The empire of the Raj : conflict and co-operation with Britain over the shape and function of the Indian sphere in Eastern Africa and Middle East from the 1850s to the 1930s
The western sphere of the Raj consisted of a region of Indian interest, influence and formal involvement from the Indo-Persian border to the East African coast. From the 1850s onwards, India's position was challenged by the increasing intrusion of metropolitan concerns. Despite occasional efforts by India to develop the scope of her activities, the relative importance of Imperial factors at various stations of Indian responsibility grew until, after often protracted diplomatic, bureaucratic, and fiscal negotiations, full control was assumed by Whitehall. During the nineteenth century, this process was gradual. Although Zanzibar and Somaliland had been transferred to the Foreign Office, much of the Indian sphere was still intact in 1914. Indeed, the Great War allowed India to contemplate the expansion of the sphere into Mesopotamia and East Africa. But, more generally, the conflict acted as a powerful catalyst to the advancing metropole and by 1917 no corner of the sphere was exclusively Indian in outlook. In addition, India's international status became more anomalous as a result of her membership of the Imperial Conference and the League of Nations. And, furthermore, constitutional reforms within India brought new internal considerations as Indians became involved in the process of government. After the war, the demands for greater Imperial control continued and London had, by the mid-1930s, determined to take over all the external commitments of the Raj around the western Indian Ocean. Each challenge to the external sphere of India presented by the growth of Imperial interests forced the Indian authorities to reassess their particular function with regard to the station or region in question. The crises faced by the Raj helped both to define the function of the Indian connection and to delineate the shape of the sphere throughout the period under examination. India's role in the sphere was determined, therefore, through her reaction to Imperial, international, and internal pressures.