Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 8 : 9 September 2008
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.



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History of Growth and Reforms of
British Military Administration in India, 1848-1949

Hemalatha, M.A., M. Phil.


Military Administration means proper organization of the army into an efficient one so that it becomes a powerful force and defends the nation at all times of crisis. Therefore the survival of a country depends on its defence. A military or military force is a collective of men, machines and equipment that form an army. While it can refer to an armed force, it generally refers to a permanent, professional force of soldiers or guerrillas - trained exclusively for the purpose of warfare. The doctrine that asserts the primary of a military with in a society is called militarism.

Ever since the dawn of history people have fought many wars. Families against families, tribes against tribes, groups against groups. But this kind of skirmishes are not wars. They were called fights. War is a political institution and necessary evil. 1

The Growth of British Military Power

The growth of British military power in India has perhaps no parallel in history. Arriving by sea as traders, the Britishers penetrated in the political arena through their institutionalized military forces. Starting from the first ship Hector under Captain William Hawkins which touched Surat in 1607, almost all the English ships which followed were in reality of the type of battleships and brought canon and other warlike stores supplied by the British Board of Ordinance for their security enroute and protection of their factories in India. 2

Early Settlements

The first settlements of the English East India Company, professed to be purely mercantile had almost their beginnings in a few European artillerymen who formed a portion of the guard maintained for the protection of these factories. Soon after, with a bolder policy, a number of artillery pieces were kept ready in the fortification built along the coastline. Gradually the East India Company got involved in fighting with European adversaries and the native Chiefs and the problem of regular supply of arms, transport, food, clothing and other warlike stores to the Company troops aroused. The organization and administration of the expanding army became an urgent important factor for securing victories in the battles. The vital step taken by the Company in this regard was the formation of regular companies of artillery, ordinance service and the establishment of ammunition factories in 1748.

Sepoy Levies

The first Indian sepoy levies employed by the company had meager discipline and were armed with matchlocks, bows and arrows, spears and swords. There was, however, no dearth of good fighting material from amongst the Indians. As the time went on these sepoys were trained on the European lines, disciplined, armed with muskets, equipped with later weapons and interweave into first class fighting units. The men came to acquire and admire idea of drill and discipline and personal military qualities, these impart to the trainees. 3

Native Troops - Almost Unarmed

Indian soldiers referred to as 'Native Troops' were badly armed and 'although drilled in the use of the musket were chiefly armed with sword, the spear and the shield, wore their native dress and were commanded by native officers '.

In the Madras Army armed retainers, guard and peons known as Telingas (from Telegana), were disorganized mob who " had no discipline, nor any idea that discipline was required ". They were armed with matchlocks, bows and arrows, spears, swords, bucklers, daggers, or any other weapon they could get. They consisted bodies of various strength, each under the command of its own chief who received from government the pay of the whole body and distributed it to men.4

Six Historical Stages

A historical retrospect may be conveniently divided into the following periods.

First Period - The initial phase 1600 - 1708 when the forces of the East India Company were isolated and unorganized body .

Second Period - The Presidency Armies under the company 1709 - 1857.

Third Period - The Presidency Armies under the British Crown 1858 - 1894

Fourth Period - The period of the union, after the abolition of the Presidency Armies 1895 - 1920

Fifth Period - The period of consolidation 1921 to the present day

This M.Phil. Dissertation

This M.Phil. dissertation deals with the steps taken by the British authorities to improve the administrative set up in the military field. The aim of this dissertation is to focus some of the important reforms taken in the field of military history. In 1895 the Presidency Armies were merged into one unit and acquired national character.

The study is spread over six chapters.

Chapter I is the introduction.

Chapter II gives an insight on the early history of Indian army i.e. from the ancient period to medieval. The source for this chapter is mainly secondary materials such as books and on line websites.

Chapter III focuses on the entry of the British and how they formed the Presidency Armies of Bengal, Madras and Bombay. For this chapter information is mainly collected from the secondary sources that include various books mostly on military history.

Chapter IV gives an insight into the three Presidency Armies under the crown and how they were abolished and formed into the United Indian Army. For this chapter both the primary and secondary sources are used. Primary sources include the Government Orders, various Reports of the Committee etc.

Chapter V deals with reforms of the Lord Kitchener in the field of army and the role-played by the Indian army during the two crucial World Wars. This chapter is mostly covered with the primary sources, which include the Government Proceedings, various reports based on the army committees.

Chapter VI highlights the way in which the Indian Army was Indianized. For Indianising the Indian Army various committees were appointed by the British Government. This chapter also deals with the Partition of the Indian army. Both the primary and secondary sources were useful for completing this chapter.

Chapter VII is the conclusion.


1. Gayathri, S. History of Military Administration in Tamilnadu Under Colonial Rule with Special Reference to Vellore Mutiny (Unpublished Thesis), Submitted to University of Madras, Madras, 1999 , p.1.

2. Sharma, Gautam. Indian Army Through The Ages, Allied Publishers Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi. 1966, p.71.

3. Pant, G.N. Studies in Indian Weapons and Warfare, Army Educational Stores, New Delhi, 1970, p.93.

4. Ibid.

This is only the introductory part of the dissertation. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ENTIRE DISSERTATION IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

Language of Mass Media: A Study Based on Malayalam Broadcasts - A Doctoral Dissertation | Resisting Change through Individual Heroism - Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart | Social Semiotics as a Tool for Visual Literacy | Mastering Tenses Creatively | History of Growth and Reforms of British Military Administration in India, 1848-1949 | Communication and Inarticulation -
Symbols and Images in the Plays of Eugene O'Neill
| The Impact of Gender on Proficiency, Attitude and Social Class of Pre-University Students in Mysore within the Framework of Learners' Multilingualism | HOME PAGE of September 2008 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

Hemalatha, M.A., M.Phil.
Department of Women's Studies
PSGR Krishnammal College for Women
Coimbatore 641004
Tamilnadu, India

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