a policy of non-interference in the Indian
policies of non-intervention. Neither London nor the Company in India,
found these non-interventionist policies to be satisfactory.
Establishment of Paramountcy by Hastings Under Lord Hastings (Lord
Moira, Governor General 1813-1823), the Company responded to the
demand of its officials in India and embarked on a series of wars, each
leading to annexations: the Nepal War (1814-16), Pindari War (1817-19), and
Third Maratha War (1817-18). Hastings’ official policy became
‘paramountcy’: the Company’s authority as paramount power superseded that
of the Indian rulers. As paramount power, the Company considered itself
justified in annexing or threatening to annex any Indian state, whenever
conditions in that state ‘violated’ British sensibilities. In some treaties, the
Company inserted its right to intervene in the state under specified
conditions. Nevertheless, even without such treaty provisions or in some
instances, in direct violation of them, the Company intervened to depose or
set aside a ruler whenever the Company felt justified.
Eastward Expansion and Stabilisation As the Company sought a stable
frontier in the northeast and Bay of Bengal eastern littoral, Lord Amherst
(1823-28) supervised the Company’s First Burma War (1824-28). This
resulted in extensive annexations in the northeast (most notably Assam and
Nagaland) and Burma (Arakan and Tenassarim).
Governor-General Bentinck (1828-1835) fought no wars, but he annexed or
threatened to annex several states because of the actions of their rulers. In
1830, he annexed Cachar in the northeast because the ruler lacked heirs
whom the Company recognised.
In Mysore in 1831, Bentinck set aside the ruler and placed the administration
in British hands, although the ruler remained nominally a sovereign (this
dynasty returned to power fifty years later, in 1881, due to a reversal of
British policy). Bentinck justified the Company’s annexation of Coorg in
1834 on the ground of misgovernment.
By the 1840s, the Court of Directors, which had earlier proved to be one of
the greatest brakes on annexation, reversed its former role and supported an
aggressive policy toward the Indian states. In 1841, the Directors authorised
the Governor-General to abandon caution in annexing states. At times, the
Directors advised an even more aggressive policy than its servants in India
felt justified.