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Wednesday, 17 August 2011

British India - Government under the East India Company

The English East India Company was now the ruler of a large empire, composed of millions of people. During their one hundred year rule, they made frequent changes to their administrative set up. The main objective throughout their period was to ensure that the company maintained and strengthened its hold on India, and to increase the profits it made. All policies were made keeping these factors in mind. The entire administrative machinery was designed to ensure the smooth functioning of trade, law and order was given special importance, for if there was stability the exploitation of the Indian resources could take place more effectively. The English East India Company's first major administrative area was Bengal, in which initially they implemented the dual system of government. Under this system the puppet nawab was saddled with the responsibilities and no power, while the English East India Company took all the power without any responsibility. This system proved disastrous for Bengal, for neither side was concerned for the welfare of the people. The Nawab could not assist his people even if he wanted to, for all the state's resources were controlled by the English East India Company. The English East India Company on its part, was more concerned with maximizing its profits then anything else. As a result when a terrible famine struck the state, thousands of people died without receiving any aid. Finally in 1772, the company ended the Dual system

British India - Government under the crown

The revolt of 1857, jolted the British presence in India. It was inevitable that the administration of the English East India Company's territories in India would have to be re-organized. Meanwhile the industrial revolution had resulted in a fiercely competitive market in the western world, and hence many European countries had colonized other nations in order to obtain their resources at a low cost. Britains interest in India began picking up substantially and by around 1850, there was a substantial amount of British money invested in India. Hence the need to maintain control over India was imperative from the British point of view. Eventually by an act of parliament in 1858, the administration of India was passed over from the English East India Company to the British Crown.
A Secretary of State for India was appointed to be assisted by a council. The Secretary of State was a member of the parliament and as a result India was now governed by the British parliament. In place of the Governor-General a new official was appointed, know as the Viceroy. His powers were more limited then

British India - Personalities of the Freedom struggle

British India - Introduction

Dateline: (1757AD-1947AD)
Indian history would now experience one more foreign invader, who would also go on to build an empire that would encompass the entire nation. The British were able to rule India for almost two hundred years, and in that time much change took place in the country. A notable exception about the British when compared to some of the past foreign invaders, was that they never had any intentions to settle down and integrate into Indian society. For the entire period they ruled, they maintained a separate identity and refused to integrate with the Indians, whom they considered inferior. Hence unlike past emperors, they did not set up an empire in India, instead they made India a colony, which they ruled in a way they sought fit.
The two hundred years of British rule had a lasting impact on the country, some of it positive and some of it negative. It was under the British that the political unification of India was once again achieved, which has always been a positive development in Indian history. They also implemented some useful communication facilities, like building one of the most dense network of railways, constructing highways, implementing telegraph and phone facilities. They also brought with them the conveniences of the modern world like electricity, machinery etc. They brought with them new schools of thought, which exercised great influence, in reforming the many evils that had crept into Indian society. More importantly however, the

British India - Economy

At the time the British entered India, the economy was flourishing and India was exporting its goods across the world. Indian goods, especially textiles were doing so well in Europe that European manufacturers had to put pressure on their respective governments to regulate the flow of Indian goods into their countries. The entire country was completely self-sufficient right down to the villages. They were able to manufacture what they needed, and what they could not was easily available within the country at reasonable prices.
The British changed all that, they turned the entire economy into an import dependent, non self-sustaining one. When the British were ordinary traders, they were simply another buyer or seller in the market, and hence the forces of demand and supply would dictate the price levels. By the close of the eighteenth Century the industrial revolution was in full swing in Europe. The manufacturing industry was booming, and there was tremendous demand for raw materials. The price levels of goods in India was fairly low, and the English East India Company and its employees were able to make handsome profits. One they became the rulers of India, the situation began to change drastically. They were now able to dictate price levels, and hence substantially increase their profits. They would often use the money they obtained from taxes to

British India - Society

Indian society had deteriorated considerably in the years by the time the British had become the rulers of India. Social evils were crippling the society and situation was slowly getting out of hand. Indian society was hopelessly divided on the issue of caste, and the influence of the priests had reached astounding levels. The upper castes considered themselves superior to the lower castes, and some of the lowest castes were considered untouchables. It had reached such a level, that they were not even allowed to visit the same places of worship, and had to build their own. The society still believed in many backward and outdated ideas, and the position of women was extremely low. The practice of sati, where the widow was burnt alive together with her husband on the funeral pyre was now even more prevalent. Widows were not allowed to re-marry .The life of a widow was extremely hard, she was required to live a life of extreme austerity and moderation. The education of women had also largely suffered, for society believed that educated women would enslave their husbands. The practice of dowry (where the bride's family gives substantial gifts to the bridegroom at the time of marriage) had also become prevalent. Another notable feature was that the British, unlike previous foreign invaders did not make any attempt to integrate into Indian society, remaining aloof and considering themselves superior. However, their arrival brought new ideas and concepts, which began influencing elements within Indian society. Indians exposed to western ideas and education realized the sorry state that Indian society had fallen into. They realized that the reason India had fallen from greatness and was overrun by a small trading company was because of the internal weaknesses in its society.

British India - Expansion of the British power

The English East India Company had begun very humbly in India with a few factories. However, they always combined trade with diplomacy and actively worked to get favours from local rulers to give themselves an advantage. South India became a convenient base for them as they did not have to face a strong government. The Vijaynagar kingdom had splintered into many small petty kingdoms which were easy to overpower. They leased Madras which became the centre of their activities. They decided to fortify it but cleverly billed the expenses to the local residents on the pretext of protecting Madras from attacks from other kingdoms or the Dutch. They had acquired Bombay from the Portuguese and they fortified it as well. In Bombay they found a good and easy to defend port. Bombay soon became the western headquarters of the company. In 1651 they were given permission to trade in Bengal and dreamed of controlling it one day. They began seriously contemplating political power as this would give them a way to compel the Mughals to do their bidding. Hostilities broke out in 1686 between the Mughals and the British. The English East India Company had underestimated the strength of the Mughal Empire and were defeated comprehensively in the war that followed and were forced to abandon their factories in Bengal. Their factories across the country were attacked. They realized that they could not take on the Mughal Empire yet. The English East India Company humbly begged for pardon which they got from the Mughals. The