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The India Office was a British government department established in London in 1858 to oversee the administration, through a
Viceroy A viceroy () is an official who runs a polity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of institutionalized social relations, and have a capacity to mo ...
and other officials, of the
Provinces of British India A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or sovereign state, state. The term derives from the ancient Roman ''Roman province, provincia'', which was the major territorial and administrative unit of the Roman Empire, ...
. These territories comprised most of the modern-day nations of Indian Subcontinent as well as
Yemen ) , image_map = File:Yemen on the globe (Yemen centered).svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Sana'a (''Houthi takeover in Yemen, De jure'')Aden (Temporary capital Yemeni government, in exile) , coordinates = , capital_exile = ...
and other territories around the Indian Ocean. The department was headed by the
Secretary of State for India A secretary, administrative professional, or personal assistant A personal assistant, also referred to as personal aide (PA) or personal secretary (PS), is a job title describing a person who assists a specific person with their daily busine ...
, a member of the
British cabinet The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is a group of the most senior ministers of the crown in the government of the United Kingdom The Government of the United Kingdom, domestically referred to as Her Majesty's Government, is the central go ...
, who was formally advised by the
Council of India The Council of India was the name given at different times to two separate bodies associated with British rule in India. The original Council of India was established by the Charter Act of 1833 as a council of four formal advisors to the Governo ...
.Kaminsky, 1986. Upon the independence of India in 1947 into the new independent
dominion The word Dominion was used from 1907 to 1948 to refer to one of several self-governing colonies of the British Empire. "Dominion status" was formally accorded to Canada, Australia, Dominion of New Zealand, New Zealand, Dominion of Newfoundland ...

dominion
of India of the India Office was closed down. Responsibility for the United Kingdom's relations with the new country was transferred to the
Commonwealth Relations Office The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations was a British Cabinet minister responsible for dealing with the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,U ...
(formerly the
Dominions Office The position of Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs was a British cabinet-level position created in 1925 responsible for British relations with the Dominion The word Dominion was used from 1907 to 1948 to refer to one of several self-gove ...
).


Origins of the India Office (1600–1858)

The East India Company was established in 1600 as a
joint-stock company A joint-stock company is a business entity in which shares of the company's stock can be bought & sold by shareholders. Each shareholder owns company stock in proportion, evidenced by their share (finance), shares (certificates of ownership). Sh ...
of
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
merchants who received, by a series of charters, exclusive rights to English trade with the "
Indies The East Indies (or simply the Indies), is a term used in historical narratives of the Age of Discovery The Age of Discovery, or the Age of Exploration (sometimes also, particularly regionally, Age of Contact or Contact Period), is an info ...

Indies
", defined as the lands lying between the
Cape of Good Hope The Cape of Good Hope ( af, Kaap die Goeie Hoop ; nl, Kaap de Goede Hoop ; pt, Cabo da Boa Esperança ) is a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula The Cape Peninsula ( af, Kaapse Skiereiland) is a generally rocky penin ...

Cape of Good Hope
and the
Straits of Magellan The Strait of Magellan (), also called the Straits of Magellan, is a navigable A body of water ( Lysefjord) in Norway Norway ( nb, ; nn, ; se, Norga; smj, Vuodna; sma, Nöörje), officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic c ...
; the term "India" had been derived from the name of the
Indus River The Indus ( ) is a transboundary river A transboundary river is a river that crosses at least one political border, either a border within a nation or an international boundary. Bangladesh has the highest number of these rivers, including t ...

