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Pitt’s India Act 1784

Pitt’s India Act

The Pitt’s India Act of 1784, also known as the East India Company Act of 1784, aimed to fix the issues with the Regulating Act of 1773 and enhance the East India Company’s responsibility to the British Parliament. This act set up a new arrangement where both the British government and the East India Company had joint control over India. These changes were in place until 1858.

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The Pitt’s India Act of 1784, also known as the East India Company Act 1784, was a law made by the British Parliament to fix the problems with the Regulating Act of 1773. The earlier act had two big issues:

  • The Act didn’t actually achieve its primary goal, which was to give the British government solid control over the company’s administration.
  • Additionally, it failed to resolve the ongoing conflict between the East India Company and its opponents in England. As a result, the East India Company’s monopoly in India remained unaffected.

Since the Regulating Act wasn’t achieving its intended goals, in 1781, two committees were established to investigate the East India Company’s activities in India. These committees were called the Selected Committee and Secret Committee.

  • A special committee looked into how the Supreme Court and the Council in Bengal were getting along.
  • Another secretive group made plans to handle the Marathas, leading to the Anglo-Maratha wars.

Both the committees submitted their reports to the British Parliament. These reports were used by the Parliamentarians to expose the weaknesses of the East India Company and presented a strong case for controlling the affairs of the East India Company in India.

History of Pitt’s India Act 1784

Go through the developments that lead to the formation of the Pitt’s India Act 1784:

  • The British were well aware of the incredible wealth in the Indian subcontinent, having seen the East India Company’s profitable ventures. This led the British parliament to gradually take control of the East India Company, aiming to dominate Indian territories.
  • Unfortunately, the Regulating Act of 1773 had some serious flaws. It resulted in administrative issues like corruption, a lack of accountability, and mismanagement within the company. Recognizing these problems, the British parliament introduced Pitt’s Act in 1784 to fix these errors and improve the regulation of the East India Company.
  • The First Anglo-Maratha war (1775-1782) added pressure on the British parliament to reconsider the administrative and political powers of the company. Pitt’s India Act was enacted to establish the authority of the British Parliament over the East India Company and address the challenges that arose from the war.

Provisions of Pitt’s India Act 1784

The Pitt’s India Act of 1784, also known as the East India Company Act 1784, had several key points:

  • Double Government System: The British East India Company underwent a major governance change with the introduction of the “Double Government” system. This aimed to give the British government more influence over the company’s activities in India, preventing corruption. Warren Hastings became the first Governor-General under this system.
  • Governor-General Appointment: The Crown, not the company’s shareholders, appointed the Governor-General and Council to enhance accountability. This move was designed to curb corruption, with Warren Hastings being the inaugural appointee.
  • Supplementary Act of 1786: Lord Cornwallis, known for initiating the Permanent Settlement in Bengal, became the second Governor-General of Bengal. This act solidified the British government’s control over India through the Board of Control and the Court of Directors.
  • Board of Control Oversight: The 1786 act established the Board of Control in London to oversee the company’s affairs, providing a check on decisions made by the Governor-General and the Council. The Board had six government-appointed members.
  • Joint Governance: The act set up a joint government for British India shared between the East India Company and the Crown, with ultimate authority resting with the Crown. The term “British Possessions” replaced “Indian possessions.”
  • Board of Control Leadership: The Board of Control, responsible for overseeing the company, was headed by a President who effectively served as the minister for East India Company affairs in India.
  • Crown’s Control: The Pitt’s India Act of 1784 empowered the Board of Control to supervise, direct, and control the East India Company’s government in India. This meant that the Crown had control over civil, military, and revenue-related matters.

Benefits of Pitt’s India Act 1784

The Pitt’s India Act 1784 corrected many shortcomings of the Regulating Act 1776 in following ways:

  • The changes made it easier to decide who was in charge in India.
  • The Governor General got more power, making decision-making quicker.
  • Bombay and Madras were made to answer to Bengal, making the Governor General of Bengal like the ruler of India for the crown.
  • Having only 3 councilors in the Governor General’s council avoided tie-breaker issues.
  • It sorted out the main rules between the Company’s government and the British government.
  • The act was carefully made to make both the East India Company and the British Government happy.

Shortcomings of Pitt’s India Act 1784

 Despite taking care of the defects of the Regulating Act 1773, this act was not totally devoid of shortcomings which can be seen as:

  • The lines between the British government and the East India Company’s authority in India were often unclear, creating a somewhat personal dynamic.
  • The Governor General found themselves in a tricky position, having to navigate serving both the East India Company and the British Crown.
  • The divisions of powers, duties, and obligations between the Board of Control and the Court of Directors were not well-defined, leading to confusion.
  • The Governor General, situated in a distant land, had to make quick and spontaneous decisions, but these were sometimes overruled by the Board of Control.


The Pitt’s India Act of 1784 was a significant move to revamp how the British administered India through the East India Company. This act introduced a dual control system, which remained in place until the company’s rule in India ended in 1858. It established a new form of government for British India, appointing a Governor-General and Council to oversee the territories. One key aspect was the separation of the company’s commercial and political functions, giving the British government more authority over its operations in India. This act played a crucial role in solidifying British control over India for the next 150 years, laying the groundwork for the enduring British Raj until 1947.

Read Also: Malabar Rebellion

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