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Constitutional Developments and and its Impact

  • Around the 18th Century a number of significant events took place in the world.

  • One such event was the Industrial Revolution which took place in England. It gradually spread to other countries of Europe also. One such sea route to India was discovered by a Portuguese called Vasco da Gama in 1498.

  • As a result, the English, French, Portuguese and the Dutch came to India for trade. They also used it to spread missionary activities in India.


Impact of British Rule on India: Economic, Social and Cultural (1757-1857)

  • The European and the British traders initially came to India for trading purposes.

  • The Industrial Revolution in Britain led to the increase in demand for raw materials for the factories there.

  • At the same time, they also required a market to sell their finished goods.

  • India provided such a platform to Britain to fulfill all their needs.

  • The 18th century was a period of internal power struggle in India and with the declining power of the Mughal Empire, the British officials were provided with the perfect opportunity to establish their hold over Indian Territory.

  • They did these through numerous wars, forced treaties, annexations of and alliances with the various regional powers all over the country. Their new administrative and economic policies helped them consolidate their control over the country.

  • Their land revenue policies help them keep the poor farmers in check and get huge sums as revenues in return. They forced the commercialization of agriculture with the growing of various cash crops and the raw materials for the industries in the Britain.

  • With the strong political control, the British were able to monopolies the trade with India.

  • They defeated their foreign rivals in trade so that there could be no competition.

  • They monopolized the sale of all kinds of raw materials and bought these at low prices whereas the Indian weavers had to buy them at exorbitant prices.

  • Heavy duties were imposed on Indian goods entering Britain so as to protect their own industry.

  • Various investments were made to improve the transport and communication system in the country to facilitate the easy transfer of raw materials from the farms to the port, and of finished goods from the ports to the markets.

  • Also, English education was introduced to create a class of educated Indians who would assist the British in ruling the country and strengthen their political authority.

  • All these measures helped the British to establish, consolidate and continue their rule over India.


  • When the industrial revolution started in Europe these small states did not have sufficient raw materials for their industries, or markets for their finished goods.

  • These countries now started looking for markets in Asia and Africa.

  • England succeeded in controlling trade with India and established the East India Company in 1600.

  • This company was supported by the British government. With its help England was able to extend her territorial frontiers to the Indian subcontinent. The first factory was established at Surat in 1613.

  • In 1615, Sir Thomas Roe got permission from the Mughal emperor Jahangir to open more factories at Agra, Ahmadabad and Broach.

  • Their most important settlement on the southern coast was Madras where they built a fortified factory called Fort St. George.

  • This was the first proprietary holding acquired by the company on Indian soil. Gradually the company expanded its trading network.

  • By that time the company was well established in India.

  • It had also succeeded in eliminating the other rival European powers from India.

  • They also started interfering in the political affairs of the Indian ruler.

  • These states had their own rulers, economy, language and culture. These states were constantly at war with each other.

  • It was not surprising that they fell an easy prey to the European powers especially the British.

  • It was the battles of Plassey (1757) and Buxar (1764) which provided the ground for the British success in India.

  • Through these battles, a long era of British political control over India began.

  • The Battle of Plassey was won by the English in Bengal. The British made Mir Jafar, the new Nawab of Bengal, in return for which they receive an enormous sum of money as well as the territory of 24 Parganas from the Nawab.

  • But Mir Jafar was not able to make further payments to them. As a result he was replaced by Mir Qasim who proved to be a strong ruler. Mir Qasim was not ready to meet their demands for more money or control.

  • As a result, Mir Qasim was removed and Mir Jafar was made the Nawab again.

  • Mir Qasim then joined hands with the Nawab of Awadh, Shiraj-ud-daula and the Mughal emperor Shah Alla called Buxar on 22 October 1764.

  • Their defeat proved to be decisive. Though the British successfully gained control over Bengal, the imposition of British rule throughout India was not an easy task.

  • A number of regional powers opposed them and tried to resist the efforts of territorial expansion of the British.

1.Anglo-Mysore Wars

  • Mysore emerged as a powerful state under an able leadership of Haider Ali and his son Tipu Sultan in the second half of the eighteenth century. Four wars took place

between Mysore and the British.

