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Indian Cities in the Late 18th Centur

In the late eighteenth century, colonial India was divided into 3 "Presidencies" for administrative purposes. Calcutta, Bombay and Madras were the 3 Presidencies which rose in importance under East India Company.

Presidency Cities

Calcutta, Bombay and Madras were the three Presidency cities in British India.

The jurisdiction areas were known as Bengal Presidency, Bombay Presidency and Madras Presidency. These were under direct control of the British East India Company from the beginning of the British rule.

After 1857, these areas were administered directly under the crown of Queen Victoria and the following monarchs who ascended the British throne.

Madras Presidency in 1909

Bombay Presidency in 1909, northern portion


Bombay Presidency in 1909, southern portion

The Bengal Presidency in 1858

  • The 3 Presidencies became the centres of British power.
  • The importance of smaller towns and cities declined.
  • Many towns manufacturing specialised goods declined due to a drop in the demand for what they produced.
  • Old trading centres and ports could not survive when the flow of trade moved to the new centres of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras.
  • As the British defeated the local leaders earlier centres of regional power collapsed. This process was called de-urbanisation.
  • Cities such as Masulipatnam, Surat and Seringapatam were deurbanised during the nineteenth century.
  • By the early twentieth century, only 11 per cent of Indians were living in cities.
As these 3 Presidencies grew in importance, Delhi the ‘Imperial City’ and the power centre during the Mughal Empire slowly lost its significance.      

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