Indus River
, long important to commerce and civilisation in the region. The Company soon established a network of "
factories A factory, manufacturing plant or a production plant is an industrial Industrial may also refer to: Industry * Industrial archaeology, the study of the history of the industry * Industrial engineering, engineering dealing with the optimization ...
" throughout the south and east Indies in Asia. Over a period of 250 years the Company underwent several substantial changes in its basic character and functions. A period of rivalry between the Old and New Companies after 1698 resulted in the formation in 1709 of the United Company of Merchants Trading to the East Indies. This 'new'
East India Company The East India Company (EIC), also known as the Honourable East India Company (HEIC), East India Trading Company (EITC), the English East India Company or (after Acts of Union 1707, 1707) the British East India Company, and informally known a ...
was transformed during the second half of the 18th century from a mainly commercial body with scattered Asian trading interests into a major territorial power in South Asia with its headquarters in
Bengal Bengal (; Bengali language, Bengali: ', ) is a geopolitical, cultural and historical region in South Asia, specifically in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent at the apex of the Bay of Bengal, predominantly covering present-day Bang ...

Bengal
, present day state of
West Bengal West Bengal (, Bengali Bengali or Bengalee, or Bengalese may refer to: *something of, from, or related to Bengal, a large region in South Asia * Bengalis, an ethnic and linguistic group of the region * Bengali language, the language they spe ...

West Bengal
of
India India, officially the Republic of India (: ), is a country in . It is the by area, the country, and the most populous in the world. Bounded by the on the south, the on the southwest, and the on the southeast, it shares land borders wit ...

India
and
Bangladesh Bangladesh (, bn, , ), officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh, is a country in . It is the in the world, with a population exceeding 163 million people, in an area of , making it one of the in the world. Bangladesh shares land bor ...

Bangladesh
. The political implications of this development eventually caused the British government in 1784 to institute standing Commissioners (the Board of Control) in London to exercise supervision over the Company's Indian policies. This change in the Company's status, along with other factors, led to the
Acts of Parliament Acts of parliament, sometimes referred to as primary legislation In parliamentary systems and presidential systems of government, primary legislation and secondary legislation, the latter also called delegated legislation or subordinate legislat ...
of 1813 and 1833, which opened British trade with the
East Indies 300px, The East Indies (or simply the Indies), is a term used in historical narratives of the Age of Discovery The Age of Discovery, or the Age of Exploration (sometimes also, particularly regionally, Age of Contact or Contact Period), ...
to all shipping and resulted in the Company's complete withdrawal from its commercial functions. The Company continued to exercise responsibility, under the supervision of the Board, for the government of British India until the re-organisation of 1858. Throughout most of these changes the basic structure of Company organisation in
East India House East India House was the London London is the capital city, capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England and the United Kingdom. The city stands on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the hea ...

East India House
in the
City of London The City of London is a City status in the United Kingdom, city, Ceremonial counties of England, ceremonial county and local government district that contains the historic centre and the primary central business district (CBD) of London. It c ...

City of London
remained largely unaltered, comprising a large body of proprietors or shareholders and an elected Court of Directors, headed by a chairman and deputy chairman who, aided by permanent officials, were responsible for the daily conduct of Company business. The Board of Control maintained its separate office close to the Government buildings in Westminster. With the
Government of India Act 1858 The Government of India Act 1858 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make laws for a Poli ...
, the Company and the Board of Control of the East India Companies were replaced by a single new department of state in London, the India Office, which functioned, under the Secretary of State for India, as an executive office of United Kingdom government alongside the
Foreign Office Foreign may refer to: Government * Foreign policy ''Foreign Policy'' is an American news publication, founded in 1970 and focused on global affairs, current events, and domestic and international policy. It produces content daily on its website, ...
,
Colonial Office The Colonial Office was a government department Ministry or department, also less commonly used secretariat, office, or directorate are designations used by a first-level executive Executive may refer to: Role, title, or function * Executive ( ...
,
Home Office The Home Office (HO), also known (especially in official papers and when referred to in Parliament) as the Home Department, is a ministerial department of the , responsible for , , and . As such, it is responsible for in England and Wales, i ...

Home Office
and
War Office The War Office This article contains text from this source, which is available under th Open Government Licence v3.0 © Crown copyright was a Department of the British Government responsible for the administration of the British Army The ...
.


