What is doctrine of lapse?

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The doctrine of lapse deals with the succession of the throne among Hindu Indian states. It was devised by the governor-general of India, Lord Dalhousie. The doctrine of lapse was an outcome of Britain’s doctrine of paramountcy which had the ruling power of the Indian subcontinent at the time.

Under the doctrine of lapse, a Hindu Indian state would be taken over by the British East India Company if the last ruler has no direct heir.

Lord Dalhousie crafted this doctrine based on his belief that a Western ruler is preferable than an Easter ruler. The doctrine however was widely criticized, and many Indians thought the doctrine was illegitimate.


Dalhousie did not invent the doctrine of lapse since the British East India Company implemented the same concept prior to his rule. The Hindu states of Mandvi, Kolaba, Jalaun and Surat, were annexed by the board of directors of the East India Company in 1839, 1840 and 1842, respectively.

Dalhousie however rigorously implemented the said doctrine during his reign which was from 1848 to 1856. The implementation of the doctrine of lapse was resented by many Indian princes as well as the old aristocracy in Hindu, Indian.

Several Hindu states were annexed to the British East India Company during the reign of Dalhousie. These include Satara in1848, Jaitpur and Sambalpur in 1849, Baghat in 1850, Chota Udaipur in1852, Jhansi in1853, and Nagpur in1854.

The implementation of the doctrine of lapse was limited to the Hindu states that were dependent on the British ruling.

It is widely believed that the doctrine of lapse was one of the factors that lead to the Indian mutiny which took place in 1857 and resulted in the Indian revolt. The Indian revolt is also referred to as India’s first war of independence or the Indian mutiny.

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