Anglo-Indian mother and daughter c. 1920
|c. 1 - 2 million|
|Regions with significant populations|
|English,Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Bengali, Telugu, Oriya, Hindi and other Indian languages|
|Christianity (Protestantism or Catholicism)|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Anglo-Burmese, Scottish-Indians, Irish Indians, Burghers, Kristang people, Indo people, Singaporean Eurasians, Macanese people, Indo-Aryan people, Dravidian people, British people, Indian diaspora|
The term Anglo-Indian can refer to at least two groups of people: those with mixed Indian and British (specifically English) ancestry and people of British/English descent born or living in India. The latter sense is now mainly historical, but confusions can arise. The Oxford English Dictionary, for example, gives three possibilities: "Of mixed British and Indian parentage, of Indian descent but born or living in Britain or (chiefly historical) of English descent or birth but living or having lived long in India". People fitting the middle definition are more usually known as British Asian or British Indian. This article focuses primarily on the modern definition, a distinct minority community of mixed Eurasian ancestry, whose native language is English.
The All India Anglo-Indian Association, founded in 1926, has long represented the interests of the ethnic group; it holds that Anglo-Indians are unique in that they are Christians, speak English as their mother tongue, as well as have a historical link to both Europe and India. Anglo-Indians tend to identify as people of India, rather than of a specific region of India such as the Punjab or Bengal.
During the centuries that Britain was in India, the children born to unions between British men and Indian women (and vice versa) began to form a new community. These Anglo-Indians formed a small but significant portion of the population during the British Raj, and were well represented in certain administrative roles. The documented Anglo-Indian population dwindled from roughly two million at the time of independence in 1947 to 300,000 - 1,000,000 by 2010. The nature of British-Indian relationships and stigma during the colonial period often meant that many Anglo-Indians were undocumented or incorrectly racially identified during the British Raj. Many have adapted to local communities in India or emigrated to the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, the United States and New Zealand where they are part of the larger Indian diaspora.
This process was replicated in many other meetings of European men (traders, soldiers, administrators, infrastructure builders, and so on) with women across the subcontinent, creating the Anglo-Burmese people in Myanmar (Burma) and the Burgher people in Sri Lanka.
The first use of "Anglo-Indian" was to describe all British people living in India. People of mixed British and Indian descent were referred to as "Eurasians". Terminology has changed, and the latter group are now called "Anglo-Indians", the term that will be used throughout this article.
During the British East India Company's rule in India in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it was fairly common for British officers and soldiers to take local wives and have Eurasian children, owing to a lack of British women in India. By the mid-19th century, there were around 40,000 British soldiers, but fewer than 2,000 British officials present in India.
At first the Company, with some reluctance, endorsed a policy of local marriage for its soldiers. The board of directors wrote in 1688 to its Council at Fort St. George: "Induce by all meanes you can invent our souldiers (sic) to marry with Native women, because it will be impossible to get ordinary young women, as we have before directed, to pay their own passages although Gentlewomen sufficient do offer themselves." Until 1741, a special payment was made to each soldier who had his child baptised as a Protestant. The concern in London was that if the soldiers at Fort St. George lived with or married the many Portuguese women there the children would be brought up as Roman Catholics rather than Protestants. The Company's officials on the ground were less worried about the religious issue, but more concerned that soldiers should be married "to prevent wickedness". Married soldiers with family ties were thought more likely to be better behaved than bachelors.
The British military population in India grew rapidly from a few hundred soldiers in the mid-18th century to 18,000 in the Royal and Company armies of 1790. In practice, only a small minority of British residents married whilst in India, and the poorer they were the less likely they were to marry. It seems that in Bengal between 1757 and 1800 only one in four British covenanted civil servants, one in eight civilian residents, and one in ten army officers married there. Amongst military other ranks the proportion was between one in fifteen and one in forty-five. Many children were born to unofficial partnerships: 54% of the children baptised at St. John's, Calcutta between 1767 and 1782 were Anglo-Indian and illegitimate. Genteel British women were scarce; in 1785 surgeon John Stewart wrote to his brother from Cawnpore: "Many of the women here are mere adventuresses from Milliners shops on Ludgate Hill and some even from Covent Garden and Old Drury [well known areas of prostitution in late 18th century London]. They possess neither sentiment nor education, and are so intoxicated by their sudden elevation, that a sensible man can only regard them with indignation and outrage."
