2 Important Strategies Used by East India Company for Colonial Expansion in India

2 Important Strategies Used by East India Company for Colonial Expansion in India


2 Important Strategies Used by East India Company

2 Important Strategies Used by East India Company for Colonial Expansion in India. We will discuss 2 important policies “Subsidiary Alliance” and “Doctrine of Lapse”. How they helped Indian kingdoms to fight with each other and a rule to annex a kingdom if it has no natural heir.

They call India a poor and backward country, then why they ruled over India for 2 centuries? History has been transformed and miss-handled and people were forced to read the same modified history. Being an Indian I have the pain within. However, that is not my topic of the day. I believe that at some point, due to their benefits, the kingdoms fell into the trap of the British East India Company.

Let us look more into this topic and we will try to analyze the factors and impact of these 2 policies. Let us look into the British East India Company and its settlement in India.

British East India Company

A Brief About the East India Company

In 1600 Century, when it was the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, in England, the East India Company was established in England. The company was allowed to trade in the West Indies.

Shah Jahan ruled over India during (1628-1658) and in the early 17th Century the East India Company reached India through the sea route. Initially, they established trade ports and factories. They were mainly located around the coastal areas. Their main motto and goal was to trade. However, they witnessed the treasures and richness of India, so they worked on a long-term plan to exploit India.

When Aurangzeb died in the Year 1707, the Mughal Sultanate faced a major issue of decentralized power. Nizams and small kingdoms grew and they were in battles with each other to gain more power. This was a weakness that the East Indian Company used and brought out the policy of “Subsidiary Alliance”. We will discuss this in detail in this post.

Gradually the East Indian Company started exploiting the weaknesses of weak Nizams and kingdoms. The turning point in the History of India was the Battle of Plassey which was fought in 1757 between East India Company forces and the Nawab of Bengal “Shuja-ud-doula“. The British forces captured Bengal and with control over Bengal, the East India Company began its political interference in India. It started capturing more states and with every expansion, it made its root stronger.

The thing to note here is that, this was all being done by the East India Company and not by the rule of England. The company kept expanding till the 18th and 19th centuries. Then after the revolt of 1857, the powers of the East India Company were taken by the Queen of England. India came under the direct rule of Queen Elizabeth II.

One more policy we would discuss here is the “Doctrine of Lapse”. Which was created to expand the Company’s rule further.

So, we now know that only after the 1857 revolt, India came under England’s Rule, and the East India Company came to an end. I think it was a good job by Indian Freedom Fighters. What do you think?

We will discuss the revolt of 1857 in detail in some other posts. However, let us look at the 2 policies that the East India Company used to annex more states and expand their territory in India. “Subsidiary Alliance” and “Doctrine of Lapse”. Let us first look into the policy of Subsidiary Alliances.

Subsidiary Alliance

Introduction of Subsidiary Alliance and Expansion of East India Company

As mentioned above after the reign of Aurangzeb, India got divided into several princely states. They all struggled for power and autonomy. Though they were not effective rulers, however, they wanted to conquer others and expand their empire. This caused a phase of struggles within these provinces.

Britishers looked at it as an opportunity and introduced the policy of Subsidiary Alliance. They used the policy of Subsidiary Alliance during the 18th and 19th century, till they were able to capture the whole of India.

The East India Company would promise the state to get into an alliance with the company and the company would protect the state from its enemies. In return, the state had to pay the piece of land or revenue to maintain the Armed Forces of East India Company.

The Subsidiary Alliance program was implemented by Lord Wellesley, the Governor-General of India from 1798 to 1805. The British East India Company would give military security to a princely state in exchange for the king or queen losing control of their foreign affairs, keeping a British subsidiary army in their kingdom, and providing both military and financial support to the Company. As a result, the princely kingdom virtually became a dependent ally of the British.

Initially, the Indian states took it as a measure to ensure stability and protection. However, they were gradually losing the money and the land and in turn, they were nourishing the Army of East India Company. The Company was employing Indians in their armed forces and later they used the same army to annex the kingdoms. This was a good political strategy, I appreciate the planning of such a policy. Whereas, the greed and selfishness of the rulers threw us into the mouth of slavery.

Following its loss in the Battle of Buxar (1764), the Kingdom of Awadh became the first member of such an alliance through the Treaty of Allahabad (1765). Although Awadh’s annexation was justified by poor management, it is not included in the list of subsidiary alliances. Although Tipu Sultan of the Kingdom of Mysore refrained from doing so, Mysore eventually fell under Company authority after the British won the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War in 1799.

states who accepted the Subsidiary Alliance
States which accepted the Subsidiary Alliance (expansion of east India company)

In 1798, the Nizam of Hyderabad became the first to consent to a well drafted subsidiary alliance. Baji Rao II, the king of the Maratha people, consented to a secondary alliance following the Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817–19).

Do you know why the Armed Forces of India say “Company March”? Why do they use the word company? In my opinion, it comes from the East India Company. What do you think? Please comment.

Economic Exploitation and Cultural Influence Of Subsidiary Alliance

The Subsidiary Alliance policy permitted British economic exploitation in addition to military control. The British East India Company gained control over the princely kingdoms’ business and trade, resulting in the drain of money and resources from India. In addition, as British officers and administrators established in these states, they introduced Western ideas and rules, and regulations, further destroying local traditions and practices.

