Doctrine of Lapse
India is now a sovereign and democratic country, and many states with people of different cultures, languages, and traditions coexist in harmony. But in the past, it was a group of over 650 plus kingdoms ranging in size from small and insignificant to huge, wealthy, and strong, ruled by men (chiefly) with a variety of titles in addition to the well-known maharajahs. That is why some historians and polity veterans believe that the British rule was the reason that the now united India has emerged.
The British Empire arrived in India in 1757 primarily for trade. The East India Business evolved from a trade to a governing corporation over time. They started by trading with the kings and gradually expanded into Indian territory They gradually realized, however, that there is no unity among the kingdoms and that there are numerous conflicts between them. This piqued their interest in getting involved in political matters and gradually establishing British territory in India. The British were able to gain control of India because it was not united. Many of India’s sovereign kingdoms signed treaties with the British and formed military and trade alliances with them. The British were extremely successful in infiltrating and gradually gaining control of these regions. One of the land-grabbing stratagems it devised was the Doctrine of Lapse.
System of succession in India
In India, the usual succession of the throne was hereditary and was patriarchal. There was of huge importance for a son to be born to the king for him to succeed him. The other way was through war. There were many instances where brothers fought among themselves for the throne.
Princely states had ritualized practice of adoption which was 100s years old before the establishment of this doctrine. An old Hindu custom allowed a ruler without a born-to heir to adopt a boy of any age from another branch of the ruling family and proclaim him heir apparent to avoid a contentious succession to the throne. Similar practices were observed in ancient Rome and during the Qing Dynasty in China.
If no proficient born-to-son could be found, an heir to the throne would be selected from a population of candidates known as bhayats, who had been trained for succession from a younger age. (an unsuitable or treasonous born-to-son could be excluded from the succession). If the ruler died without appointing a successor, one of his widows could adopt an heir, who would take the throne immediately. The adoptee would sever all ties with his biological family.
Doctrine of lapse
When Lord Dalhousie served as India’s Governor-General from 1848 to 1856, he popularized the Doctrine of Lapse as an annexation tactic. It was employed as a policy to extend British aristocracy. From 1848 to 1856, Lord Dalhousie served as India’s Governor-General. Although he is widely identified with the Doctrine of Lapse, it was devised by the East India Company’s Court of Directors as early as 1847, and several smaller states had already been annexed under it before Lord Dalhousie became Governor-General. He significantly employed the policy to broaden the East-India Company’s territorial reach. He documented it and utilized it extensively to conquer lands for the British. Until 1859, the East India Company used the Doctrine of Lapse as an annexation policy in India. The concept declared that every princely state under the company’s vassalage would have its land acquired if the sovereign failed to produce an heir. Many Indians considered the philosophy and its application to be invalid.
According to this concept, every princely state under the direct or indirect control of the East India Company would be acquired by the company if the ruler did not produce a legal male successor. It was used as an administrative strategy to increase the size of the British nobility. A pro-imperialist attitude was used to expand British dominion in India. As an outcome, no Indian ruler’s son who is adopted could be proclaimed son and successor to the throne. Only his foster father’s personal property and estates would pass to the adoptive son. In addition, the adopted son would not be entitled to any of his father’s pensions or titles. This called into question the Indian ruler’s long-held power to name an heir to the throne. The Company conquered various princely territories under the doctrine of lapse, including Satara in 1848, Jaipur and Sambalpur in 1849, Nagpur and Jhansi in 1854, Tanjore and Arcot in 1855, Udaipur and Oudh in 1856.
Effect on Indian states
Many Indian states lost their independence and were colonized by the British. The Indian princes were furious as a result of this. As a result, the British grew unpopular, and the rulers of other states became bitter enemies of the British. The ‘illegal’ nature of this teaching enraged many people. The Indian Rebellion of 1857 was a major uprising in India between 1857 and 1858 against the British East India Company’s rule. Several factors contributed to the revolt, one of which was dissatisfaction with the Doctrine of Lapse.
The nobility, many of whom had lost titles and domains as a result of the Doctrine of Lapse, which refused to recognize princes’ adopted children as legal heirs, felt that the Company had tampered with a traditional system of inheritance. This group included rebel leaders such as Nana Sahib and the Rani of Jhansi; the latter, for example, was willing to accept East India Company supremacy if her adopted son was recognized as her late husband’s heir. The British terminated Nana Sahib’s pension after his foster father died, and Rani’s adopted son was denied the throne under the law of lapse.
Question 1: Why did the Doctrine of lapse grab the wrath of the Indian rulers?
In India, the throne was traditionally hereditary and patriarchal. To avoid a contentious succession to the throne, a ruler without a born-to heir could adopt a boy of any age from another branch of the ruling family and proclaim him heir apparent. In India, the East India Company used the Doctrine of Lapse as an annexation policy. Every princely state under the direct or indirect control of the East India Company, according to this concept, would be acquired by the company if the ruler did not produce a legal male successor. As a result, no adopted son of an Indian ruler could be declared heir to the throne. The adoptive son would inherit only his foster father’s personal property and estate. Furthermore, the adopted son would be ineligible for any of his father’s pensions or titles. This led many kingdoms without their heir in jeopardy, and they were forced to submit their kingdom to the British. This made the rulers furious toward the British
Question 2: What are the main restrictions on the rulers through the doctrine of lapse?
According to the doctrine of lapse, if the ruler did not produce a legal male successor, the East India Company would acquire every princely state under its direct or indirect control. Adoption, which had been an age-old tradition, was completely abolished. The adopted son of any Indian ruler could not be declared heir to the throne. The adoptive son would inherit only his foster father’s personal property and estate. Furthermore, the adopted son would be ineligible for any of his father’s pensions or titles.
Question 3: how did the British benefit from the Doctrine of Lapse?
In 1757, the British Empire arrived in India primarily for trade. Over time, the East India Business evolved from a trade to a governing corporation. They began by trading with kings before gradually expanding into Indian territory. The Doctrine of Lapse was one of the land-grabbing strategies it devised. It was used as a policy to expand the British aristocracy. It was used as an administrative strategy to expand the British nobility. A pro-imperialist mindset was used to further British dominance in India. After Lord Dalhousie was appointed Governor-General, He made extensive use of the policy to expand the East-India Company’s territorial reach. He documented it and extensively used it to conquer lands for the British.
Please Login to comment...