  • Finally the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War (1799) ended in the heroic defeat and death of Tipu Sultan.

  • With this a glorious chapter of struggle between Mysore and the English came to an end.

  • Large ports like Kanara, Coimbatore and Seringapatam were secured by the British.

2. Anglo-Maratha Wars

  • The Marathas were another formidable power in western and central India during the second half of the eighteenth century.

  • But the struggle for power among themselves gave the British an opportunity to intervene in their internal matters.

  • Many wars took place between the British and the Marathas mainly on account of the Subsidiary Alliance.

  • The Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817-19) was the last war between them.

  • The English defeated the Peshwa, dethroned him and annexed all his territories. The Peshwa was pensioned off and sent to Bithur near Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh.

3. Anglo-Sikh Wars

  • In north-west India, the Sikhs under their able leader Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1792-1839) became an effective political and military force.

  • The British power in India viewed the rise of the Sikhs as a potential threat.

  • The British thus wanted to bring the Sikhs under control. After the death of Ranjit Singh in 1839, lawlessness prevailed in Punjab.

  • The British took advantage of this and the First Anglo-Sikh War broke out in 1845 which ended with the defeat of the Sikhs.

  • In the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1849, the British finally defeated them in the battle of Gujarat, a town on

  • river Chenab (1849).

  • The Sikh chiefs surrendered and Punjab was annexed by Lord Dalhousie.

  • Maharaja Dalip Singh, the son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh was pensioned off and sent to England.

Other Conquests, System of Alliances and Annexations

  • The Third Battle of Panipat against the Marathas in 1761 had already provided the stage for the success of British in India.

  • Soon many more native states came under British control.

  • This was done by a system of alliances called the Doctrine of Lapse and Subsidiary Alliance.

  • Doctrine of Lapse led to a number of independent kingdoms being annexed to the British Empire.

  • These were the states that were enjoying British protection but their rulers had died without leaving a natural heir to the throne.

  • Their adopted sons could now no longer inherit the property or the pension which was granted to them by the British.

  • In this way Dalhousie annexed the Maratha States of Satara (1848), Sambalpur (1850), Udaipur (1852), Nagpur (1853), Jhansi (1854) and Awadh (1856).

  • In Subsidiary Alliance, the Indian States that were under British protection had to suspend their armies and instead maintain British troops.

  • They also surrendered their control on their foreign affair and let go of their right to make alliances with other foreign states for any purpose, economic or political.

  • In return, they were given protection by the British from their rivals.

  • The policy of annexation affected not only the Indian rulers, but all those who were dependent upon them such as soldiers, crafts people and even nobles.

  • Even the traditional scholarly and priestly classes lost their patronage from these rulers, chieftains, nobles and zamindars, and were thus impoverished.

  • Thus, by the mid- nineteenth century, no single Indian power was there to challenge or resist the British.

  • Assam, Arakhan, North Eastern region and portions of Nepal and Burma were already annexed (1818 to 1826). The British also occupied Sind in 1843.


  • The Industrial revolution has helped the English merchants accumulate a lot of capital from the countries of Asia, Africa and America.

  • They now wanted to invest this wealth in setting up industries and trade with India.

  • The mass production of goods through machines that we witness today was pioneered through the Industrial Revolution which occurred first in England during the late 18th and the early 19th century.

  • This led to a massive increase in the output of finished products.

  • The East India Company helped in financing and expanding their industrial base. During this time there was a class of manufacturers in England who benefited more from manufacturing than trading.

  • They were interested in having more raw materials from India as well as sending their finished goods back.

  • Between 1793 and 1813, these British manufacturers launched a campaign against the company, its trade monopoly and the privileges it enjoyed.

  • Ultimately, they succeeded in abolishing the East India Company’s monopoly of Indian trade. With this India became an economic colony of Industrial England.


  • Indian society underwent many changes after the British came to India.

  • In the 19th century, certain social practices like female infanticide, child marriage, sati, polygamy and a rigid caste system became more prevalent. These practices were against human dignity and values.

  • Women were discriminated against at all stages of life and were the disadvantaged section of the society.

