Dalhousie, Marquis of

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DALHOUSIE, MARQUIS OF (1812–1860), governor-general of India (1848–1856). James Andrew Bourn Ramsay was born at Dalhousie Castle, Midlothian, Scotland, and graduated from Christ Church College, Oxford, in 1833. After his elder brothers and his father died, Dalhousie succeded to his father's title of earl of Dalhousie in 1838. Dalhousie attained high office at a young age (member of Parliament, 1837; House of Lords, 1838; member of the Privy Council, 1843; president of the Board of Trade, 1845). As governor-general of British India, he followed an expansionist policy, annexing the Punjab (1849) and Lower Burma (1852). The First Anglo-Sikh War of 1846 had resulted in the British annexation of Punjab's eastern districts, and Dalhousie annexed the rest of Punjab in the Second Anglo-Sikh War. He supported the brothers Henry and John Lawrence who imposed a tough policy of direct rule on the Punjab. The Second Anglo-Burmese War, which started in 1851, owed its origin to the interests of British traders in the region, which Dalhousie endorsed. In India he curtailed the princely states, whose support seemed to be no longer required after the consolidation of British rule. According to his "doctrine of lapse," states whose princes died without male heirs were merged with British India. This rule was applied to Jaitpur, Jhansi, Nagpur, Sambalpur, Satara, and Tanjore (Thanjavur). Princely "mismanagement" could also be used as a pretext for such mergers, as it did in Oudh in 1856.

When Dalhousie became governor-general, he also held the office of governor of Bengal, as had all his predecessors. He saw to it that the post of lieutenant-governor of Bengal was created in 1854, thus putting an end to this double tenure. Dalhousie had been in charge of railway policy at home and drafted a plan for 5,000 miles of railway track in India when he became governor-general. The first lines started operating when Dalhousie was still in India. The first telegraph line from Kolkata to Delhi was also installed during his period of office, in 1854. His aggressive policies contributed to the outbreak of the Mutiny of 1857, which had to be faced by his successor, but the telegraph line helped to coordinate the British fight against the rebels. Dalhousie was an enthusiastic "modernizer"; subsequent British administrators of India were more inclined to respect the Indian princes and great landlords as "natural leaders of the people" and shelved the doctrine of lapse. The hill station Dalhousie in Himachal Pradesh is named for him.

Dietmar Rothermund

See alsoPrincely States


Baird, J. G. A., ed. Private Letters of the Marquess of Dalhousie. 1910. Reprint, Shannon: Irish University Press, 1972.

Das, M. N. Studies in the Economic and Social Development of Modern India: 1848–1856. Kolkata: Firma K. L. Mukhopadhyay, 1959.

Lee-Warner, William. The Life of the Marquis of Dalhousie. 1904. Reprint, Shannon: Irish University Press, 1972.