The British rule in India can be divided into two phases. In the
first half, the activities of the British were merely limited to
business and trading. Their political presence was felt only in few
places of the coastal area. In the beginning of the 18th century the
foreign trading in India was already 100 years old. The East India
Company was one of the major traders and its main settlement was in
Calcutta(Kolkata), Madras(Chennai) and Bombay(Mumbai).
The company’s trade was based on import of cotton cloths woven by
the expert weavers of India. Their main trade aim was to cater the
worldwide need for washable, cheap and lightweight fabric meant for
furnishing and dressing. The company picked up those places for
settlement where cotton textiles were readily available for exports.
Within the first half of 18th century, East India Company
established itself in a profitable condition. Their trade was built
on a sophisticated economy of India. India offered its foreign
traders the skill of its artisan in cloth weaving, raw silk winding,
agricultural products cultivation meant for exports like indigo dye,
sugar and opium. By 1750 the British started to intervene in Indian
politics. This initiated the second phase of the British rule in
During this period the political condition of India was changing and
there was a prominent absence of a stable ruler, though some states
were successfully ruled under one king. Under these type of
circumstances, a contest for power took place. The Mughal Empire was
disintegrating, so numerous regional states could be replaced.
All these circumstances seemed favourable for East India Company to
gain both political and economical control of India. The victory of
Battle of Plassey under Lord Clive’s British troops established a new
British rule in India.
The East India Company continued to trade but realised the dearth of
qualified rulers in India. With the emergence of the British regime,
many employees of East India Company became administrators. Troops
of armies were arranged mainly with Indian sepoys, though few
regular British regiments also existed. The armies were assigned
with the responsibility to defend the territories of the Company,
coercing neighbouring states of India and uprooting the internal
resistance if it occurred.
The rules of the new government set up by Company were based on
those of Indian states, though Indians did effective administrative
work. The main function of the government was to collect taxes.
Whatever the farmers produced, nearly one third of the production was
meant to be paid for tax. Most of the farmers were producing crops
British preferred, usually cotton and other raw materials. This amount was passed to the state with
the help of a series of intermediaries who used to keep a percentage for themselves.
The rule of the British that gradually came to be known as British Raj
exploited the economy of India massively. They introduced various
oppressive laws that led millions of people to starve to death.
The most oppressive instance was Champaran in Bihar where farmers were forced
into producing crops that were not food grains during seasons of famine.
They continued to be taxed heavily during the whole period of
famine. The main aim of the British rule was to acquire cheap raw
materials from India and export them to their country and
simultaneously construct an internal market. The Raj effectively
considered the native population second class citizens; a formula
that was repeated in many other countries around the world.
In British history the first major event was none other than the
revolt of 1857. As the Raj expanded, the pay of Indian Sepoys got
reduced and their scope of activities increased. British abolition
of Sati (Widow self immolation) and Widow Remarriage Act were the
right social legislation that were considered religious interference
by the Hindu elite. The rumoured use
and actual use of pork and beef based products in cartridges and the
need to bite it had the unfortunate effect of uniting a regiment
that was informally fragmented along caste lines. It is considered as the first revolt by Indians
against the British. It is also termed as Sepoy mutiny. The revolt
began in Bengal presidency army located in former Awadh(current
Pradesh, Punjab) and spread to other states
Karnataka). Within the week of commencing the revolt, it
spread all over and was joined by numerous discontented groups.
British remained extremely wary of giving any reasons for Indians to
unite after that, a task that was made easy given the various social
upheavals happening in India during those times. The uprising and
the brutal retaliation were heavy in terms of loss of innocent lives
and the scars were permanent.
Successive world wars weakened the will of the British rulers. From
1920 Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi emerged into the
political scenario of India and started initiatives to organize
people against the British rule. Anti British activities like Swadeshi movement against British Raj took place and spread all over
the Indian sub-continent. With colossal efforts by the Indian
political leaders followed by bloodshed of common people, India
gained its independence on the zero hour of 15th August, 1947. There
was a final bloodbath before liberation due to a poorly conceived
and executed partition plan.
Rising above the
were some exemplary British administrators and engineers that are
still admired in India. One example is
Pennycuick, whose image is still
revered across Tamil Nadu lands that became fertile due to his
Annie Besant had a major role in the overall freedom movement.
Allan Hume was the creator of the Indian National congress and the
first voice of British conscience in India.