The reforming zeal of Governor-General Lord Cornwallis had ensured that by the 1780s, the opportunities for Company servants to make a fortune through trade had gone forever. Most had to live on their Company salaries and few could afford to support a wife. Company officers were paid less than their Royal counterparts and promotion might take twice as long, perhaps 25 years to reach the rank of Major in the Company compared to between 12-17 years in the Royal Army; and in the Bengal Army in 1784, there were only four Colonels amongst 931 officers. Few young officers in either army managed to avoid debt. It might have cost approximately £50 a year (Rs 24 to Rs 40 a month) to provide for the wants of an Indian companion and her attendants, compared with £600 to support a British wife with any degree of public style. 83 of 217 wills in Bengal between 1780-85 contained bequests either to Indian companions or their natural children, who were the offspring of high and low in British society, and gentlemen of wealth often left substantial bequests and annuities to their Indian partners and children. When Major Thomas Naylor in 1782 bequeathed to his companion Muckmul Patna Rs 4000, a bungalow and a garden at Berhampore, a hackery, bullocks, her jewels, clothes, and all their male and female slaves, he treated her as he might a wife. Where they could, gentlemen sent their Anglo-Indian daughters to the ladies' seminaries in Presidency towns and to England to be 'finished'; and when they returned, they were married off to fellow officers. Some daughters of senior officers became substantial heiresses whose wealth was a marked marital attraction, but many more daughters of impoverished officers, raised in military orphanages after the deaths of their fathers, hoped only to find a suitable husband at the monthly public dances. Save in very few cases, when British men returned home, the Indian companion and any children stayed in India: British soldiers were not permitted to bring them, and many officers and civil servants feared the social and cultural consequences.
Originally, under Regulation VIII of 1813, Anglo-Indians were excluded from the British legal system and in Bengal became subject to the rule of Islamic law outside Calcutta, and yet found themselves without any caste or status amongst those who were to judge them. This coincided with the Company officially allowing Christian missionaries into India; and evangelical organisations and popular writers of the time like Mary Sherwood routinely blamed the alleged moral shortcomings or personality defects of the growing Anglo-Indian population upon the Indian mother rather than the British father. There was growing disapproval of marriages amongst the British elite and Anglo-Indian women. The public dances for the female wards of the Upper Military Academy, Calcutta, which had been attended so eagerly fifty years earlier had been discontinued by the 1830s. Public argument against marriages to Indian and Anglo-Indian women skirted the question of race and focused on their social consequences: they did not mix well in British society, lacked education, were reluctant to leave India when their men retired, and - probably most important of all - would handicap the career of an ambitious husband. By 1830, the proportion of illegitimate births registered in the Bengal Presidency had fallen to 10%, and British wills in Bengal in 1830-2 record less than one in four bequests to Indian women and their children compared with almost two in five fifty years earlier. For all the social disapproval, however, officers and Company servants continued to marry Anglo-Indian girls, and it was thought that in Calcutta alone there were more than 500 marriageable Anglo-Indian girls in the 1820s, compared to 250 Englishwomen in the whole of Bengal.
In 1821, a pamphlet entitled "Thoughts on how to better the condition of Indo-Britons" by a "Practical Reformer," was written to promote the removal of prejudices existing in the minds of young Eurasians against engaging in trades. This was followed up by another pamphlet, entitled "An Appeal on behalf of Indo-Britons." Prominent Eurasians in Calcutta formed the "East Indian Committee" with a view to send a petition to the British Parliament for the redress of their grievances. John William Ricketts, a pioneer in the Eurasian cause, volunteered to proceed to England. His mission was successful, and on his return to India, by way of Madras, he received quite an ovation from his countrymen in that presidency; and was afterwards warmly welcomed in Calcutta, where a report of his mission was read at a public meeting held in the Calcutta Town Hall. In April 1834, in obedience to an Act of Parliament passed in August 1833, the Indian Government was forced to grant government jobs to Anglo-Indians.
