Sunday, 21 April 2013

Why the Brits feared Anglo-Indians

The British rule in India today is considered to be one of the most shameful chapters in India’s history. The British used the divide and rule policy to great effect and they won over Kingdoms by unfair means and they used subterfuge and all underhand means to undermine an enemy and gain an upper hand.
When in India, they tried to stamp out all that was native and they ruined what was once a prosperous nation. But what every few know is that the British were so insecure and so selfish that they not only turned on the native Indians but also their won people who they classified as Anglo Indians.
The Anglo Indians were born of mixed marriages. Though they suffered from a peculiar form of  suppression from the British, they continued to thrive in India and elsewhere. In India and now in the rest of the world, the Anglo-Indians, have been making news. The term Anglo-Indians is today used to describe people who were brought into being by the Portuguese, Dutch, British traders and other colonists in India.
It was Warren Hastings who first used the term Anglo-Indians and this was way back in the 18th century. For him, the term meant both the British and their Indian-born children in India.
During the early years of the British Raj, the Directors of the British East India Company, founded in 1629, paid one pagola or a gold mohur for each child born to an Indian mother and a European father. This was more of a family allowance and the children born in such families were   amalgamated into the Anglo-Indian community.
The East India Company wanted this community to act as a bulwark for the British Raj and also as a buffer between them and the Indians. The company also preferred them to native Indians in employment and this lead to the growth of the community.  
Anglo-Indian children were often sent to England to receive further education. Besides, exclusive schools were established in Madras, Bangalore, Lucknow and other British settlements for then.
Initially, intermarriage between the British and the native females was encouraged. Soon after the British became the sole power in India, they feared that a mixed community might threaten their rule and discouraged intermarriages.
It was then that the British purged the Anglo-Indians from the establishment though this has not received much publicity. The Anglo-Indians were discharged from all ranks of the army; they were barred from the Company’s civil, military or marine services. These restrictions continued for several years.
This happened in the 18th century. The first reason for this change was the successful revolution in 1791 in Haiti that ousted the French. The revolutionaries (Africans in Haiti) were led by mixed-bloods and in the words of Viscount Valentia, an East India Company observer, wherever this intermediate caste has been permitted to rise, it has ultimately tended to its own ruin.
The pain of Haiti was soon reflected in Calcutta and an article in a local newspaper spoke about the dangers of mixed races. It said “if forthwith drastic measures are not put into operation to keep down the East Indian races, they will do to the British in India what Mulattoes have done to the Spaniards.
The Haiti revolution led to nervousness among the British and it even reached the higher levels. It even led to Lord Wellesley caution that “while  every attempt has been made to crush and keep them-Anglo Indians- down, but they are rapidly increasing in numbers and, though slowly, are making advances in education, in wealth and consequently, in power and the means to acquire it.
It was in 1795  that the British, fearing a similar episode to Haiti in India, decided to discharge persons of Indian extraction, or, as they described acts of exclusion. European sons of native women were barred from positions of authority in the civil, military, and marine services of the Company and those in service were discharged.
A second reason for excluding the Anglo Indians was an increasing awareness that great wealth was to be gained by Europeans serving in India. This meant that the country born or local lost their positions with the East India Company and they were replaced with the European sons of the Companies directors and shareholders.
A third reason for the exclusion was due to sectarianism. Many women married by the British were Luso-Indian, of mixed Portuguese and Indian descent. These women were Catholic and their English husbands had to convert from Protestantism to Catholicism for the marriage to be performed. The awarding of Pagodas to those British men who married native Indian women was partly to stop the men from marrying Luso-Indian women and converting to Catholicism. It was during this period that Catholics in England were debarred from attending universities, they could not hold office in the military or civil services, nor were they eligible for seats in the House of Commons.
During the late 18th century,  8,000 Catholic Anglo Indians were working for the East India Company in Bengal alone. With the French and British at loggerheads in Europe and in India, the unfortunate Anglo-Indians had to pay the price and leave the East India Company. The British were serious about purging the company of Anglo-Indians as by about 1750, their numbers  exceeded Britons in India. They then were marginalised and subsequently excluded from British society and industry in India.
Here, mention must be made of three three repressive orders which were passed at the instigation of the Court of Directors of the East India Company.
The three orders were:
………in 1786, the wards of the Upper Orphanage school at Calcutta were in future to be prohibited from proceeding to England to complete their education and thus qualifying for the covenanted services. By the second order of 1791 the Indian born sons of Britishers were prohibited from being employed in the Civil, Military and marine Services of the Company, and the third order of 1795 prevented the employment of all persons not descended from European parents on both sides in the army except as fifers, bandsmen, drummers and farriers (Snell, 1944: 11-12).
This process of purging anyone but the British from the ranks of the company was continued by Lord Cornwallis, during his first Governor-Generalship (1786-93).
Today, Anglo-Indian means people descendent from Europeans and British and the term embraces those who have not only settled in India but also in Canada, New Zealand, the United States of Americas the United Kingdom and Australia. There are some 150,000 still in India of a worldwide total of 500,000.


  1. Hi Samyuktha,

    A very nice blog..describing the ground reality of the time..i'am an anglo-indian and was somewhat aware of the things mentioned in your blog..however most other indians think of us only as collabrators with the british..thanks for showcasing otherwise..

  2. The anglo-Indians never really colloborated with the British who actually feared them. Since the Anglo Indians were more intelligent and adapted better to India and Indians, the British always kept them at arms distance. It was only when the wave of Independence began sweeping across India that even Indians began distancing themsevles from Anglo-Indians. However, we must acknowledge their contribution to the freedom movement,