Description and functions

The
Secretary of State for India A secretary, administrative professional, or personal assistant A personal assistant, also referred to as personal aide (PA) or personal secretary (PS), is a job title describing a person who assists a specific person with their daily busine ...
was assisted by a statutory body of advisers, the Council of India, and headed a staff of civil servants organised into a system of departments largely taken over from the East India Company and Board of Control establishments, and housed in a new India Office building in Whitehall. The Secretary of State for India inherited all the executive functions previously carried out by the Company, and all the powers of 'superintendence, direction and control' over the British provincial administrations in South Asia previously exercised by the Board of Control. Improved communications with South Asia – the overland and submarine telegraph cables (1868–70), and the opening of the Suez Canal (1869) – rendered this control, exercised through the Viceroy and provincial Governors covering large areas in the regions of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, more effective in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. It was only with the constitutional reforms initiated during the First World War, and carried forward by the India Acts of 1919 and 1935, that there came about a significant relaxation of India Office supervision over the Government of
British India The Provinces of India, earlier Presidencies of British India and still earlier, Presidency towns, were the administrative divisions of British governance in the Indian subcontinent. Collectively, they have been called British India. In one ...

British India
, and with it, in South Asia, a gradual devolution of authority to legislative bodies and local governments. The same administrative reforms also led in 1937 to the separation of Burma from rest of South Asia and the creation in London of the
Burma Office The Burma Office was a British government department created in 1937 to oversee the administration of Burma Myanmar (; my, မြန်မာ ) or Burma ( my, ဗမာ ), officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, is a country i ...
, separate from the India Office though sharing the same Secretary of State and located in the same building. With the gradual events and establishments of sovereign independent nations and the final grant of independence to present-day
India India, officially the Republic of India (: ), is a country in . It is the by area, the country, and the most populous in the world. Bounded by the on the south, the on the southwest, and the on the southeast, it shares land borders wit ...

India
and
Pakistan Pakistan, . Pronounced variably in English as , , , and . officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is a country in South Asia South Asia is the southern region of Asia, which is defined in both geography, geographical and culture, e ...

Pakistan
in 1947, and to present-day
Myanmar Myanmar, ); UK pronunciations: US pronunciations incl. . Note: Wikipedia's IPA conventions require indicating /r/ even in British English although only some British English speakers pronounce r at the end of syllables. As John C. Wells, John ...

Myanmar
in 1948, both the India Office and the Burma Office were officially dissolved. As a result of the widespread involvement in the external relations and defence policy of pre-1947 African, Asian and Middle Eastern countries, the India Office was also responsible for particular neighbouring or connected areas at different times. Among the most significant of these are: ::
Bengal Bengal (; Bengali language, Bengali: ', ) is a geopolitical, cultural and historical region in South Asia, specifically in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent at the apex of the Bay of Bengal, predominantly covering present-day Bang ...

Bengal
(1616–1857); ::
Sri Lanka Sri Lanka (, ; si, ශ්‍රී ලංකාව, Śrī Laṅkā, translit-std=ISO (); ta, இலங்கை, Ilaṅkai, translit-std=ISO ()), formerly known as Ceylon, and officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is ...

Sri Lanka
then called Ceylon (c. 1750–1802); ::St Helena (to 1834); ::Cape of Good Hope (to 1836); ::Zanzibar, Somalia and Ethiopia (mainly nineteenth century); ::Red Sea, Arabian Peninsula, Persian Gulf states, Iraq and Iran (c. 1600–1947); ::
Afghanistan Afghanistan (; /: , Pashto: , Dari: ), officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a at the crossroads of and . Afghanistan is bordered by to the east and south; to the west; , , and to the north; and to the northeast. Occupyin ...

Afghanistan
, Russian and Chinese Central Asia,
Tibet Tibet (; ; ) is a region in covering much of the spanning about . It is the traditional homeland of the as well as some other ethnic groups such as , , , and s and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of and . Tibet is the ...

Tibet
,
Nepal Nepal (; ne, :ne:नेपाल, नेपाल ), officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal ( ne, सङ्घीय लोकतान्त्रिक गणतन्त्र नेपाल ), is a landlocked country in S ...

