Indo Europeans

Table of Contents | Preface | An Indian Childhood | Genealogy | Colonialism and The Raj


[Genealogy] [IndoEuropeans] [Separate and Unequal] [Mum and Dad] [Dad] [Mum] [William  Blanchette] [Thomas Blanchette II] [Thomas Blanchett 1] [Mum Paternal] [Robert Roberts] [Dad Maternal] [Mum Maternal]

Blanchette_Roberts Family Tree
1510 --Portuguese establish Goa
1600 -- English East India Company (HEIC) charter granted by Elizabeth 1
1700 -- a few hundred Englishmen in India
1750 --several hundred British civilians and several hundred  British soldiers in  India.
1757 -- Robert Clive of HEIC defeats French supported Indian troops (Plassey) and installs puppet "Ruler" in Bengal.  HEIC begins collecting Bengal taxes
1765 --1775 Rampant corruption in HEIC, as a result massive famine ~ 10 million die;  HEIC revenue suffers.  British Parliament gets involved due to revenue shortfall.
1773 - 1784 -- Warren Hastings !st "Governor General" -- Last "Indiaphile".  Hastings was impeached and eventually exonerated
1786-93 --Lord Cornwallis Governor General -- No India experience
1790 -- 18,000 British soldiers and several thousand British civilians in India
1790 -- Cornwallis' restrictions on employment of "country born" British begin
1805 --Robert Roberts arrives in India.  He landed in Calcutta and died in Trichinopoly


Europeans in India

In the 16th Century, a thousand years after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the Portuguese became the first European nation to begin trading in the Indian Ocean.  They were in South India a few years before the  Moghuls appeared in the North.  In the early 16th century they set up their trading posts (factories) throughout the coastal areas of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, with their capital in Goa in South West India on the Malabar Coast.  In 1560 the Inquisition was in force in Goa.  By 1580 Goa was a sophisticated city with its own brand of Indo-Portuguese society.  .

Early in the development of Portuguese society in India, the Portuguese Admiral Albuquerque encouraged Portuguese soldiers to marry native (Muslim) women.  As an inducement to stable relationships, a bounty was paid to the family on the (Catholic) Baptism of their child. This structure met one of the primary goals of Portuguese exploration—saving heathen souls.  It also contributed to the stability of the Portuguese expatriates.  Note:  Albuquerque was unbelievably cruel.  He particularly detested Muslims -- Moors.  This family document is not the place to narrate his extirpation of Muslims.

The English, French and Dutch East Indies Companies (EIC’s) became active in Far East trading in a meaningful way about a hundred and fifty years after the Portuguese. They too set up their posts throughout the Indian Ocean.  By the middle of the 17th century there were several thousand Portuguese and Indo Portuguese in India and a relatively small population of other Indo Europeans.  At this time (1647) there were still only 90 HEIC employees in India, all of them male.

The English and other European men arriving during the late 17th and 18th Century found a welcoming society of Indian, Indo Portuguese and a few other Indo European women.  Cohabitation and intermarriage became accepted and the norm in European society in India.  European males found Indian society mores very attractive and most European males changed much of their life style to an Indian pattern.   The "bibi" -- the Indian wife or consort -- became an accepted part of British society in India.  Children of wealthier Britons regardless of the mother's nationality often went back to their home country to complete their education and many sons of Indian mothers, or grandchildren of Indian grandmothers became successful in British and Indian society.  Lord Liverpool (Prime Minister of England 18xx - 18xx) is typical of a remarkably large number of "Indo British" descendants.  Liverpool's grandmother was Indian.

By the end of the 17th century HEIC had established three major trading posts in India -- Fort St. George (Madras), Fort St William (Calcutta in Bengal), and Bombay Island -- and several smaller sites throughout India and the Far East. These three sites were known as the Madras and Bengal and Bombay  “Presidencies”, and all activities of the HEIC throughout the Far East reported to one of these entities. Each of these Presidencies reported back to headquarters in London.  Madras was the first and for a long time the most important of these Presidencies.  In 1670 the Madras European population consisted of about 300 English (all male),  3000 Portuguese, and a smattering of other Europeans.

As the activity level of these factories increased, these small factory "towns" became surrounded by large populations of native artisans, sailors, soldiers, traders, and moneylenders. They also became havens for European adventurers, deserters and others who for one reason or another were not welcome in their home countries.  In 1744 a total of 250,000 people lived in Madras and the surrounding native town (Black Town). 

