The period of Indian history, starting from the beginning of the seventeenth century, was marked by the British domination. In 1600, the Queen of England, Elizabeth met the demand of the big group of merchants and gave them a big trading company. This company is known as “The Governor and Company of Merchants of London, Trading into the East-Indies.” This group of merchants got monopoly rights for trade with India. During the period from 1601-1613 the merchants, who worked in this company made several trips to India. They developed trade and manufacture in India. “Hawkins was rebuffed by Jahangir, but Sir Thomas Roe, who presented himself before the Mughal Emperor in 1617, was rather more successful. Two years later, Roe gained Jahangir’s permission to build a British factory in Surat, and in 1639, this was followed by the founding of Fort St. George Madras” (Smith, 113). Step by step, British merchant got dominance over the India market. They moved Portuguese merchants and expanded their influence. During this time East-India Company established numerous posts on the east and west coasts of the country. During this time the British have developed three towns, which became the centres of British impact. These towns were Calcutta, Madras and Bombay. Exempting the Company from the paying of custom duties in Bengal in 1717 became a very notable success.
The role and function of East-India Company had gradually changed. In 1757, after the victory at the Plassey battle, where British army defeated the Nawab of Bengal, the East-India Company changed its functions from the trade company to a ruling company, which governed the country.
In this way East-India Company, originally founded as a merchant company, turned to the ruling enterprise. This company became a unique phenomenon when trading company got the right to rule the entire country. After several years the company started collecting revenues on the behalf of the Mughal Emperor. The methods of ruling, used by the company brought destruction to native population of India. Big taxes and superior attitude of the British representatives made Indian people leave the Bengal province looking for the new places to settle. The famine of 1769-1970 took lives of almost one third of Indian population but East-India Company did nothing in order to help the situation, despite it had means to save people’s lives. Despite great profits obtained by the company it also had big military expenditures and that is the reason the company became almost a bankrupt in the 1770s. The interference of the state saved the company. Moreover, the Lord North’s India Bill also known as the Regulating Act of 1773 put the company under the control of the British empire and put the state of India under the rule of a Governor-General. This proved the British domination. “The consolidation of British rule after the initial military victories fell to Warren Hastings, who did much to dispense with the fiction that the Mughal Emperor was still the sovereign to whom the Company was responsible” (Banga, 98). His skillful actions helped to obtain control over India. He also made some effort to popularize India art and culture in Great Britain but all his good deeds are shadowed by the atrocities, committed by the British army during his rule. He was impeached for the crimes he committed in India. The British Empire justified its dominance by the desire to turn India into a civilized country and to stop “Oriental despotism”, which existed in the country. The British Empire wanted to bring the principles of law and system of justice to India. It interfered within social, political and economic life of India. The Governor prohibited certain social and religious practices, which contradicted, to his mind, the notion of civilized society.
The British domination grew with the flow of time and new territories got under the rule of the British Empire. In this way in the period of the 1840s-1850s Britain took dominance over more Indian territories. The British authorities explained that it was done in order to save Indian people from rotten and corrupted government. Using the chance when there was no male heir to the throne, the British Empire took the rule over these territories. This right was proved by the Lord Dalhousie’s notorious doctrine of lapse. According to this doctrine the territory was joined to the British Empire in the case there was no male heir. “Such was the fate of Sambalpur (1849), Baghat (1850), Jhansi (1853), Nagpur (1854), and – most tragically – Awadh (1856)” (Keay 118). Good tactics made the core of the success of British expansion in India. Along with good tactics the representatives of the British Empire built ingenious relations with Indian rules. It used the “subsidiary alliance” system, which appeared in the beginning of the nineteenth century. It was built through well-thought action of the British governors, who used the desire of Indian governors to give them right to govern, while they saved nothing but a fictional sovereignty.
