British Imperialism in India

The sea routes to India were discovered in the late 15th century, after which Europeans started arriving in India. Although Europeans managed to colonize many places other than India, India was the main center of attraction for almost all of them. By the end of the seventeenth century, Europeans had established their presence in many places in Asia, and in the latter half of the eighteenth century they had occupied many places. It was only in the nineteenth century that the British could monopolize the whole of India. Seeing the prosperity of India, there was already a desire in the western countries to do business with India. The discovery of sea routes by European sailors was the result of these longings. Around the thirteenth century, the Turkish Empire gained control of the Mediterranean Sea and its eastern routes. As a result, it became difficult for the merchants of European countries to reach the countries of Asia by land routes. Due to this the supply of Indian goods to European countries came to a standstill. Italian merchants benefited a lot from this because some merchants started smuggling or secretly transporting the goods of Asia to the interior parts of Europe through Italy, but they did not like to pay tax in Venice city of Italy. Many rulers of the coastal nations assisted the sailors in their exploration expeditions to the new nations. In this sequence, with the help of Queen Isabella of Spain, Columbus of Italy reached America while locating India. The Portuguese were the first to reach India. After this the Dutch came and the Dutch fought many battles with the Portuguese. Apart from India, the Dutch also expelled the Portuguese in Sri Lanka, but the main attraction of the Dutch was not India but the countries of South-East Asia, so they were defeated by the British, who mainly wanted to occupy India. Initially, the main work of these European countries was trade, but seeing the political situation in India, they started adopting imperialist and colonial policies here.

•Here’s the history of British Imperialism In India

As Indian spices, like Indian wealth, were world famous, so many invaders came to India. With an interest in trade, small European ships in the early 1600s came to South Asia, especially in search of spices. India at that time was being ruled by Mughals from Afghan. So their first encounter was with the Mughal Empire.

Mughal rulers, who were Muslims and Afghans, used to work in close connection with local Hindu rulers. Famous Mughal Emperor Akbar (1556-1605) even married Hindu princesses to expand his rule in India. There existed a very strong regionality in India that had never allowed cultural unification of India. This was the weakest point of India. Moreover, India on the political front was never united.

Till 1700, the Mughal Empire enjoyed its peak but then it started to decline in India because Hindu rulers with time went against the biased policies of Mughals. As per these policies, non-Muslims had to pay more taxes. Hindu Marathas dishonored the Mughals, Hindus and Sikhs at large and started disliking the Mughal leadership. So, a sort of turmoil was going on when the British came to India.

On the other hand, Europeans had a more powerful and advanced army. Hence, the regional Nawabs of that time started visiting Europeans for military support and protection. At the same time, Europeans were more interested in trade and Mughals became uninterested in the trade at shore as they used to get revenue from agricultural taxes. So, Mughals were no longer guarding the coast. This gave a way to British and their rule in India.

Seeing India’s potential in trade and market, the economic interest of British started growing in India. The East India Company with this interest, set up three trading posts one each at Bombay, Madras and Calcutta. Initially Europeans traders were kept under control by the strong Mughal Empire. But the decline of Mughal Empire by 1707 made a way for the British to win Indian territories. In 1757, the Battle of Plassey was the first victory of the British East India Company in which Robert Clive was leading the troops.

With time, control of the East India Company over Indian territories started increasing and now it was including modern Bangladesh and most of southern India and almost all the regions along the River Ganges in North India. The East India Company and all its efforts in India as well as London were ultimately regulated by the British Government. But the company had its own army of sepoys that was led by British Officers.

Initially, the British were interested in India for its immense potential for profit. But with the Industrial Revolution in Britain, British interest in India changed to become even more profit oriented. Now, India was the source of raw materials as well as her large population was the possible market for British-made goods. With this, India became the most valuable market and nation for British colonies.

But this was totally against the development of India as all sorts of restrictions were put on India to curb the Indian economy. Indians were forced to buy British-made goods and along with this, Indian goods were not allowed to compete with British goods. All the local producers and handloom textile industry of India was put out of business.

The British laid down an extensive railroad network for transporting raw material from interior parts of India. India was a great source of cotton, coffee, tea, jute, indigo and opium. British used to sell opium to China for tea that they sold in England. The British now held economic as well as political power over India. Many villages suffered, as much emphasis was laid on cash crop, rather than on the self-sufficiency of the British. This resulted in the less production of crop for food. Due to this, a great famine in the late 1880s occurred in India. Even the religious as well as traditional life in India started getting affected as British increased the number of missionaries to promote Christianity.

By 1850, almost the entire India was under the control of British, but now a discontent started taking place in the hearts of Indians. Constant racism and British attempts to convert Indians to Christianity was the major reason for this discontent. The outbreak of the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857 was the first war for independence, in which 85-90 Indian sepoys refused to accept cartridges that they believed were greased with beef and pork fat. The outbreak was so wide that the East India Company took almost a year to regain full control over India. A Hindu and Muslim split was the main reason why Indians were weak in front of the British. Some Hindus were totally against Mughal rule and were in favor of British rule.

But the Mutiny can be called a turning point in Indian history. In 1858, after the Mutiny, the British government took full control of India. Now India directly came under British rule. From then onwards, there was a change in the mindset of Indians as well. They were uniting hands for freedom and from time-to-time Indian history had seen many struggles for freedom.

British imperialism in India had impacted the nation adversely. First of all, India’s wealth was drained to a great extent during this period. British rule in India hit the Indian economy so hard that it was never able to recover. Religious conflicts and gaps expanded. Local handicraft and cotton industries were ruined, as the British wanted to promote and sell their products. Food production was reduced as more and more opium was being produced for selling it to other countries. This led to great famines and poverty in India.

Though India had suffered a lot, but the past is past and nobody can change it. We must work hard to bring back our lost glory. We must stand united against all the social evils that have now started ruling our country. Let us not again enter into the world of slavery to suffer.