Southern Asia 1937: Government of India Act

The growth of the Indian Independence Movement in the 1930s pushed Britain to reform the way it governed India. In 1935 it passed the Government of India Act, which increased Indian rights, enabled provincial elections, and separated Aden and Burma from India. The act became fully active in April 1937, by which time the Indian National Congress had been voted into 8 of the 11 provinces.


Changes to the map 5 December 1936–1 April 1937

Government of India Act 1935: The Government of India Act has come into effect, separating Aden and Burma from British India.

Yemen: Britain has extended its control over the Hadhramaut, negotiating peace between the warring sultanates of the region.

Second Italo-Ethiopian War: The last major Ethiopian army has surrendered in December 1936, with the British enclave of Gambela coming to terms with the Italians. However 1937 has seen renewed unrest shake western Ethiopia.

British Protectorates in the Persian Gulf

The British Residency of the Persian Gulf maintained British India's influence in a number of Gulf states from the 19th Century until 1947. These states were nominally independent - and shown as such in most atlases from the period - but all signed treaties guaranteeing British control over their foreign affairs.

The Sultanate of Muscat and Oman was the only one of these states with significant international relations, having obtained trade agreements with the US and France before it signed its treaty with Britain. Maps of the time often show Trucial Oman and even Qatar as regions of Oman.

Trucial Oman was the region to the west of Oman which collectively signed treaties with Britain. The sheikhdoms of this region were often called the Trucial States, and later became the United Arab Emirates. However at this time they had little unity, with no regional council until 1952.

Indian Empire

The British Indian Empire, also known as the British Raj, was comprised of a complex of presidencies, provinces, protectorates, and agencies. Only the top level subdivisions are shown here.

The area under direct British rule was known as British India and made up of presidencies and provinces - a presidency simply being the name for an older province.

Outside British India, but often included within the sphere of the presidencies/provinces, were the hundreds of protectorates or 'princely states'. These were indirectly ruled states, the largest being Hyderabad, Kashmir, and Mysore. The others were either collected into agencies - which might in turn contain other smaller agencies - or fell under the sway of the provinces.

Main Events

? Dec 1936–? Feb 1937 Indian provincial elections

In accordance with the Government of India Act 1935, provincial elections are held in the British Indian Empire in all eleven provinces (excluding Aden, Burma, and the various Indian protectorates and agencies). As a result of the elections, the Indian National Congress, under Jawaharlal Nehru, wins 707 seats and gains power in Assam, Bihar, Bombay Presidency, Central Provinces, Madras Presidency, North-West Frontier Province, Orissa, and United Provinces. It’s closest rival, the All-India Muslim League of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, wins only 106 seats and fails to secure the remaining provinces (Bengal, Punjab, and Sind).in wikipedia

? Feb 1937 Ingrams’ Peace

Harold Ingrams, the first British political officer in Al Mukalla, capital of the Qu’aiti Sultanate of Shihr and Mukalla in the Hadhramaut, brokered a peace between the Qu’aiti Sultanate and its rival, the Kathiri Sultanate of Seiyun. The peace was financed by Sayyid Abu Bakur of Tarim, who was intent on building a motor road from Tarim to the port of Shihr, and established some stability in the wikipedia

20 Mar 1937–25 Sep 1938 Dersim massacre

In response to Turkification laws and forced relocation by the Turkish government, Kurdish tribesmen led by Seyid Riza rebel in the Dersim region in eastern Turkey. The Turkish authorities retaliate by sending in 25,000 troops accompanied by bombers. Seyid Riza and his followers are executed in November 1937, with further reprisals killing over 10,000 wikipedia

1 Apr 1937 Colony of Aden

Under the Government of India Act 1935, Aden Province is detached from the British Indian Empire to become the Colony of Aden, a separate British Crown Colony. The new colony consists of the port of Aden and its immediate surroundings, plus the islands of Kamaran, Perim, and Kuria wikipedia

1 Apr 1937 Colony of Burma

Under the Government of India Act 1935, Burma Province was separated from the British Indian Empire to become the new Colony of Burma. The colony was granted a new constitution calling for a fully elected assembly, with Ba Maw acting as Deputy Chairman of the Executive wikipedia