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Presidencies and provinces of British India

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**1. Establishment and Administration under the East India Company (1793–1858):**
– English East India Company founded in Surat in 1608
– Company victories at Battle of Plassey (1757) and Battle of Buxar (1764)
– Company paramount power in south Asia by mid-19th century
– Government of India Act 1858 ended Company rule in Bengal
– Madras, Bombay, and Bengal Presidencies established by mid-18th century
– Presidencies administered by governors

**2. British India Territories and Provinces:**
– Covered 54% of India’s area and 77% of its population in 1910
– Included princely states under British suzerainty
– Excluded Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and Maldive Islands
– Extended to frontiers of Persia, Afghanistan, Nepal, Tibet, China, French Indochina, and Siam
– Included Aden Province in Arabian Peninsula
– Madras, Bombay, Bengal, and North-Western Provinces established
– Penang became the fourth presidency in 1805
– Annexations of Carnatic, Ajmer-Merwara, Coorg, Sind, and Punjab Province

**3. End of British India Rule and Formation of New Provinces:**
– Independence from British rule in 1947
– Formation of Dominions of India and Pakistan
– Burma part of British India from 1824 to 1937
– Sri Lanka and Maldive Islands not part of British India
– Bengal, Bombay, Madras, North-Western Provinces, and Penang as new provinces

**4. Administration under the Crown (1858–1947) and Expansion of Territories:**
– British Raj began with presidencies as centers of government
– Regulation provinces like Central Provinces, Burma, Assam, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and Baluchistan established
– Major provinces like North-West Frontier Province, Eastern Bengal and Assam, Bihar and Orissa, Delhi, and Sind created

**5. Aden and General References:**
– Aden’s history and separation from British India
– Transformation of provinces into states and union territories post-independence
– Princely States’ role during the colonial era
– Historical periods of British India: trading corporation, acquisition and consolidation of dominion, transfer of powers to the Crown post-Mutiny of 1857
– Reference to ‘The Imperial Gazetteer of India’ and further reading materials

The provinces of India, earlier presidencies of British India and still earlier, presidency towns, were the administrative divisions of British governance on the Indian subcontinent. Collectively, they have been called British India. In one form or another, they existed between 1612 and 1947, conventionally divided into three historical periods:

  • Between 1612 and 1757 the East India Company set up "factories" (trading posts) in several locations, mostly in coastal India, with the consent of the Mughal emperors, Maratha Empire or local rulers. Its rivals were the merchant trading companies of Portugal, Denmark, the Netherlands, and France. By the mid-18th century three Presidency towns: Madras, Bombay and Calcutta, had grown in size.
  • During the period of Company rule in India, 1757–1858, the Company gradually acquired sovereignty over large parts of India, now called "Presidencies". However, it also increasingly came under British government oversight, in effect sharing sovereignty with the Crown. At the same time, it gradually lost its mercantile privileges.
  • Following the Indian Rebellion of 1857 the company's remaining powers were transferred to the Crown. Under the British Raj (1858–1947), administrative boundaries were extended to include a few other British-administered regions, such as Upper Burma. Increasingly, however, the unwieldy presidencies were broken up into "Provinces".
A mezzotint engraving of Fort William, Calcutta, the capital of the Bengal Presidency in British India 1735.

"British India" did not include the many princely states which continued to be ruled by Indian princes, though by the 19th century under British suzerainty—their defence, foreign relations, and communications relinquished to British authority and their internal rule closely monitored. At the time of Indian Independence, in 1947, there were officially 565 princely states, a few being very large although most were very small. They comprised a quarter of the population of the British Raj and two fifths of its land area, with the provinces comprising the remainders.

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