British Presence in India

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The first British outpost in South Asia was established by the English East India Company in 1619 at Surat on the northwestern coast. The British subsequently expanded their influence in India, and by the 1850s they controlled most of present-day India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. Eventually, Parliament transferred political power from the East India Company to the Crown. At that time Great Britain began administering most of India directly, while controlling the rest through treaties with local rulers.

Great Britain’s interest in India can be linked to the revenue India brought to the British. The revenue of India for the year 1852 to 1853 was over ₤21 million sterling. However, this staggering amount was offset by expenditures of ₤20.5 million sterling and a debt of a little over ₤48 million sterling.

Part of the expenditure was ascribed to maintaining an army for the protection of the East Indian provinces. In 1852 the army consisted of an effective force made up of British, native, and contingent troops. There were 1,569 engineers, 16,440 artillery men, 34,984 cavalry men, 229,406 infantry men, 1,763 warrant officers, and 4,124 veterans for a total military force of 289,529.

Source: India Geographical, Statistical and Historical. London: George Watts. 1858. [BYU book #DS452.25x1858]

Learn more about the British in India by reading the Wikipedia article.