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Encyclopedia > Bombay Presidency

Bombay Presidency was a former province of British India. At its greatest extent, Bombay Presidency comprised the present-day state of Gujarat, the western two-thirds of Maharashtra state, including the regions of Konkan, Desh, and Kandesh, and northwestern Karnataka state of India; It also included Pakistan's Sind state and the British territory of Aden in Yemen. It consisted partly of districts, which were directly under British rule, and partly of native or British settlement in the Bombay Presidency was in 1618, when the East India Company established a factory at Surat in present_day Gujarat, protected by a charter obtained from the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. In 1626 the Dutch and British made an unsuccessful attempt to gain possession of the island of Bombay in the coastal Konkan region from Portugal, and in 1653 proposals were suggested for its purchase from the Portuguese. In 1661 it was ceded to the British crown, as part of the dowry of the infanta Catherine of Braganza on her marriage with Charles II of England. So lightly was the acquisition esteemed in England, and so unsuccessful was the administration of the crown officers, that in 1668 Bombay was transferred to the East India Company for an annual payment of £10. At the time of the transfer, powers for its defence and for the administration of justice were also conferred; a European regiment was enrolled; and the fortifications erected proved sufficient to deter the Dutch from their intended attack in 1673. In 1687 Bombay was placed at the head of all the Company's possessions in India; but in 1753 the government of Bombay became subordinate to that of Calcutta.

Territorial expansion

During the eighteenth century, the Hindu Maratha empire expanded rapidly, conquering Konkan and Gujarat from the disintegrating Mughal Empire. The first conflict between the British and the Marathas was the First Anglo-Maratha War which began in 1774 and resulted in the 1782 treaty of Salbai, by which Salsette was ceded to the British, while Bharuch was ceded to the Maratha ruler Sindhia. The British annexed Surat in 1800. British territory was enlarged in the Second Anglo-Maratha War which ended in 1803. The East India Company received the districts of Bharuch, Kaira, etc., and the Maratha Gaekwad rulers of Baroda acknowledged British sovereignty.

In 1803 the Bombay presidency included only Salsette, the islands of the harbour (since 1774), Surat and Bankot (since 1756); but between this date and 1827 the framework of the presidency took its present shape. The Gujarat districts were taken over by the Bombay government in 1805 and enlarged in 1818; and the first measures for the settlement of Kathiawar and Mahi Kantha were taken between 1807 and 1820. Bhajirao, the last of the peshwas, who had attempted to shake off the British yoke, was defeated, captured and pensioned (1817 1818), and large portions of his dominions (Pune, Ahmednagar, Nasik, Sholapur, Belgaum, Kaladgi, Dharwad, etc.) were included in the presidency, the settlement of which was completed by Mountstuart Elphinstone, governor from 1819 to 1827. His policy was to rule as far as possible on native lines, avoiding all changes for which the population was not yet ripe; but the grosser abuses of the old regime were stopped, the country was pacified, the laws were codified, and courts and schools were established. The period that followed is notable mainly for the enlargement of the presidency through the lapse of certain native states, by the addition of Aden (1839) and Sind (1843), and the lease of the Panch Mahals from Sindhia (1853). The establishment of an orderly administration, one outcome of which was a general fall of prices that made the unwonted regularity of the collection of taxes doubly unwelcome, naturally excited a certain amount of misgiving and resentment; but on the whole the population was prosperous and contented, and under Lord Elphinstone (1853-1860) the presidency passed through the crisis of the Revolt of 1857 without any general rising. Outbreaks among the troops at Karachi, Ahmedabad and Kolhapur were quickly put down, two regiments being disbanded, and the rebellions in Gujarat, among the Bhils, and in the southern Maratha country were local and isolated. Under Sir Bartle Frere (1862-1867) agricultural prosperity reached its highest point, as a result of the American Civil War and the consequent enormous demand for Indian cotton in Europe. The money thus poured into the country produced an epidemic of speculation known as the Share Mania (1864-1865), which ended in a commercial crisis and the failure of the bank of Bombay (1866). But the peasantry gained on the whole more than they lost, and the trade of Bombay was not permanently injured. Sir Bartle Frere encouraged the completion of the great trunk lines of railways, and with the funds obtained by the demolition of the town walls (1862) he began the magnificent series of public buildings that now adorn Bombay (Mumbai).


Bombay Presidency in 1909, northern portion
Bombay Presidency in 1909, southern portion

The Bombay Presidency was bounded on the north by Baluchistan, the 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 limits were the Portuguese settlements of Goa, Daman and Diu, and the native state of Yemen. The total area, including Sind but excluding Aden, was 188,745 sq. mi., of which 122,984 sq. mi. were under British and 65,761 under native rule. The total population was 25,468,209 in 1901, of which 18,515,587 were resident in British territory and 6,908,648 in native states.


