How many Britons lived (not just visited shortly) in India during the British Raj (1858 - 1947)?

There might be two answers, both of them interesting:

  1. The amount of Britons in India over time - something like a chart (x = time, y = amount of Britons).

  2. How many individual Britons lived in India in total during the whole period?

I asked a different question on biology stack exchange and I realized I had not an idea of even the order of magnitude of the amount - were it millions, or much less/more?

  • At its height in 1947, the British population in India (including their descendents) numbered ~800,000. This community dwindled rapidly after India's Independence. This brings me to an issue though: should we count second/third generation Anglo-Indians as Britons? Only those born in Britain? Anyone with British citizenship/nationality/subject status?
    – Semaphore
    Sep 19, 2014 at 13:17

2 Answers 2


The population of India during the British Raj days was first counted during the census of 1871. Prior to this a full census and data on British subjects were not available. The 1891 census also did a linguistic division, but nothing such as "British Subjects". But people who spoke English as a mother tongue returned 238,409.

The total Number of people with English as mother tongue, in India in 1891 as per the 1891 census was 238,409.

The total Number of British subjects in India in 1921 as per the 1921 census was 165,485.

The 1931 census was was the last census that was not subject to inaccuracies. The 1941 census was hampered by war and self-return from an illiterate populace.

The European British subjects totalled 155,555 of whom 110,137 were males and 45,418 females. Of these again 7,205 males and 3,422 females were found in Burma, and while in Burma the figures show a total increase of 1,434 males and 1,365 females since 1921, the figures for India proper show a further fall since 1921 and are now little more than 80 per Cent. of those recorded in 1911, while males taken alone are fewer than in 1901.

Reference from census record.

  • Rajib, could you make it as a kind of a table/chart and could you find the total number of unique Britons? Sep 22, 2014 at 6:55
  • Could you clarify "total"? These I understand are total. The reference to population in Burma- do you want to deduct that as well?
    – Rajib
    Sep 22, 2014 at 7:53
  • Total - over the whole British Raj period. To fit into sentence: "During the whole British Raj, N British citizens lived in India." Sep 22, 2014 at 8:35
  • 1
    This cannot be said. In each census the same person or different persons may have been counted. How can we know the difference if let's say element X representing a count of 1 in the set of British Subjects, is the same person Mr.a in both the census or a different person?
    – Rajib
    Sep 22, 2014 at 13:29
  • 1
    Honza - do your own work. Rajib gave you the census data, go through it all and look name-by-name to determine who is/is not being double counted. Mar 16, 2016 at 18:37


The 1861 Census had revealed that the English population in India was 125,945. Of these only about 41,862 were civilians as compared with about 84,083 European officers and men of the Army.[47] In 1880, the standing Indian Army consisted of 66,000 British soldiers, 130,000 Natives, and 350,000 soldiers in the princely armies.

Indian economy grew at about 1% per year from 1880 to 1920, and the population also grew at 1%.

Census of 1901 gives the total population at 294 million, including 62 million in the princely states and 232 million in British India. About 170,000 are Europeans.

Since exp(40*log(1.01))=1.488864, the total population in 1861 was ~197 million (assuming the 1% growth also held in 1861-1880). The English/European population grew on average 100*(exp(log(170/130)/40)-1)=0.6729139% from 1861 to 1901 - slower than the total population.

  • I believe the first proper census in India would be in 1871. So I can't understand how the wiki states this. See this page.
    – Rajib
    Sep 19, 2014 at 15:08
  • @Rajib I think you are correct, but I believe that number was taken from a British census instead of an Indian one. Refer to: Census of the British Empire: compiled from official returns for 1861
    – Semaphore
    Sep 19, 2014 at 16:50
  • This referred document does not have enough on India. The Area of British India is 933722 square miles and the population 135634244 by estimate, not including the PROTECTED or TRIBUTARY STATES with an area of 629225 square miles and 51542930 inhabitants. And that's it.
    – Rajib
    Sep 20, 2014 at 4:35
  • 1
    @Rajib I don't know what you read. Page 177: Number of British-born Subjects (exclusive of the Army and Navy) dwelling in "India," on or about 8th April, 1861 ... TOTAL in India †40 371 (†Not including the English Army, 84 083 strong)
    – Semaphore
    Sep 20, 2014 at 5:59
  • Ok found that now that you mentioned the page. I was looking specifically at the India section much later. Thanks.
    – Rajib
    Sep 20, 2014 at 13:38

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