This map is part of a series of 19 animated maps showing the history of Europe's colonial expansion, 1820-1939.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the British East India Company, in the name of the British government, had already conquered vast territories, while the French and Portuguese presence had been reduced to a few coastal settlements.
The Maratha Confederation, in the centre of the country, held out against British rule for many years but, once victorious, the British East India Company was able to extend its territory into the centre and periphery of India:
-to the East, with the annexation of Assam and then of Lower Burma;
-to the West, the capture of Sindh and then of the Sikh kingdom of the Punjab made it possible to control the Indus Valley.
At the same time, the British allowed more than 500 principalities to remain autonomous in their own territory, but kept them under strict government control.
In May 1857, a rebellion by the Sepoys, native soldiers in the pay of the British East India Company, led to a vast rebellion with outbreaks in areas around Delhi, the Mid Ganges region and the Punjab.
The Sikh and British troops finally crushed the revolt using brute force.
The colonial administration was then reorganized. India was placed under the direct authority of the Government in London while the Governor of Calcutta was named Viceroy.
India became the hub of an Asian Empire which then strengthened its marches in order to create a protective barrier:
- To the East, protectorates for Sikkim, Bhutan and Nepal created a buffer area against China. This was later extended by the total annexation of Burma.
- To the North-West, after Balochistan was divided between Great Britain and Persia, the “Durant Line” became the frontier with Afghanistan which, as a neutral state, blocked Russian expansion.
In 1885, the Hindu elite created the Congress Party in Bombay as a loyalist and reformist movement authorized by the English.
However, the division of Bengal, which gave Hindus and Muslims separate territories, provoked the first major movement of protest and led to the emergence of a Muslim nationalist elite which forced the English authorities to make concessions.
Fiercely loyal to the Empire, India sent nearly a million soldiers to fight in Europe and the Middle East during the First World War, but was itself undermined by the massacre of protests at Amritsar, which led to the growth of nationalist mass movements.
From the 1920s, Gandhi and the Congress Party launched huge popular campaigns calling for boycotts and civil disobedience in order to obtain autonomy, and later for independence.
Negotiations led to the passing of a Constitution in 1935 which extended the Indian electorate and established autonomous provincial governments.
With the approach of war, there was growing tension between the Hindu-dominated Congress and the Muslim League.