Doctrine of lapse

The doctrine of lapse was an annexation policy applied by the British East India Company in India until 1858. According to the doctrine, any Indian princely state under the suzerainty of the British East India Company (the dominant imperial power in the subcontinent), as a vassal state under the British subsidiary system, would have its princely status abolished (and therefore annexed into British India) if the ruler was either "manifestly incompetent or died without a male heir".[1] The latter supplanted the long-established right of an Indian sovereign without an heir to choose a successor. In addition, the British decided whether potential rulers were competent enough. The doctrine and its application were widely regarded by many Indians as illegitimate.

The policy is most commonly associated with Lord Dalhousie, who was the Governor General of the East India Company in India between 1848 and 1856. However, it was articulated by the Court of Directors of the East India Company as early as 1834 and several smaller states were already annexed under this doctrine before Dalhousie took over the post of Governor-General. Dalhousie used the policy most vigorously and extensively, though, so it is generally associated with him. The accession of Lord Dalhousie inaugurated a new chapter in the history of British India. He functioned as the Governor-General of India from 1848-1856. It can be suggested that the doctrine was hypocritical. This is because, during the enforcement of this doctrine, England was ruled by a Queen not a male heir to the throne. However this fails to understand that the doctrine is based on the East India Company being the sovereign ruler of the territories - the suzerain - and that the UK was itself sovereign, having no other state who held its suzerainty.


At the time of its adoption, the British East India Company had imperial administrative jurisdiction over wide regions of the subcontinent. The company took over the princely states of Satara (1848), Jaitpur and Sambalpur (1849), Nagpur and Jhansi (1854), Tore and Arcot (1855) and Udaipur (Chhattisgarh) under the terms of the doctrine of lapse. Oudh (1856) is widely believed to have under the Doctrine of Lapse. However it was annexed by Lord Dalhousie under the pretext of mis-governance. Mostly clang that the ruler was not ruling properly, the Company added about four million pounds sterling to its annual revenue by virtue of this doctrine.[2] Udaipur State, however, would have local rule reinstated by the British in 1860.[3]

With the increasing power of the East India Company, discontent simmered among many sections of Indian society and the largely indigenous armed forces; these rallied behind the deposed dynasties during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, also known as the Sepoy Mutiny. Following the rebellion, in 1858, the new British Viceroy of India, whose rule replaced that of the British East India Company, renounced the doctrine.[4]

The princely state of Kittur was taken over by the East India Company in 1824 by imposing a 'doctrine of lapse'. So it is debatable whether it was devised by Lord Dalhousie in 1848, though he arguably made it official by documenting it. Dalhousie's annexations and the doctrine of lapse had caused suspicion and uneasiness among most ruling princes in India.

Doctrine of lapse before Dalhousie

Dalhousie applied the doctrine of lapse vigorously for annexing Indian princely states, but the policy was not solely his invention. The Court of Directors of the East India Company had articulated this early in 1834.[5] As per this policy, the Company annexed Mandvi in 1839, Kolaba and Jalaun in 1840 and Surat in 1842.

Princely states annexed under the doctrine

Princely State Year Annexed
Angul 1848
Arcot 1855
Banda 1858
Guler 1813
Jaintia 1835
Jaitpur 1849
Jalaun 1840
Jaswan 1849
Jhansi 1854
Kachari 1830
Kangra 1846
Kannanur 1819
Kittur 1824
Kodagu 1834
Kozhikode 1806
Kullu 1846
Kurnool 1839
Kutlehar 1825
Makrai 1890
Nagpur 1854
Nargund 1858
Oudh 1854
Punjab 1849
Ramgarh 1858
Sambalpur 1849
Satara 1848
Surat 1842
Siba 1849
Tanjore 1855
Tulsipur 1854
Udaipur, Chhattisgarh 1854

See also


  1. ^ Keay, John. India: A History. Grove Press Books, distributed by Publishers Group West. United States: 2000 ISBN 0-8021-3797-0, p. 433.
  2. ^ Wolpert, Stanley. A New History of India; 3rd ed., pp. 226-28. Oxford University Press, 1989.
  3. ^ Rajput Provinces of India - Udaipur (Princely State)
  4. ^ Wolpert (1989), p. 240.
  5. ^ S.N.Sen, ed. (2006). History of Modern India. New Age International (P) Ltd. p. 50. ISBN 978-8122-41774-6.
Alampur, Gujarat

Alampur is a town and former Rajput petty princely state on Saurashtra peninsula, in Gujarat, western India.

