India Office

India Office

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The India Office was a British government department created in 1858 to oversee the colonial administration of India
British Raj
British Raj was the British rule in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947; The term can also refer to the period of dominion...

, i.e. the modern-day nations of Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

, Burma, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, and Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, as well as territories in South-east
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

 and Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

, the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

, and parts of the east coast of Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

. The department was headed by the Secretary of State for India, a member of the British cabinet
Cabinet of the United Kingdom
The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is the collective decision-making body of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, composed of the Prime Minister and some 22 Cabinet Ministers, the most senior of the government ministers....

, who was formally advised by the Council of India.

Upon the partition of British India in 1947 into the two new independent dominion
Dominion
A dominion, often Dominion, refers to one of a group of autonomous polities that were nominally under British sovereignty, constituting the British Empire and British Commonwealth, beginning in the latter part of the 19th century. They have included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland,...

s of India and Pakistan, the India Office was closed down. Responsibility for the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

's relations with the two new countries was transferred to the Commonwealth Relations Office (formerly the Dominions Office).

Origins of the India Office (1600–1858)


The East India Company was established in 1600 as a joint-stock association of English merchants who received, by a series of charters, exclusive rights to trade to the 'Indies'. The 'Indies
Indies
The Indies is a term that has been used to describe the lands of South and Southeast Asia, occupying all of the present India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and also Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Brunei, Singapore, the Philippines, East Timor, Malaysia and...

' were defined as the lands lying between the Cape of Good Hope and the Straits of Magellan; the term "India" had been derived from the name of a river, the Indus, long important to commerce and civilization in the region. The Company soon established a network of warehouses or 'factories' throughout south and east Indies in Asia. Over a period of 250 years the Company underwent several substantial changes in its basic character and functions.

A period of rivalry between the Old and New Companies after 1698 resulted in the formation in 1709 of the United Company of Merchants Trading to the East Indies. This 'new' East India Company
East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

 was transformed during the second half of the eighteenth century from a mainly commercial body with scattered Asian trading interests into a major territorial power in South Asia with its headquarters in Bengal, present day Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

 and the State of West Bengal
West Bengal
West Bengal is a state in the eastern region of India and is the nation's fourth-most populous. It is also the seventh-most populous sub-national entity in the world, with over 91 million inhabitants. A major agricultural producer, West Bengal is the sixth-largest contributor to India's GDP...

 of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

(Bharat Ganarajya). The political implications of this development eventually caused the British government in 1784 to institute standing Commissioners (the Board of Control) in London to exercise supervision over the Company's Indian policies.

This change in the Company's status, along with other factors, led to the Acts of Parliament of 1813 and 1833, which opened the British trade with the East Indies
East Indies
East Indies is a term used by Europeans from the 16th century onwards to identify what is now known as Indian subcontinent or South Asia, Southeastern Asia, and the islands of Oceania, including the Malay Archipelago and the Philippines...

 to all shipping and resulted in the Company's complete withdrawal from its commercial functions. The Company continued to exercise responsibility, under the supervision of the Board, for the government of India until the re-organisation of 1858.

Throughout most of these changes the basic structure of Company organisation in East India House in the City of London
City of London
The City of London is a small area within Greater London, England. It is the historic core of London around which the modern conurbation grew and has held city status since time immemorial. The City’s boundaries have remained almost unchanged since the Middle Ages, and it is now only a tiny part of...

 remained largely unaltered, comprising a large body of proprietors or shareholders and an elected Court of Directors, headed by a chairman and deputy chairman who, aided by permanent officials, were responsible for the daily conduct of Company business. The Board of Control maintained its separate office close to the Government buildings in Westminster.

With the India Act of 1858 the Company and the Board of Control of the East India Companies were replaced by a single new department of state, the India Office, which functioned, under the Secretary of State for India, as an executive office of United Kingdom government alongside the Foreign Office, Colonial Office, Home Office and War Office.

Description and functions


The Secretary of State for India
Secretary of State for India
The Secretary of State for India, or India Secretary, was the British Cabinet minister responsible for the government of India and the political head of the India Office...

 was assisted by a statutory body of advisers, the Council of India, and headed a staff of civil servants organised into a system of departments largely taken over from the East India Company and Board of Control establishments, and housed in a new India Office building in Whitehall. The Secretary of State for India inherited all the executive functions previously carried out by the Company, and all the powers of 'superintendence, direction and control' over the British Government in South Asia
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

 previously exercised by the Board of Control. Improved communications with South Asia
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

 – the overland and submarine telegraph cables (1868–70), and the opening of the Suez Canal (1869) – rendered this control, exercised through the Viceroy and provincial Governors covering large areas in the regions of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, more effective in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. It was only with the constitutional reforms initiated during the First World War, and carried forward by the India Acts of 1919 and 1935, that there came about a significant relaxation of India Office supervision over the Government of British India, and with it, in South Asia
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

, a gradual devolution of authority to legislative bodies and local governments. The same administrative reforms also led in 1937 to the separation of Burma from rest of South Asia
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

 and the creation in London of the Burma Office, separate from the India Office though sharing the same Secretary of State and located in the same building. With the gradual events and establishments of sovereign independent nations and the final grant of independence to India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 (Bharat Ganarajya) and Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

 in 1947, and to Burma (Myanmar) in 1948, both the India Office and the Burma Office were officially dissolved.