  • They did not have access to any development opportunities to improve their status.

  • Education was limited to a handful of men belonging to the upper castes.

  • Brahmins had access to the Vedas which were written in Sanskrit.

  • Expensive rituals, sacrifices and practices after birth or death were outlined by the priestly class.

  • When the British came to India, they brought new ideas such as liberty, equality, freedom and human rights from the Renaissance, the Reformation Movement and

  • the various revolutions that took place in Europe.

  • These ideas appealed to some sections of our society and led to several reform movements in different parts of the country.

  • At the forefront of these movements were visionary Indians such as Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Aruna Asaf Ali and Pandita Ramabai.

  • These movements looked for social unity and strived towards liberty, equality and fraternity.

  • Many legal measures were introduced to improve the status of women. For example, the practice of sati was banned in 1829 by Lord Bentinck, the then

  • Governor General. Widow Remarriage was permitted by a law passed in 1856.

  • A law passed in 1872, sanctioned inter-caste and inter-communal marriages. Sharda Act was passed in 1929 preventing child marriage.

  • The act provided that it was illegal to marry a girl below 14 and a boy below 18 years.

  • All the movements severely criticized the caste system and especially the practice of untouchability.

  • The impact of the efforts made by these numerous individuals, reform societies, and religious organizations was felt all over and was most evident in the national movement.

  • Women started getting better education opportunities and took up professions and public employment outside their homes.

  • The role of women like Captain Laxmi Sehgal of Indian National Army (INA), Sarojini Naidu, Annie Besant, Aruna Asaf Ali and many others were extremely important in the freedom struggle.

Colonial Ideologies of Civilizing Mission Utilitarian's and Missionaries

  • Colonial ideology of civilizing mission was an attempt of intervening in the social and cultural lives of colonized people on the ground of bringing reforms and change.

  • On the basis of two different measures of pursuing colonial ideology of intervention for bringing civilizational change, we could understand these different measure under two broader categories of Utilitarianism, and (Missionaries) Evangelicalism.

  • Civilizing mission was a central part of French colonial ideology. It played a crucial role in continuation of French colonial policy of assimilation. Process of assimilation was required to bring the remotely located colonized population under the ambit of French government.

  • They were doing this by treated colonial subject as a part of mainland France administratively and conceptually. Assimilation as a colonial policy had been derived via the French revolution. French revolution has given the concept of liberty, equality and fraternity for whole human kind.

  • Colonial ideology of civilizing mission became the basic ground for policy of assimilation.

  • Through this colonial ideology of civilizing mission, French colonies provided the best education and cultural facilities to the colonial subject but in return they demanded the complete renunciation of their own cultural and religious practices.

  • Thus they gained political and economic stability and also earned a national prestige in international domain.

  • Britishers also followed the same path, they also used colonial ideology of civilizing mission to bring India under British colonialism and to justify their intervention in Indian culture and society.

  • Civilizing mission as colonial ideology helped British colonial power to intervene in both public and private aspect of colonized lives. Liberalism as a programmed of reform, developed a coherence it rarely possessed in England.

  • Thomas R. Metcalf argues that on the name of civilizing mission evangelicals, free traders, law reformers, educational reformers, and utilitarian theorist worked side by side in India.


  • They suggested authoritarian reforms and social engineering and Evangelist suggested reform through government intervention in religious and superstitious structures of colonial society in India.

  • Liberal ideology of reform got its fullest expression in utilitarian thinkers and British administrators who govern India during initial decade of 19th century.

  • Utilitarian's started judging everything on the basis of their utility and functions.

  • They started scrutinizing every aspect of cultures and Society in India. They scrutinized art, religion, culture, literature, and laws in India and they judged everything on the basis of their utility and contribution to social progress and where these things are located on civilizational scale.

  • This school was prominently represented by James Mill, Lord William Bentinck, and Lord Dalhousie. As James Mill took charge of East India Company in London he started guiding policies towards India according to utilitarian principle.

  • In his book “History of British India” published in 1817, very first time he argued that, people like Sir William Jones created a myth about India’s glorious past.

  • He denied all glorious interpretation of India’s cultural, spiritual and traditional richness.