Nepal
,
Bhutan Bhutan (; dz, འབྲུག་ཡུལ་, Druk Yul, ), officially known as the Kingdom of Bhutan ( dz, འབྲུག་རྒྱལ་ཁབ་, Druk Gyal Khap), is a landlocked country in the Eastern Himalayas. It is bordered by Ch ...

Bhutan
and
Sikkim Sikkim (; ) is a states and union territories of India, state in northeastern India. It borders the Tibet Autonomous Region of China in the north and northeast, Bhutan in the east, Nepal in the west, and West Bengal in the south. Sikkim is also ...

Sikkim
(late eighteenth century to 1947); :: Malaya and South-East Asia (to c. 1867); ::Indonesia (to c. 1825); ::China (early seventeenth century to 1947); and ::Japan (seventeenth century). Other groups of involvement have also resulted from India Office interest in the status of Indian emigrants to the West Indies, south and east Africa, and Fiji. The India Office had its offices in the
Foreign and Commonwealth Office Main Building The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), created in 2020 through the merger of the former Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO)—commonly called the Foreign Office (FO)—and the former Department for International Development (DF ...
in
Whitehall Whitehall is a road and area in the City of Westminster, Central London. The road forms the first part of the A roads in Zone 3 of the Great Britain numbering scheme, A3212 road from Trafalgar Square to Chelsea, London, Chelsea. It is the main ...

Whitehall
.


Timeline

::1600 –
Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading with the East Indies
Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading with the East Indies
. established in London ::1709 –
British East India Company The East India Company (EIC), also known as the Honourable East India Company (HEIC), East India Trading Company (EITC), the English East India Company or (after 1707) the British East India Company, and informally known as John Company, Comp ...
emerges as union of England and Scotland is born. ::1757 – East India Company begins conquering Indian territory after the
Battle of Plassey A battle is an occurrence of combat in warfare between opposing military units of any number or size. A war usually consists of multiple battles. In general, a battle is a military engagement that is well defined in duration, area, and force c ...
. ::1765 – Mughal Emperor grants the right to collect land revenue to the East India Company. ::1773 –
Warren Hastings Warren Hastings (6 December 1732 – 22 August 1818), an English statesman, was the first Governor of the Presidency of Fort William (Bengal), the head of the Supreme Council of Bengal, and thereby the first ''de facto'' Governor-General of Ben ...

Warren Hastings
appointed as first
Governor of Bengal A governor is, in most cases, a public official with the power to govern the Executive (government), executive branch of a non-sovereign or sub-national level of government, ranking under the head of state. In federations, ''governor'' may be th ...
. ::1784 – British Government establishes Board of Control for India in London. ::1813 – End of East India Company's monopoly rights over trade with British India with the Charter Act of 1813 ::1833 – End of East India Company's monopoly rights over trade with China ::1857 –
Indian Rebellion of 1857 The Indian Rebellion of 1857 was a major, but ultimately unsuccessful, uprising in India in 1857–58 against the rule of the British East India Company, which functioned as a sovereign power on behalf of the British Crown. The rebellion ...

Indian Rebellion of 1857
changes local opinion of the British. ::1858 – East India Company and Board of Control replaced by India Office and
Council of India The Council of India was the name given at different times to two separate bodies associated with British rule in India. The original Council of India was established by the Charter Act of 1833 as a council of four formal advisors to the Governo ...
in the
Government of India Act 1858 The Government of India Act 1858 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make laws for a Poli ...
. ::1937 – Separation of Burma from British India and establishment of
Burma Office The Burma Office was a British government department created in 1937 to oversee the administration of Burma Myanmar (; my, မြန်မာ ) or Burma ( my, ဗမာ ), officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, is a country i ...
. ::1947 –
Dominion of India The Dominion of India, officially the Union of India,* Quote: “The first collective use (of the word "dominion") occurred at the Colonial Conference (April to May 1907) when the title was conferred upon Canada and Australia. New Zealand and Ne ...
and
Dominion of Pakistan The Federation of Pakistan, also called the Dominion of Pakistan, was an independent federal dominion The word Dominion was used from 1907 to 1948 to refer to one of several self-governing colonies of the British Empire. "Dominion status" ...
. Dominion Status granted to both countries. India wishes to stay in the
commonwealth A commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existenc ...