As British women began arriving in India in large numbers around the early to mid-19th century, mostly as family members of officers and soldiers, British men became less likely to marry Indian women. Intermarriage declined after the events of the Rebellion of 1857, after which several anti-miscegenation laws were implemented. As a result, Eurasians were neglected by both the British and Indian populations in India.
Over generations, Anglo-Indians intermarried with other Anglo-Indians to form a community that developed a culture of its own. Their cuisine, dress, speech (use of English as their mother tongue), and religion (Christianity) all served to further segregate them from the native population. A number of factors fostered a strong sense of community among Anglo-Indians. Their English language school system, their Anglo-centric culture, and their Christian beliefs in particular helped bind them together.
They formed social clubs and associations to run functions, including regular dances on occasions such as Christmas and Easter. Indeed, their Christmas balls, held in most major cities, still form a distinctive part of Indian Christian culture.
Over time Anglo-Indians were specifically recruited into the Customs and Excise, Post and Telegraphs, Forestry Department, the railways and teaching professions - but they were employed in many other fields as well.
The Anglo-Indian community also had a role as go-betweens in the introduction of Western musical styles, harmonies and instruments in post-Independence India. During the colonial era, genres including ragtime and jazz were played by bands for the social elites, and these bands often contained Anglo-Indian members.
At the time of the Indian independence movement, the All-India Anglo-Indian Association was opposed to the partition of India; its then president Frank Anthony "fought for the best interests of his community as Indians, not Britishers," criticizing the British for "racial discrimination in matters of pay and allowances, and for failing to acknowledge the sterling military and civil contributions made by Anglo-Indians to the Raj".
Their position at the time of independence of India was difficult. Given their English ancestry, many felt a loyalty to a British "home" that most had never seen and where they would gain little social acceptance. (Bhowani Junction touches on the identity crisis faced by the Anglo-Indian community during the independence struggle.) They felt insecure in an India that put a premium on participation in the independence movement as a prerequisite for important government positions.
Many Anglo-Indians left the country in 1947, hoping to make a new life in the United Kingdom or elsewhere in the Commonwealth of Nations, such as Australia or Canada. The exodus continued through the 1950s and 1960s and by the late 1990s most had left with many of the remaining Anglo-Indians still aspiring to leave.
Like the Parsi community, the Anglo-Indians are essentially urban dwellers. Unlike the Parsis, the mass migrations saw more of the better educated and financially secure Anglo-Indians depart for other Commonwealth nations.
There has been a resurgence in celebrating Anglo-Indian culture in the twenty-first century, in the form of International Anglo-Indian Reunions and in publishing books. There have been nine reunions, with the latest being held in 2015 in Kolkata.
Several narratives and novels have been published recently. The Leopard's Call: An Anglo-Indian Love Story (2005) by Reginald Shires, tells of the life of two teachers at the small Bengali town of Falakata, down from Bhutan; At the Age for Love: A Novel of Bangalore during World War II (2006) is by the same author. In the Shadow of Crows (2009) by David Charles Manners, is the critically acclaimed true account of a young Englishman's unexpected discovery of his Anglo-Indian relations in the Darjeeling district. The Hammarskjold Killing (2007) by William Higham, is a novel in which a London-born Anglo-Indian heroine is caught up in a terrorist crisis in Sri Lanka. Where The Bulbul Sings (2011) by Serena Fairfax features a young Anglo-Indian woman who seeks to deny her heritage and bury her past.
Anglo-Indians are adherents of Christianity. Along with their British heritage and English language, the Christian religious faith of Anglo-Indians is one of the things that distinguishes them from other ethnic groups. As such, Anglo-Indians have "been well-represented in all tiers of the churches, from cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests and ministers, and fill a number of educational roles." Anglo-Indians are known to be regular churchgoers, undertake Christian pilgrimages, and most also have home altars within their residences.
India constitutionally guarantees of the rights of communities and religious and linguistic minorities, and thus permits Anglo-Indians to maintain their own schools and to use English as the medium of instruction. In order to encourage the integration of the community into the larger society, the government stipulates that a certain percentage of the student body come from other Indian communities. In a 2013 BBC News feature on Anglo-Indians, journalist Kris Griffiths wrote: "It has been noted in recent years that the number of Anglo-Indians who have succeeded in certain fields is remarkably disproportionate to the community's size. For example, in the music industry there are Engelbert Humperdinck (born Madras), Peter Sarstedt (Delhi) and Cliff Richard (Lucknow). The looser definition of Anglo-Indian (any mixed British-Indian parentage) encompasses the likes of cricketer Nasser Hussain, footballer Michael Chopra and actor Ben Kingsley."
