This post is a very brief summary of a printable “booklet” on Anglo Indians I have written and published here. The booklet describes the advent of Europeans in India and the development of the Anglo Indian community. I hope to make it a practice to write future printable “booklets” on core subjects.
Britain began trading in the Indian Ocean in the 17th century. In the 18th century, in the period 1757-1760 she began her conquest of the Indian sub continent. The English East India Company (the Honorable East India Company –HEIC) was the vehicle for this conquest.
The HEIC army of conquest was comprised of a few native born Britons, a larger number of “country born” Europeans, (“Domiciled Europeans”, later called “Anglo Indians”) and an even larger number of native Indian mercenaries.
As a result of its conquest in this 1757-1760 period, HEIC extorted the privilege of collecting taxes from Bengal citizens. This tax based wealth collection tactic became a future standard British strategy. Very soon HEIC employees and their partners, namely Hindu and other bankers, began making far more money collecting taxes and pocketing them than they did from trading.
The resulting HEIC corruption was sufficiently rapacious that HEIC faced bankruptcy, massive famine engulfed Bengal in 1770-1773 and about 10 million or approximately one third of Bengalis starved to death. Dead Bengalis pay no taxes, hence the fear of HEIC bankruptcy.
However HEIC was deemed “too big to fail” — too many British politicians had invested their personal funds in the HEIC. So..
Her Majesty’s government got involved and passed the 1773 Tea Act. So…
Settlers (“Anglo Americans?”) in America revolted and launched the Boson Tea Party – the rest is history.
Thus, in the late 18th century Britain had two sources of foreign wealth generation left:
- Slave trading and slave labor sugar plantations in the West Indies
- HEIC tax treasure flowing from the labor of Indians in India
To protect her flow of treasure from India, in 1784 the British Parliament, under the Prime Ministership of Pitt the Younger passed the India Act.
In essence the 1784 Act mandated a system of dual control between the British government and the HEIC.
The 1784 Act decreed a Governor General of India who, in practice, due to the six month communication lag with London, and the lack of Indian representation, became a local despot without the checks and balances of the British Parliamentary system.
The second Governor General of India was Lord Cornwallis, the same Cornwallis who had surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown.
Not surprisingly, Cornwallis feared “settlers”. His solution to rampant corruption in India was based on the belief that:
- All Indians were corrupt
- The revolution in the US came about because settlers were allowed too much power by Britain.
In concert with his beliefs the Cornwallis reform laws, among other things, mandated that:
- Children of British men with Indian wives were banned from employment with HEIC. “Indian” was open to interpretation.
- Anyone not descended from European parents on both sides was banned from serving in the Company’s armies except as “drummers, pipers, bandsmen and farriers”. European parents for these purposes usually meant being born in Britain.
- No British citizen (including country born British) was permitted to join the army of any Indian prince–friend or foe.
- All jobs paying more than 500 pounds per year were reserved for Englishmen born and hired in England.
In addition, in 1800 Lord Wellesley, the successor to Cornwallis, banned
- All country born British and Indians from all government social functions in Calcutta.
Thus between 1800 and 1830 did the rulers of the British Raj lay the seeds for the most class ridden, race conscious, self delusionary and isolated set of imperial governors the world has ever experienced. Social Darwinism was the science du jour of the late 18th century. It reinforced the delusion that Anglo Saxons were born to rule.
The first generation of Roberts and Blanchetts born in India were born in 1809 and 1838 respectively. In 1809 these rules were just beginning to be enforced. By 1838 they were part of the culture.
After 1860, (post “Mutiny”), Domiciled Europeans suddenly became very valuable to the British overlord. The control systems of railways, post and telegraph, customs and police had to be staffed. The “loyal”, multilingual, Domiciled European was the perfect employee.
Everyone of my direct ancestors, on my mother’s and father’s sides, bar one, worked for the railway. Every one of my uncles on my father’s and mother’s sides worked for the railway, or the police, or the customs departments.
For a more detailed essay on Anglo Indians go here.