Home   »   Doctrine of Lapse   »   Doctrine of Lapse

Doctrine of Lapse, History Feature and State Annexed

Doctrine of Lapse: The Doctrine of Lapse, developed by Lord Dalhousie, was a policy of annexation implemented between 1848 and 1856 during his tenure as the Governor-General of India. This policy aimed to annex princely states that had no natural heirs or adopted successors. According to the doctrine, such states would lose their ruling authority, and adoption by a new heir would not be recognized as restoring their power.

The Doctrine of Lapse generated significant controversy and opposition from Indian rulers and the princely states affected by the policy. It contributed to tensions between the British and the Indian rulers, as well as to the growth of Indian nationalism. The doctrine was eventually discontinued and criticized by subsequent British administrations, recognizing the need for a more inclusive and respectful approach to princely states in India.

Doctrine of Lapse

The Doctrine of Lapse, widely implemented by Lord Dalhousie during his tenure as India’s Governor-General from 1848 to 1856, served as an annexation policy. It aimed at extending British Paramountcy and functioned as a crucial administrative strategy. Aspirants for the UPSC Exam should be well-versed in the key details of the Doctrine of Lapse for both prelims and mains examinations.

Who was Lord Dalhousie’s?

Lord Dalhousie, also known as James Andrew Broun Ramsay, held the position of Governor-General of India from 1848 to 1856 and was later granted the title of the 1st Marquess of Dalhousie. While he is commonly associated with the Doctrine of Lapse, it is important to note that the doctrine was not exclusively credited to him. The British East India Company actually formulated the doctrine of lapse before Lord Dalhousie assumed power in 1847.

Although Dalhousie played a significant role in implementing and expanding the policy during his tenure, the doctrine had already been established as a means of annexation by the East India Company prior to his appointment. Lord Dalhousie’s active implementation of the doctrine, however, led to its widespread association with his administration.

The Doctrine of Lapse, which aimed to annex princely states without natural or adopted heirs, resulted in significant controversy and resistance from Indian rulers. Its implementation had far-reaching consequences for the relationship between the British and Indian princely states, as well as for the growth of Indian nationalism.

What is Doctrine of Lapse?

The Doctrine of Lapse was a policy implemented by the East India Company in India during the 19th century. It allowed the company to annex princely states if the ruler of a state died without a natural heir or a legally adopted heir. The concept stated that in such cases, the state would “lapse” or be absorbed into the company’s territories.

Although Lord Dalhousie is often associated with the Doctrine of Lapse, the decision to adopt this policy was made by the East India Company’s Court of Directors in 1847, prior to Dalhousie becoming the Governor-General of India.

However, Dalhousie actively applied and expanded the policy during his tenure to further the company’s regional control.

Under the Doctrine of Lapse, the East India Company claimed the right to take over princely states and their territories if they did not have a clear successor.

This led to the annexation of several states and sparked discontent among Indians who viewed the policy as unfair and arbitrary. The Doctrine of Lapse played a significant role in the 1857 uprising, also known as the Indian Rebellion, as it fueled grievances against British colonial rule.

Overall, the Doctrine of Lapse was a controversial policy that allowed the East India Company to expand its dominion in India by annexing states in the absence of a natural or adopted heir. Its implementation and perceived injustices contributed to growing opposition and eventually played a part in the larger movement for independence from British rule.

Features of Doctrine of Lapse

The Doctrine of Lapse, despite not being introduced by Lord Dalhousie, had significant implications for the Indian rulers. Its features included:

  • Adoption Exclusion: The doctrine invalidated the traditional practice of adoption in princely states. Adopted sons were not recognized as legitimate heirs and could not inherit the kingdom.
  • Annexation by the East India Company: Princely states under the direct or indirect control of the East India Company, if ruled by a ruler without a legal male heir, would be annexed by the company.
  • Limited Inheritance: Adopted sons would only inherit their foster father’s personal property and estates while being denied any entitlement to pensions or titles.
  • Challenge to Ruler’s Authority: The doctrine undermined the authority of Indian rulers to appoint an heir of their choice, as the British authorities now had the power to determine the fate of princely states based on the absence of a legitimate male heir.

Overall, the Doctrine of Lapse reshaped the succession practices in princely states and allowed the British East India Company to expand its control by annexing states without direct heirs.

States Annexed by Doctrine of Lapse

In addition to the below states, the princely state of Kittur was acquired by the East India Company in 1824 using the Doctrine of Lapse, before the time of Lord Dalhousie. This policy also had significant implications for Nana Sahib, the adopted son of the Maratha Peshwa Baji Rao II, as he was denied his titles and pension based on this doctrine.

However, one of the most significant instances related to the Doctrine of Lapse occurred with the annexation of Awadh to the English East India Company on 7 February 1856, under the grounds of internal misrule. This annexation of Awadh played a role in triggering the Revolt of 1857 (also known as the Indian Rebellion of 1857), as it further fueled the discontent and grievances against British rule among the Indian population.

States Annexed by Doctrine of Lapse
States Annexed by Doctrine of Lapse    Year of Annexation
Satara 1848
Jaitpur 1849
Sambalpur 1849
Baghat 1850
Udaipur 1852
Jhansi 1853
Nagpur 1854

History of Doctrine Lapse

  • The East India Company acquired various prestigious lands through the Doctrine of Lapse.
  • Annexed territories included Satara (1848), Bhagat (1850), Jaitpur and Sambalpur (1849), Udaipur (Chhattisgarh) (1852), Nagpur (1854), Jhansi (1853), Tore and Arcot (1853), and Oudh (1856).
  • Lord Dalhousie is associated with documenting and widely using the Doctrine of Lapse, although it was not his creation.
  • The company justified annexations by claiming inefficient governance by the rulers.
  • The Doctrine of Lapse led to increased profits for the East India Company, causing resentment among different sections of Indian society.
  • The growing influence of the company, along with the Doctrine of Lapse, contributed to the 1857 Indian Rebellion or Sepoy Mutiny.
  • The policy was abandoned in 1858 by the new British Viceroy of India, who held greater authority than the East India Company.
  • The East India Company also employed the policy of lapse in the acquisition of the princely state of Kittur in 1824, under Queen Chennamma’s rule.

Lord Dalhousie’s extensions and the concept of pass faced opposition from powerful rulers in India.

Important Article
List of Prime Ministers of India List of Presidents of India
Freedom Fighters of India List भारत के कैबिनेट मंत्रियों की सूची 2023


Follow US
UPSC Govt Jobs
UPSC Current Affairs
UPSC Judiciary PCS
Download Adda 247 App here to get the latest updates


Sharing is caring!


Who introduced the Doctrine of Lapse?

Lord Dalhousie.

Which states were affected by the Doctrine of Lapse?

Satara was the first state to be affected by the Doctrine of Lapse.

Who abolished the Doctrine of Lapse?

Lord Canning abolished the Doctrine of Lapse.

What is the Doctrine of Lapse in class 10th?

In class 10th, the Doctrine of Lapse is taught as a policy introduced by Lord Dalhousie where Indian rulers' kingdoms would automatically pass to the British if they died without a male heir.

Why is it called the Doctrine of Lapse?

It is called the Doctrine of Lapse because it involved the lapsed or annexation of princely states if the rulers died without leaving a natural or adopted male heir.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *