What is an Anglo-Indian?

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A typical view is that an Anglo-Indian is a person of mixed Indian and British ancestry, however, it is not quite that simple. There are competing definitions of what actually constitutes an Anglo-Indian.

The term ‘Anglo-Indian’ was used by the British to describe themselves up until 1911. They lived in India and worked for the civil and military services, held senior positions in government departments, or were merchants and professionals, traders and planters.

In the 1911 census, the government officially termed those of mixed blood, children born of European fathers and Indian mothers and the children born of their offspring as ‘Anglo-Indians’. Terms such as ‘Euroasians’, ‘Indo-Britons’ and ‘East Indians’ were commonly used to describe these people until 1911.

This general definition was adapted in the Government of India Act of 1919:

Every person, being a British subject and resident in the British India, of (a) European descent in the male line (b) Mixed Asiatic descent, whose father, grandfather or remote ancestor in the male line was born in the continent of Europe, Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa or the United States of America, and who is not entered in the European electoral roll.

The 1949 Constitution of India, Article 366(2) states:

An Anglo-Indian means a person whose father or any other of whose male progenitors in the male line is or was of European descent but who is domiciled within the territories of India and is born within such territory of parents habitually resident therein and not established there for temporary purposes only.

So, an ‘Anglo-Indian’ must descend from a European forefather, not from a European maternal line. A child born to an Anglo-Indian father ‘habitually resident’ in India is also Anglo-Indian. If the father is Indian and ‘habitually resident’ in India, the child is ‘Indian’ not ‘Anglo-Indian’.

The term ‘Anglo-‘ is problematic as it implies the male line must be British. This is not the case, rather, the male line should be European.

Searching for a definition of ‘Anglo-Indian’ presents many issues. A legal definition for one particular country gives us a baseline for understanding how Anglo-Indians are defined through the eyes of the state and prescribed in law, however, tells us very little about the perception of Anglo-Indians from the general public, their culture, tradition, socio-economic place, community and their identity.

What seems widely accepted , as Muthiah and MacLure (2013: 5) summarise:

An Anglo-Indian is a person descended from a European male line whose family is permanently resident in India.


Muttiah, S. and MacLure, H. (2013) The Anglo-Indians: A 500-Year History, New Delhi: Niyogi Books.

Cover picture credit: Vivien Marshall

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12 thoughts on “What is an Anglo-Indian?

    1. Hi Samuel, thanks for stopping by to comment. I have no idea what the genetic haplogroup is – but, i’d be interested to know if you do find out. A DNA-focused genealogical project / organisation would probably have an answer.

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