In the aftermath of the Indian Rebellion (1857), the British Parliament passed the Government of India Act, transferring the rights and administrative authority of the East India Company to the British Crown. These governmental changes were announced to the ‘Princes, Chiefs and People of India’ in the form of this proclamation issued by Queen Victoria (r. 1837–1901). Seeking to maintain peace after the Rebellion, the whole tenor of the Proclamation was one of generosity and benevolence. It granted ‘the Natives of Our Indian Territories’ the same rights as ‘all Our other Subjects’ and, among other things, promised to support religious toleration, to recognise the ‘Customs of India’, to end racial discrimination and to ensure that ‘all shall alike enjoy the equal impartial protection of the Law’. By recognising Indians as British subjects, and extending to them rights consistent with that status, the Proclamation was widely heralded by Indian subjects, including Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948), as their Magna Carta.
- Article by:
- Zoë Laidlaw
The British Empire lasted more than 300 years and spanned the globe. During this time, Magna Carta was used by imperialists to justify global ambition and by indigenous people to demand liberty and justice. Dr Zoe Laidlaw considers the significance of Magna Carta in relation to imperialism.