Various Reforms made by Lord Dalhousie : Short Notes

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In previous article we read about Doctrine of Lapse and its consequences. In this article we will read about administrative, military, educational, trade etc. reforms made by the governor-general Lord Dalhousie. 

Lord Dalhousie not only desired the expansion of the British Empire in India but also made efforts to consolidate and strengthen it with a view to making it stable. He, therefore, carried out changes in practically all spheres of administration. Some of his measures were new innovations which ushered India into modern age. Therefore, it has been claimed by many scholars that “Lord Dalhousie was the maker of modern India.” It is only a fraction of truth. Some of his measures like Telegraph, Railways and Postal Services certainly introduced facilities of the modern age in India but neither Dalhousie nor any other governor-general was interested in modernizing India. Their aim was purely imperialistic. It was only indirectly that the Indians drew advantage from their measures. The same was true of other measures of Dalhousie.

Reforms made by Lord Dalhousie

He introduced following measures in India :-


The governor-general so far exercised not only all-round supervision over the entire British territory in India but was also responsible for the governance of the province of Bengal. Therefore, he was over-burdened with work. Dalhousie appointed a lieutenant governor to look after the administration of Bengal and, thus, the governor-general became free to look after the all-India affairs. In the same way, the newly acquired territories were also entrusted to the charge of Commissioners as was done in the case of Punjab.


By that time, the British territory in India had touched its natural frontiers, and Calcutta no more remained its centre. Therefore, Dalhousie felt that it was necessary to shift the military resources of the Company to a central place. Lord Dalhousie made Simla the headquarters of the army and arranged for the shifting of the soldiers and their equipments there, a task which could finally be achieved in 1865. However, the artillery at Calcutta was shifted to Meerut. Dalhousie also felt that the number of the Indian soldiers had increased disproportionately as compared to the English soldiers in the army which could pose a threat to the security of the empire any time. Therefore, he attempted to increase the number of the English soldiers. Three new regiments of the English soldiers were raised. He raised a Sikh army under the British officers in Punjab and employed the Gurkhas in the Indian army. His measures certainly helped the English in suppressing the revolt of 1857.


In 1853, Dalhousie passed several regulations concerning the primary education. In 1854, he received instructions from the president of the Board of Control, Sir Charles Wood, concerning education in India. It was suggested that schools and colleges should be opened in every district and a university should be established in each Presidency town, i.e, Bombay, Madras and Calcutta. It was also suggested that the government should encourage private organisations and individuals to start schools and colleges which would be subsidised by it. Besides, there was to be an Inspector of Schools in every district and a Director of Education in every province. Dalhousie attempted to implement these suggestions as far as could be possible. Examining universities were opened at Calcutta, Madras and Bombay, an Engineering institution at Roorkee and an Agriculture institution at Calcutta.

Railways, Telegraphs and Postal Services

Dalhousie introduced railways, telegraphs and postal services in India. These were found necessary for the security of the Empire and also for better trade facilities. A plan was proposed to construct railway lines to connect all parts of India with one another and beginning was made during his period. In 1853, Bombay was connected with Thana by the Railway. Another railway line was constructed from Calcutta to coal producing area of Raniganj in Bihar. Some railway lines were laid out in Bihar as well.

Telegraphs department was first opened in 1852. Nearly four thousand miles were covered by the Telegraphs. Calcutta was connected to Peshawar, Bombay to Madras and so were connected other important places with one another by the Telegraphs.

In 1854, a Post Office Act was passed on the recommendation of a Commission. A Director General was appointed to organise the postal department and post offices were established at many places. It was so arranged that a post card of two paise (half an anna) could be sent from one part of India to another.

Public Works Department

Prior to the period of Dalhousie military boards managed the Public Works Department. Dalhousie established a separate department for this purpose. The Public Work: Department was given the responsibility of constructing roads, Canals bridges etc. During the period of Dalhousie, the Grand Trunk Road from Calcutta to Peshawar was reconstructed. Ganges canal, the canals in Punjab and many bridges over different rivers were constructed.


Dalhousie protected English trade and commerce. Britain imported certain raw materials from India. Important among them were cotton and tea. Dalhousie, therefore, took all possible measures for the production of cotton and tea. Besides, he pursued the policy of free trade, opened all the ports of India to British goods free of tax and enlarged the docks at the ports of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras.


Lord Dalhousie, thus, carried out reforms in different areas of administration. The British historians have praised Dalhousie and assigned him a place among the great governor-generals sent from Britain to India. Sir Richard Temple wrote: “As an imperial administrator, Dalhousie has never been surpassed and seldom equalled by any of the illustrious men whom England has sent forth to govern India.” But, it is not to be forgotten that Dalhousie was an imperialist. He achieved many things in India but his primary motive had been to safeguard and consolidate the British empire in India. He did not care for the wishes and sentiments of the Indians. Therefore, they reacted sharply in 1857 against the British rule after his departure from India. That is why it has been remarked by many scholars that Lord Dalhousie was also responsible for the revolt of 1857.

Points to remember

  1. Lord Dalhousie carried out changes in practically all spheres of administration and some of them were innovations which pushed India into modern age.
  2. The reforms were carried out primarily to strengthen the British Empire in India though the Indians also drew advantage from them indirectly.
  3. A lieutenant governor was appointed in Bengal; the newly acquired territories were entrusted to the charge of Commissioners with a view to lessening the burden of the governor-general; the headquarters Of the army were shifted from Calcutta to Simla; artillery was shifted to Meerut; three new regiments of the English soldiers and new regiments of the Sikhs and the Gurkhas were raised; instructions of Sir Charles Wood concerning education were implemented; examining universities were opened at Calcutta, Madras and Bombay; an Engineering institution at Roorkee and an agriculture institution at Calcutta were started; Railways, telegraphs and postal services were introduced; a separate Public Works Department was established; free trade was introduced, production of cotton and tea was encouraged; and, docks at the ports of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras were enlarged.
  4. British historians have praised Dalhousie but it is not to be forgotten that he was a rank imperialist and did not care for the sentiments of the Indians which resulted in their sharp reaction in 1857 against the British rule.

Source used : NCERT, Tamil Nadu Board, IGNOU Modern History, NIOS textbooks. Wikipedia notes for UPSC exam.

Tags : PDF for UPSC exam short notes on Lord Dalhousie Administration Reforms.

Questions for UPSC mains :

“Lord Dalhousie was the greatest administrator sent by the Company.” Do you agree with the view ?


“As an imperial administrator he (Lord Dalhousie) has never been surpassed and seldom equaled by any of the illustrious men whom England has sent forth to govern India.”

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