Begum Hazrat Mahal

Begum Hazrat Mahal ( بیگم حضرت محل ) [name in Urdu] (c. 1820 – 7 April 1879), also called as Begum of Awadh, was the second wife of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. Wajid Ali Shah met her in his palace. She rebelled against the British East India Company during the Indian Rebellion of 1857. She finally found asylum in Nepal where she died in 1879. After her husband had been exiled to Calcutta, she took charge of the affairs in the state of Awadh and seized control of Lucknow. She organised an army of women and placed Uda Devi as its commander. She actively took part in the revolt of 1857 against the Doctrine of Lapse under which Dalhousie wanted her to surrender Lucknow. She gave stiff resistance. But after the fall of Lucknow she escaped to Kathmandu. She was a very brave women and such bravery in a male-dominated society was unprecedented. She made her son, Prince Birjis Qadr, the Wali (ruler) of Awadh; However, she was forced to abandon this role after a short reign. "Pasi respondents first documented the story of Begum Hazrat Mahal in print in the 1971 Census records. Though the name of Uda Devi was not mentioned, the respondents mentioned that, in the war of 1857, a Pasi Palton (a platoon of Pasis) rescued Begum Hazrat Mahal from imprisonment by the British (Census of India 1971: 2). It was only later that the story of Uda Devi came to be incorporated into the narrative. After 1990, the story found organisational support for its transmission and celebration with the formation of the Virangana Uda Devi Smarak Sansthan."

Gangadhar Rao

Maharaja Gangadhar Rao Newalkar was the Maharaja of Jhansi in northern India, a vassal of Maratha Empire. He was the son of Shiv Rao Bhau and a descendent of Raghunath Hari Newalkar (who was the first governor of Jhansi under Maratha rule).The ancestors of Gangadhar Rao hailed from Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. Some of them moved to Khandesh, when Peshwa rule began and served important posts in the Peshwa and Holkar armies. Raghunath Hari Newalkar strengthened Maratha polity in Bundelkhand, however as he grew old, he handed over the reins of Jhansi to his younger brother Shiv Rao Bhau. On the death of Raghunath Rao III in 1838, the British rulers accepted his brother Gangadhar Rao as the Raja of Jhansi in 1843.

He was an able administrator and he improved the financial condition of Jhansi, which had been deteriorated during his predecessor’s rule. He took corrective steps to ensure the growth and development of the town of Jhansi. He controlled an army of around 5,000 men. He possessed wisdom, diplomacy, and was a lover of art and culture; even the British were impressed by his statesmanlike qualities. Gangadhar Rao possessed considerable taste and some scholarship; he collected a fine library of Sanskrit manuscripts and enriched the architecture of the town of Jhansi.In May 1842, Gangadhar Rao married a young girl named Manikarnika, who was renamed as Laxmibai, who later became the Queen of Jhansi and revolted against the British during the uprising of 1857. Raja Gangadhar Rao adopted a child called Anand Rao, the son of his cousin, who was renamed Damodar Rao, on the day before he died. The adoption was in the presence of the British political officer who was given a letter from the raja requesting that the child should be treated with kindness and that the government of Jhansi should be given to his widow for her lifetime. After the death of the raja in November 1853 because Damodar Rao was adopted, the British East India Company, under Governor-General Lord Dalhousie, applied the Doctrine of Lapse, rejecting Damodar Rao's claim to the throne and annexing the state to its territories.

Garmali Nani

See Garmali for namesakesGarmali Nani is a village and former non-salute princely state in Gujarat, western India.

It lies in Sorath prant on Saurashtra peninsula.


The Hasht-Bhaiya (Hindi: आठभैया ath bhaiya meaning 'Eight Brothers') (e)states were a group of jagirs (small feudatory estates, formally ranking below a proper princely state) of Central India during the period of the British Raj.

They belonged to the Bundelkhand Agency and all of them had been originally part of the princely state of Orchha. The Hasht-Bhaiya Jagirs were British protectorates between 1823 and 1947. Their last jagirdars (rulers) joined the Indian Union in 1948.

The rulers of the states were Rajputs of the Bundela dynasty.


Iavej is a town and former Rajput petty princely state on Saurashtra peninsula, in Gujarat, western India.

