Best plausible British Raj?

Some time back, I thought the British Raj (aka British Indian Empire) was a good thing. After all, if India was united, brought into peace, and ruled by people with as much sympathy for their subjects as Kipling who enacted laws as enlightened as Napier's ban on suttee...

Well, it turned out when I looked into things further, it wasn't. It was ruled by people who never even served Indian cuisine in the Governor-General's residence, who banned anyone in native garb from the main street of Simlah, and who enacted tariffs specifically designed to wipe out Indian industry - not to mention the discrimination against even the most educated Indians that drove Gandhi into the independence movement.

We can ask a lot of questions, but what I'd like to ask here is: If Britain was going to rule India, how could they plausibly have done a better job for the people of India? A complete transplant of modern social attitudes is implausible, and Britain being driven out of the subcontinent is outside the bounds of my question, but I think things could've more plausibly been better.

I think the two most important changes are:

* Some however-limited social and legal equality open to at least a reasonable number of Indians. It'd help bring down racial and social barriers, and it'd get them working to reform the system from a place where they might be able to do it. Perhaps it could be justified as a measure to encourage education, or to stop them from trying to overthrow British rule - which it would!

* Bring down those tariffs to help the Indian economy. At least some people in the British Parliament, as early as Burke, were advocating that on a basis of common morality.

Of course, there's a lot I don't know about the Raj, so I might be missing a lot of other things.

Thoughts?
 
Lord Mayo and Hume's attempts to improve the lives of Indians are supported. Better education, integration by Indians into the Raj, improving agriculture, allowing some of the Raj's profit to be reinvested in the Raj...things those in the British government were ambivalent about. But if you prevent Mayo's assassination in 1872, Hume keeps his support and likely furthers his reforms. Perhaps his successes gather further support for more reform.
 
The cultural and physical separation of colonial officials and Indians was a feature of the post-Mutiny Raj and not the East India Company. But EIC rule is (and it had that reputation at the time) widely regarded as being more corrupt and worse for ordinary Indians than the 1878-1949 Empire.

I don't think the 1878-1949 imperial period can plausibly be improved on, short of the British deciding at the start that their goal was an independent and united India allied to Britain and making all their decisions on that basis. Beforehand, you can move up the post-Mutiny sidelining of the East India Company but it may have taken the Mutiny itself to bring that about.
 
I think that the earliest possible PoDs(and thus, the most effective) would require an earlier dissolution of the BEIC to avoid a government run for the sake of money, and changing the perspective of India in Britain away from a colonial possession and instead a proper crown. I think everything else that you outlined(the tariffs and social/legal equality) would follow in due time and more effectively than OTL if this were to happen. Without going too hard into scenarios where it's only titular a British possession and mostly Indian-ran(ie Royal exile and they go native, a Royal splits India and Britain as separate crowns for his children, etc.) I think the separate crown angle is the best approach.

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Say that a British royal with autocratic or militarist tendencies comes to be the second to the throne, and has an enabling father(so, not the House of Hanover). Severely hampered in his aspirations by Parliament to follow in the footsteps of Alexander, this royal decides to go and find a loophole in the BEIC which in theory, aren't as compromised as Britain proper with respect to what he can and can't do with his military forces as well as being the end point of Alexander's empire. The Royal Family purchases a large set of shares in the BEIC, giving the royal enough authority over the company that he can essentially do what he pleases between his titles and his ownership. So this young royal is off to India with a large contingent of aspiring soldiers and hanger ons, including many second and third sons(this royal has a gift for public speaking akin to his military idols like Caesar and inspires many to follow him in his gloryhounding pursuits).

On showing up in India, the youth proceeds to insert himself into Company business immediately, pushing for aggressive military actions. I'm not too familiar with the history of India so I'm not going to go into details but the tl;dr is that the company follows a similar trajectory under him as OTL and this youth proves to be a wildly successful military commander, leading to bigger successes for the British earlier. His biggest handicap turns out to be the corruption and inefficiencies of the BEIC, so he in turn uses his personal wealth gained in India plus pleading to his father in Britain to pitch in, to dissolve the BEIC by an act of Parliament(this royal has gathered many fans in Parliament which are happy to enable their own homegrown Alexander) and declare India it's own crown with the young royal as it's viceroy. In any other scenario, Parliament would have had India answer to the British Parliament directly, but the romanticism around the young prince's successful(and profitable) campaigns in India have won over too many, and thus they gave him the keys to the kingdom to essentially govern as he sees fit there so long as the profits continue to flow into Britain.