commonwealth
. Abolition of India Office. ::1948 – Independence of Burma and abolition of Burma Office ::1971 – Separation of East Bengal from Pakistan creating present-day
Bangladesh Bangladesh (, bn, , ), officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh, is a country in . It is the in the world, with a population exceeding 163 million people, in an area of , making it one of the in the world. Bangladesh shares land bor ...

Bangladesh
.


India Office Records

The India Office Records are the repository of the archives of the East India Company (1600–1858), the Board of Control or Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of British India (1784–1858), the India Office (1858–1947), the Burma Office (1937–1948), and a number of related British agencies overseas which were officially linked with one or other of the four main bodies. The focus of the India Office Records is in the territories mainly that today include Central Asia, the Middle East, regions of Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia and their administration before 1947. The official archives of the India Office Records are complemented by over 300 collections and over 3,000 smaller deposits of Private Papers relating to the British experience in India. The India Office Records, previously housed in the India Office Library, are now administered as part of the
Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections The Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections previously called the Oriental and India Office Collections (OIOC) form a significant part of the holdings of the British Library in London, England. India Office collection The collections include the doc ...
of the
British Library The British Library is the national library A national library is a library A library is a curated collection of sources of information and similar resources, made accessible to a defined community for reference or borrowing. It provid ...

British Library
, London as part of the Public Records of the United Kingdom, and are open for public consultation. They comprise 14 kilometres of shelves of volumes, files and boxes of papers, together with 70,000 volumes of official publications and 105,000 manuscript and printed maps.


See also

*
Secretary of State for India A secretary, administrative professional, or personal assistant A personal assistant, also referred to as personal aide (PA) or personal secretary (PS), is a job title describing a person who assists a specific person with their daily busine ...
*
Under-Secretary of State for India This is a list of Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State and Permanent Under-Secretaries of State at the India Office 275px, The western or St. James's Park, park end of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's building in 1866. It was then occ ...
*
Governor-General of India The Governor-General of India (1773–1950, from 1858 to 1947 the Viceroy and Governor-General of India, commonly shortened to Viceroy of India) was the representative of the Monarchy of the United Kingdom, Monarch of the United Kingdom and ...
*
History of India According to consensus in modern genetics, anatomically modern humans Early modern human (EMH) or anatomically modern human (AMH) are terms used to distinguish ''Homo sapiens'' (the only extant Hominina species) that are anatomically con ...
*
History of West Bengal The history of West Bengal began in 1947, when the Hindu-dominated western part of British Bengal Presidency, Bengal Province became the Indian state of West Bengal. When India History of the Republic of India, gained independence in 1947, Bengal ...


Notes


Further reading

* Datta, Rajeshwari. "The India Office Library: Its History, Resources, and Functions," ''Library Quarterly,'' (April 1966) 36#2 pp. 99–148. * * Khan, M. S. "The India Office Library: Who Owns It?" ''The Eastern Librarian'', vol. I No. 1, 1966, pp. 1–10 * Moir, Martin. ''A General Guide to the India Office Records'' (1988) 331 pages * * Williams, Donovan. ''The India Office, 1858–1869'' (1983) 589 pages
Catalogue of the Library of the India Office: Supplement 2: 1895–1909, 1909 (1888)


External links



British Library site
Search the India Office Records at Access 2 Archives
National Archives site

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History of Bengal Bengal History of West Bengal History of India by state or union territory, Bengal History of Bangladesh, Bengal {{CatAutoTOC ...
1858 establishments in the United Kingdom 1947 disestablishments in the United Kingdom Government agencies established in 1858 Government agencies disestablished in 1947