Egypt, without forming part of the British empire, came under the military occupation of Great Britain in 1882. "By right of conquest" Great Britain subsequently claimed a share in the administration of the former Sudan provinces of Egypt, and an agreement of the 19th of January 1899 established the joint sovereignty of Great Britain and Egypt over what is now known as the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.

The Indian section of the empire was acquired during the 17th-19th centuries under a royal charter granted to the East India Company by Queen Elizabeth in 1600. It was transferred to the imperial government in 1858, and Queen Victoria was proclaimed empress under the Royal Titles Act in 1877. The following list gives the dates and method of acquisition of the centres of the main divisions of the Indian empire. They have, in most instances, grown by general process of extension to their present dimensions.



Method of Acquisition.


1639 to 1748

By treaty and subsequent conquest. Fort St George, the foundation of Madras was the first territorial possession of the E.I. Co. in India. It was acquired by treaty with its Indian ruler. Madras was raised into a presidency in 1683; ceded to France 1746; recovered 1748.


1608 to 1685

Treaty and cession. Trade first established 1608. Ceded to British crown by Portugal 1661. Transferred to E.I. Co. 1668. Presidency removed from Surat 1687.


1633 to 1765

Treaty and subsequent conquests. First trade settlement established by treaty at Pipli in Orissa 1633. Erected into presidency by separation from Madras 1681. Virtual sovereignty announced by E.I. Co., as result of conquests of Clive, 1765.

United Provinces of Agra and Oudh

1764 to 1856

By conquests and treaty through successive stages, of which the principal dates were 1801-3-14-15. In 1832 the nominal sovereignty of Delhi, till then retained by the Great Mogul, was resigned into the hands of the E.I. Co. Oudh, of which the conquest may be said to have begun with the battle of Baxar in 1764, was finally annexed in 1856.

Central Provinces


By conquest and treaty.

Eastern Bengal and Assam


Conquest and cession. The Bengal portion of the province by separation from Bengal in 1905.



Conquest and cession.



Conquest and annexation. Made into distinct province 1859.

N.-W. Frontier Province



Ajmere and Merwara


By conquest and cession.



Conquest and annexation.

British Baluchistan


Conquest and treaty.

Andaman Islands



The following is a list of some of the principal Indian states which are more or less under the control of the British government: -

1. In direct political relations with the governor-general in council.





2. Under the Rajputana agency.




Jaipur (and feudatories).





3. Under the Central Indian agency.





4. Under the Bombay government.


Kolhapur (and dependencies).

Khairpur (Sind).


5. Under the Madras government.



6. Under the Central Provinces government.


7. Under the Bengal government.

Kuch Behar.


8. Under United Provinces government.



9. Under the Punjab government.







Sirmur (Nahan).



10. Under the government of Burma.

Shan states.

Karen states.

In addition to these there are British tracts known as the Upper Burma frontier and the Burma frontier. There is also a sphere of British influence in the border of Afghanistan. The state of Nepal, though independent as regards its internal administration, has been since the campaign of 1814-15 in close relations with Great Britain. It is bound to receive a British resident, and its political relations with other states are controlled by the government of India. All these native states have come into relative dependency upon Great Britain as a result of conquest or of treaty consequent upon the annexation of the neighbouring provinces. The settlement of Aden, with its dependencies of Perim and Sokotra Island, forms part of the government of Bombay.

This vast congeries of states, widely different in character, and acquired by many different methods, holds together under Administration. the supreme headship of the crown on a generally acknowledged triple principle of self-government, self-support and self-defence. The principle is more fully applied in some parts of the empire than in others; there are some parts which have not yet completed their political evolution; some others in which the principle is temporarily or for special reasons in abeyance; others, again - chiefly those of very small extent, which are held for purposes of the defence or advantage of the whole - to which it is not applicable; but the principle is generally acknowledged as the structural basis upon which the constitution of the empire exists.

In its relation to the empire the home section of the British Isles is distinguished from the others as the place of origin of the British race and the residence of the crown. The history and constitutional development of this portion of the empire will be found fully treated under separate headings. (See England; Wales; Ireland; Scotland; United Kingdom; English History; India; Africa; Australia; Canada; etc.)

It is enough to say that for purposes of administration the Indian empire is divided into nine great provinces and four minor commissionerships. The nine great provinces are presided over by two governors (Bombay and Madras), five lieut.-governors (Bengal, Eastern Bengal and Assam, United Provinces [Agra and Oudh], the Punjab and Burma), a chief commissioner (the Central Provinces) and an agent to the governor-general (the N.-W. Frontier Province). The four minor commissionerships are presided over each by a chief commissioner. Above these the supreme executive authority in India is vested in the viceroy in council. The council consists of six ordinary members besides the existing commander-in-chief. For legislative purposes the governor-general's council is increased by the addition of fifteen members nominated by the crown, and has power under certain restrictions to make laws for British India, for British subjects in the native states, and for native Indian subjects of the crown in any part of the world. The administration of the Indian empire in England is carried on by a secretary of state for India assisted by a council of not less than ten members.

The expenditure of the revenues is under the control of the secretary in council.

The colonial empire comprises over fifty distinct governments. It is divided into colonies of three classes and dependencies; these, again, are in some instances associated for administrative purposes in federated groups. The three classes of colonies are crown colonies, colonies possessing representative institutions but not responsible government, and colonies possessing representative institutions and responsible government. In crown colonies the crown has entire control of legislation, and the public officers are under the control of the home government. In representative colonies the crown has only a veto on legislation, but the home government retains control of the public officers. In responsible colonies the crown retains a veto upon legislation, but the home government has no control of any public officer except the governor.

In crown colonies - with the exception of Gibraltar and St Helena, where laws may be made by the governor alone - laws are made by the governor with the concurrence of a council nominated by the crown. In some crown colonies, chiefly those acquired by conquest or cession, the authority of this council rests wholly on the crown; in others, chiefly those acquired by settlement, the council is created by the crown under the authority of local or imperial laws. The crown council of Ceylon may be cited as an example of the first kind, and the crown council of Jamaica of the second.

In colonies possessing representative institutions without responsible government, the crown cannot (generally) legislate by order in council, and laws are made by the governor with the concurrence of the legislative body or bodies, one at least of these bodies in cases where a second chamber exists possessing a preponderance of elected representatives. The Bahamas, Barbados, and Bermuda have two legislative bodies - one elected and one nominated by the crown; Malta and the Leeward Islands have but one, which is partly elected and partly nominated.

Under responsible government legislation is carried on by parliamentary means exactly as at home, with a cabinet responsible to parliament, the crown reserving only a right of veto, which is exercised at the discretion of the governor in the case of certain bills. The executive councils in those colonies, designated as at home by parliamentary choice, are appointed by the governor alone, and the other public officers only nominally by the governor on the advice of his executive council.