The Doctrine of Lapse


The Doctrine of Lapse was an annexation policy devised by Lord Dalhousie (the Governor General of India between 1848 and 1856).

There was a widespread custom of adoption among the Indian kings to secure an heir in the absence of a natural successor i.e. son.

According to this policy, in the absence of a natural male heir, the sovereignty of Indian state was to lapse to the British and such rulers were not allowed to adopt a son to inherit their kingdom.  

With the introduction of this policy of lapse, the Company could establish absolute, imperial administrative control over many regions spread over the subcontinent.

The Company took over the princely states of Satara, Jaitpur, Sambalpur, Nagpur, and Jhansi using this Doctrine.

Often the annexation, such as that of Awadh [Oundh] in 1856, was justified on the grounds that the native prince was of evil disposition, indifferent to the welfare of his subjects.

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