Imperialism in India

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Throughout history, many nations have implemented

imperialism to enforce their will over others for money,

protection and civilization. India was no exception. Since its

discovery, Europeans were trying get a piece of India's action.

In many cases England was the imperial, or mother country. Since

India was put under imperialism, a great deal of things changed,

some for the good, mostly though for the bad. Between 1640 and

1949, India was ruled by two periods of imperialism, both of

which effected India in a very profound and permanent manner.

The first period of European control was between 1740 and

1858. During this period the British East India Company

controlled the Indian sub-continent under the guise of economic

imperialism, when in fact the manipulation of Indian affairs was

much more political than let on. When it was founded in 1600 by

Queen Elizabeth I, the East India Company's main purpose was 'to

break into the Indonesian spice trade which was dominated by the

Dutch.' But after colonizing a post a Madras in 1640, the

company was re-chartered to include such rights as coining money

and act as government to British subjects at the East India

Company's posts. As well, the British government also gave the

company the right to make was or peaceful arrangements with

powers who were non-Christian. This control expanded with the

founding of a port at Bombay in 1668, and the founding of

Calcutta in 1690. Then in 1756, a young employee named Robert

Clive, who had been named lieutenant-governor in 1755, was sent

to take back Calcutta from the Bengal nawab. He accomplished

this in January of 1757. Then later that year, Clive lead a

group of 950 European and 2,000 Indian soldiers(sepoys) against

a group of 50,000 Indians lead by a degenerate nawab at Plassey.

The victory of the English forces over the local resistance

brought Bengal under the effective political control of the East

India Company. Although a 'puppet nawab' was left in control of

the area, Clive was granted the right to extract land revenue

from most of eastern India. Through out this whole period, the

company slowly found it's privledges being revoked, until in

1858, the Sepoy Rebellion, or the Indian Revolution, finally

brought an end to the rule of the East India Company in India

when it was revealed the cause of the rebellion was the use of

beef and pork fat to grease rifle cartridges, which are taboo to

the Muslims and Hindus. This Revolution brought the rule of the

East India Company to an end.

The second period of English imperialism started in August

of 1858 when the British monarchy assumed direct control of India

from the East India Company. This established a full colonial

government, where British officials run the countries affairs, in

India. This is known as colonial imperialism. This period was

one of major change in Indian life and culture. While the East

India Company tried respect local customs and learn local

languages, the colonial government 'tried to impose British

culture on India. . . encouraged the Indian people to abandon

their traditions and learn to speak, dress and live like

Europeans.' This came to a head in 1877, when Queen Victoria was

recognized as the Empress of India. The colonial government felt

it was their duty to civilize the people of India, feeling 'I am

a little bit better than you, therefore my presence is

necessary.' This all began to end in 1885 with the formation of

the Indian National Congress, made up of middle-class Indians who

were known as the congress. This congress campaigned for free

education for both sexes, more Indian representation in

government, and other reforms. But then in the early 1900's,

nationalists began to reject British rule and petition for it's

end in India by boycotting British goods and publishing books

which 'restored peoples pride in India's ancient heritage.' The

nationalist leader, Mohandas Gandhi, is perhaps best known for

his method of passive resistance to help the struggle of India.

Then finally in 1949, the partitioning of the British controlled

lands into the independent countries of Pakistan and India

brought an end to English rule in the Indian subcontinent.

Throughout the rule of the British in India, the effect of

the colonial and economic imperialism impacted the sub-continent

in the form of many economic and social changes. On the economic

side, many Indian goods were sold overseas by the East India

Company, but the government of England saw India as a large base

for British goods, as well as a source of raw materials. This

lead to British officials discouraging Indian industry, as well

as encouraging the production of export crops rather than food

crops. In this way cotton was produced in India, processed in

England, and thin sold back to the Indians. This change in food

supplies killed millions of Indians from famine in the 1800's.

Then when the British government took direct control, the

construction of railways, canals, and roads, especially the

opening of the Suez canal in 1869 opened the interior of India

for trade throughout Europe and Asia. With the construction of

the telegraph lines in India, exports from India jumped

tremendously. However, all of the profit went to the

colonialists, plunging most Indians into poverty. The social

changes included the introduction of health care and hospitals,

which, while curing diseases and improving the general health of

Indians, created such a tremendous population explosion that

famine resulted in some regions. As well, the creation of

British educated professionals and business people created a new

upper-class in India changing the rule of class in India forever.

All of these changes, while under the guise of helping the

natives, only served to help the colonists and leave the Indians

feeling inferior, as though Indians are only 'hewers of wood, and

drawers of water'

All of these changes in Indian culture and economy forever

changed the destiny of the Land of India. While many changes may

have been good in retrospect, they were only meant to help the

colonizing British. Overall, the colonization of India had

nothing but a negative effect on its people and culture. Perhaps

one day people will realize that imposing one culture on another

is not only wrong, but it is destructive to the natural course of

a countries history.


'India' Groiler Electronic Encyclopedia, 1994

'India' article found on Internet, 1996

'India, a history of,' Groiler New Book of Knowledge, 1979

In class speech by Mr. Seqera, 1996