English and French rivalry in Europe in the 18th century spread to their respective trading entities all over the world.  The first Anglo French hostilities in India took place between the English and French East India Companies in the Carnatic (South India near Madras) in 1744-1748.  Both companies began recruiting local Europeans for their armies, and began recruiting soldiers from their home countries.  There is an excellent map of the state of India in 1800 here.  This is almost exactly when Roberts and Blanchette came to India.  If you look closely you will see Ajmer and Indore.  As you will see, Ajmer is still not acquired by the British and Indore is still in Mahratta hands.  Indore is where Marcia was born.  Trichinopoly is where Roberts died fighting the remnants of the Mahrattas.   

The first formal HEIC army was formed under Major Stringer Lawrence in Madras in 1746; the Bengal HEIC army was formed eight years later in 1754. The latter is the army Thomas Blanchett joined about 60 years later, in 1818.  In the mid 18th century these HEIC armies consisted of a few hundred Europeans and a few thousand Indians.  The Indian soldiers were called sepoys.  The HEIC army headcount is shown here  and here is a sepoy in 1795.  The Bengal Army headcount of "Europeans" in 1805 is almost 8000, with a headcount of about 80,000 "Natives".  I would guess that about 50% or so of these 8,000 Europeans would have been recruited in and come directly from the British Isles.  Most of the Britons would probably have been Irish.  The rest of the Europeans would have been mercenaries from all over Europe. 

Royal British soldiers (the British Army) sent out by the British government to assist the HEIC, made their first appearance in India in Madras in 1748. Robert Roberts went to India with the British Army 60 years later in 1805 with the 53rd Shropshire regiment.

1800 --Map of India showing British Conquest
They died young... Of all the covenanted civil servants (those most able to look after their health) who went out to India between 1762 and 1771 only one in ten had returned by 1784.  Half had died in India
In the mid 18th Century more British men lived with Indian women than were married (in a Christian ceremony)...
Over half the children baptized in St. John's, Calcutta between 1767 and 1782 were "country born" British born to "unmarried" parents.  By baptism they were recognized by their fathers and British society.  Since few British soldiers were stationed in Calcutta, these must have been civilian covenanted HEIC employees.
The wills of the period show that in the 1780’s over one third of the British men in India were leaving all their possessions to one or more Indian wives.
Soldiers stood on the lowest rung of the British social ladder ... "The contemptible trash of which the company's European force is composed makes me shudder"  Lord Cornwallis ~ 1790
In 1791 the fleet which brought out 2987 male soldiers brought only 117 women...HEIC discouraged emigration of British working women to India.

Around 1800, there were only 250 European women in Bengal and its dependencies as against 4000 men. The cost of landing a European wife at Calcutta worked out to Rs 5000, far beyond the means of ordinary company officials...  the expenses on an Indian mistress amounted to Rs 40, per month.

As late as 1828 only 1 in 10 British soldiers in India was "married".  The poorer the Briton, the lower the marriage rate in India.  British soldiers were paid very poorly. They depended on plunder as part of their wages.
Population of Calcutta 1837
Arabs   351
Armenians  636
Chinese  362
English   3,138
Eurasians 4746
French 160
Hindus 137,651
Jews 307
Lowcastes 19,084
Moghuls 509
Muslims 58,744
Portuguese 3,190
Thugs 683
Total 229,561
Note: British soldiers were not stationed in Calcutta
Note size of Armenian community.  Very long article (184k) on Armenians in Bengal here
As late as 1925, the (British) under-Secretary of State for India announced that the Anglo-Indians for purposes of employment were statutory natives of India; for purposes of education, internal or external security however, their status "approximated" that of British subjects.

British in India

Prior to the Anglo French wars in mid 18th century India, the few Britons "officially" in India worked for the HEIC.  They were involved exclusively in trade and were young men generally drawn from upper middle class, well educated, well connected, but generally impecunious British families.  They were sent out to India at an early age --18 years old seems to have been the maximum, many went out at 16, --and they remained in India for several years.

These men were in India, on "covenant" to the HEIC.  Their responsibility was to trade for the HEIC and for themselves,  to make their fortunes in India and return to England. They were few in number, they died young, and their local marriages and cohabitations could be easily absorbed into the expatriate British community. Since they were British, they had every right to send their children back to England.  HEIC generally paid their children's fare back to England, and many covenanted employees sent their children to England to be educated at English boarding schools. 

