Imperialism in India

Task: You have 15minutes to complete questions 1-5. When you are done, complete the four questions on the back.


(1) The Mughals
‡ The British conquest of India was a gradual one. As early as the 1600s, the British East India Company was only able to set up trading posts at Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta by establishing trade agreements with the powerful Mughal Empire.


The Great Moghul Jahangir: Letter to James I, King of England, 1617 A.D.
When your Majesty shall open this letter let your royal heart be as fresh as a sweet garden. Let all people make reverence at your gate; let your throne be advanced higher; amongst the greatness of the kings of the prophet Jesus, let your Majesty be the greatest, and all monarchies derive their counsel and wisdom from your breast as from a fountain, that the law of the majesty of Jesus may revive and flourish under your protection. The letter of love and friendship which you sent and the presents, tokens of your good affections toward me, I have received by the hands of your ambassador, Sir Thomas Roe (who well deserves to be your trusted servant), delivered to me in an acceptable and happy hour; upon which mine eyes were so fixed that I could not easily remove them to any other object, and have accepted them with great joy and delight. Upon which assurance of your royal love I have given my general command to all the kingdoms and ports of my dominions to receive all the merchants of the English nation as the subjects of my friend; that in what place soever they choose to live, they may have free liberty without any restraint; and at what port soever they shall arrive, that neither Portugal nor any other shall dare to molest their quiet; and in what city soever they shall have residence, I have commanded all my governors and captains to give them freedom answerable to their own desires; to sell, buy, and to transport into their country at their pleasure. For confirmation of our love and friendship, I desire your Majesty to command your merchants to bring in their ships of all sorts of rarities and rich goods fit for my palace; and that you be pleased to send me your royal letters by every opportunity, that I may rejoice in your health and prosperous affairs; that our friendship may be interchanged and eternal. Your Majesty is learned and quick-sighted as a prophet, and can conceive so much by few words that I need write no more. The God of heaven give you and us increase of honor. 3

European Settlements in India (1498-1739)


(2) The Fall of the Mughals
‡ By 1707, however, the Mughal Empire was collapsing. Led by Muslim leader Aurangzeb, who ended religious tolerance, internal strife had fractured the empire into dozens of small states, each headed by a ruler or maharajah. Some of these maharajahs supported British intervention because they believed a close alliance with the Europeans would allow themselves to gain more power.
Hi, I m Augangzeb: Emperor of the Mughals and religious fanatic.


(3) Battle of Plassey
‡ In 1757, Robert Clive was sent by the British East India Company to lead East India Company troops in a decisive victory over Mughal forces allied with the French at the Battle of Plassey. By launching a surprise attack on the Mughals camp with 1,350 Europeans and 800 Indian soldiers and aided by the cover of fog, he was able to obtain the surrender of Mughal emperor Mir Jahar, who was abandoned by his fleeing troops. India became a colony of the British under the control of the British East India Company, who gradually took over more and more territory from Indian princes.



(4) Corporate Imperialism: Sepoys
‡ At first, the British East India Company ruled India with little interference from the British government and practiced indirect rule of the colony. The military was still mostly composed of Indians. The British East India Company hired sepoys, or Indian soldiers, to maintain control of the colony.


(5) Corporate Imperialism: Zamindars
‡ At first, the British East India Company tried to run the colony as cheaply and easily as possible and did not make many dramatic changes. Local officials, called Zamindars, who under the Mughals had owned huge tracts of land continued to collect taxes. The Zamindars were like the nobles of feudalism they collected one third of the produce of the land was collected by local officials who were entitled to keep a proportion for themselves.


The Company Resident and His Puppet
undated Indian painting

As zamindars enforced company policy requiring farmers to grow a certain amount of cash crops, they were frequently seen by peasants as the enemy. How does this artist represent social inequality in this picture?

(5) Corporate Imperialism
‡ Additionally, they were not concerned with making any dramatic social changes. For instance, the company did appoint British judges to supervise Indian courts. Aside from officially outlawing certain practices, like sati (pictured to the side), child marriage, and slavery, these courts were allowed to apply Hindu or Islamic rather than British law. ‡ Company men like Warren Hastings, who ruled British Bengal from 1772 to 1785, believed that Indian institutions were well adapted to Indian needs and that the new British governments should try to restore an 'ancient constitution', which had been ruined by Mughal misrule.

Sati was when a widow was forced to light herself on fire with her husband s funeral pyre.


‡ Watering a man without breaking caste rules. For an Untouchable, a member of the lowest Hindu social class, the rules are many, with prohibitions on everything from physical contact with higher castes to drinking from central village wells.


(6) Corporate Imperialism: Increasing Profitability

However, the company still ruled with one intent in mind: to make the most money. India was viewed as the jewel in the crown of the British empire. The Industrial Revolution had turned Britain into the world s workshop. Its 300 million people were also a large potential market for British-made goods. To ensure that Indians only bought British manufactures, they created internal taxes within India where it was cheaper to buy imported British goods than to buy locally made goods. As a result, the once booming Indian economy crumbled. The Indian hand-woven cloth industry was eliminated, as was metalwork, glass, paper, and ship manufacturing. This process was so significant that some historians refer to this as the deindustrialization of India.



