What is indirect rule in terms of colonies, and the British and French Empires?   

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Indirect rule is one way for an imperial power to exert control over an area without having to bear the cost of actually sending a complete government to administer the area.  

If Britain, for example, had wanted to exert direct control over India, it would have had to send millions of English people to staff every position in the government of India.  By engaging in indirect rule, it did not have to do this.  In a system of indirect rule, the British would send only a relatively few English people to supervise India.  The vast majority of the governmental functions would be carried out by Indians.  The British could leave the traditional Indian governmental structure in place.  They could let the same people who had been ruling continue to do so.  The only change would be that those "rulers" would now have to answer to British administrators.

Indirect rule, then, is the practice of having native peoples hold most of the positions in government.  The imperial power sends only a top level of administrators and advisers to make sure that the native officials carry out the "right" policies.

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thetall | (Level 3) Educator

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Indirect rule was a system of governance employed by the colonialists especially the British. The system maintained native rulers and their existing systems in managing the affairs of the colonized community. The colonial powers exercised their supervisory mandate over these rulers. In other instances, the colonial power would appoint a leader in case, the community had no clear existing structures of governance. In exchange for their loyalty and compliance, the leaders enjoyed special perks. Uncooperative leaders were replaced with those who were willing to work for the colonial power.

In Nigeria, the British introduced taxation through these leaders. Taxation was a foreign practice in some regions which led to heavy resistance by the people against their local leaders. However, traditional aspects of leadership were maintained and to some extent, there was no interference with the community’s cultural practices.

beardian's profile pic

beardian | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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Indirect rule is when one country, lets say England, governs another country, let say Nigeria, but the governed people in Nigeria get to keep certain administration and legal powers.  A direct rule would be where one country, say England in the early 17th century, rules another country using its own laws and people.  I will use British and French colonization in Africa as an example of indirect rule.

After the scramble for Africa, British and French colonies in Africa were mainly ruled indirectly.  The Northern Nigerian example of British indirect rule served as a model for many African indirectly ruled colonies.  The Nigerians were allowed to maintain their indigenous customs and institutions, and the British served mainly as advisers to pre-existing leaders and chiefs.  Only in extreme situations would British authority intervene.  Local self-government was encouraged.  This wasn't the case for all colonies; many French and British colonies in East Africa were ruled indirectly but saw more interference from British government authorities.  The French colonies were slightly different than the British colonies; local rulers were seen as subordinate to French executives, and the system stayed indirect but with much more French interference.  

dua16's profile pic

dua16 | eNotes Newbie

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according to me Britain had a control over india in the past but during world war1 they were with western powers as 2 colonial powers were there you must have heard about while other group or other power was with France but let me tell you that Britain won and defeated france but later Britain itself got defeated by its rivalries.

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