Criticism and opposition on Subsidiary Alliance

While some Indian rulers willingly entered the Subsidiary Alliances, others rejected British domination. The Maratha Confederacy and the Mysore Wars were examples of attempts to resist British control. In addition, the Subsidiary Alliance strategy was criticized within Britain as well. Recognizing the possibility of rebellion and unrest, many British authorities questioned the morality and durability of a policy based on force and humiliation.

Finally, the unrest that it created in India, lead to the revolt of 1857 against the Company. As a result, the power was transferred to the Britain Government (Queen Elizabeth II).

Legacy and Abolition of Subsidiary-Alliance

The Subsidiary Alliance policy was critical in establishing British dominance over India. However, the long-term consequences were met with mounting frustration and opposition. The inbuilt weaknesses of the policy, such as economic exploitation and cultural loss, ignited nationalist feelings and helped the development of rebellious groups. Finally, the 1857 Indian Revolt and the following events forced the British government to reconsider its tactics in India, resulting in the demise of the Subsidiary Alliance structure.

However, India had lost a significant piece by then. The money was already drained and the country was completely under slavery. The cultural degradation and loss of knowledge had already happened. This is a result of human greed. They have destroyed nothing, but, their similar kind.

The Doctrine of Lapse

Introduction of Doctrine of Lapse

The Doctrine of Laps was a controversial policy introduced and implemented by the British East India Company in the nineteenth century. This policy allowed the company the authority to take over territories of Indian kings who lacked a direct male successor or a lawfully adopted male heir. The theory was an important weapon for British expansion in India, but it also sowed hatred among the Indian people and contributed to the increasing opposition to British colonial control.

Origin and Application

Lord Dalhousie, the Governor-General of India from 1848 to 1856, was the first to propose the Doctrine of Lapse. Dalhousie saw its implementation as a means of ensuring a stable government and preventing political instability in Indian states. The British East India Company may acquire any princely kingdom when the ruler did not have a male heir or a legally adopted male successor under this concept. Upon the death of the king, the territory of such states “lapsed” into British sovereignty.

I have written a post on Rani Lakshmi Bai. The state of Jhansi was ruled by Raja Gangadhar Rao. When he died, Jhansi was without an heir. They adopted a boy named “Damodar Rao“, however, the Company refused to accept him as an heir. So, the British East India Company captured Jhansi, and as a result Rani Lakshmi Bai joined forces against the British in the revolt of 1857.

Resistance and Opposition

The Doctrine of Lapse caused tremendous disagreement and opposition among Indians. Many Indians viewed the policy as a violation of their rights and independence. The absorption of princely kingdoms, which were a part of Indian culture and political heritage, fueled anger at British colonial control. This opposition was essential in igniting the Indian independence movement and molding public opinion against British Empire.

Criticism and Controversy

The Doctrine of Lapse was heavily criticized, both in India and in Britain as a whole. Critics said that the program was offensive to morality and an abuse of trust between the British and Indian authorities. They questioned the British East India Company’s ability to assess the validity of succession in Indian governments, viewing the theory as a method of expanding British geographical control rather than encouraging good governance.

Legacy and Abolition of Doctrine of Lapse

The Doctrine of Laps was in effect until the 1857 Indian revolt, also known as the First War of Independence. The uprising and subsequent events forced the British administration to rethink its Indian policy. The Doctrine of Laps was officially abandoned in 1858.

Following the revolt, the British Crown gained direct control of India with the Government of India Act 1858, gradually preserving the authority of the princely kingdoms. The British administration acknowledged the rights and independence of the princely states, but only within the framework of British supremacy. Princely states may keep their rulers, who had varied degrees of local control and administration over their territory. It is crucial to remember, however, that the overall power dynamics between the British and the princely kingdoms continued to favor British rule.


The Subsidiary Alliance theory showcases British colonial ambitions in India. While claimed as a way of ensuring stability and safety, it primarily served to reinforce British authority and minimize the power of Indian princely kingdoms. The Subsidiary Alliance’s economic exploitation, cultural impact, and resistance movements influenced the course of Indian history, promoting the struggle for independence and ultimately resulting in the end of British rule.

The Doctrine of Laps exemplifies the complexities and controversies surrounding British colonial policies in India. While it provided the British East India Company with a legal mechanism to expand its control, it also generated significant opposition and contributed to the erosion of trust between the British and Indian rulers. The policy’s impact on princely states and the wider Indian population underscores the enduring legacy of colonialism and the struggle for independence in India.

There were many policies that British Rule used to break the Indian spirits and rule over India. Significant are “Divide and Rule”, “Show Indian Culture and Traditions as Backward” and many more. They looted India and took away all the wealth. They gave India a destroyed culture and Westernized everything.

At some point, I still feel like a slave and somewhere, I accused the selfishness and greed of the rulers and princely states. If you are not from India, you can tell the story of Independence of your country (If you are not from United Kingdom).

I have no hatred or bad feelings for the present Britain. However, the generations reading today should understand how inhumanly they behaved. Thank you for reading.

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