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Doctrine of Lapse; One of the Imperialist Policies of British in Colonial India

Updated on November 28, 2015
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IRSHAD. CV has completed graduation. History was one of his optional course. He is interested in Indian history.

Mahatma Gandhi in Salt Strike. The imperialistic policies of colonialists compelled the people of India to fight for freedom
Mahatma Gandhi in Salt Strike. The imperialistic policies of colonialists compelled the people of India to fight for freedom | Source


After the settlement of English East India Company's domination over some parts of India, they thought to expand its domination in to other Indian states. From 19th century onwards Indian soil got the seeds of industrialization with the influence of British. So they required more raw materials. During this time, Indian states were richest with natural and other resources. The English East India Company saw India as a land for raw materials and market for selling their output or finished goods.

‘Doctrine of Lapse’ is one of the strategic and imperialist method adopted by the English East India Company in India to assure their domination. This ‘Doctrine of Lapse’ was introduced by one of the famous Governor General of British India, Lord Dulhousie.

What is ‘Doctrine of Lapse’

During the period of Governor General Lord Dulhousie (1848- 56), the administration of most of the Indian states were continued according to the inheritance system. According to ‘Doctrine of Lapse’, if any ruler of a protected states died without a natural heir, the states’ authority will pass to the English East India Company.

Before the implementation of ‘Doctrine of Lapse’ the court of directors of the English East India Company already captured some native states by the same movement like ‘Doctrine of Lapse’, which included domination over states like Mandavi in 1839, Jalaun in 1840 and Surath in 1847.

Anyway ‘Doctrine of Lapse’ was one of the imperialist policy of the English East India Company and which enabled them to bring many Indian states under their control. Some of such states are mentioned below.

Satara: Satara was the first state annexed by English East India Company through the implementation of ‘Doctrine of Lapse’. Appa Sahib, Raja or Ruler of Satara died in 1848 with out leaving a natural heir, but he himself adopted a son before his death to lead the native state. But it was unknown for the English East India Company. Finally Lord Dulhousie declared Satara as an annexed state of British in 1848.

Sambhalpur: The state came under the British domination just after the death of Raja Narayan Singh, who left without adopting a son to lead the country. It was in 1849.

Nagpur: Nagpur was one of the richest states in colonial India. Which was annexed in 1854 by the death of the Raja or Ruler of Nagpur.

Jhansi: Jhansi was another Indian native state which annexed in 1853

Abolition of Titles and Pension

Along with the ‘Doctrine of Lapse’ Lord Dulhousie refused titles of some rulers and their pensions. This was affected some of rthe native rulers like Nawab of Carnatic, Nawab of Surath and Raja of Tanjaore etc. Dulhousie was also refused to pay pensions for rulers, which affected rulers like Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah II ( pension of 12 million Rupees per annul ) and Nana Sahib.


In short ‘Doctrine of Lapse’ was one of the imperialist or annexation policy of English East India Company in India under the Governor General, Lord Dulhousie to catch more Indian states. ‘Doctrine of Lapse’ enabled the English East India Company to expand their domination in to other Indian states. Along with the ‘Doctrine of Lapse’ the Governor General Lord Dulhousie removed titles of rulers of some states and refused to pay pension to local rulers. It enabled the company to increase their revenue. So, ‘Doctrine of Lapse’ is considered as a imperialist and annexation policy applied by English East India Company in India.


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    • icv profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago

      Thanks jonnycompletely for posing your comment. You are rightly pointed out a valuable point here even though your point is not directly connected with the topic. Of course there is a fundamental role for morality to enrich relationships and mutual understandings among nations and people. And only education can bring it.

    • jonnycomelately profile image


      2 years ago from Tasmania

      So true. Those who masquerade as leaders today seem more interested in politics and power games than in genuine service to the people they lead.

      I don't know for sure where we find the ethical solution for unethical practice. Some would say religion played a part in bygone years, but I would suggest it must start in schools, educating young people how to behave and care for their (our!) neighbours.

      Then, following up that education, the society which is trying to educate those children must set the correct example, for without that, the children will see the lie and reject it.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Did you use any resources to write your response? If so could you identify them, it would be very helpful for my project

    • icv profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago

      Thanks jonnycompletely for posting your valuable comment. I think history always highlights the nature of domination of a particular group on somebody else. Nowadays, technology is the tool to exploit those who lack it. Is there any solution for this unethical practice?

      I think we need great political personalities who are ready to work at the global level with a mind of integrity.

    • jonnycomelately profile image


      2 years ago from Tasmania

      Another interesting Hub which has not received due recognition, I feel.

      Well done, Irshad.

      Having been born in England and still a British subject, I feel embarrassed by the history of East India Company. It was greedy, ruthless and uncaring for people of your beautiful country. Similar tactics to those of United States of America today.


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