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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
After refusing to use the new cartrdiges, 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
The Results of the Sepoy
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 Britishgeneral, carried out the government's orders.