Northwest Provinces, a political division of British India, comprising a long and irregular strip of territory lying between lat. 23 51' and 31° 10' N., and Ion. 77° and 84° 45' E., immediately W. of Bengal. It adjoins Nepaul on the southern and western frontiers of that country, except where the province of Oude intervenes, which is enclosed by the Northwest Provinces on all sides but the northern Gurwhal and the Himalaya mountains form the northernmost limits of the division; the western boundaries are the Punjaub, Rajpoo-tana, and Gwalior; and the southern border is formed by Bundelcund and Rewah. Its name does not accurately describe its position, for it occupies about the centre of the N. part of India. Area, 80,901 sq. m.; pop. in 1872, 30,769,056, distributed as follows among the seven administrative commissionerships of the territory: Meerut, 4,973,190; Kumaon, 743,170; Rohilcund, 5,435,550; Agra, 5,038,- 136; Jhansi, 934,747; Allahabad, 5,466,116; Benares, 8,178,147. Of these, 26,569,068 were Hindoos, 4,189,348 Mohammedans, and 10,640 Christians. The density of the population, 380 to the square mile, exceeds that in any other large division of India except Oude, where there are 465 to the square mile.
The com-missionerships are subdivided into 35 districts, and in 1872 contained 91,226 villages. At that time the area of the subject-allied native states under the supervision of the provincial government was 5,390 sq. m., with an estimated population of 1,284,691. - Although the northern portions, situated within the Himalaya region, are broken by spurs of the great snowy range, the Northwest Provinces lie chiefly in the rich Gangetic plain, and are watered by the Ganges and Jumna and their affluents, which here flow through an exceedingly fertile and prosperous region, dotted with wealthy, famous, and powerful cities, and abounding in historical interest. The tract between the Ganges and the Jumna, known as the Doab, is occupied by one of the most extensive and important systems of artificial irrigation in the world, of which the Ganges canal is the chief work, supplying water in 1871 - '2 to an area of about 800,000 acres. The principal forests are in Jhansi and near the foot of the Himalaya in Gurwhal and Ku-maon, and are under the care of the government forest conservancy. The chil piniis ex-celsa), the chir (pimts long ifolio), the saul tree, and the deodar are the chief timber trees. Immense numbers of bamboos are obtained from the bamboo forests in the north.
There are but few trees in the lower country. The climate is dry from April to June, when the rains begin, but the annual rainfall averages very little more than 30 inches. Opium, indigo, sugar cane, and the cereals are cultivated in the plains; there is a cotton farm at Bu-lundshuhur; and tea is grown in Gurwhal, Ku-maon, and the district of Dehra Doom Mines of lead and copper occur in the north, and iron also has been found in Kumaon, but the ore cannot be worked profitably. - The Northwest Provinces are traversed by the East Indian and Delhi railways, together forming the great trunk line between Calcutta and Lahore. On April 1, 1873, there were 839½ m. of railway in operation within the provincial limits. The whole opium crop is sent to the government depot at Ghazepoor, near Benares, and considerable quantities of cocoanuts are exported to other parts of India. The manufacture of cotton goods is an important industry, but most of the supply is required for home consumption. A proprietary system of land revenue prevails, the principle of which is derived from a settlement made by the emperor Akbar. The cultivators of the soil pay rent to the proprietors of the villages, from whom the government exacts a portion as a tax, now amounting to one half of the assumed rental.
These proprietors are usually the members of a family who own a village, all the villagers being their tenants. In 1871-2 the net land revenue was £3,682,588, and £414,501 were derived from the duty on salt, £216,868 from excise duties, and £79,174 from income tax; the total revenue in 1872-'3 was £5,849,714, and the expenditure was £2,083,562. - The executive authority is vested in a lieutenant governor, appointed by the viceroy with the approval of the secretary of state for India. A high court of judicature, consisting of a chief justice and five puisne judges, is the chief judicial tribunal. There are 67 regularly organized municipalities. Among the more important cities and towns are Allahabad, the capital, Agra, Bareilly, Benares, Cawnpore, Furruckabad, Ghazepoor, Go-ruckpoor, Meerut, and Muttra. The total number of educational institutions in 1872 was 8,938, at which there was an average daily attendance of 180,898 pupils. These included seven colleges affiliated to the Calcutta university, all of which received assistance from the government, while four were directly under its control, 35 high schools, and 13 normal schools.
Under British rule, elementary education has made greater progress here than elsewhere in India. Separate statistics are wanting as to the Protestant mission schools of the Northwest Provinces alone, but in 1872 the entire number there and in Oude was 335, with an attendance of 16,609 students; while there were 7,779 native Christian converts distributed throughout the same territory. At Agra there is a medical college. A prosperous native literature exists, comprising books, magazines, and newspapers in Urdu, Hindee, and other languages; during 1871-2, 30 native newspapers and 9 magazines were regularly published, a majority of them in Urdu; and of the 317 books which appeared in 1871, 90 were in Urdu, 56 in Persian, 53 in Hindee, 47 in Arabic, and 33 in English. - The Northwest Provinces were formerly included in the presidency of Fort William in Bengal, but in 1833 they were constituted a separate administrative division, with the capital at Agra. During the sepoy mutiny they were the principal theatre of war. (See India.) In 1862 the seat of government was removed to Allahabad.