This article is about the geographical area in South Asia that was known as "British India". For usage, see British Empire in India.
British India, originally the trading posts of the East India Company in India, from the year 1612, later took the form of the Presidencies of British India, territory on the Indian subcontinent that was under the tenancy or the possession of the Company. Soon after the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the British Crown formally took control away from the Company, and until independence in 1947 the Provinces of India were the administrative units of the British Empire in India.  The term "British India" has also been used secondarily as a shortened form for "the Britishnation in India."
1 Prelude: Company Rule in India
2 Direct rule by the Crown
3 Evolution of the Provinces
3.1 Established by the East India Company (1600–1765)
3.2 Established or expanded during Company rule in India (1765–1858)
3.3 Established or expanded during the British Raj (1858–1947)
4 Provinces of India in 1909
4.1 Major Provinces
4.2 Minor Provinces
5 Provinces at independence, 1947
6 See also
7 Further reading
10 External links to online texts
 Prelude: Company Rule in India
Main article: Company rule in India
The East India Company established its first permanent factory in India at Surat in 1612 and administered it. By the century's end, it had also Fort William, near Calcutta, Fort St George in Madras, and Bombay Castle, in 1684 establishing the three Presidencies. Until the mid eighteenth century, the Company functioned primarily as a trading company, establishing trading posts with the permission of the Mughal emperor of India and competing for business with other European trading companies. However, following the decline of the Mughal Empire in 1707 and after the East India Company's victory at the Battle of Plassey in 1757, the Company gradually began to formally administer its expanding dominions. The victory at Plassey was consolidated in 1764 at the Battle of Buxar (in Bihar), when the defeated Mughal emperor, Shah Alam II, granted the Company the Diwani (right to collect land-revenues) in Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa. The Company soon expanded its territories around its bases in Bombay and Madras: the Anglo-Mysore Wars (1766–1799) and the Anglo-Maratha Wars (1772–1818) gave it the control of most of India south of the Narmada River.
In 1773, the British Parliament granted regulatory control over East India Company to the British government and established the post of Governor-General of India, with Warren Hastings as the first incumbent. In 1784, the British Parliament passed Pitt's India Act which created a Board of Control for overseeing the administration of East India Company. Hastings was succeeded in 1784 by Cornwallis, who promulgated the Permanent Settlement with the zamindars.
Starting in 1772, the Company began a series of land revenue "settlements," which would create major changes in landed rights and rural economy in India. In 1793, the Governor-General Lord Cornwallis promulgated the permanent settlement in the Bengal Presidency, the first socio-economic regulation in colonial India. It was named permanent because it fixed the land tax in perpetuity in return for landed property rights for a class of intermediaries called zamindars, who thereafter became owners of the land. It was hoped that knowledge of a fixed government demand would encourage the zamindars to increase both their average outcrop and the land under cultivation, since they would be able to retain the profits from the increased output; in addition, the land itself would become a marketable form of property that could be purchased, sold, or mortgaged. However, the zamindars themselves were often unable to meet the increased demands that the Company had placed on them; consequently, many defaulted, and by one estimate, up to one-third of their lands were auctioned during the first three decades following the permanent settlement. In southern India, Thomas Munro, who would later become Governor of Madras, promoted the ryotwari system, in which the government settled land-revenue directly with the peasant farmers, or ryots.
At the turn of the 19th century, Governor-General Wellesley began what became two decades of accelerated expansion of Company territories. This was achieved either by subsidiary alliances between the Company and local rulers or by direct military annexation. The subsidiary alliances created the Princely States (or Native States) of the Hindu Maharajas and the Muslim Nawabs, prominent among which were: Cochin (1791), Jaipur (1794), Travancore (1795), Hyderabad (1798), Mysore (1799), Cis-Sutlej Hill States (1815), Central India Agency (1819), Kutch and Gujarat Gaikwad territories (1819), Rajputana (1818), and Bahawalpur (1833). The annexed regions included the Northwest Provinces (comprising Rohilkhand, Gorakhpur, and the Doab) (1801), Delhi (1803), and Sindh (1843). Punjab, Northwest Frontier Province, and Kashmir, were annexed after the Anglo-Sikh Wars in 1849; however, Kashmir was immediately sold under the Treaty of Amritsar (1850) to the Dogra Dynasty of Jammu, and thereby became a princely state. In 1854 Berar was annexed, and the state of Oudh two years later.
The East India Company also signed treaties with various Afghan rulers and with Ranjit Singh of Lahore to counterbalance the Russian support of Persia's plans in western Afghanistan. In 1839, the Company's effort to more actively support Shah Shuja as Amir in Afghanistan, led to the First Afghan War (1839-42) and resulted in a military disaster for it. As the British expanded their territory in India, so did Russia in Central Asia with the taking of Bukhara and Samarkand in 1863 and 1868 respectively, and thereby setting the stage for The Great Game of Central Asia.
In the Charter Act of 1813, the British parliament renewed the Company's charter but terminated its monopoly, opening India to both private investment and missionary work. With increased British power in India, supervision of Indian affairs by the British Crown and parliament increased as well; by the 1820s, British nationals could transact business under the protection of the Crown in the three Company presidencies. In the Charter Act of 1833, the British parliament revoked the Company's trade license altogether, making the Company a part of British governance, although the administration of British India remained the province of Company officers.
Based on the utilitarian ideas of James Mill, who supervised the Company's land revenue policy during 1819-1830, and David Ricardo's Law of Rent, it was considered by its supporters to be both closer to traditional practice and more progressive, allowing the benefits of Company rule to reach the lowest levels of rural society. However, in spite of the appeal of the ryotwari system's abstract principles, class hierarchies in southern Indian villages had not entirely disappeared—for example village headmen continued to hold sway—and peasant cultivators came to experience revenue demands they could not meet.
By the mid-19th century, the East India Company had become the paramount political and military power on the subcontinent, its territory held in trust for the British Crown.
Land revenue settlements constituted a major administrative activity of the various governments in India under Company rule. In all areas other than the Bengal Presidency, land settlement work involved a continually repetitive process of surveying and measuring plots, assessing their quality, and recording landed rights, and constituted a large proportion of the work of Indian Civil Service officers working for the government. After the Company lost its trading rights, it became the single most important source of government revenue, roughly half of overall revenue in the middle of the 19th century. Since, in many regions, the land tax assessment could be revised, and since it was generally computed at a high level, it created lasting resentment which would later come to a head in the rebellion which rocked much of North India in 1857.