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Ashton, Stephen Richard (1977) British Policy Towards the Indian States, 1905-1939. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Prior to 1947 approximately one-third of the Indian sub-continent was broken up into 635 Indian States which were ruled by princes of varying rank. In the process of consolidating their empire in India the British had, during the first half of the nineteenth century, deprived the princes of the power to conduct external relations with each other or with foreign powers. Internally the princes were theoretically independent but their sovereignty in this respect was in practice restricted by the paramountcy of the Imperial power. Many of the princes resented the manner in which the British used this paramountcy to justify intervening in their domestic affairs. During the nineteenth century the British had maintained the princes basically as an administrative convenience and as a source of revenue. By the opening of the twentieth century, however, the British had come to regard the princes as potential political allies against the growth of nationalism in India. In order that the princes would willingly serve as allies the British adopted a policy of non-interference in their domestic affairs. In practice such intervention was reduced to an absolute minimum and would only be contemplated in cases of gross misgovernment. This thesis is concerned with how well the princes performed as Imperial allies. Two major themes are investigated. First, the position of the princes within an All-India constitutional framework. Here the scheme for an All-India Federation is examined in relation to its origins and ultimate demise in 1939 (Chapters 4, 5 and 6). The second theme concerns the policy of non-interference. While it operated, administrative standards in the states deteriorated rapidly. By the late 1930's many of them had become obvious targets for nationalist attack. The British belatedly realised that the non-interference policy had failed to make worth-while allies of the princes. On the contrary, they had become a serious liability because of it. In vain the British attempted to reverse the trends of the previous thirty years but their efforts were interrupted by the second world war and could not be resumed once it was over (Chapters 1, 2, 3 and 6).

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 16:53

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