Indians illegally producing their own clothes


(7) Corporate Imperialism: Changes to farming
‡ As workers were pushed out of manufacturing and forced to the find jobs as farmers, they still found their work was carefully monitored. Farmers were required to cash crops like tea, indigo, cotton, jute, and of course, the all-important drug opium. As a result, food production within India fell 7% while large exports of grain where shipped to England to improve British diet. Under British control, India experienced several severe famines.


About 7 million Indians died during the famine of The Good: Creating Hospitals 1876 when the British forced Nursinggrow cotton & Teaching India to instead of food and continued to collect harsh taxes.

Corporate Imperialism: Improved Infrastructure
‡ However, the British did reinvest some of the collected tax money into improving India. As an Englishman of the time noted, British brains, British enterprise, and British capital have changed the face of India. Means of communication have been developed. There are great numbers of bridges, more than 40,000 miles of railway, and 70,000 miles of paved roads. These testify to the skill and industry of British engineers. Irrigation works on a very large scale and have brought 30 million acres under cultivation. This has greatly added to the agricultural wealth of the country. Industrialization has also begun. India now has improved sanitation and a higher standard of living. It has a fine transport system and carefully thought-out schemes for relief work. Because of these things famines have now almost disappeared. Although the author of this quote clearly underestimated the impact of famine, the British did provide relief the relief to famine stricken areas by providing food at relief centers. They built hospitals. They built schools. The literacy rate grew. The British successfully spread the technologies and accomplishments of the Industrial Revolution to India.

Top - The Indian Railway was the third largest in the world. Middle British officials handing out aid to famine victims. Bottom- The Mullaperiyar Dam increased food production. 18







Universities trained doctors, lawyers, and other professionals


Indian Resentment: Missionaries

Despite the benefits of modern advances, many Indians believed that in addition to controlling their land, the British were trying to convert them to Christianity. Thousands of Protestant missionaries were sent to India.

Indian Resentment: Racism

Additionally, Indians began to resent the constant racism the British expressed toward them. For instance, a British engineer on the East India Railway was paid 20 times as much money as a Indian engineer with the same education. It was typical for a British person to have as many as thirty servants to wait on them hand and foot. It was impossible for any Indian to have any access to such wealth as they were barred from top posts in the Indian Civil Service and military. Segregation was encouraged. Indians would have to wait until after Europeans to be served in any business. The average Indian was confronted with daily racism.


‡ Left: Photograph of Christian missionaries and churches in India ‡ Bottom: Indian painting of a Christian missionary



Sepoy Mutiny
All this resentment boiled over in 1857. A rumor had spread among the sepoys, or Indian soldiers, that the cartridges of their new Enfeild rifles were greased with beef and/or pork fat. To use the cartridges, soldiers had to bite off the ends. Both Hindus, who consider the cow sacred, and Muslims, who do not eat pork, were outraged by the news.


Sepoy Mutiny
‡ A garrison commander was shocked when 85 of his 90 sepoys refused to accept the cartridges. These soldiers were then jailed for refusing orders and most were sentenced to 10 years hard labor. The next day, on May 10, 1857, sepoys went on a rampage. They killed about fifty men, women, and children. One woman was stabbed to death, while another had her clothes set on fire. The rebellion soon spread countrywide. An army of sepoys marched to Delhi, where they were joined by Indian soldiers stationed there. They captured the city of Delhi. From Delhi, the rebellion spread to northern and central India. It took over a year to regain control of the colony, and even then it was only after the British government sent troops to help. This mutiny marked a turning point in Indian history. The British government took direct control of the colony away from the British East India Company. Despite the fact the Sepoy Mutiny officially failed, some say this Great Rebellion was the beginning of the end of the British colony. Whereas under indirect control there was some limited cooperation by certain groups of Indians, under direct control nationalism flourished. Indians began to demand an independent country as they believed that they were second class 31 citizens in their own country.




English depiction of European men, women, and children, murdered by Sepoys



Crimes committed by the British
‡ In retaliation for crimes against the British, captured sepoys were subjected to severe torture. Before being hung, they would be forced to swallow beef or pork or lick the floors of a home where women and children were massacred. In some cases, captured mutineers would be strapped to a cannon and blown apart.

Executed leaders of the Sepoy Mutiny ‡ In 1857, the Sepoy soldiers rebelled against the British when they heard rumors Indians that the hired by England were bullets they to using serve as soldiers were coated with animal (cow or pig) fat ‡ The Sepoy Mutiny was crushed by the British army but revealed hostility between Indians & British

Despite promising many of the princes who remained loyal to England during the rebellion that they could continue the autonomy granted by previous treaties, England limited their power and took greater and greater control of all parts of India.


Secundra Bagh after the slaughter of 2,000 Rebels by the 93rd Highlanders and 4th Punjab Regiment. Albumen silver print by Felice Beato, 1858.



British soldiers looting Qaisar Bagh, Lucknow, after its recapture (steel engraving, late 1850s)



Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi was one of the principal leaders of the Great Uprising of 1857 after losing her kingdom as a result of the British East India Company s Doctrine of Lapse. This was a law that said an ruling family with no male heir would lose their title and land to the British Empire.


Bahadur Shah Zafar (last mughal emperor) exiled in Rangoon. Photograph by Robert Tytler and Charles Shepherd, May 1858.
After the Sepoys tried to restore the last Mughal emperor to the throne, he was exiled from India.



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