This youth's administration compared to the BEIC is considered a welcome improvement by the locals. While British-favoring, local nobility are still able to rise within his court(really more of a military camp, most of the time) which leads to a far easier time conquering and integrating the local rulers into future military campaigning. The royal's camp is what would eventually become the embryo of a local Indian Parliament on his departure for Britain on the death of his brother, the heir. It's also less focused on extracting wealth, and instead more focused on providing manpower for the royal to wage his wars.

Long story short; this royal is very successful, but Parliament is beginning to regret giving him as much leeway and try to pass laws to limit him, whereas he comes to see his war council of generals, governors, local princes and traders as far more useful to him in helping to conquer and govern India. When he hears of the death of his brother and the request for him to return from his father arrives, the youth is torn and almost refuses, but having a very good relationship with his father, ultimately agrees. Wanting to spite Parliament one last time before he becomes 'powerless' in his own eyes, the royal turned heir to the throne proclaims the creation of an Indian Parliament(which is essentially his war council), giving India local autonomy when it comes to self-government albeit heavily dominated by British noble expats turned generals and governors, and their British and occasionally Anglo-Indian children. With a parting message to finish what he started and to conquer all of India to his Parliament, the royal departs ready to tell Parliament in London to go plough dirt, and that the autonomy of his Indian Empire would be maintained.

Upon his return, tensions in Parliament are high and essentially split between a 'Pro-India' faction(that supports the autonomy of India because they're essentially fanboys, romanticists, economic beneficiaries, and so on of the Prince's Indian adventure that saw a lot of their second/third sons become very successful and wealthy) and 'Anti-India' faction(that is against autonomy from British Parliament, people afraid of the Prince's absolutist tendencies, etc). The Prince does a lot to defuse the situation in stating that he created a Parliament in India, taking a lot of the wind out of the Anti-India faction as it appeases those afraid of the Prince exporting his 'Indian Autocracy' to Britain. It also solidifies the Pro-India faction as it was already a shaky alliance to begin with; romanticism could only get you so far when it was an undeniable truth that Parliament had lost what authority they had over India(which in truth, hadn't been much at the time) and the Prince's well-documented absolutist tendencies were an undeniable fact. Now that many of their children that weren't set to inherit lands or titles had established themselves in India with roles in government? Well, now that just made supporting the Indian Parliament absolutely necessary!

Timeskip to the end of the Prince(now King's) reign, and India is largely subjugated in a patchwork of usurped lands by British lords, local Indian allies that accepted the authority of the British Raj, tributaries, and puppets. A steady stream of British expats has flown into India to fulfill critical roles and earn well compared to toiling in Britain. Feeling his nearing death, the King abdicates his throne for his heir and sails to India one last time. His domains stretch from the very tip of the Subcontinent to the Indus either directly or indirectly, and a ceremony is arranged by the Indian Parliament on the banks of the Indus bestowing upon the British monarchs the title of Emperors of India, in personal union with the United Kingdom, and elevate their company turned kingdom into a formal Empire.

--------------------------------

Rough but I'm not going to write a fleshed out timeline in a sitting. I think the gist of the idea is clear; changing the perspective of India from 'A place to be exploited' to 'A land to be governed' would do wonders for better local governance as you outlined. How you get there is up in the air but I just don't see it being possible so long as the BEIC is in the picture.
 
In my opinion the most likely way for improvements in India is for the economy to be better.

Specifically theres value in a large scale improvement in agriculture and a non land based economy which supplies money into India without removing arable land.

India was a land of intermittent famine and estimes place the number of deaths due to famine while under British rule at above 60 million.

One reason for these intermitant famines was due the amount of exports of wheat, rice, opium, cotton indigo and jute. All of which were agricultural and are either food related or competing with food production for land.

