Bombay Presidency - Informative & researched article on Bombay Presidency
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Home > Reference > History of India > Modern History of India > British Empire in India > Presidencies in British India > Bombay Presidency
Bombay Presidency
The Bombay Presidency, an early province of British India, has a very interesting history.
 
More on Bombay Presidency (49 Articles)
 The Bombay Presidency was a province during British rule in India. It was set up in the 17th century as a business hub of the British East India Company. Later on this region enclosed much of the western and central India along with some parts of post partition Pakistan and the Arabian Peninsula.

In other words, the Bombay Presidency consisted of the present day state of Gujarat, some of the western part of the state of Maharashtra (which incorporates the regions of Konkan, Desh, and Kandesh), the northwestern state of Karnataka, the Sind province of Pakistan and the British territory of Aden in Yemen. It comprised to a certain extent of districts directly ruled by the British and to some extent of native or princely states, which were ruled by local rulers under the supervision of a governor.

The Bombay Presidency was surrounded on the north by Baluchistan, Punjab and Rajputana; on the east by Indore, the Central Provinces and Hyderabad; on the south by Madras Presidency and the Kingdom of Mysore; and on the west by the Arabian Sea. Within these confines were the Portuguese habitats of Goa, Daman and Diu, and the resident state of Baroda, which had direct relations with the government of India. The total area of the region was 188,745 sq. mi., of which 122,984 sq. mtr were under British and 65,761 under native regulation. As counted in 1901, the total population was 25,468,209, of which 18,515,587 were occupants in British territory and 6,908,648 in native states

The first British colonization in the Bombay Presidency took place in 1618, with the East India Company establishing a factory at Surat in modern Gujarat, secured by a bond obtained from the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. In 1626 the Dutch as well as the British made an abortive endeavor to gain control over the island of Bombay in the coastal Konkan region from Portugal. In the year 1653, proposals were recommended for its procurement from the Portuguese.

In 1661 it became a part of the British Empire, when it was offered as a dowry during the marriage of the infanta Catherine of Braganza with Charles II of England. In 1668 the region was taken possession of by the East India Company. In 1687 Bombay Presidency took the leading place among all the Company`s possessions in India. During the 18th century, the Hindu Maratha Empire extended quickly, seizing Konkan and much of the eastern part of Gujarat from the decayed Mughal Empire. In western Gujarat, including Kathiawar and Kutch, the slackening of Mughal power frequently allowed local rulers to create practically independent states.

The first clash between the British and the Marathas was the First Anglo-Maratha War which commenced on 1774 and culminated in the 1782 treaty of Salbai. According to this treaty, Salsette was surrendered to the British, while Bharuch was handed over to the Maratha ruler Scindia. The British took possession of Surat in 1800. The British territory was distended in the Second Anglo-Maratha War, which ceased in 1803. The East India Company got hold of the districts of Bharuch, Kaira and the like. The Maratha Gaekwad rulers of Baroda approved British autonomy.

In 1803 the Bombay Presidency incorporated only Salsette, the islands of the harbour (since 1774), Surat and Bankot (since 1756). The districts that were a part of the state of Gujarat were seized by the Bombay government in 1805 and extended in 1818. The abundant little states of Kathiawar and Mahikantha were prearranged into princely states under British authority between 1807 and 1820. Baji Rao II, the last peshwa ruler, who had endeavoured to break out from the shackles of British rule, was overpowered in the Battle of Khadki. While he was captured and pensioned, large portions of his dominions (Pune, Ahmednagar, Nasik, Sholapur, Belgaum, Kaladgi, Dharwad and the like) were incorporated under the presidency. The annexation was finalised by Mountstuart Elphinstone, who was governor from 1819 to 1827. His strategy was to rule as far as is feasible on native lines, shunning any new changes.

The following period saw the extension of the presidency with the fall of certain native states and by the subsequent addition of Aden (1839) and Sind (1843), and the lease of the Panch Mahals from Sindhia (1853). Under the rule of Lord Elphinstone during the years 1853 to 1860, the Bombay Presidency faced the crisis of the Revolt of 1857 without any general rising. Outbursts among the troops at Karachi, Ahmedabad and Kolhapur were quickly subsided. Two regiments were broken up, and the mutiny in Gujarat, among the Bhils, and in the southern Maratha country was restricted to the local areas and thus was isolated. Under Sir Bartle Frere (1862-1867) agricultural affluence attained its peak, as a sequel to the American Civil War and the resultant demand for Indian cotton in Europe. The money that flowed into the country led to various speculations known as the Share Mania (1864-1865), which culminated in a commercial crisis and the collapse of the bank of Bombay Presidency (1866). But the peasant class achieved on the whole more than they lost, and the business of Bombay was not lastingly injured. Sir Bartle Frere undertook the completion of the great trunk lines of railways, and with the finances acquired by the annihilation of the town walls (1862) he began the magnificent series of public buildings that now embellish the present Mumbai.

