What drove England to colonize India, in the 19th century ?

Essay by Sir Drek January 2007

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Lord Palmerston, British prime minister, said in the 1820's "A barren island with hardly a house upon it."(Encarta 2007) referring to foreign lands. Indeed, the British believed the outside world, was "barren" and undeveloped, needing considerable help from a considerably superior European power. The British India Company, whose charter was granted by Queen Elizabeth I, was a group of merchants with great ambitions who settled in India in 1601. Through out the years, governors and directors of the company worked hand in hand to promote British power in all domains. English economic motivation was a primary factor to their arrival in India, although their control of India was also by military, political and moral duties.

The settlement of the British was essentially driven by economic motives. Initially, when the British came to India, it was to sell their products from their homeland. But quickly, they realized that the Indians did not want them.

Their rivals, the Portuguese, who had been trading with India for years, had the ingenious idea to send Indian goods back to Portugal (SSCNET, India resource). The British started doing the same for a while, but they were not satisfied with this system, and their weak position in the Indian market could not yet compete with the Danes, the French and the Portuguese who were already there.

Soon British demanded taxes, factories, lands from local chiefs. These were located in economically strategic regions, like Bombay, on the west coast of India. This position permitted an easy shipping of Indians' goods towards European markets.

The concessions were not the only weapons of the British Company that led them to the monopoly of the Indian market. Once on the land, British would force the people to pay taxes, and pretended to be collecting the funds for the local...