Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Abigail McGowan


The British Indian Army, formed from the old presidency armies of the East India Company in 1895, was one of the pillars upon which Britain’s world empire rested. While much has been written on the colonial and global campaigns fought by the Indian Army as a tool of imperial power, comparatively little has been written about the transition of the army from British to Indian control after the end of the Second World War. While independence meant the transition of the force from imperial rule to that of civilian oversight by India’s new national leadership, the Dominion of India inherited thousands of former colonial soldiers, including two generations of British and Indian officers indoctrinated in military and cultural practices developed in the United Kingdom, in colonial India and across the British Empire.

The goal of this paper is to examine the legacy of the British Empire on the narrative, ethos, culture, tactics and strategies employed by the Indian Army after 1945, when the army began to transition from British to Indian rule, up to 1973 when the government of India reinstituted the imperial rank of Field Marshal. While other former imperial officers would continue to serve in the army up to the end of the 20th century, the first thirty years after independence were a formative period in the history of the Indian Army, that saw it fight four major wars and see the final departure of white British officers from its ranks. While it became during this time a truly national army, the years after independence were one in which its legacy as an arm of imperial power was debated, and eventually transformed into a key component of military identity in the post-colonial era.



Number of Pages

350 p.