From the late 17th century through the very early 19th century, marriage and cohabitation with "country born"  European and Indian women was well accepted by British society in India (see painting of Palmer family (1786) and article by Dalrymple) Marriage between British men and Indo Portuguese women was a religious Christian ceremony and was well understood.  It was legally binding in British eyes, and the offspring of these unions were accepted as British.  The "marriage" of a Christian with a Muslim (and most of the Indian women who "married" British men were Muslim) was not necessarily regarded as a legal contract by the British, but the children of the union were recognized as legitimate and British, if they were baptized as Christians, which  probably most of them were.  It appears to have been understood that the Muslim (or Hindu) Indian partner was a partner in India only and that she would typically not return to England with the man.  The tenure of the HEIC covenanted servant in India was measured in decades, so these cohabiting relationships often had a long life.   It also appears that the Indian mother would often have her child taken from her at about the age of five or six to be sent off to England and she would often never see the child again.    

Until the late eighteenth century, when Britain changed from trading with India to governing India, these local Indo-British families enjoyed all the advantages (and a few of the disadvantages) of being British. Their facility with native languages and knowledge of local customs made them very desirable employees for trading companies which dealt with the multiple languages and customs of the Far East. 

Matters started to change in the late 18th century.  British soldiers stationed in India went from a few hundred in the 1750s to more than 18,000 in 1790, and to more than 30,000 in1826.  It was exactly between 1790 and 1826 that Blanchett and Roberts came to India.  With the influx of British soldiers, the British community in India began to include many of Britain's poor, including a disproportionate number of Irish fleeing English atrocities in Ireland. (Note particularly how many women with Irish names appear in our family tree).  HEIC now began to balk at the idea of repatriating the families  of  "lower class" Britons.

With Clive's victory at Plassey in 1757, HEIC employees in Bengal went from being traders, to being traders and tax collectors.  Government funds now went into the pockets of corrupt British officials and Indian bankers while HEIC rapidly approached bankruptcy, and while the people of Bengal starved to death.  In 1771-72 nearly one third of the population of Bengal died of famine.

As HEIC approached bankruptcy and as the chaos in Bengal became obvious in England, Parliament began to take an interest in HEIC affairs.  The India Act of 1783 created a Governor General of India with despotic and dictatorial powers -- in other words a sovereign with absolute power, with none of the safeguards of the system in England.  The first Governor General was Warren Hastings, a long term HEIC employee who was then Governor of Bengal.

Lord Cornwallis, the man who surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown in 1781 was chosen as the new Governor General in 1786.   Both Parliament and  HEIC regarded Cornwallis as an honest upright man and Cornwallis accepted the job on the stipulation that he had a completely free hand in implementing reforms he deemed necessary.

Cornwallis came to the job with certain beliefs based on his experience.  He had recently been defeated by the revolutionaries in the US.  He was also a wealthy conservative landowner in Britain.  He had never had any experience in India, spoke no Indian language and believed, among other things that:

  • All Indians were corrupt
  • The revolution in the US came about because the colonials were allowed too much power by Britain.  Power must be maintained only in the hands of Englishmen born and raised in England.
  • An employee could not be involved in trade and government at the same time. 
  • A Government employee must be paid enough so that he is not dependent on trade (or bribery) for his sustenance

The last two points set the tone for the later highly respected Indian Civil Service (ICS).  No Indians or Anglo Indians were permitted to serve in the top levels of the ICS until the first Indian was accepted in xxx and then unfairly fired in yyy.  

As a result of these beliefs Cornwallis reforms were particularly detrimental to "settlers" (country born British) and Indians.  His edicts set the tone for the eventual complete separation of Englishmen from all other nationalities (including other Europeans) in India.

As far as "country born British" were concerned:

  • From 1786 children of British men with Indian wives were banned from employment with HEIC.  "Indian" was open to interpretation.
  • Country born children of British soldiers were banned from going to England to be educated, thus making it impossible for them to be hired by the HEIC Army.
  • In 1791 an order was issued that any one with an Indian parent could not be employed in the civil, military or marine branches of the HEIC.  "Indian" for these purposes was in the eye of the beholder.
  • In1795 legislation was passed explicitly banning anyone not descended from European parents on both sides from serving in the Company's armies except as "drummers, pipers, bandsmen and farriers".  European parents for these purposes usually meant being born in Britain.  At the same time country born British, like the "full" British were banned from owning land.   
  • No British citizen (including country born British) was permitted to join the army of any Indian prince--friend or foe.   It is interesting that the most famous British Indian regiment, "Skinners Horse" was led by Skinner, the son of a Hindu woman and a Scottish mercenary.  It was necessary to use Skinner's troops several times so his troops including his sons, were called "irregulars".  That little stratagem got around the ban on Skinner and his cavalry being used by the HEIC army, and Skinner's horse became part of the famous "Bengal Lancers".   The strategy of using country born Britons when necessary and firing them later became a pattern of the British behavior in India.
  • All jobs paying more than 500 pounds per year were reserved for Englishmen born and hired in England.

