The East India Company established many things for India including telegraph, railroad, and irrigation systems. It also set up a large army called the Sepoys to defend its interests and India’s borders. The Sepoys were commanded by the British officers and were supported by the units of the British army. Although the Indians benefited from the British rule many resented British rule. The East India Company made sure that British colonist received most of the advantages from the new technology and industrialization. Indian factory workers and servants received very low wages. Farmers got very little for there harvest. Indians could not hold high level positions. Schools also taught English and Western ideas and paid little attention to the long history and advanced culture of India.
Most of the appeal of Imperialism (when one government takes control over a foreign land and governs it as its own), most specifically British Imperialism was economic advancement; “to create large, self-sustaining trading blocks.” Britain exploited India, the crown jewel of their imperialist empire, for the export of many raw materials. In addition, they placed trade laws upon India that restricted its trade with countries other than Britain. India was eventually under the complete control, even the rule of Britain; you could even say that India was occupied by Britain, as there were both political figures, and military troops from Britain in India. Though they exploited India in a way that could have destroyed India’s economy, their presence helped boost India toward modernity with the construction of railroads and other new (at the time) technology.
As the cotton trade declined, Britain, through the English East India Trading Company, forced many things upon India that brought them (Britain) economic benefit. They forced India to ship raw materials (such as spices and textiles) to Britain, rather than using them for their own production. The East India Company came to rise as the predominant trading company in all of India; Britain all but formally established a government in India (they even had their own army in association with the English East India Trading Company, in order to reinforce the laws set by the colonists). With the collapse of local governments, and the destruction of Indian factories and production companies, Britain’s gain of power in India became an easy task. They in addition forced them to buy products imported from Britain that were made with the exported raw materials, rather than simply allowing them to produce the items themselves.
At the same time, the English East India Trading Company participated in the illegal export of opium to China, resulting in the first “Opium War”, in which the Chinese were defeated, and the British trading rights were expanded. Before the establishment of English trading colonies in India, the prices they had to pay for Indian exports were extremely high, higher than they were willing to pay; through their control of the land, they were able to export these materials themselves. India was/is called “the brightest jewel in the imperial crown “, and with control over India, the Indian Ocean, and parts of the African Coast, Britain maintained an incredibly large imperialist trading empire. The English justified their imperialist actions largely through Darwinism. Darwin stated in his works his idea of “Survival of the Fittest”. The English simply took this to mean that, as a result, they were so easily able to take control over India, that they were the stronger people, and therefore meant to be dominant.
The second phase of British imperialism (which begins in 1858), is during a time of “Colonial Imperialism”. Colonial imperialism is when one government not only rules over a foreign land, but establishes an all out colonial government there, and runs the countries affairs. Members of the East India Company attempted to learn the languages of the Indians, but also tried to impose British culture upon the Indians. They encouraged the Indians to act like conformists and dress and act like them. In 1877, Queen Victoria was named the “Empress of India”. During this time, India was exploited for the exportation of even more raw materials such as spices, indigo dye, and textiles. Trade laws were reinforced, and the East India Company’s army enforced these laws.
The Indians may have seen these acts as racist, as the British were obviously subordinating them. Once Britain had complete control of India, the construction of roads, railroads, and telephone/telegraph lines began. In 1869, the Suez Canal, an artificial water passage in Egypt which links the Mediterranean sea, the Gulf of Suez, and the Red Sea all together, making trade in that area much easier) was opened, and increased India’s potential for trade dramatically. The British discouraged Indian industry (obviously not wanting any competition over India’s raw materials, or exports), but encouraged production of crops that they could export for profit, rather than food crops for survival. In 1846, over five hundred-thousand Indians died from famine (in 1876-1879 ten million more Indians / Chinese people died from famine). The poverty level in India increased dramatically, as all of the profit went straight to British colonists.
Britain’s Imperialism in India did have some positive effects on India itself. The English, during the time of their Empire, constructed large railroad systems in India, which connected factories inland with the coastal shipping ports; this railroad system was one of the most developed in the entire world. This rail system helped in the development of the trade industry in Indian, and also helped to prevent famines (food was transportable). The English also established a system of roads, as well as bridges, dams, and even irrigation ditches. They established centers for education, and the literacy rate in India increased significantly, as did health with the establishment of hospitals. With the newly trained professionals and businesspersons in India, a new upper class evolved.
These positive effects did not come without a price. The British claimed all power over India, political and economic. The British’s export of crops left little for Indians to make money off of, and self-sufficiency suffered (especially since they were producing cash crops to sell to the colonists for minimum price, and didn’t even have time or land to produce their own food crops on). The Indians did not simply sit back and allow the British to walk all over them; as a result of growing resentment to the implied racism, and general control implemented by the British, the Indians revolted. In 1857, the Sepoys, a group of Indians hired by the English East India Company, revolted against the British. Through revolt, and others, followed by numerous Nationalist movements, Indians eventually gained independence for themselves in 1947.
As it is shown, through the English East India Company, the British exploited India through direct and colonial imperialism, in order to bring Britain greater economic benefit. Britain came into India and just took control, with no concern for the well-being of the Indians. They brought about the disintegration of Indian industry, and took advantage of India’s raw materials, and fertile land. Britain’s imperialist empire in the Indian subcontinent brought them countless economic benefits, as was the goal when they set out to establish such an empire; but more of the impact of this imperialism takes place in India. So much changes as a result of Britain’s empire.
They left India with one of the worlds most advanced railroad systems (at that time), newly established schools and colleges, new hospitals and medical facilities, and new production factories, as well as a new feeling of class-consciousness. India was almost forced into a state of modernity through the presence of British imperialists. All of the positive effects Britain’s imperialism had on India were not intentional. Everything the British did in order to help India, was actually done in order to help themselves. The railroads, the telegraphs, the roads, the schools, all were done in order to further advance their own trading empire.
Courtney from Study Moose
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