Tuesday, 19 January 2016


The European and the British traders initially came to India for trading purposes. The Industrial Revolution in Britain led to the increase in demand for raw materials for the factories there. At the same time, they also required a market to sell their finished goods. India provided such a platform to Britain to fulfill all their needs. 

The 18th century was a period of internal power struggle in India and with the declining power of the Mughal Empire, the British officials were provided with the perfect opportunity to establish their hold over Indian Territory. They did these through numerous wars,forced treaties, annexations of and alliances with the various regional powers all over the country. Their new administrative and economic policies helped them consolidate their control over the country. Their land revenue policies help them keep the poor farmers in check and get huge sums as revenues in return. They forced the
commercialisation of agriculture with the growing of various cash crops and the raw materials for the industries in the Britain. With the strong political control, the British were able to monopolise the trade with India. They defeated their foreign rivals in trade so that there could be no competition. They monopolised the sale of all kinds of raw materials and bought these at low prices whereas the Indian weavers had to buy them at exorbitant prices. 

Heavy duties were imposed on Indian goods entering Britain so as to protect their own industry. Various investments were made to improve the transport and communication system in the country to facilitate the easy transfer of raw materials from the farms to the port, and of finished goods from the ports to the markets. Also, English education was introduced to create a class of educated Indians who would assist the British in ruling the country and strengthen their political authority. All these measures helped the British to establish, consolidate and continue their rule over India.

When the industrial revolution started in Europe these small states did not have sufficient raw materials for their industries, or markets for their finished goods. These countries now started looking for markets in Asia and Africa. England succeeded in controlling trade with India and established the East India Company in 1600. This company was supported by the British government. With its help England was able to extend her territorial frontiers to the Indian subcontinent. The first factory was established at Surat in 1613. In 1615, Sir Thomas Roe got permission from the Mughal emperor
Jahangir to open more factories at Agra, Ahmadabad and Broach. Their most important settlement on the southern coast was Madras where they built a fortified factory called Fort St. George. This was the first proprietary holding acquired by the company on Indian soil. Gradually the company expanded its trading network. By that time the company was well established in India. It had also succeeded in eliminating the other rival European powers from India. They also started interfering
in the political affairs of the Indian rulers.

Look at the map of the 19th century India.You will locate many big and small independent states. These states had their own rulers, economy,language and culture. These states were constantly at war with each other. It was not surprising that they fell an easy prey to the European powers especially the British.

It was the battles of Plassey (1757) and Buxar (1764) which provided the ground for the British success in India. Through these battles, a long era of British political control over India began. The Battle of Plassey was won by the English in Bengal.The British made Mir Jafar, the new Nawab of Bengal, in return for which they receive an enormous sum of money as well as the territory of 24 Parganas from the Nawab. But Mir Jafar was not able to make further payments to them. As a result he was replaced by Mir Qasim who proved to be a strong ruler. Mir Qasim was not ready to meet their demands for more money or control. As a result, Mir Qasim was removed and Mir Jafar was made the Nawab again. Mir Qasim then joined hands with the Nawab of Awadh, Shiraj-ud-daula and the Mughal emperor Shah Allam II in plotting against the British, the battle took place at a place called Buxar on 22 October 1764. Their defeat proved to be decisive.

Though the British successfully gained control over Bengal, the imposition of British
rule throughout India was not an easy task. A number of regional powers opposed
them and tried to resist the efforts of territorial expansion of the British. Let us read
about the various wars waged by the British against the Indian states.
(i) Anglo-mysore Wars

Mysore emerged as a powerful state under an able leadership of Haider Ali and his
son Tipu Sultan in the second half of the eighteenth century. Four wars took place
between Mysore and the British. Finally the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War (1799) ended
in the heroic defeat and death of Tipu Sultan. With this a glorious chapter of struggle
between Mysore and the English came to an end. Large ports like Kanara,
Coimbatore and Seringapatam were secured by the British.

(ii) Anglo-maratha Wars

The Marathas were another formidable power in western and central India during
the second half of the eighteenth century. But the struggle for power among themselves
gave the British an opportunity to intervene in their internal matters. Many wars took
place between the British and the Marathas mainly on account of the Subsidiary
Alliance (which you will read in 5.2.1). The Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817-19)
was the last war between them. The English defeated the Peshwa, dethroned him
and annexed all his territories. The Peshwa was pensioned off and sent to Bithur
near Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh.

(iii) Anglo-sikh Wars

In north-west India, the Sikhs under their able leader Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1792-
1839) became an effective political and military force. The British power in India viewed the rise of the Sikhs as a potential threat. The British thus wanted to bring the Sikhs under control. After the death of Ranjit Singh in 1839, lawlessness prevailed in Punjab. The British took advantage of this and the First Anglo-Sikh War broke out in 1845 which ended with the defeat of the Sikhs. In the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1849, the British finally defeated them in the battle of Gujarat, a town on
river Chenab (1849). The Sikh chiefs surrendered and Punjab was annexed by Lord Dalhousie. Maharaja Dalip Singh, the son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh was pensioned off and sent to England.

Other Conquests, System of Alliances and Annexations

The Third Battle of Panipat against the Marathas in 1761 had already provided the stage for the success of British in India. Soon many more native states came under British control. This was done by a system of alliances called the Doctrine of Lapse and Subsidiary Alliance. Doctrine of Lapse led to a number of independent kingdoms being annexed to the British Empire. These were the states that were enjoying British protection but their rulers had died without leaving a natural heir to the throne. Their adopted sons could now no longer inherit the property or the pension which was granted to them by the British. In this way Dalhousie annexed the Maratha States of Satara (1848), Sambalpur (1850), Udaipur (1852), Nagpur (1853), Jhansi (1854) and Awadh (1856). In Subsidiary Alliance, the Indian States that were under British protection had to suspend their armies and instead maintain British troops. They also surrendered their control on their foreign affair and let go of their right to make alliances with other foreign states for any purpose, economic or political. In return, they were given protection by the British from their rivals.

The policy of annexation affected not only the Indian rulers, but all those who were dependent upon them such as soldiers, crafts people and even nobles. Even the traditional scholarly and priestly classes lost their patronage from these rulers, chieftains, nobles and zamindars, and were thus impoverished.

Thus, by the midnineteenth century,no single Indian power was there to challenge or resist the British.Assam, Arakhan, North Eastern region and portions of Nepal and Burma were already annexed (1818 to 1826). The British also occupied Sind in 1843.

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