The Bombay Presidency had four commissionerships and twenty-six districts with the Bombay City as its capital. The four divisions included the northern or Gujarat, the central or Deccan, the southern or Carnatic, and Sind. The twenty-six districts were Bombay City, Ahmedabad, Bharuch, Kaira, Panch Mahals, Surat, Thane, Ahmednagar, Khandesh (partitioned into two districts in 1906), Nasik, Poona (Pune), Satara, Sholapur, Belgaum, Bijapur, Dharwad (Dharwar), North Kanara, Kolaba, Ratnagiri, Karachi, Hyderabad, Shikarpur, Thar and Parkar, and Upper Sind Frontier. The resident states consisted of 353 separate units, controlled either by political agents or by the collectors of the districts in which the smaller states were located. The principal groups of states were North Gujarat, comprising Cutch, Kathiawar Agency, Palanpur Agency, Mahi Kantha Agency, Rewa Kantha Agency and Cambay; South Gujarat, comprising Dharampur, Bansda and Sachin; North Konkan, Nasik and Khandesh, comprising Khandesh political agency, Surgana and Jawhar; South Konkan and Dharwar, comprising Janjira, Sawantwadi and Savanur; the Deccan Satara Jagirs, comprising Akkalkot, Bhor, Aundh, Phaltan, Jath and Daphalapur; the southern Maratha states, comprising Kolhapur and other states, and Khairpur in Sind.

The native states under the management of the government of Bombay are divided, historically and geographically, into two major groups. The northern or the Gujarat group includes Baroda as well as the smaller states of Cutch, Palanpur, Rewa Kantha, and Mahi Kantha. The southern or the Maratha group includes Kolhapur, Akalkot, Sawantwari, and the Satara and the southern Mahratta Jagirs. The other territories were divided into a small bunch of autonomous zamindaris, situated in the wild and hilly tracts at the northern extremity of the Sahyadri range and some other provinces.

After the Revolt of 1857, The British East India Company rule in Bombay Presidency came to an end, and India was subsequently controlled by the British Crown. A governor was appointed from Britain, a council was chosen by the crown, and selected from the Indian civil service. The council comprised of the executive members of government. For dealing with the legislative matters there was a legislative council. The political management of the native states was under the supervision of the British agents placed at the chief native capitals. The jurisdical authority laid with the high court at Bombay, comprising a chief justice and seven judges. For each of the districts of Bombay Presidency, there were district and assistant judges. Aden and Sind were removed from the presidency in 1932 and 1936 respectively.

The Bombay Presidency had a population of 25,468,209 according to the 1901 census. There were 19,916,438 Hindu, 4,567,295 Muslim, 535,950 Jain, 78,552 Zoroastrian, and about 200,000 Christian. The major languages of the presidency were Sindhi in Sind, Kutchi in Kutch, Gujarati and Hindustani in Gujarat, Marathi in Thana and the central division, Gujarati and Marathi in Khandesh, and Marathi and Kannada in the southern division. Moreover,. There were Bhil and Gipsy dialects. Agriculture was one of the main occupations of the people of the Bombay Presidency. The cultivated crops included sorghum, pearl millet, wheat, finger millet, barley, kodra, chickpea, pigeon pea, catjang or kulti, urad bean, sesame or til, mustard, castor bean, safflower, cotton, Deccan hemp, linseed, sunn or tag, sugarcane, potatoes, chile peppers, turmeric and tobacco. The principal industries of Bombay Presidency were basd on the milling of cotton. In the late 19th century many steam mills were set up in Bombay, Ahmedabad and Khandesh. In 1905 there were 432 factories in the presidency, the majority of which manufactured cotton. There were also many hand weavers. Ahmedabad, Surat, Yeola, Nasik, Thana and Bombay had had factories for manufacturing silk. Ahmedabad and Surat were renowned for their carved woodwork. Salt was produced in large quantities in some places. There was one brewery at Dapuri near Pune.

Bombay Presidency had many educational institutions. The University of Bombay was set up in 1857, and had an administrative board comprising of a chancellor, vice-chancellor and fellows. The governor of Bombay was ex-officio chancellor. By 1905 there were a total of 10,194 educational institutions with 593,431 pupils. There were a total of ten art colleges, of which the government administered two, three by the native states, and five were private managed. In the year 1913, the first college of commerce in whole Asia known as the "Sydenham College" was established.

In the year 1935, Government of India passed an act that made the Bombay Presidency into a regular province. The princely state of Khairpur came under the control of Sind, which became a separate province. After India got her independence in 1947 Bombay Presidency became part of India while Sind Province became part of Pakistan. In 1950 Bombay Province was restructured into Bombay state, which included the princely states formerly under the political influence of Bombay Province. These princely states became parts of the new state after annexation with India.

(Last Updated on : 03/02/2009)
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