As a result of the widespread involvement in the external relations and defence policy of pre-1947 African, Asian and Middle Eastern countries, the India Office was also responsible for particular neighbouring or connected areas at different times. Among the most significant of these are:
Bengal (1616-1857);
Sri Lanka (c. 1750–1802);
St Helena (to 1834);
Cape of Good Hope (to 1836);
Zanzibar, Somalia and Ethiopia (mainly nineteenth century);
Red Sea, Arabian Peninsula, Gulf States, Iraq and Iran (c1600-1947);
Afghanistan, Russian and Chinese Central Asia, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim (late eighteenth century to 1947);
Malaya and South-East Asia (to c. 1867);
Indonesia (to c. 1825);
China (early seventeenth century to 1947); and
Japan (seventeenth century).

Other groups of involvement have also resulted from India Office interest in the status of Indian emigrants to the West Indies, south and east Africa, and Fiji.

Timeline

1600 East India Company established in London
1709 United East India Company emerges as union of the Old and New Companies
1757 Battle of Plassey
Battle of Plassey
The Battle of Plassey , 23 June 1757, was a decisive British East India Company victory over the Nawab of Bengal and his French allies, establishing Company rule in South Asia which expanded over much of the Indies for the next hundred years...

 (Pâlāshīr Juddho)
1765 Mughal Emperor grants Diwani of Bengal – right to collect land revenue – to East India Company
1773 Warren Hastings appointed as first Governor of Bengal
1784 British Government Board of Control established in London
1813 End of East India Company's monopoly rights over trade with India
1833 End of East India Company's monopoly rights over trade with China
1857 Indian Uprisings
1858 East India Company and Board of Control replaced by India Office and Council of India
1937 Separation of Burma from British India. Establishment of Burma Office
1947 Birth of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

. Independence granted to both countries. Abolition of India Office
1948 Independence of Burma and abolition of Burma Office

India Office Records


The India Office Records are the repository of the archives of the East India Company (1600–1858), the Board of Control or Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India (1784–1858), the India Office (1858–1947), the Burma Office (1937–1948), and a number of related British agencies overseas. The focus of the India Office Records is in the territories mainly that today include India (Bharat Ganarajya), Pakistan, Burma and Bangladesh and their administration before 1947. The Records also include source materials for neighbouring or connected areas under the India Office at different times, covering not only South Asia, but also Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, and parts of Africa. The official archives of the India Office Records are complemented by over 300 collections and over 3,000 smaller deposits of Private Papers relating to the British experience in India.

The India Office Records are administered by The British Library as part of the Public Records of the United Kingdom, and are open for public consultation.

Many catalogues of the India Office Records can be consulted on A2A – Access to Archives.
The 14 kilometres of shelves of volumes, files and boxes of papers, together with 70,000 volumes of official publications and 105,000 manuscript and printed maps, comprise the archives of the East India Company (1600–1858), of the Board of Control or Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India (1784–1858), of the India Office (1858–1947), of the Burma Office (1937–1948), and of a number of British agencies overseas which were officially linked with one or other of the four main bodies.
Unlike all other British Government records, the India Office Records
India Office Records
The India Office Records are a very large collection of documents relating to the administration of India from 1600 to 1947, the period spanning British rule in India...

 are not in The National Archives at Kew, London, but are deposited in the British Library
British Library
The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom, and is the world's largest library in terms of total number of items. The library is a major research library, holding over 150 million items from every country in the world, in virtually all known languages and in many formats,...

 in London and as such, form part of the Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections. The catalogue is searchable online in the Access to Archives catalogues. Some of the records are freely available online under an agreement that FIBIS
FIBIS
The Families British India Society is a genealogical organisation who assist people in researching their family history and the background against which their ancestors led their lives in British India.-Scope:...

 have with the British Library.

See also

  • Secretary of State for India
    Secretary of State for India
    The Secretary of State for India, or India Secretary, was the British Cabinet minister responsible for the government of India and the political head of the India Office...

  • Under-Secretary of State for India
    Under-Secretary of State for India
    This is a list of Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State and Permanent Under-Secretaries of State at the India Office during the period of British rule between 1866 and 1948, and for Burma from 1858-1948....

  • British Empire
    British Empire
    The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

  • Governor-General of India
    Governor-General of India
    The Governor-General of India was the head of the British administration in India, and later, after Indian independence, the representative of the monarch and de facto head of state. The office was created in 1773, with the title of Governor-General of the Presidency of Fort William...


External links