The Presidency was divided into four commissionerships and twenty-six districts. The four divisions were 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 native states comprise in all 353 separate units, which are administered either by political agents or by the collectors of the districts in which the smaller states are situated. The chief groups of states are 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, Sawantwari and Savanur; the Deccan Satara Jagirs, comprising Akalkot, Bhor, Aundh, Phaltan, Jath and Daphlapur; the southern Maratha states, comprising Kolhapur and other states, and Khairpur in Sind. The native states under the supervision of the government of Bombay are divided, historically and geographically, into two main groups. The northern or Gujarat group includes the territories of the gaekwar of Baroda, with the smaller states which form the administrative divisions of Cutch, Palanpur, Rewa Kantha, and Mahi Kantha. These territories, with the exception of Cutch, have an historical connection, as being the allies or tributaries of the Gaekwad until 1805, when final engagements were included between that prince and the British government. The southern or Maratha group includes Kolhapur, Akalkot, Sawantwari, and the Satara and southern Mahratta Jagirs, and has an historical bond of union in the friendship they showed to the British in their final struggle with the power of the peshwa until 1818. The remaining territories may conveniently be divided into a small cluster of independent zamindaris, situated in the wild and hilly tracts at the northern extremity of the Sahyadri range, and certain. principalities which, from their history or geographical position, are to some extent isolated from the rest of the presidency.

After the Revolt of 1857, The British East India Company rule ceased, and India came under the control of the British Crown. The government of Bombay was administered by a governor in council consisting of the governor as president and two ordinary members. The governor was appointed from Britain; the council is appointed by the crown, and selected from the Indian civil service. These were the executive members of government. For making laws there was a legislative council, consisting of the governor and his executive council, with certain other persons, not fewer than eight or more than twenty, at least half of them being non-officials. Each of the members of the executive council had in his charge one or two departments of the government; and each department had a secretary, an under-secretary, and an assistant secretary, with a numerous staff of clerks. The political administration of the native states was under the superintendence of British agents placed at the principal native capitals; their position varied in different states according to the relations in which the principalities stood with the paramount power. The administration of justice throughout the presidency was conducted by a high court at Bombay, consisting of a chief justice and seven puisne judges, along with district and assistant judges throughout the districts of the presidency. The administration of the districts was carried on by collectors, assistant collectors, and a varying number of supernumerary assistants.


The Bombay Presidency had a large and diverse population. The census of 1901 gave a total of 25,468,209, out of which the chief religions furnished the following numbers: 19,916,438 Hindu, 4,567,295 Muslim, 535,950 Jain, 78,552 Zoroastrian, and approximately 200,000 Christian.

In Sind Islam had been the predominant religion from the Arab conquest in the 8th century. In Gujarat the predominant religion is Hinduism, although Muslim kingdoms have left their influence in many parts of the province. The Deccan is the home of the Marathi, who constituted 30% of the population. The Konkan is notable for various Christian castes, owing their origin to Portuguese rule; while in the Carnatic, Lingayatism, a Hindu reformation movement of the 12th century, was embraced by 45% of the population. The Marathas were the predominant caste and number (1901) 3,650,000, composed of 1,900,000 Kunbis, 350,000 Konkanis, and 1,400,000 Marathas not otherwise specified.

The chief languages of the presidency were Sindhi in Sind, Cutchi in Cutch, Gujarati and Hindustani in Gujarat, Marathi in Thana and the central division, Gujarati and Marathi in Khandesh, and Mahratti and Kannada in the southern division. There were also Bhil (120,000) and Gipsy (30,000) dialects.


The overwhelming majority of the population of the Bombay Presidency was rural and engaged in agriculture. The staple crops were as follows: joar (Sorghum vulgare) and bajra (Holcus spicatus) were the staple food grains in the Deccan and Khandesh. Rice was the chief product of the Konkan. Wheat, generally grown in the northern part of the Presidency, but specially in Sind and Gujarat, was exported to Europe in large quantities from Karachi, and on a smaller scale from Bombay. Barley was principally grown in the northern parts of the presidency. Nachani (Eleusine coracana) and kodra (Paspalum scrobiculatum) furnished food to the Kolis, Bhils, Waralis, and other hill tribes. Of the pulses the most important are chickpeas or Bengal gram (Cicer arietinum), tur (Cajanus indicus), kulti (Doliclios biflorus), and urd bean (Vigna mungo). Principal oilseeds were til (Sesamum orientale), mustard, castor bean, safflower and linseed. Of fibres the most important were cotton, Deccan hemp (Hibiscus cannabinus), and sunn or tag (Crotalaria juncea). Much was done to improve the cotton of the presidency. American varieties were introduced with much advantage in the Dharwad collectorate and other parts of the southern Maratha country. In Khandesh the indigenous plant from which one of the lowest classes of cotton in the Bombay market takes its name has been almost entirely superseded by the superior Hinganghat variety. Miscellaneous crops: sugarcane, requiring a rich soil and a perennial water-supply, and only grown in favored localities, red pepper, potatoes, turmeric and tobacco.