If you can increase the arable land used for food stuff and reduce the arable land used for cash crops by 10% you probably eliminate a significant portion of famine related deaths. In order todo this you need some sort of Indian industrial development to bring alternate cash into the economy.
 
I think that the earliest possible PoDs(and thus, the most effective) would require an earlier dissolution of the BEIC to avoid a government run for the sake of money, and changing the perspective of India in Britain away from a colonial possession and instead a proper crown. I think everything else that you outlined(the tariffs and social/legal equality) would follow in due time and more effectively than OTL if this were to happen. Without going too hard into scenarios where it's only titular a British possession and mostly Indian-ran(ie Royal exile and they go native, a Royal splits India and Britain as separate crowns for his children, etc.) I think the separate crown angle is the best approach.

------------------------------------------------------

Say that a British royal with autocratic or militarist tendencies comes to be the second to the throne, and has an enabling father(so, not the House of Hanover). Severely hampered in his aspirations by Parliament to follow in the footsteps of Alexander, this royal decides to go and find a loophole in the BEIC which in theory, aren't as compromised as Britain proper with respect to what he can and can't do with his military forces as well as being the end point of Alexander's empire. The Royal Family purchases a large set of shares in the BEIC, giving the royal enough authority over the company that he can essentially do what he pleases between his titles and his ownership. So this young royal is off to India with a large contingent of aspiring soldiers and hanger ons, including many second and third sons(this royal has a gift for public speaking akin to his military idols like Caesar and inspires many to follow him in his gloryhounding pursuits).

On showing up in India, the youth proceeds to insert himself into Company business immediately, pushing for aggressive military actions. I'm not too familiar with the history of India so I'm not going to go into details but the tl;dr is that the company follows a similar trajectory under him as OTL and this youth proves to be a wildly successful military commander, leading to bigger successes for the British earlier. His biggest handicap turns out to be the corruption and inefficiencies of the BEIC, so he in turn uses his personal wealth gained in India plus pleading to his father in Britain to pitch in, to dissolve the BEIC by an act of Parliament(this royal has gathered many fans in Parliament which are happy to enable their own homegrown Alexander) and declare India it's own crown with the young royal as it's viceroy. In any other scenario, Parliament would have had India answer to the British Parliament directly, but the romanticism around the young prince's successful(and profitable) campaigns in India have won over too many, and thus they gave him the keys to the kingdom to essentially govern as he sees fit there so long as the profits continue to flow into Britain.

This youth's administration compared to the BEIC is considered a welcome improvement by the locals. While British-favoring, local nobility are still able to rise within his court(really more of a military camp, most of the time) which leads to a far easier time conquering and integrating the local rulers into future military campaigning. The royal's camp is what would eventually become the embryo of a local Indian Parliament on his departure for Britain on the death of his brother, the heir. It's also less focused on extracting wealth, and instead more focused on providing manpower for the royal to wage his wars.

Long story short; this royal is very successful, but Parliament is beginning to regret giving him as much leeway and try to pass laws to limit him, whereas he comes to see his war council of generals, governors, local princes and traders as far more useful to him in helping to conquer and govern India. When he hears of the death of his brother and the request for him to return from his father arrives, the youth is torn and almost refuses, but having a very good relationship with his father, ultimately agrees. Wanting to spite Parliament one last time before he becomes 'powerless' in his own eyes, the royal turned heir to the throne proclaims the creation of an Indian Parliament(which is essentially his war council), giving India local autonomy when it comes to self-government albeit heavily dominated by British noble expats turned generals and governors, and their British and occasionally Anglo-Indian children. With a parting message to finish what he started and to conquer all of India to his Parliament, the royal departs ready to tell Parliament in London to go plough dirt, and that the autonomy of his Indian Empire would be maintained.

