Arrival of Lord Lytton 1876

Lord Lytton, who remained the Viceroy of India from 1876-1880 used to write poems with the Pen name of Owen Meredith. During his tenure, a Royal Titles Act conferring on the queen Victoria the title of the Empress of India was passed and a magnificent Delhi Darbar was organized in 1877 in which queen Victoria was adorned with title Qaiser-i-Hind. Aligarh College was founded in 1877 and the Vernacular Press act, Arms act were passed in 1878. The age for eligibility in civil services was brought down from 21 to 18 years. The second Anglo-Afghan war also fought during his tenure which proved to be very expensive.

Royal Titles Act 1876

The Royal Titles Act of 1876 was one of Prime Minister Disraeli’s famous imperialistic measures. The act was passed with the understanding that the British imperial title should be used only in India. Thus, the Queen began to use it in her signature in 1878 and in 1893 it appeared on the British coins. The title empress of India was officially translated as Kaisar-i-Hind, was decorated on her in 1877 Delhi Durbar.

Delhi Darbar 1877

A few months after his swearing in as India’s Viceroy, a Grand Darbar was organized at Delhi on January 1, 1877, in which Queen Victoria was proclaimed empress of India. Queen Victoria was proclaimed with title “Kaisar-i-Hind” at this Darbar.

When the princes of Indian princely states were flocking to participate in this gorgeous scene of Delhi Darbar, the shadow of famine was darkening over southern India.

Great Famine of 1876

The monsoons of 1876 had failed to bring their due supply of rain, and the season of 1877 was little better. This long-continued drought stretched from the Deccan to Cape Comorin, and subsequently invaded northern India, causing a famine more wide-spread than any previously known in Indian history.

The Poet Viceroy Lord Lytton was so uncompromising in implanting the British trading policies that was called directly responsible for the death of 10 million people in the Famine of 1876 -77 by some historians. The government is known to have spent 11 million sterling, but actually the lack of supply and efforts from the government caused the loss of life from starvation and a train of diseases that followed, taking the toll to a lamentable number.

Vernacular Press Act 1878

The latter half of the 19th century saw a remarkable growth in the Vernacular Press of the country and newspapers played a role of catalyst in the new socio-political consciousness. Earlier, the newspapers were being published in Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, Allahabad only but later the newspapers started getting published from smaller places also. Since, most of the newspapers published from smaller places, they all were in vernacular languages. In 1878, when this act was passed, the there were 20 English Newspapers while 200. These vernacular newspapers made the people aware of the political affairs and now the people slowly started asking questions for their rights.  So, in the best interest of the Government, Lord Lytton passed the Vernacular Press Act in 1878.

By this act, the magistrates of the districts were empowered, without the prior permission of the Government, to call upon a printer and publisher of any kind to enter into a Bond, undertaking not to publish anything which might “rouse” feelings of disaffection against the government.

  • The magistrate was also authorized to deposit a security, which could be confiscated if the printer violated the Bond.
  • If a printer repeated the violation, his press could be seized.

Thus the Vernacular Press Act of 1878 gagged the press and result was some proceedings against some vernacular press people. There was now a popular protest against this act. The act was later repealed by Lord Ripon, who followed Lord Lytton.

Second Anglo Afghan War 1878-80

In the winter of 1878, the affairs of Afghanistan again forced themselves into notice. The First Anglo Afghan war had ended in 1842, in a humiliation for the British and this failure kept haunting them for many years. The successive governments in Britain remain calm, but when Lord Disraeli became PM, he sent Lord Lytton to India to increase the influence in Afghanistan. On this side, under Akbar Khan, the son of Dost Mohammed, Afghanistan once again became independent and Dost Mohammad Khan came back to power in 1843. Akbar Khan died in 1845.

Treaty of Peshawar

In 1855 Treaty of Peshawar between Dost Mohammad and British reopened the diplomatic relations. After a series of incidents, Russia established a fixed boundary between Afghanistan and its territories in 1873. But within a period of 5 years the rivalry turned back. This was because of an uninvited diplomatic mission sent by the Russians to Kabul. The ruler Sher Ali Khan, son of Dost Mohammad Khan wanted to stop them, but failed. The British too wanted to send a mission, but Sher Ali refused. A diplomatic mission was ordered by Lord Lytton, the viceroy of British India, and the Mission was turned back. This triggered the Second Anglo Afghan War.

Treaty of Gandamak

In the second Anglo Afghan war, much of Afghanistan was occupied by British. Sher Ali was defeated and he fled towards Turkistan. Sher Ali’s Son, Mohammad Yaqub Khan signed a treaty of Gandamak in May, 1879 to prevent British Invasion in rest of the country. However, he paid the price by relinquishing the Control of Afghan Foreign Relations to British. British Control was thus extended to much of the country. He also agreed to receive a British Resident at Kabul.

The treaty of Gandamak was signed in May, 1879, but in the same year in September, the British Resident Major Cavagnari was murdered. This again triggered the war and Kabul was occupied. Yakub Khan surrendered and he was sent to Dehradun as a Prisoner.

Attempt to Murder and Resignation of Lord Lytton

At this crisis of affairs, there was a general election in England, which resulted in the defeat of the Conservative Ministry of Lord Disraeli. Lord Lytton also resigned simultaneously. Prior to that in 1879 an attempt was made to assassinate him, but he happily escaped uninjured. After his resignation, Lord Ripon was sent to India.

Other Notes

Mohammadan Anglo-Oriental College) was founded by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the leader of Muslim renaissance in Indian subcontinent, in 1875 at Aligarh during the tenure of Lord Lytton. It later became Aligarh Muslim University.

  • Lucile was a verse novel written by Lord Lytton, published in 1860.
  • The Indian Arms Act of 1878 was legislated during Lord Lytton’s time. By this act, no Indians could keep unlicensed arms. However, the English people could hold arms without license.
  • Lord Lytton also was responsible for the economic distress caused by abolishing the Tax on the foreign cotton coming to India, to safeguard the British Traders.
  • The maximum age to enter in to the Civil Services Examination was reduced from 21 years to 19 years.

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