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Colonial Era in India refers to the period when India was ruled by many European powers. After the decline of Mughal Empire, the fragmented Indian states were taken over by the Europeans. A number of European communities had set their foot in India starting from the 15th century. However it was the British, which ruled India for the longest time spanning a period of more than two hundred years.
Advent of the Portuguese in India
The Portuguese were the first to arrive in India in 1498. It was Vasco da Gama (a Portuguese sailor) who arrived in Calicut (now in Kerala) and discovered India. Further Portuguese established a chain of outposts along the western coast of India. Goa became the seat of Portuguese administration. Though the Muslims were averse to the idea of intermingling with the Europeans, mixed marriages started taking place with the patronage of Alphonse de Albuquerque, the second Portuguese governor in India. However, the invasion of Portugal by Spain in 1580 halted the expansion plans of the Portuguese.
Advent of the French in India
The first French company was set up in 1667 in Surat in Gujarat with Francis Caron as the Director-General. This was followed by another French company which was set up in Masulipatnam after the king of Golconda exempted the king from paying any taxes. The actual French colonialism was started in 1672 after Caron was succeeded by Francis Martin. Historians regard Chandannagar as the first French Colony to be established in 1673 after obtaining permission from Ibrahim Khan, the Nawab of Bengal to establish a trading post on the banks of Hooghly river. Robert Clive and Admiral Watson captured Chandannagar after war broke out between France and Great Britain in 1757. It was however restored to the French in 163 but recaptured by the British in 1794. The French however got back Chanadannagar 1816 and remained a French colony along with Pondicherry till 1950.
Advent of the Danes in India
The Danes established their colony, Fredericknagore in Serampore in West Bengal in 1699 in honor of their ruler King Frederick the Vth. However, the colony failed as a commercial post as it was occupied twice by the English during the war with Denmark. It became a Danish crown colony after the company became bankrupt. Though the Danes failed on the military front, it strengthened its missionary activities in India. In 1799, Reverend William Carey established Asia’s first printing press in Sreerampore to print copies of the Bible. The first western style college, the Serampore College was also established by Carey in 1819. In 1845, the British took over Serampore from Denmark, thereby bringing an end to 150 years of Danish rule in Bengal.
Advent of the Dutch in India
India was not the first Asian country for trade for the Dutch. Jakarta in Indonesia was their first preference as they established a trading post for spices in the city. Their intention was not to gain military power but to focus on trade in India. Gradually they established settlements in Bheemunipatnam in Andhra Pradesh, Cochin in Kerala, and Nagapatnam in Tamilnadu. An important Dutch settlement was Chinsurah in Bengal which they controlled from 1656 to 1825.
Advent of the British in India
The East India Company was formed on December 31, 1600 and along with the Dutch they fought their common enemies – the French and the Portuguese. In 1612 Jahangir received the first British ambassador Sir Thomas Roe and in 1618 signed a treaty with the Mughal Emperor which helped them to become a naval aide. The British gained more control over India after receiving Bombay as part of dowry given to the Portuguese princess Catherine de Braganza, who married Charles II of Britain. What paved their way for control over India was the decline of the Mughal Empire and the fact that smaller powers like the Sikhs, the Marathas and the rulers of Mysore could not unite against their formidable and common enemy – the British. After the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857, the British crown rule was established in 1858 which ended the century old control of the East India Company.