As if these legal prohibitions were not sufficient to keep "pure" Englishmen and the rest of India apart, in 1800 Lord Wellesley the successor to Cornwallis, banned all country born British and Indians from all government social functions in Calcutta.  While all these rules took effect almost immediately in Calcutta, it took another couple of decades for the full effects to filter into the other major areas of British influence in India.  By about 1830 all of India was under British control and the Calcutta rules were being enforced throughout India.  

The first generation of Roberts and Blanchetts born in India were born in 1809 and 1838 respectively.  In 1809 these rules were just beginning to be enforced.  By 1838 they were part of the culture. 

British,  Indian, "Anglo Indian"

As a result of the Cornwallis proclamations, and the ambiguity of the employability and the rights of the newly disenfranchised local British, a new nationality and set of rules had to be invented for the country born British.  Cornwallis was particularly sensitive to the problem of "insurrection" after his experience in America.  As a result of the American revolution of 1776 and the Haiti "slave" revolt of xxx and various other revolts  in the West Indies, by the late 17th century all colonial powers were afraid of the powers of "settlers".   Britain struggled with the "correct" place for her settlers in India from the late 18th century right through to Indian Independence in 1947. 

The term "Anglo Indian" in the 18th century was used for the (invariably male) covenanted, English HEIC employee who went to India on a temporary contract.   His children were usually born in India of European, Indo European or Indian mothers.  The children were educated in England and often returned to India as the next generation of covenanted HEIC employees. The "Anglo Indian" nabob was a wealthy Englishman who had made his fortune in India, returned to England, and often bought property and a peerage with his money.  Lord Liverpool is a good example of the integration of these families into British life.  His grandmother was Indian.  He became one of the most successful Prime Ministers of Great Britain. 

A variety of names like Indo British, Eurasian, and British Indian were used during the 19th century to describe the British who decided to remain in India permanently.  By the mid 19th century "Domiciled European" was the name that came into popular use for the educated, mostly British population who maintained a European life style, and this name was used widely until the 20th century.  The rights and responsibilities of this community were developed on an ad hoc basis (as was much of the government of Empire) and changed with the times.

Domiciled Europeans were those born in India of parents who were of British and/or European descent who had settled permanently in India.  Although they were invariably descended from some Indian forbear, they considered themselves part of the British community who were originally known as Anglo-Indians, as opposed to the earlier racially mixed European and Indian community who were called Eurasians.   All these nationality terms were fluid.  "Class" and "wealth" and "color" were used as much as any other criterion to differentiate between "Goan", "Indian Christian", Eurasian and so on.. Often the defining characteristic of the "Domiciled European" was a good education in an English medium school in India since this ensured access to (non covenanted) jobs with the HEIC and enabled the Domiciled European to maintain an European life style.  Employment with the HEIC became a symbol of class superiority.

In early historiography there was little distinction between the British and Domiciled Europeans.  The latter were often included in descriptions of the British, such as Spear’s The Nabobs and Kincaid’s British Life in India 1608-1937

By the turn of the 20th century, the term “Anglo-Indian” ceased to apply only to the British and, instead, applied to  those from mixed European and Indian unions and their descendants. 

In 1911 the Census of India extended the usage of the term “Anglo-Indian” to encompass those of either racially unmixed or mixed heritage.  This interpretation is set out in the umbrella definition of the Government of India Act 1935, Article 366(2) as follows:            

            An ‘Anglo-Indian’ means a person whose father or any  of whose other male progenitors in the male line is or was of European descent but who is domiciled within the territory of India and is or was born within such territory of parents habitually resident therein and not established there for temporary purposes only. 

            Accordingly, so long as paternal descent was European, irrespective of whether the mother was Indian or European, a person born and domiciled in India was deemed to be Anglo-Indian.  The British officers who merely spent their working lives in India were excluded from the definition, while Europeans born and habitually resident in India were formally categorized with the Anglo-Indians rather than the elite British.  

In 1911 the Blanchettes and the Roberts went from being "Domiciled Europeans" to being "Anglo Indians".  This latter nomenclature is baked into the constitution of Independent India since 1950, where Anglo Indians are guaranteed certain minority rights. On to Separate and Unequal

Table of Contents | Preface | An Indian Childhood | Genealogy | Colonialism and The Raj

[Genealogy] [IndoEuropeans] [Separate and Unequal] [Mum and Dad] [Dad] [Mum] [William  Blanchette] [Thomas Blanchette II] [Thomas Blanchett 1] [Mum Paternal] [Robert Roberts] [Dad Maternal] [Mum Maternal]