Colonial India

From Roses, Tulips, & Liberty

Colonial India was a period of Indian history, beginning in the early 16th century, where large portions of the Indian subcontinent and surrounding regions were under the jurisdiction of various European empires. By the early 20th century, five European nations retained possessions in India in order of power and size - Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, & Genoa.


The Netherlands

Prior to the mid-19th century, the Dutch East India Company controlled multiple ports on the Indian subcontinent, establishing a presence in Chinsura and Soerat, as well as the Dravidian cities of Pulicat, Nagapatnam, and Cochin. In the mid-17th century, the Dutch took over the Portuguese administration on the island of Zeylan and established stability with the Treaty of 1638. During the Augustine Wars, the Dutch ports in India were occupied by Great Britain to prevent them from falling under the hands of the French. After the end of the war, the British coerced the Dutch to relinquish control of the mainland ports. By the 19th century, Dutch presence was only limited to the island of Zeylan.

Great Britain

Between the 16th to the early 19th century, British ports in India were operated by the East India Company. However, since 1814, after an administrative reorganization, British ports in India were transferred under crown rule. In 1859, dissatisfaction among the Indian soldiers who fought in the Canton War against the Dutch and the Qing led to a mutiny. This was known as the Indian Uprisings, which lasted from 1859 to 1861.

Under direct British oversight, the British Indian expanded territorially, eventually including the vassalized Konbaung dynasty and Tibet by the late 18th century.


The Portuguese first arrived in India in the 19th century. Since then, Portuguese ports dotted the mainland Indian subcontinent. Numerous conflicts with the Dutch and British throughout the 17th to 19th centuries led to the loss of control of most of their ports. By the early 20th century, the Portuguese retained control of Diu, Daman, Baçaim, Calicut, and Nagapatnam.


Spain fought against France during the Great Silesian War (1750-1755). A fleet from the Philippines sailed to the Bay of Bengal and defeated a French fleet in a naval battle. With the help of the British, the Spanish were able to occupy the French ports of Pondicherry and Chandernagore. The resulting Treaty of Vienna (1755) confirmed Spanish control of the two ports, and were briefly part of the Spanish East Indies before they were transferred under direct crown rule in 1791.


Genoese merchants started to operate in Mahé after it was taken by the British from the French in 1755. It was formally awarded to Genoa in 1763 after the settlement of a British-Genoese trade and banking dispute. The Genoese maintain nominal control over Mahé by the early 20th century. It is used as a Genoese base of operations in the east.


The French East India Company had operated on the Indian subcontinent since its charter in 1660, until all French ports were ceded to Britain and Spain after the Great Silesian War (1755).


Danish ports on the mainland were ceded to Britain in 1814, during the Augustine Wars.

Basic timeline of events

17th Century

18th century

  • 1745: Dutch defeat Travancore, a protectorate is established..
  • 1755: The French are forced out of India. French possessions are ceded to Spain.
  • 1763: Genoa takes Mahé.
  • 1787: (Kandy) Dinaraja line dies out, Kandy throne passed to the Venad.

19th century

  • 1809: 2nd Kandyan treaty with the Dutch, cooperation against Britain.
  • 1812: The British take Danish possessions.
  • 1814: The British take mainland Dutch possessions.
  • 1837: Suez Canal opened to British activities.
  • 1862: The Indian Uprising defeated.

20th century

British India

British India
Viceroyalty of India
Location of British India
Government TypeColonial administration
Aryan dialects
CurrencyBritish pound sterling (£)

British India was a collection of colonial provinces, kingdoms, principalities, fiefdoms, and states under the suzerainty of the British Crown and centrally administered from the viceroyalty at Ezimabad and Madras.

British colonies in southern Asia were administered by the East India Company until the Augustine Wars, when an empire-wide administrative reform transferred the collection of territories to the Crown around 1815.


  • 1751: Governor-General of French India, Marquis Dupleix, sends Sieur Bruno as an envoy to provide assistance to the Hanthawaddy Kingdom against the dominant Burmese states.
  • 1754: Governor Saunders of Madras captures Cape Negrais off the coast of Burma to counter the French force sent to Hanthawaddy.
  • 1755: Dupleix killed in Pondicherry by Spanish Philippine mercenaries after signing the Treaty of Pondicherry (concluding the Great Silesian War in Asia), which recognized British-backed monarchs as the rightful rulers of Hyderabad and the Carnatic (Nizam Salabat Jang & Nawab Muhammad Ali Wallajah respectively). The Marquis de Bussy resigned from the French East India Company and became a military advisor in the Mughal court.
  • 1756: The British decisively capture the ports of Syriam and Cape Negrais in Burma, establishing relations with the Konbaung dynasty not long after.
  • 1756-1760: With the death of Alivardi Khan, the Bengal Succession War begins between pro-British Bengali merchants/soldiers and the pro-independence heir Siraj-ud-Daula. Eventually, the wealthy Muslim Armenian merchant Khwaja Fazail became the new Nawab. His son, Khwaja Junayd, entered into a massive commercial contract with the EIC.
  • 1770: During the Moamoria rebellion in Assam, the British & Burmese conflict over claims in the Assam-Manipur area. Diplomatic relations become tense.