Anglo-Indians distinguished themselves in the military. Air Vice-Marshal Maurice Barker was India's first Anglo-Indian Air Marshal. At least seven other Anglo-Indians subsequently reached that post, a notable achievement for a small community. A number of others have been decorated for military achievements. Air Marshal Malcolm Wollen is often considered the man who won India's 1971 war fighting alongside Bangladesh. Anglo-Indians made similarly significant contributions to the Indian Navy and Army.
Another field in which Anglo-Indians won distinction was education. The second most respected matriculation qualification in India, the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education, was started and built by some of the community's best known educationalists, including Frank Anthony, who served as its president, and A.E.T. Barrow, its secretary for the better part of half a century. Most Anglo-Indians, even those without much formal education, find that gaining employment in schools is fairly easy because of their fluency in English.
In sporting circles Anglo-Indians have made a significant contribution, particularly at Olympic level where Norman Pritchard became India's first ever Olympic medallist, winning two silver medals at the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris, France. In cricket Roger Binny was the leading wicket-taker during the Indian cricket team's 1983 World Cup triumph. Wilson Jones was India's first ever World Professional Billiards Champion.
Several charities have been set up abroad to help the less fortunate in the community in India. Foremost among these is CTR (Calcutta Tiljallah Relief - based in the US), which has instituted a senior pension scheme, and provides monthly pensions to over 300 seniors. CTR also provides education to over 200 needy children. In addition, CTR publishes the following books:
The gross proceeds of all book sales goes to CTR.
Today, there are estimated to be 80,000-125,000 Anglo-Indians living in India, most of whom are based in the cities of Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kochi, Pune, Kollam (Quilon/Coulão),Secunderabad, Mysore, Mangalore, Kolar Gold Fields, Kanpur, Lucknow, Agra, Varanasi, Madurai, Coimbatore, Pothanur, Tiruchirapalli, The Nilgiris, and a few in Hospet and Hatti Gold Mines. Anglo-Indians also live in the towns of Allepey (Alappuzha), Calicut (Kozhikode), Cannanore (Kannur) in the South Indian state of Kerala also at Goa and Pondicherry and in some towns of Bihar such as Jamalpur, McCluskieganj and in Uttarakhand such as Dehradun, Jharkhand such as Ranchi, Dhanbad and West Bengal such as Asansol, Kharagpur, Kalimpong. Also a significant number of this population resides in Odisha's Khurda and some in Cuttack. However, the Anglo Indian population has dwindled over the years with most people migrating abroad or to other parts of the country.Tangasseri in Kollam city is the only place in Kerala State where Anglo-Indian tradition is maintained. But almost all the colonial constructions got erased except the Tangasseri Lighthouse built by the British in 1902.
Most of the Anglo-Indians overseas are concentrated in Britain, Australia, Canada, United States, and New Zealand. Of the estimated million or so (including descendants) who have emigrated from India, some have settled in European countries like Switzerland, Germany, and France. According to the Anglo-Indians who have settled in Australia, integration for the most part has not been difficult. The community in Burma frequently intermarried with the local Anglo-Burmese community but both communities suffered from adverse discrimination since Burma's military took over the government in 1962, with most having now left the country to settle overseas.
(2) 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;
Between 1952 and 2020, Anglo-Indian community was the only community in India that had its own representatives nominated to the Lok Sabha (lower house) in Parliament of India. These two members were nominated by the President of India on the advice of the Government of India. This right was secured from Jawaharlal Nehru by Frank Anthony, the first and longtime president of the All India Anglo-Indian Association. The community was represented by two members. This is done because the community had no native state of its own.
Fourteen states out of twenty-eight states in India; Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal also had a nominated Anglo-Indian member each in their respective State Legislative Assemblies.