The chief industries of Bombay Presidency involved the milling of cotton. In the late 19th century steam mills sprang up in Bombay, Ahmedabad and Khandesh. In 1905 there were 432 factories in the presidency, of which by far the greater number were engaged in the preparation and manufacture of cotton. The industry is centred in Bombay, which contains nearly two-thirds of the mills. During the decade 1891-1901 the mill industry passed through a period of depression due to widespread plague and famine, but on the whole there was a marked expansion of the trade as well as a great improvement in the class of goods produced. In addition to the mills there were (1901) 178,000 hand-loom weavers in the province, who still have a position of their own in the manipulation of designs woven into the cloth. Silk goods were manufactured in Ahmedabad, Surat, Yeola, Nasik, Thana and Bombay, the material decorated with printed or woven designs; competition from European goods caused the silk industry to decline in the early 20th century. The custom of investing savings in gold and silver ornaments gave employment to many goldsmiths: the metal was usually supplied by the customer, and the goldsmith charged for his labor. Ahmedabad and Surat are famous for their carved woodwork. Many of the houses in Ahmedabad are covered with elaborate wood-carving, and excellent examples exist in Broach, Baroda, Surat, Nasik and Yeola. Salt was made in large quantities in the government works at Kharaghoda and Udu in Ahmedabad, and was is exported by rail to Gujarat and central India. There was one brewery at Dapuri near Pune.


The province was well supplied with railways, all of which, with one exception, concentrated at Bombay City. The exception is the North-Western line, which enters Sind from the Punjab and terminated at Karachi. The other chief lines are the Great Indian Peninsula, Indian Midland, Bombay, Baroda & Central India, and the Rajputana, Malwa & Southern Mahratta systems. In 1905 the total length of railway under the Bombay government open for traffic was 7980 miles, which did not include the railway system in Sind.


Under Lord Kitchener's re-arrangement of the Indian army in 1904 the old Bombay command was abolished and its place was taken by the Western army corps under a lieutenant-general. The army corps was divided into three divisions under major-generals. The 4th division, with headquarters at Quetta, comprised the troops in the Quetta and Sind districts. The 5th division, with headquarters at Mhow, consisted of three brigades, located at Nasirabad, Jabalpur and Jhansi, and included the previous Mhow, Deesa, Nagpur, Narmada and Bundelkhand districts, with the Bombay district north of the Tapti. The 6th division, with headquarters at Pune, consisted of three brigades, located at Bombay, Ahmednagar and Aden. It comprised the previous Poona district, Bombay district south of the Tapti, Belgaum district north of the Tungabhadra, and Dharwar and Aurangabad districts.


The University of Bombay was established in 1857, and had an administration consisting of a chancellor, vice-chancellor and fellows. The governor of Bombay was ex-officio chancellor. The education department was under a director of public instruction, who was responsible for the administration of the department in accordance with the general educational policy of the state. The native states generally adopted the government system. Baroda and the Kathiawar states employed their own inspectors. In 1905 the total number of educational institutions was 10,194 with 593,431 pupils. There were ten art colleges, of which two were managed by government, three by native states, and five were under private management. According to the census of 1901, out of a population of 25.5 million nearly 24 million were illiterate.

20th Century reforms

British India's Montagu-Chelmsford reforms of 1919, enacted in 1921, expanded the Legislative Council to include more elected Indian members, and introduced the principle of dyarchy, whereby certain responsibilities, including agriculture, health, education, and local government, were devolved from the central government to the provinces. The 1935 Government of India Act made the Bombay Presidency into a regular province, and made Sind a separate province, with the princely state of Pakistan. In 1950 Bombay Province was reorganized into Bombay state, which included the princely states formerly under the political authority of Bombay Province; these princely states were merged into the new state after their rulers acceded to India.

This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopędia Britannica.

  Results from FactBites:
Bombay Presidency - LoveToKnow 1911 (5654 words)
The chief languages of the presidency are Sindhi in Sind, Cutchi in Cutch, Gujarati and Hindustani in Gujarat, Mahratti in Thana and the central division, Gujarati and Mahratti in Khandesh, and Mahratti and Kanarese in the southern division.
It comprises the previous Poona district, Bombay district south of the Tapti, Belgaum district north of the Tungabhadra, and Dharwar and Aurungabad districts.
The administration of justice throughout the presidency is conducted by a high court at Bombay, consisting of a chief justice and seven puisne judges, along with district and assistant judges throughout the districts of the presidency.
Bombay City - LoveToKnow 1911 (3068 words)
BOMBAY CITY, the capital of Bombay Presidency, and the chief seaport of western India, situated in 18Ā° 55' N. and 72Ā° 54' E. The city stands on an island of the same name, which forms one of a group now connected by causeways with the mainland.
Bombay is the second most populous city in the Indian empire, having fallen behind Calcutta at the census of 1901.
At this time Bombay was threatened by the Mahrattas from inland, by the Malabar pirates and the Dutch from the sea, and was cut off from the mainland by the Portuguese, who still occupied the island of Salsette and had established a customs-barrier in the channel between Bombay and the shore.
  More results at FactBites »



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