British Imperialism In India The British East India Company set up trading posts at Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta. At first, India's ruling Mughal Dynasty kept European traders under control. By 1707, however, the Mughal Empire was collapsing. Dozens of small states, each headed by a ruler or maharajah, broke away from Mughal control.
Eventually, India's Mughal rulers became puppets of the British. In 1857, British troops exiled the last of the Mughal emperors after an uprising by the Indian people. Nineteen years later, the British proclaimed Queen Victoria Empress of India.
British East India Company Document #1 The Britsh East India Company ruled India with little interference from the British government. The company even had its own army, led by British officers and staffed by sepoys, or Indian soldiers. Most of the company's troops were Hindus or Muslims. About one in six was British. Yet, only the British could be commissioned officers; no Indian could reach a higher rank than that of petty officer . DOCUMENT 1
Economic Restrictions The British held much of the political and economic power. British policies called for India to produce raw materials for British manufacturing and to buy British manufactured goods. In addition, Indian competition with British goods was prohibited. For example, India's own handloom textile industry was almost put out of business by British textiles. Cheap cloth and ready-made clothes from England flooded the Indian market and drove out local producers. To pay for British imports, Indians had to raise cash crops such as tea, pepper, coffee, and cotton. As Indian farmers grew less food, famines became frequent and widespread. DOCUMENT 2
Economic Restrictions Also, under the imperial control of the East India Company, an increasing number of small Indian states were forced to pay dues to the Company for military protection. The lessening of Company profits and a need to recoup debts generated by military efforts, produced a need for higher revenues. Peasant landowners, required to pay their taxes in cash, increasingly had to turn to moneylenders who seized much of this land for nonpayment of loans.
Advancements In Transportation Under the rule of the British, the laying of the world's third largest railroad network was accomplished. The railroads allowed the British to transport raw materials from the interior to the ports and maufactured goods back again. The majority of the raw materials were agricultural products produced on plantations. Plantation crops included tea, indigo, coffee, cotton, and jute. Another crop was opium. The British shipped opium to China and exchanged it for tea, which they then sold in England. DOCUMENT 3
The railroads also allowed India to develop a modern economy and brought unity to connected regions. Along with the railroads, a modern road network, telephone, and telegraph lines, dams, bridges, and irrigation canals enabled India to modernize.
Social Changes Britain introduced changes that affected Indian society. Improved health care and sanitary conditions led to population growth. The British set up schools and colleges to educate higher-caste Indians. The course of study stressed English language and culture. DOCUMENT 4
Ritual of Sati Sati (Su-thi , a.k.a. suttee) is the traditional Hindu practice of a widow throwing herself on her husband's funeral pyre. Sati was prevalent among certain sects of the society in ancient India, who either took the vow or deemed it a great honor to die on the funeral pyres of their husbands. Maha-sati stones (hero-stones) were erected in memory of brave women who committed sati and are periodically worshipped. DOCUMENT 5
There are not many instances of remarriage of widows in Indian history and it is believed that women preferred death to the cursed life of a widow. The ritual of sati was banned by the British Government in 1829. However, it took large scale social reforms by Dayananda Saraswati(of Arya Samaj), Mahatma Gandhi and the like to actually stop the practice. In the modern times, there was one instance of a Sati reported in Rajasthan (late 1980s), that caused a lot of controversy and social turmoil.
Child Marriages In India during the 1860s, marriage meant girls getting married below 8 or 9 years old. It wasn’t until 1880 that child marriage as a problem became a public issue in India during the debate on the Age of Consent Bill. Towards the end of the debate a child wife of eleven years old, Named Phulmani, died when her husband raped her. DOCUMENT 6
The resulting bill compromised at 12 years old. The Honorable J. Gibbs added his comments to Malabari’s notes saying that, "Young mothers become stunted in growth, and often become invalids for life, while children were too often pony and weak." Kadhavdas added to the list of evils, "Early marriage is a great obstacle in the progress of female education." The English, who were ignorant of the long tradition of Indian spiritual literature, declared that there was no religious basis for child marriage and found support for their beliefs from their supporters within the Brahmin caste. Nearly all British educated Indians of the era supported the English position that child marriage was evil and destroying the fabric of Indian society.
The Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 In 1857, new cartridges were issued to Indian troops of the British East Indian Army. These native Indian troops were called Sepoys. The cartridges were rumored to have been greased with cow or pig grease; as such, they were forbidden to the Indian troops because of their religious beliefs. Moslems believe that pigs are unholy, and Hindus believe that it is unholy to kill a cow. The cartridges of this time required a soldier to tear open the cartridge with his teeth, and pour the powder and bullet down the barrel of the gun. This process would have caused the Sepoys to get soul polluting grease directly into their bodies. DOCUMENT 7
After refusing to use the new cartridges, a whole regiment of Sepoy troops were imprisoned by the British. Other Sepoys attempted to free these prisoners and it snowballed into a revolt across all of northern India. There were many massacres where hundreds of Europeans were killed by Sepoys who were bent on revenge and on kicking the British out of India.
Treatment Of Indian Soldiers After The Sepoy Mutiny DOCUMENT 8
The Results of the Sepoy Rebellion The mutiny marked a turning point in Indian history. As a result of the mutiny, in 1858 the British government took direct command of India. The part of India that was under direct British rule was called the Raj. The term Raj referred to British rule over India from 1757 until 1914. India was divided into 11 provinces and some 250 districts. Sometimes a handful of British officials were the only British among a million or so people in the district. A viceroy, or a British-general, carried out the government's orders. DOCUMENT 9
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