Upon his return, tensions in Parliament are high and essentially split between a 'Pro-India' faction(that supports the autonomy of India because they're essentially fanboys, romanticists, economic beneficiaries, and so on of the Prince's Indian adventure that saw a lot of their second/third sons become very successful and wealthy) and 'Anti-India' faction(that is against autonomy from British Parliament, people afraid of the Prince's absolutist tendencies, etc). The Prince does a lot to defuse the situation in stating that he created a Parliament in India, taking a lot of the wind out of the Anti-India faction as it appeases those afraid of the Prince exporting his 'Indian Autocracy' to Britain. It also solidifies the Pro-India faction as it was already a shaky alliance to begin with; romanticism could only get you so far when it was an undeniable truth that Parliament had lost what authority they had over India(which in truth, hadn't been much at the time) and the Prince's well-documented absolutist tendencies were an undeniable fact. Now that many of their children that weren't set to inherit lands or titles had established themselves in India with roles in government? Well, now that just made supporting the Indian Parliament absolutely necessary!

Timeskip to the end of the Prince(now King's) reign, and India is largely subjugated in a patchwork of usurped lands by British lords, local Indian allies that accepted the authority of the British Raj, tributaries, and puppets. A steady stream of British expats has flown into India to fulfill critical roles and earn well compared to toiling in Britain. Feeling his nearing death, the King abdicates his throne for his heir and sails to India one last time. His domains stretch from the very tip of the Subcontinent to the Indus either directly or indirectly, and a ceremony is arranged by the Indian Parliament on the banks of the Indus bestowing upon the British monarchs the title of Emperors of India, in personal union with the United Kingdom, and elevate their company turned kingdom into a formal Empire.

--------------------------------

Rough but I'm not going to write a fleshed out timeline in a sitting. I think the gist of the idea is clear; changing the perspective of India from 'A place to be exploited' to 'A land to be governed' would do wonders for better local governance as you outlined. How you get there is up in the air but I just don't see it being possible so long as the BEIC is in the picture.
Honestly, the best way to have a British government in India that isn’t completely exploitative is to restrict British commercial control over the subcontinent to at most, Bengal and eastern Hindustan plus the Nawabate of the Carnatic. This means that there is no longer the ability of the British to remake Indian society in their idea of what indian society was, there isn’t as much of an idea of "our subjugation of this entire civilisation is proof of its backwardness and our need to civilise it"- elites and soldiers could always travel to a more accommodating government where they’d be welcomed, not to mention merchants and producers. If they’re not as beholden to the British they retain ownership of their history and culture, reducing the effect of otl British impulse to restore Hinduism to its racial interpretations as found in previously irrelevant texts from antiquity. The British are thus incentivised to make their government as attractive for merchants and elites as possible, forcing greater assimilation into Indian political ideas of legitimacy, and thus Indian society in general. I think it’s telling that the British tendency to assimilate into an anglicised indo Islamic culture (Dalrymples White Mughals) while in india ended around the 1830s to 40s- the point when no significant Indian power remained.

But I think your proposition is quite interesting, and I’d like to see whether I can add anything or make it work more from the Indian side. By the 1820s British military dominance over all India is a fait accompli, so this militaristic Brit doesn’t make a ton of sense. Before that though, Britain has Napoléon and the french to worry about, so they probably would deploy any special military talent there. This prince thus needs to be operating in India in the decades between 1760 and 1790. In 1760, what has happened in india is so new that it is unlikely to be recognised by anyone- so I’d most likely place his tenure in India between the mid 1770s and 1790.

The Pratt Yorke opinion meant that land acquired by treaty in India belonged to the company while land acquired by conquest belonged to the crown, and so this prince is likely to push for direct conquests as opposed to treaty and negotiation, which would give ownership to the company. By the regulating act of 1773 and then Pitts India Act of 84, the company became fully controlled by parliament, with it’s director fixed as the chancellor of the exchequer and its board comprising cabinet members- the prince has a window of up until this period to impress people in Britain sufficiently that he is given full control of British India instead of parliament. A major problem i see occurring, is that in this period (and even up to 1857 but more so here) thé Mughal emperor is the ultimate font of sovereignty in north India, and so outright declaring a Kingdom of India is unthinkable. What I can imagine is declaring himself the Vizier of the Mughal Empire, a position henceforth held by the crown of England, with Clive’s system of dual government at first and then an abolishment of Indian offices, with government reforms to essentially make it a British political system, apart from the fact that cabinet ministers are appointed by the vizier. Any attempt to fundamentally deny the sovereignty of the Mughal emperor just doesn’t work at least in Hindustan before at absolute earliest the 19th century.
 
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