Estimating Indian Deaths Under British Rule

Estimating Indian Deaths Under British Rule

India was ruled by the British for almost two centuries, from 1757 to 1947, and during this period, the country saw numerous atrocities and human rights violations committed by the British against the Indian population. One of the most significant impacts of British rule was the loss of human life, which was caused by various factors such as wars, famines, diseases, and political suppression.

It is difficult to ascertain the exact number of Indians who died under British rule, as there are no comprehensive records available. However, several historians and scholars have made estimates based on available data and research. According to some estimates, the number of Indians who died during British rule ranges from 15 to 29 million people.

One of the most significant contributors to this death toll was the frequent famines that occurred during British rule. Famines were caused by various factors, such as crop failure, mismanagement of resources, and trade policies that favored the British. The most severe of these famines occurred in the late 19th century, during which millions of Indians died due to starvation and related illnesses. The Bengal Famine of 1943, which occurred during World War II, is estimated to have claimed the lives of around three million people.

Apart from famines, wars and armed conflicts also led to significant loss of life. The Indian Rebellion of 1857, also known as the First War of Independence, resulted in the deaths of around 100,000 Indians, including civilians and combatants. The Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919, in which British troops opened fire on a crowd of unarmed civilians, resulted in the deaths of around 400 Indians.

Political repression was another factor that contributed to the loss of life during British rule. The British government imposed harsh laws and policies to suppress dissent and maintain their control over the Indian population. The infamous Rowlatt Act of 1919, which allowed the British government to imprison Indians without trial, resulted in widespread protests and clashes with the police, leading to the deaths of around 1,000 people.

In conclusion, the number of Indians who died under British rule was significant, and the exact number may never be known. However, it is clear that British rule had a severe impact on the lives and livelihoods of millions of Indians, and this legacy of loss and suffering continues to be felt today.


  • Davis, Mike. Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World. Verso, 2001.
  • Mukerjee, Madhusree. Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India during World War II. Basic Books, 2010.
  • Guha, Ramachandra. India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy. HarperCollins, 2007.
  • Banerjee, Biswamoy. The Great Bengal Famine. Indian Council of Historical Research, 2014.
  • Bose, Sugata. Peasant Labour and Colonial Capital: Rural Bengal since 1770. Cambridge University Press, 1993.


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