Anglo-Indian often only represents Indians mixed with British ancestry during the British Raj. There are many mixed Indians from other European countries during the colonial era. For example, the definition rarely embraces the descendants of the Indians from the old Portuguese colonies of both the Coromandel and Malabar Coasts, who joined the East India Company as mercenaries and brought their families with them. The definition has many extensions, for example, Luso-Indian (mixed Portuguese and Indian) of Goa, people of Indo-French descent, and Indo-Dutch descent.
Indians have encountered Europeans since their earliest civilization. They have been a continuous element in the sub-continent. Their presence is not to be considered Anglo-Indian. Similarly, Indians who mixed with Europeans after the British Raj are also not to be considered Anglo-Indian.
Historically, the term Anglo-Indian was also used in common parlance in the British Government and England during the colonial era to refer to those people (such as Rudyard Kipling, or the hunter-naturalist Jim Corbett), who were of British descent but were born and raised in India, usually because their parents were serving in armed forces or one of the British-run administrations, such as its main government; "Anglo-Indian", in this sense, was a geographically-specific subset of overseas or non-domiciled British.
Since the mid-nineteenth century, there has been a population of people of Indian (like Lascars) or mixed British-Indian ethnic origin living in Britain, both through intermarriage between white Britons and Indians, and through the migration of Anglo-Indians from India to Britain.
Indian-British interracial marriage began in Britain from the 17th century, when the British East India Company began bringing over thousands of Lascar seamen to Britain, where they married local British women, due to a lack of Indian women in Britain at the time. As there were no legal restrictions against mixed marriages in Britain, families with Indian Lascar fathers and English mothers established interracial communities in Britain's dock areas. This led to a growing number of "mixed race" children being born in the country; first-generation ethnic minority females in Britain were from the late 19th century until at least the 1950s outnumbered by mixed race descendants of British mothers and Indian fathers, first typically described as 'half-caste Indian' or less derogatorily 'half Indian', the loftier term 'Anglo-Indian' being used in middle and upper class circles. Some Indian fathers in Britain were middle class, but the majority were working class — at the time World War I began, 51,616 Lascar seamen were working in Britain.
Rarely domestically referred to as Anglo-Indians, the term is dated in Britain. People of Indian or mixed British-Indian ethnicity living in Britain generally prefer the terms British Indian and mixed White-Asian and in predominent White European ancestry cases mostly but also among some first-generation mixed race individuals a self-identification is made as White British, a term open to such diversity before it became possible, since the integration of earlier immigration and inter-marriage, including southern European, tribes of darker-skinned Celts and Jewish diaspora over many centuries. The last two categorisations are options given in the UK census as is Mixed Race.
There is a significant population of Anglo-Indians in Bangladesh of almost 200,000. The presence of Anglo-Indians in Bangladesh is since the British period. But their population had decreased to 4,000 in 1947 during the Partition of India from the present region of Bangladesh. Most of them had migrated to United Kingdom, United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. And during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, almost 1,500 Anglo-Indians lost their lives during fighting in the war. But in 1970, one year before the war almost 9,000 Anglo-Indians had come from India. Then after the independence of Bangladesh, during 1974-1976 almost 28,000 Anglo-Indians had arrived in Bangladesh from India to settle down. After that in 1980 there were reported birth of 37,500 Anglo-Indian children in Bangladesh. And in 1993 there were almost 103,713 Anglo-Indians living here. Then finally it rose up to 200,000 in 2016.
Bangladesh constitutionally provides rights and freedom to the Anglo-Indians to perform their culture, customs, traditions and religions freely. They are allowed to maintain their own colonies even. They mainly live in Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet. So, there are Anglo-Indian shops, saloons, parlours and schools in this cities, especially in the colonies where they live. In Dhaka, specifically in Banani there have been many Anglo-Indian colonies where there is a residence of estimated 45,000-59,000 Anglo-Indians.
The Anglo-Indian community in India insists on its minority identity: its biological connection to the British, English as its native language, and its Christian faith.
Anthony was vocally critical of the British Raj in India for its racial discrimination in matters of pay and allowances, and for failing to acknowledge the sterling military and civil contributions made by Anglo-Indians to the Raj. Anthony vociferously opposed Partition and fought for the best interests of his community as Indians, not Britishers.
...that 'all Anglo-Indians are Christian, but not all Christians are Anglo-Indians'.