The methods, used by East-India Company and negative effects it had on the economy of the country finally became the reason of the rebellion. “The annexation of native states, harsh revenue policies, and the plight of the Indian peasantry all contributed to the Rebellion of 1857-58, referred to previously as the Sepoy Mutiny” (Keay, 125). These events resulted in the dissolving of the East-India Company in 1858. John Stuart Mil, the Commissioner of Correspondence at India House, l advocated great achievements of this organization but this did not help. After the dissolving of the Company, India became under the rule of the British Crown governed directly by the Parliament. After the rebellion the changes in mentality also slowly occurred. British people forgot about rich cultural and religious prophesy of India and treated Indians like not-educated foreigners, who brought threat to them. At the same time British policy became more aggressive in the attempts to popularize Western way of life in India. Big impact was made on the British education and the study of English language. Governmental apparatus grew and Indians gradually became the part of this apparatus. In 1885 there was founded the Indian National Congress. Originally, it consisted of journalists and lawyers and its main function was to bring the opinion of Indian people to the British government. Ideas of national freedom and liberation did not disappear completely, though. Nationalistic movements expressed the will of Indian people to get rid of British domination. The attempts of the British government to partition Bengal gave push to serious resistance. The Swadeshi movement used different methods, such as non-violence resistance, strikes and boycotts in order to make the British government change its decision concerning Bengal.
British invasion in India had many reasons but the wish to expand country markets and get profit was the main purpose. Making India a part of the British Empire had a great impact for both countries. Britain brought a lot of innovations to India and some technical progress was achieved with the help of the British Empire. It helped to develop industry of the country and also created strong connections between rural and urban areas of India. Positive impact was also in creating telegraph and communication system, same as railroad in India. The British Empire emphasized the implementation of three main “engines of social improvement”, which were railroads, the telegraph and postal service. The first railroads were built starting from 1850s. One year later the first line of electric telegraph was constructed. The development of postal service helped to create a uniform postal system inside the country. All these means simplified communication inside the country. This made communication between rural and urban areas much easier. Despite Britain insisted on the care about Indian people, while implementing these new achievements of civilization, it pursued its own goals while building railroads and establishing telegraph. Better roads made easier the moves of British troops and also simplified the transportation of different goods. “The railroads did not break down the social or cultural distances between various groups but tended to create new categories in travel. Separate compartments in the trains were reserved exclusively for the ruling class, separating the educated and wealthy from ordinary people” (Keay, 124).
Despite some positive moments, British policy was invasive in this country and positive impacts are not so multiple as counterparts. During the entire period of British domination the policy of this country concerning Indian population had dominant character. The forcible policy of westernalization created threat to the unique culture, customs and traditions of India. Britain tried to “civilize” India using its own standards and norms, good for Western countries and not suitable for the Oriental way of thinking. The damage created by the British domination can not be measure only by cultural and religious impacts. Britain used India as internal colony exporting expensive goods, such as spices, cotton and opium.
Some specialists see the root of the Indian nationalism in the fact that this nation is among the oldest nations of the world. Despite India has made considerable steps towards the globalization and participants in the global market the mentality of the people who live in this country significantly differs from the mentality of western people. Indian society is very diverse and includes the representatives of different nationalities, religions and social layers. “The ethnic and linguistic diversity of Indian civilization is more like the diversity of an area as variable as Europe than like that of any other single nation-state. Living within the embrace of the Indian nation are vast numbers of different regional, social, and economic groups, each with different cultural practices” (Chatterjee, 37). India has used its own unique way of development and it is moving in this direction.
Banga, I., & Jaidev (Eds.) Cultural reorientation in modern India. Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study, 1996.
Breckenridge, C. A. (Ed.). (1995). Consuming modernity: Public culture in a South Asian world. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995.
Chatterjee, P. The nation and its fragments: Colonial and postcolonial histories. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993.
Das, V., Gupta, D., & Uberoi, P. Tradition, pluralism and identity: In honour of T. N. Madan. London: Sage Ltd, 1999.
Douglas Haynes, Rhetoric and Ritual in Colonial India, Economic and Political Weekly 28, no. 18, 1 May 1993.
Kapur, R., & Cossman, B. Communalising gender/engendering community. Economic and Political Weekly, 1993, pp. 35-44.
Keay, John, The Honourable Company – A History of the English East-India Company, HarperCollins, London, 1991.
Kennedy, Dale, The Magic Mountains: Hill Stations and the British Raj, Capitalism, Nature, Socialism 8, no. 3, September 1997:123-132.
Smith, Simon C. British Imperialism 1750-1970 Cambridge University Press, 1998.
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