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Subsidiary Alliance System

Towards the end of the eighteenth century, the British relied on a new tactic of ‘indirect rule’.

Initially the system was introduced with the idea of ‘Paramountcy’. Under this policy British did not take over direct control on many states instead they made them subordinate to the imperial authority. However, the policy was subjected to various ideological push and pulls, responding to conservative pressure for disengagement, aggressive pleas for direct annexation and pragmatic reasoning for indirect control.

The evolution of the system therefore underwent various ups and downs. There are distinct phases in the evolution of indirect rule in India until the end of the Company rule.

The first phase (1764-97) starts with the initial placement of the Company’s Residents at the courts of Murshidabad, Awadh and Hyderabad after the Battle of Buxar (1764); the second phase (1798-1840), which was marked by aggressive expansionism, championed by Lord Wellesley (1798-1805) and his policy of Subsidiary Alliance; and, third phase of direct annexation, spearheaded by Lord Dalhousie’s forward policies (for example, ‘Doctrine of Lapse’), which saw the takeover of a number of Indian states.

The system of subsidiary alliance was introduced by Lord Wellesley who came as Governor-General in 1798. Under this system, the ruler of the allying Indian state was compelled to accept the permanent posting of a British force within his territory and to pay a subsidy for its maintenance’.

The stated reasons for this was protection of his territory but was, in fact, a form through which Indian ruler accepted dominance of the Company. Lord Wellesley signed subsidiary treaties with number of Indian rulers such as- the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1798 and 1800, the Nawab of Awadh in 1801, and Peshwa Baji Rao II in 1802.

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