  • He emphasized the weakness, and stagnant condition of Indian society, and established the fact that to bring progress in Indian society India needed a change.

  • James Mill served for East India Company for almost seventeen years (1819-1836) and he achieved highest post in East India Company.

  • James Mill was highly influenced with the idea of Scottish Enlightenment. Scottish Enlightenment establishes scientific precision as a true measure of degree of civilization of that society. He set himself the task of ascertaining India’s true state in the scale of civilization.

  • He also disputed William Jones’s claim that Hindus had a glorious past rather he argued that the Hindus did not possess and never had possessed a “high state of civilization”.

  • Hindus according to mill were rather rude people who had made a ‘but few of the earliest steps in the progress to civilization’.

  • He blamed that in India there existed a hideous state of society which was inferior to the British feudal age. He immensely criticizes the priest craft, superstitious and despotism present in Indian society.

  • Jeremy Bentham propounded the Utilitarian principle. In his book A Fragment of Government he argued that ‘it is the greatest happiness of greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong”.

Oriental despotism

  • The Orient means the East, and “despot” is a Greek word that means tyrannical ruler. This idea has been used by different European political philosopher to describe the governing condition in oriental society

  • Aristotle firstly used this term to define the process of oriental governing system in his famous book “Politics”.

  • Later on this term has been used by series of political thinker from Montesquieu, Machiavelli, and Hegel.

  • Thus oriental despotism became a conceptual framework to define Asiatic governing society. This became a guiding idea of Eurocentric interpretation of Asia, Africa, and Middle East.

  • James Mill introduced “Individual Property Right” in India through legislation.

  • Marx further argued that oriental despotism was necessary for “Asiatic Mode of Production”.

  • Asia is an agrarian society and for agricultural society individual property right could not be accepted.

  • Thus oriental despotism is required in this part of world.

Evangelicalism (Missionaries):

  • Evangelicalism argued that religion in India is in most stagnant condition so reform is needed to liberate Indian from the religious trap which is full of superstition and priesthood.

  • They argued that rather than depending upon legislation and rule of law as an agent of change, teaching of Western ethics and values, through (Christianity) would bring reforms in a more subtle and consistent manner.

  • Grant served as a chairmen of British East India Company and served as Member of Parliament in British Parliament.

  • Thus real beginning of western education in India could be traced with the

  • Charter Act of 1813. This act allowed the missionaries to travel to India and also allocated the money sanctioned 100000 rupees per year for two major purposes

1) Revival and improvement of literature and encouragement of local learned people in India.

2) Promotion of scientific knowledge among the native inhabitant.

Dilemma between Utilitarian and Missionary:

  • In this passage we would summaries the dilemma between utilitarian and Missionaries perspective about colonial ideology of civilizing mission in India.

  • In above passage we discussed in detail that Missionary and evangelicalism wanted to pursue their civilizing mission in India through

  • Christianity and English education while Utilitarian used legislation as their tool of civilizing mission.

  • Utilitarian like James Mill, was completely against of the change in system of vernacular education.

  • The epitome of dilemma between utilitarian and missionaries could be realized in enactment of law for abolishment of “Sati Pratha” by Lord William Bentinck.

  • Bentinck was an ardent supporter of James Mill and he abolished “Sati Pratha” and child marriage through legislation. But rather justifying his act on the ground of western education and science, he located the source of these reform in old Hindu Scriptures and texts.

  • Evangelicalism, Macaulay Minute and End of Dilemma between Utilitarian and missionary:

  • On 2 February 1835 Macaulay issued his famous Macaulay Minute on Indian Education which became the blue print of English education in India.

  • He completely denied the fact that India ever was a champion of knowledge and civilization.

  • Macaulay in his minute asserted that “A single shelf of a good European Library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia.”

  • Thus he advocated for India, education in European literature and sciences inculcated through the medium of English language. He further argued that this kind of education would create a class of person, Indian in blood and color but English in test, in opinion, in moral and intellect.

  • Bentinck immediately endorsed his proposal and enacted the law on Seventh March 1835. Lots of Indian historian further elaborated these scheme from different perspective.

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