History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 2010: Q.2 (a)

Q.2 (a) “In terms of administrative structure, the government of India act of 1858, meant more continuation than change.” do you agree? Substantiate. (20) (2010)


Although in India demands were always raised for the abolition of the Company rule, earlier the British government was not so sure about such a measure. The charter of 1833 was renewed in 1853, but this time not for another twenty years like earlier. The Company was allowed to retain the Indian possessions “in trust for Her Majesty, her heirs and successors until Parliament shall otherwise provide”, thus keeping the door open for a future takeover. The Company’s control over appointments was curtailed by the introduction of competition for the recruitment of the Indian Civil Service. Already deprived of its commercial privileges, the Company hereafter hardly ever controlled policies in India. Since the act did not give it the right to govern for the next twenty years, the House of Commons with greater ease could formally abolish Company administration in India in 1858, the immediate occasion for this final stroke was of course provided by the revolt of 1857. The revolt made the English people more aware of the Indian situation and generated popular support for the perpetuation as well as reorganisation of British rule there. Since 1833, many English traders and settlers had also developed a vested interest in India and their persistent complaint was that the Company had been neglecting their interests. In other words, both at home and in India there had been now considerable pressure for the abolition of the Company Raj and the establishment of Crown rule.

The government of India Act, 1858 ended the East India Company’s rule in India and brought it directly under the British Crown.  However, in terms of the administrative structure, the Government of India Act of 1858, which followed the pacification of the revolt, meant more continuation than change:

1. The general administration remained intact except few policy changes as the rule of East India Company, long before its final removal, was already in great control of the British Government.

Starting with Regulating Act of 1773 and 1784, and coupled with series of charter Acts, the company was already made completely subservient to the British Parliament and hence the administrative policies were also being dictated from London long before its final take over.

For example – the Charter Act of 1833, apart from abolishing all trading privileges of the Company in India and China, cleared the path of centralized government with the governor general of Bengal at the helm of the affairs. Uniform laws such as IPC and Civil Procedure Code were also coded at this time. The education policies also trace their origin with this Act.

2. The Act of 1858 replaced the President of the Board of Control with a Secretary of State for India, who became “in subordination to the cabinet, the fountain of authority as well as the director of policy in India”. He was to be advised by a Council of India, consisting of fifteen members, seven of whom were to be selected from the now superseded Court of Directors. Hence there was only modification of existing system.

3. The Governor General of India, who would henceforth be known as the Viceroy, would retain all his powers, but instead of a dual control, he would be answerable only to the secretary of state. Hence there was mere change of the name of the Governor General to Viceroy, but his functions remained same.

4. Continuity was also maintained in the structure of the civil service, and the same recruitment examination introduced in 1853 was carried on.

5. There was mere name change of Governor General’s council to imperial legislative council.

However, the administration after the Act of 1858 was significantly different in certain areas with respect to the policy changes towards Indian rajas and Zamindars, along with changes in civil and army organizations (on the basis of caste, religion and creed).

Another administrative changes was the favor meted out to people based on the lines of caste while providing jobs in the govt. Initially Muslims were suppressed and Hindus were encouraged. Later, the policy was reversed. Hence, the seeds of religious fanaticism was sown here.

Hence, even though the general administration was not changed after 1858 Act and it merely culminated into changing the affairs from one hand to another, significant changes were made in civil and Army administration.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. ravi0421 says:

    Thank you so very much 🙂


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