Southern Asia 1919: Amritsar Massacre

Political map of South & Southwest Asia on 13 Apr 1919 (Anglo-French Overreach: Amritsar Massacre), showing the following events: French occupation of Cilicia; Surrender of Medina; Egyptian Revolution of 1919; British withdrawal from Transcaspian region; Rowlatt Act; Amritsar Massacre.

Despite the end of World War I, the British remained concerned about the threat of revolutionary activity in India and decided to extend the emergency powers they had enacted during the war. This only exacerbated tensions with the Indian population, peaking in April 1919 when British Indian Army troops opened fire on unarmed protesters at Amritsar, causing thousands of casualties.


Changes to the map 18 November 1918–13 April 1919

In Anatolia, the French have landed in Cilicia and occupied that region while the British have pushed north from Syria to occupy Kilis and Gaziantep. Further north, on the Black Sea, the French have also occupied the coal-producing regions of Karadeniz Eregli and Zonguldak.

In neighboring Transcaucasia, the withdrawing Ottoman army has helped set up the South-Western Caucasian Republic in Kars. Meanwhile the British have occupied Georgia, Batum, Karabakh, and Aras (modern Nakhichevan). Mughan now recognizes the authority of Kolchak's All-Russian Government.

Kolchak's fight with Soviet Russia continues to the north, but Britain has pulled out of the Transcaspian region.

In Arabia, the Ottomans have completed their withdrawal. The major beneficiary of the ensuing power vacuum is Saudi Nejd, which is now beginning a new round of expansion, threatening Hejaz, Ha'il, and Upper Asir.

British Protectorates in the Persian Gulf

The British Residency of the Persian Gulf maintains British India influence in a number of Gulf states. These states are nominally independent - and shown as such in most atlases from the period - but have all signed treaties guaranteeing British control over their foreign affairs.

The Sultanate of Muscat and Oman is the only one of these states with significant international relations, having obtained trade agreements with the US and France before it signed its treaty with Britain. Maps of the time often show Trucial Oman and even Qatar as regions of Oman.

Trucial Oman is the region to the west of Oman which collectively signed treaties with Britain. The sheikhdoms of this region are often called the Trucial States, and will become the United Arab Emirates. However at this time they have little unity, with no regional council until 1952.

Indian Empire

The British Indian Empire, also known as the British Raj, is comprised of a complex of presidencies, provinces, protectorates, and agencies. Only the top level subdivisions are shown here.

The area under direct British rule is known as British India and made up of presidencies and provinces - a presidency simply being the name for an older province.

Outside British India, but often included within the sphere of the presidencies/provinces, are the hundreds of protectorates or 'princely states'. These are indirectly ruled states, the largest being Hyderabad, Kashmir, and Mysore. The others are either collected into agencies - which may in turn contain other smaller agencies - or fall under the sway of the provinces.

Main Events

7–27 Dec 1918 French occupation of Cilicia

In accordance with the Sykes-Picot Agreement with Britain, French troops are landed at Antakya and Mersin, in Cilicia in southern Anatolia, with a French headquarters being established at Adana on 20 December. By the end of December, having faced minimal Turkish resistance, the Cilicia region is under French wikipedia

10 Jan 1919 Surrender of Medina

After being besieged by forces of the Kingdom of Hejaz since June 1916, the garrison of Medina finally surrenders. The garrison’s leader, Fahreddin Pasha, had originally refused surrender despite the Ottoman Empire’s armistice with the Allies and pleas from the Sultan, only agreeing to terms when his men faced starvation due to lack of wikipedia

8 Mar–16 Nov 1919 Egyptian Revolution of 1919

On 8 March 1919 the British arrested three Egyptian independence leaders, including the popular Saad Zaghlul Pasha, and deported them to Malta. In response, riots broke out in Cairo later that day, spreading across the country. The riots lasted until 20 March, with further outbreaks occurring until November, resulting in the deaths of some 60 Europeans and 800 wikipedia

11 Mar–1 Apr 1919 British withdrawal from Transcaspian region

British withdraw from Transcaspian region via wikipedia

18 Mar 1919 Rowlatt Act

On the recommendation of committee led by British judge Sir Sidney Rowlatt, the Anarchical and Revolutionary Crimes Act, 1919 (also known as the Rowlatt Act) is passed by the Imperial Legislative Council in Delhi, indefinitely extending the emergency measures enacted by the Defence of India Act in 1915 and allowing the British Indian government to detain and incarcerate persons suspected of terrorism without trial. The passing of the Act results in protests and rioting across India, particularly in Delhi and the wikipedia

13 Apr 1919 Amritsar Massacre

On Sunday, 13 April, the day of the Sikh festival of Baisakhi, thousands of nonviolent protesters and pilgrims gather at Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar, British India, where martial law has been imposed. Convinced that this is the beginning of a major insurrection, troops of the British Indian Army under the command of Colonel Reginald Dyer open fire upon the crowd at 5:30pm, killing at least 379 and wounding over 1100 according to official figures. Dyer’s actions are initially praised in the House of Lords in Britain, but he will be censured by the House of Commons in wikipedia