Charter Act of 1813
|Long title||An Act for continuing in the East India Company, for a further Term, the Possession of the British Territories in India, together with certain exclusive Privileges; for establishing further Regulations for the Government of the said Territories, and the better Administration of Justice within the same; and for regulating the Trade to and from the Places within the Limits of the said Company's Charter|
|Citation||53 Geo. 3 c. 155|
|Royal assent||21 July 1813|
|Repealed by||Government of India Act 1915|
The East India Company Act 1813, also known as the Charter Act 1813, was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which renewed the charter issued to the British East India Company, and continued the Company's rule in India. However, the Company's commercial monopoly was ended, except for the tea and opium trade and the trade with China, this reflecting the growth of British power in India.
The Act expressly asserted the Crown's sovereignty over British India, allotted 100,000 rupees, and permitted Christian missionaries to propagate English and preach their religion. The power of the provincial governments and courts in India over European British subjects was also strengthened by the Act, and financial provision was also made to encourage a revival in Indian literature and for the promotion of science.
The literary critic and historian Gauri Viswanathan identifies two major changes to the relation between Britain and India that came about as the result of the act: first, the assumption by the British of a new responsibility for Indian people's education; and, second, the relaxation of controls on missionary activity. Whereas previously educational provision was at the discretion of the Governor-General of Bengal, the Act overturned this laissez-faire status quo by establishing an obligation to promote Indian people's "interests and happiness" and "religious and moral improvement" – a responsibility the British state did not bear to British people at the time of the Act's passage. Viswanathan attributes the impetus for the new educational responsibilities to the mood in the English Parliament. Parliamentarians were concerned with the extravagant lifestyles of East India Company officials and the company's ruthless exploitation of natural resources, and, feeling that the British ought to lead by example but lacking the ability to curtail the activities of wealthy Nabobs, sought to remedy perceived injustices by seeking Indians' welfare and improvement.
Prior to the 1813 legislation, the British Parliament and the East India Company had refused to countenance missionary activity in India, and proscribed the Bible and forbade religious education, in support of a policy of religious neutrality and on the basis that, if exposed to Christianity, Indians may have felt threatened and thus would have posed a threat to British commercial ventures. The lifting of the prohibition, when it occurred, was not however a victory for missionaries, and did not precipitate official support for their activity; instead, they were subject to stringent checks.
- Short title as conferred by the Short Titles Act 1896, s. 1; the modern convention for the citation of short titles omits the comma after the word "Act".
- Keith, Arthur Berriedale (1936). A Constitutional History of India 1600–1935. London: Methuen. pp. 128–129.
- Viswanathan, Gauri (1989). Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. p. 23.
- Viswanathan 1989, pp. 23–24.
- Viswanathan 1989, p. 24.
- Viswanathan 1989, p. 36.
- Viswanathan 1989, pp. 36–7.