In transcribing the following paragraphs from the Internet Archive online version of The Imperial Gazetteer’s entry on British India — modern South Asia — I have expanded the divided the long entry into separate documents, expanded abbreviations for easier reading, and added paragraphing and links to material in the Victorian Web. The charts are in the original. This discussion of British India has particular importance because it immediately precedes the 1857 Mutiny and the subsequent major shift in its status as it came under the direct control of the British government rather than that of the East India Company, a private company. — George P. Landow]

The Constituent Parts of British India before the 1857 Mutiny

British India is an extensive empire, consisting of most part of the great central peninsula of Southern Asia (see Hindoostan), together with Ceylon, various districts of the Bengal Presidency, the Tenasserim Provinces, and adjacent islands in India-beyond-the-Ganges; and Singapore, Penang, Malacca, and Province-westellesley collectively called the Straits-Settlement in or contiguous to the Malay peninsula [modern Malaysia and Singapore]. Ceylon [modern Sri Lanka], however, is a colony belonging to the British Crown, and unconnected with any of the Indian Presidencies.

The Borders and Extent of British India

Exclusive of Ceylon and the detached territories enumerated above, British India extends between latitude 85˚ and 34˚ north; and longitude 66˚ 38' and 97˚ east; bounded north by the Himalaya, which separates it from Tibet and the territories of the Maharajah Gholab Sing, also by the States of Nepaul and Bootan; northwest. by the Indus, and the mountain chains to Cape Monze, which separate the territory watered by that river from Afghanistan and Beloochistan; west and southwest by the Indian Ocean, which, with the Gulf of Manaar and the Bay of Bengal, bounds it also on the southeast; and, on its east frontier, it extends in Upper Assam as far as east Tibet, and is elsewhere separated by moun tain ranges from the Burmese dominions. The wide region circumscribed by these limits, stretching through 28 of latitude and more than 30 of longitude , is nearly 2000 miles in length, north to south; and 1800 miles in its greatest breadth, east to west. It com prises numerous states besides the territory directly subject to the British rule; but those states are all more or less tribu tary; and, since the annexation of the Punjab in 1839 if we except Nepaul, Bootan, and some comparatively insignificant Portuguese and French settlements the whole of India, from its most north frontier to Cape Comorin, may be considered as substantially British dominion.

The physical geography of India, and the manners, customs, religions, &c., of its various races of inhabitants, have been already amply treated of in our article on HINDOOSTAN; and under the several articles BENGAL, Bombay, and Madras Presidencies, PUNJAB, SCINDE, KAJPOOTANA, DECCAN, Mysore, and the names of its other divisions, provinces, and states, will be found mentioned the peculiarities characteristic of each. The area and population of British India and its subsidiary states exclusive of territories under the Bengal Presidency in the peninsula east of the Ganges and Brahma pootra are shown in the following table:

The above dependent states have all relinquished political relations with each other, or with any but the paramount British state, to which they are bound by alliances of various kinds. Some have treaties, offensive and defensive, and the right to claim protection, external and internal, from the British Indian Government; which has a right, on its part, to interfere in their internal affairs; others have similar right to claim protection and the aid of troops from the British Government, which has, however, no right to interfere in their internal affairs; while others are mostly tributaries, agreeing to subordinate co-operation to the British Government; their sovereigns, however, being supreme rulers in their own dominions. [II, 1270]


Blackie, Walker Graham. The Imperial Gazetteer: A General Dictionary of Geography, Physical, Political, Statistical and Descriptive. 4 vols. London: Blackie & Son, 1856. Internet Archive. Inline version of a copy in the University of California Library. Web. 7 November 2018.

Last modified 5 December 2018