Which was the first capital of british india before delhi?

The question of which city served as the first capital of British India before Delhi is a fascinating historical inquiry that takes us back to the early days of British colonial rule in India. To answer this question, we must delve into the annals of history and explore the events and factors that led to the establishment of different capitals in India during the British colonial period.

QUICK ANSWER : Calcutta was the capital city of British India. In 1911, the British shifted their capital from Calcutta to Delhi.

Before we discuss the first capital, it’s important to understand the context in which the British East India Company began its imperial conquest of India. The British presence in India dates back to the early 17th century when the East India Company established trading posts along the Indian coastline. Over the years, the company’s influence and territorial control grew, leading to a transformation from a trading entity to a political and military force.

In 1757, the British East India Company’s victory in the Battle of Plassey marked a significant turning point in the history of British India. With this victory, they gained control over the Bengal region and laid the foundation for their territorial expansion in India. Bengal, with its wealth and resources, became the focal point of British interests in India. However, the administration of this vast territory required a more centralized location than the trading posts along the coast.

which was the first capital of british india before delhi

As a result, the British decided to establish Calcutta (now known as Kolkata) as the first capital of British India. This decision was influenced by several factors:

  1. Strategic Location: Calcutta was strategically located along the Hooghly River, providing easy access to the sea and facilitating trade and communication with other parts of India and the world.
  2. Economic Significance: Bengal was known for its economic wealth, including its lucrative trade in textiles, spices, and opium. Establishing the capital in Calcutta allowed the British to tap into these resources more effectively.
  3. Administrative Convenience: Calcutta offered a central location within the Bengal Presidency, making it easier to govern the vast territory of Bengal and its surrounding regions.
  4. Development and Infrastructure: The British invested heavily in developing Calcutta’s infrastructure, including the construction of government buildings, roads, and ports, to support their administrative functions.

The establishment of Calcutta as the capital of British India marked the beginning of a period of significant political and economic transformation in the region. The British imposed their legal and administrative systems, leading to far-reaching changes in the social and economic fabric of Bengal and surrounding areas.

However, Calcutta’s status as the capital of British India was not permanent. In 1911, the British government announced the decision to shift the capital from Calcutta to Delhi. This decision was driven by several factors, including:

  1. Geopolitical Considerations: Delhi held immense historical and symbolic significance as the capital of various Indian empires, including the Mughal Empire. The British sought to reinforce their imperial authority by establishing Delhi as the capital.
  2. Administrative Efficiency: The British believed that a central location like Delhi would be more convenient for governing the entire Indian subcontinent, especially as their control extended to northern and western regions.
  3. Nationalist Movements: By moving the capital to Delhi, the British hoped to undermine the growing nationalist movements in Bengal, which had been a hotbed of anti-colonial activities.
  4. Urban Planning: The British undertook a significant urban planning project in Delhi, constructing government buildings, infrastructure, and the iconic Rashtrapati Bhavan (Presidential Residence) to create a new imperial capital.

The shift of the capital from Calcutta to Delhi was a momentous event in India’s history. It symbolized the British Empire’s determination to consolidate its control over the Indian subcontinent and served as a visual representation of their imperial power.


In conclusion, Calcutta (Kolkata) was the first capital of British India before Delhi. Its selection as the initial capital was driven by strategic, economic, and administrative considerations. However, the shift of the capital to Delhi in 1911 marked a pivotal moment in India’s colonial history, with far-reaching implications for the country’s political and cultural landscape. The historical journey from Calcutta to Delhi as the capital of British India reflects the complex dynamics of colonial rule and the changing priorities of the British Empire in India.

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Karan Singh
Karan Singh
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