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British Raj in India

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British Raj in India

East India Company


British Raj in IndiaThe East India Company of British was chartered in 1600 almost along with Dutch but soon realized that Dutch was unwilling to share trade benefits in East Indies. In India Portuguese was already at a good trade relation. Finally what won the east was that old trump card of the British, their naval supremacy.

The then Mughal Emperor Jehangir Received the first British ambassador Sir Thomas Roe in 1612. Under Roe’s effective communication a treaty was signed between the Mughals and British according to which British became their unspoken, unsaid, naval aide. By 1674 Bombay came to the British as part of the dowry of Charles II's Portuguese queen Catherine, and from here they never looked back.

Adding to the British advantage was the gradual decline of Mughals after the death of Aurengzeb. Soon after the death of Aurengzeb, India was invaded by Afghans. During the time when British were slowly moving towards gaining powers in India, they had to deal with their long time enemies French. Between 1746-48 the French and English finally came to blows in the first Carnatic War (1746-48) in the Deccan. Rising above all major fights and battles British slowly captured entire India after the major battles like battle of Plassey that turned the trading power to a ruling power.

Battle of Plassey


With growing profits and gaining power British soon wanted to have strong hands in the Administration of India. The British soon grew from being a trading company to a ruling endeavor after it won the Battle of Plassey. The Mughals gave Dastaks or permits to Britishers allowing the Britishers to collect taxes. This when opposed by the ruler of Bengal led to the famous Battle of Plassey. The Battle of Plassey fought in 1757 was a decisive battle in establishing the rule of British in India. Siraj - ud – Daullah was the Nawab of Bengal at that time.

The battle occurred on June 23, 1757 at Palashi of Murshidabad, on the bank of Bhagirathi River. Murshidabad, which is about 150 km north of Calcutta, was then capital of Bengal. It was fought between the British Army and the Nawab along with his French Allies. The army commander Mirzafar of Siraj Ud Daulah`s side betrayed in the battle of Plassey and thereby the whole force of Nawab collapsed and as a consequence, the entire province of Bengal came under British. The East India Company further monopolized trade in Bengal.

In order to spread their control across India, Britishers annexed many princely states and forced their own laws to be implemented. This led Britishers to control over entire India slowly and steadily. By mid nineteenth century, the British introduced the railways, telegraph and postal service in India. The first railway line was from Howrah in Calcutta to Raniganj in Bihar. The introduction of telegraph and postal services simplified communication all over the country.


The Pitt's Act


After the Regulating Act of 1773 that gave British Government more parliamentary powers in Indian Administration to regulate the affairs of the Company in India, the second important step taken by the British Parliament was the appointment of a Board of Control under Pitt's India Bill of 1784. It provided for a joint government of the Company (represented by the Directors), and the Crown (represented by the Board of Control).

A Board of six members constituting two members of the British Cabinet and four of the Privy Council was formed. The Board had all the powers and control over all the acts and operations, related to the civil, military and revenues of the Company.

In 1786, a supplementary the Bill appointed Lord Cornwallis was as the first Governor-General, and he then became the effective ruler of British India under the authority of the Board of Control and the Court of Directors. The constitution set up by the Pitt's India Act did not undergo any major changes during the existence of the Company's rule in India.

British Administration


After the establishment of the Pitt’s Act, that appointed Governor Generals as the representative of British Administration, Warren Hastings became the first British Governor General to rule India. Under his leadership, British rule expanded manifolds.  He was succeeded by Lord Cornwallis in the year 1784.

Lord Cornwallis introduced the Permanent Settlement wherein it was stated the British would collect land revenues from the Zamindars till eternity. Under the administration of Lord Wellesley the kingdom of Mysore was annexed after fierce battle with Tipu Sultan and then eventually the state of Punjab was conquered. This annexation of Punjab led to the spread of British rule across India.

Major Causes for growing Anti-British sentiment:
  • As British Administration annexed different states, many previously appointed soldiers were left jobless. This caused resentment among deserving soldiers.

  • Hurting Religious Sentiments: The Indian soldiers employed under the British were made to use a special type of cartridge that was to be bitten off before being loaded in a rifle. It was rumored that the cartridges were greased with cow and pig fat. This angered the Hindus and Muslims as it hurt their religious sentiments and led to Sepoy Mutiny.

  • Doctrine of Lapse: Lord Dalhousie introduced an annexation policy according to which any princely states would directly come under British control in case the ruler does not have a son.

  • Forced Christianity: The British started to impose Christianity to provoke people further. Taxes were collected form temples and mosques and Hindu and Muslim soldiers were asked to accept the faith of Christianity.

  • Permanent Settlement wherein it was stated the British would collect land revenues from the Zamindars till eternity.

  • Divide and Rule: The policy adopted by Britishers was sometimes summed up as Divide and Rule, taking advantage of the enmity festering between various princely states and social and religious groups.

  • Great Famine: During the famine of 1769-70, the East India Company did absolutely nothing to help the people and the state of Bengal was reduced from a rich princely state to an impoverished state. Almost one third of the people died as a result of the famine which triggered off resentment among the rest of the population.

  • Cellular Jail: These Jails were built in Andaman Islands in 1906. As there were many movements against Britishers by the Freedom Fighters of India, these jails were used to imprison them and torture to the extreme of hell. The sentence to these jails was called “Kala Paani”. This kind of severe treatment was aimed at breaking the spirit of these freedom fighters.

India Uprising


With time many acts and amendments passed by Britihers met with dissatisfaction and resentment by the Indians. As a result the Indians formed large groups and revolted against the British. Each movement was brutally crushed the British forces. Leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Lala Rajpat Rai, Subhash Chandra Bose, and many others arose and openly condemned the British. They were people's leaders who inspired the masses not to be afraid of the forces.
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