, each appointed to a two-year term—with half the members consisting of British officials of the government (termed official) and allowed to vote, and the other half, comprising Indians and domiciled Britons in India (termed non-official) and serving only in an advisory capacity. All laws enacted by Legislative Councils in India, whether by the Imperial Legislative Council in Calcutta or by the provincial ones in Madras and Bombay, required the final assent of the Secretary of State in London; this prompted Sir Charles Wood, the second Secretary of State, to describe the Government of India as "a despotism controlled from home." Moreover, although the appointment of Indians to the Legislative Council was a response to calls after the 1857 rebellion, most notably by Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan, for more consultation with Indians, the Indians so appointed were from the landed aristocracy, often chosen for their loyalty, and far from representative. Even so, the "tiny advances in the practise of representative government were intended to provide safety valves for the expression of public opinion which had been so badly misjudged before the rebellion." (Bayly 1990, p. 195). Indian affairs now also came to be more closely examined in the British parliament and more widely discussed in the British press.
Although the Great Uprising of 1857 had shaken the British enterprise in India, it had not derailed it. After the rebellion, the British became more circumspect. Much thought was devoted to the causes of the rebellion, and from it three main lessons were drawn. At a more practical level, it was felt that there needed to be more communication and camaraderie between the British and Indians; not just between British army officers and their Indian staff, but in civilian life as well. The Indian army was completely reorganised: units composed of the Muslims and Brahmins of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, who had formed the core of the rebellion, were disbanded. New regiments, like the Sikhs and Baluchis, composed of Indians who, in British estimation, had demonstrated steadfastness, were formed. From then on, the Indian army was to remain unchanged in its organization until 1947.
It was also felt that both the princes and the large land-holders, by not joining the rebellion, had proved to be, in Lord Canning's words, "breakwaters in a storm." They too were rewarded in the new British Raj, by being officially recognised in the treaties each state now signed with the Crown. At the same time, it was felt that the peasants, for whose benefit the large land-reforms of the United Provinces had been undertaken, had shown disloyalty, by, in many cases, fighting for their former landlords against the British. Consequently, no more land reforms were implemented for the next 90 years: Bengal and Bihar were to remain the realms of large land holdings (unlike the Punjab and Uttar Pradesh).
Lastly, the British felt disenchanted with Indian reaction to social change. Until the rebellion, they had enthusiastically pushed through social reform, like the ban on suttee by Lord William Bentinck. It was now felt that traditions and customs in India were too strong and too rigid to be changed easily; consequently, no more British social interventions were made, especially in matters dealing with religion, even when the British felt very strongly about the issue (as in the instance of the remarriage of Hindu child widows).
 Famines, Epidemics, and Public Health
See also: Chalisa famine, Doji bara famine, Agra famine of 1837–38, Orissa Famine of 1866, Rajputana famine of 1869, Bihar famine of 1873–74, Great Famine of 1876–78, Indian famine of 1896–97, and Indian famine of 1899–1900
During the British Raj, famines in India, often attributed to government policies, were some of the worst ever recorded, including the Great Famine of 1876–78, in which 6.1 million to 10.3 million people died and the Indian famine of 1899–1900, in which 1.25 to 10 million people died.
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