Lord Dalhousie: Early Life and Role in India

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Lord Dalhousie

Lord Dalhousie was the 6th Governor-General of British India for 8 years from 1848 to 1856. The Doctrine of Lapse introduced by him was the main cause of the Revolt of 1857. Other than Dalhousie’s perception that the British were superior rulers to the native Indian rulers, he also brought to India modern developments such as the telegraph and postal networks, railways, and public works.

Fun Fact: The town of Dalhousie in Himachal Pradesh is named after Lord Dalhousie. 

What was the Early Life of Lord Dalhousie like?

Born on the 22nd of April, 1812 as James Andrew Broun-Ramsay, he was the 1st Marquess of Dalhousie and a Scottish statesman. His early years were mostly spent in Canada and graduated from Christ Church College in Oxford. In 1837, at the age of 25 years, he joined the political scenario of Britain. After which he became the Governor General of India. 

Also Read: Lord Wellesley

What was the Role of Lord Dalhousie in India?

Once Lord Dalhousie came to India in 1848, his only motives were the expansion of British rule all throughout the rich land of India. His authoritarian rule was not tolerated by the Indian nationals which also included the Doctrine of Lapse after which the Revolt of 1857 took place. 

What was the Second Anglo-Sikh War from 1848 to 1849?

The Second Anglo-Sikh War took place due to the loss of some territories of Punjab to the East India Company in the First Anglo-Sikh War. Under the governance of Lord Dalhousie, Sir Hugh Gough was allowed to annex Punjab in 1848. In 1849, the final battle was fought in Gujarat on the banks of the river Chenab and the victory was of the British. 

Also Read: From Trade to Territory- The Company Establishes Power

Why did the Annexation of Punjab in 1849 happen?

Since the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh there was instability and no leadership of significance in Punjab and the British had only one purpose and that was to expand its territory through any means possible. Thus, the British saw this opportunity and acted aggressively to capture Punjab, which was also the cause of the Anglo-Sikh Wars. 

What was the Doctrine of Lapse?

The Doctrine of Lapse is the most significant and memorable policy of the British to capture parts of India which led to the Revolt of 1857. According to this British policy, if a ruler of any princely state passed away without having a biological successor or adopting a son, the said state would automatically come under British control. Lord Dalhousie used the Doctrine of Lapse to capture a significant portion of the total number of princely states in India. 

Also Read: Doctrine of Lapse

Which States were Annexed under the Doctrine of Lapse?

The States that were annexed under the Doctrine of lapse by Lord Dalhousie were:

State AnnexedYear AnnexedRuler
Satara1848Appa Sahib
Jaitpur1849Khet Singh
Sambhalpur1849Narayan Singh
Udaipur1852Shambhu Singh
Jhansi1853Rani Laxmibai
Nagpur1854Maharaja Raghoji III 
Awadh1856Wajid Ali Shah

Also Read: India’s Journey to Independence from 1857 to 1947

What was the Railway Minute of 1853?

The Railway Minute led to the establishment of railways in India in April 1853. It set large-scale plans in motion for the development of the railway system in India. Even though they faced many challenges and difficulties, like periodical rains and inundations, destructive vegetation, violent winds, and the difficulty of securing engineers who were well-skilled. The first railway line connecting Bombay and Thane was laid down in 1853 and the first passenger train journey took place on the 16th of April, 1853. This was one of the few modernisation antics that Lord Dalhousie played out. 

Also Read: Railway Diploma Courses

What was the Wood’s Educational Despatch of 1854?

Wood’s Despatch is also known as “Lord Wood’s Despatch on Education”. It was proposed and administered by Lord Charles Wood. It strived to develop an educational guideline for India while taking into account the diverse social, cultural and economic prospects. The despatch was submitted to the British Parliament in 1854 and championed the establishment of a structural system that would cater to the needs of the British rulers and the Indians.

Also Read: What was Wood’s Despatch

What were the Telegraph and Postal Reforms introduced by Lord Dalhousie in 1854?

The Telegraph reform in 1852 was presented by Lord Dalhousie and is also known as the Electric Telegraph System. In 1854, the first telegraph line which was 4000 miles-long telegraph lines connected Calcutta with Bombay, Madras and Peshawar.

In the Post Office Act of 1854, a Director-General was appointed to supervise the work of post offices in all Presidencies. For the first time, a standard rate of half-anna per letter was introduced and postage stamps were issued. This reformed postal system made communication more affordable and accessible during that time for Indians.

Furthermore, other contributions of Lord Dalhousie were:

  • Declared the Ganges Canal open in 1854.
  • Establishment of separate Public Works Department in every province in 1854.  

What was the Widow Remarriage Act of 1856?

The Widow Remarriage Act also known as the Hindu Widow Remarriage Act and Act XV, 1856 by Lord Dalhousie legalised the remarriage of Hindu widows in India under the British. The Act marked a key juncture in the reformation of Indian society during the 19th century. Moreover, the Widow Remarriage Act protected the rights of widows, particularly children who were married during their childhood. 

Also Read: Widow Remarriage Act 

What Happened after Lord Dalhousie Left India? 

After Lord Dalhousie left India due to the Revolt of 1857 which garnered a lot of attention and criticism by all. His policies and reforms related to postage, railways and public works continued and though significant, will not overshadow his annexation of states by stating the terms of the Doctrine of Lapse. 


What was the famous policy of Lord Dalhousie?

The famous policy of Lord Dalhousie was the Doctrine of Lapse. According to the policy, if a ruler of any princely state passed away without having a biological successor or adopting a son, the said state would automatically come under British control. 

When was Lord Dalhousie the Governor-General of India?

Lord Dalhousie was the Governor-General of India from 1848 to 1856, which is 8 years in total. He was the 6th Governor-General of British India. 

Who succeeded Lord Dalhousie?

Charles Canning succeeded Lord Dalhousie as the Governor-General of India from 1856 to 1858. 

Who is the father of Indian Railways?

Lord Dalhousie is known as the Father of Indian Railways as he was responsible for setting up the large-scale railway system in April 1853. The first railway line connecting Bombay and Thane was laid down in 1853 and the first passenger train journey took place on the 16th of April, 1853. 

Who was the first viceroy of India?

Lord Canning was the first viceroy of India. He was initially the Governor-General of India for two years after which he became the first viceroy of India. 

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