Jalia Manaji

For namesakes, see Jalia

Jalia Manaji is a village and former Rajput petty princely state on Saurashtra peninsula, in Gujarat, western India.

Kittur Chennamma

Kittur Chennamma (23 October 1778 – 2 February 1829) was the Rani of Kittur, a former princely state in Karnataka. She led an armed force against the British East India Company in 1824 in defiance of the doctrine of lapse in an attempt to maintain Indian control over the region, but was defeated in the third war and died imprisoned. One of the first female rulers to rebel against British rule, she has become a folk hero in Karnataka and symbol of the independence movement in India.


Lapse or lapsed may refer to:

Lapse and anti-lapse, in the law of wills

Lapse rate, the rate that atmospheric pressure decreases with altitude

Lapse: Confessions of a Slot Machine Junkie, a 2013 documentary about gambling addiction

Doctrine of lapse, an annexationist policy in British India

The Lapse, an defunct American indie rock band

Relapse, a medical term used in addiction treatment

Lapsed (album), a 1997 album by Bardo Pond

Lapsed power, a constitutionally granted power no longer in use

Lapsed Catholic, a term for baptized Catholics who no longer practice

Oudh State

The Oudh State (, also Kingdom of Oudh, or Awadh State) was a princely state in the Awadh region of North India until annexation by the British in 1856. Oudh, the now obsolete but once official English-language name of the state, also written historically as Oude, derived from the name of Ayodhya.

The capital of Oudh State was in Faizabad, but the British Agents, officially known as "residents", had their seat in Lucknow. The Nawab of Oudh, one of the richest princes, paid for and erected a Residency in Lucknow as a part of a wider programme of civic improvements.Oudh joined other Indian states in an upheaval against British rule in 1858 during one of the last series of actions in the Indian rebellion of 1857. In the course of this uprising detachments of the British Indian Army from the Bombay Presidency overcame the disunited collection of Indian states in a single rapid campaign. Determined rebels continued to wage sporadic guerrilla clashes until the spring of 1859. This rebellion is also historically known as the Oudh campaign.After the British annexation of Oudh by the Doctrine of Lapse, the North Western Provinces became the North Western Provinces and Oudh.


Pali(y)ad is a town and former non-salute princely state on Saurashtra peninsula in Gujarat, western India.

Raja Shahaji of Satara

Shahji ruled the Indian city of Satara and the surrounding Satara district from 1839 until 1848. He was also known as Appa Saheb, and his full titles were Shreemant Maharaj Shaji Raja Chhatrapati of Satara.

His adoptive father Pratap Singh had been dethroned as Raja Pratap Singh, Raja of Satara by the British rulers in 1839 and stripped of his powers and personal possessions. Appa Sahib succeeded his father under the title Shreemant Maharaj Shajee Raja Chhatrapati of Satara.After his death, the British questioned the irregularity of his adoption, refused to recognise the succession, and annexed the state of Satara to the Presidency of Bombay under the doctrine of lapse, on 1 May 1849.

Rupal State

Rupal is a town and former Rajput princely state in Gujarat, western India.

Satara state

Satara state was a short-lived Princely state created by the British in 1818 after the Third Anglo-Maratha War and annexed by them in 1849 using the Doctrine of lapse. The state was ruled by descendants of Chhatrapati Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha Empire. The first Raja of the state was Pratap Singh who was freed by the British after they defeated Peshwa Bajirao II in 1818. Pratap Singh was deposed in 1838. His brother, Shahaji succeeded him but died without a natural heir in 1848. At that time, the East India Company government refused to accept Shahaji's adopted son as his successor and absorbed the territory into the growing British dominion.

Shankarrao Chimnajirao Pant Sachiv

Shankarrao Chimnajirao Pant Sachiv was the 10th ruler of the princely state of Bhor of British Raj during the reign (12 February 1871 - 17 July 1922 ).With Doctrine of lapse of the Satara State in 1849 the Pant Sachiv became a tributary of the British Government. In 1820 a Treaty was concluded between the British Government (East India Company). As original British grantee of 1820 Chimnajirao Raghunathrao was made the ruler of Bhor. On 20th July 1874 Shankarrao Chimnajirao Pant Sachiv was installed with full ruling powers on Bhor State.


Vaghvadi (or (Vaghvori)) is a village and former non-salute princely state in Gujarat, western India.

It lies in Sorath prant on Saurashtra peninsula.


Vanod is a town and former Rajput salute state in Gujarat, western India.

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