Chapter 12 The New Imperialism. Section 4 – The British Take Over India. Setting the Scene
Section 4 – The British Take Over India
Ranjit Singh ruled the large Sikh empire in northwestern India during the early 1800s. He had cordial dealings with the British but saw only too well where their ambitions were headed. One day, he was looking at a map of India on which British-held lands were shaded red. "All will one day become red!" he predicted.
Not long after Ranjit Singh's death in 1839, the British conquered the Sikh empire. They added its 100,000 square miles to their steadily growing lands. As Singh had forecast, India was falling under British control.
After the decline of the Mughal Empire in the mid-1800s, the British East India Company gained control of India
India is the seventh largest country in the world - approximately 3,287,000 sq km (1,281,930 sq mi); 18 languages and 800 dialects; Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain religions
The British were able to take over India by exploiting the diverse people and cultures of India
The main goal was to make money, but it also introduced western education, religion, and law
The British worked to end slavery and the caste system, and outlawed sati (suttee)
Discontent began when sepoys were required to serve anywhere, and when a law was passed allowing Hindu widows to remarry
Sepoys of the Bombay, Bengal and Madras armies
In 1857, new rifles using cartridges greased with animal fat were issued to the sepoys, who refused to use them
A section through the .577" Enfield-Pritchett cartridge. The infantryman would tear off the top of the paper cartridge with his teeth and pour the gunpowder inside down the gun barrel.
When the Sepoys were disciplined, it set off the Sepoy Rebellion
An 1859 lithograph depicts the storming of Delhi in 1857 by rebelling Indian sepoys, beginning the Sepoy Rebellion
In 1858, Parliament ended the rule of the East India Company and set up a colonial rule
Britain saw India as a market and a source of raw materials, and built up India’s infrastructure
After the Suez Canal opened in 1869, British trade with India increased greatly
1869 Opening of the Suez Canal
New farming methods and medicines lead to rapid population growth, and in the late 1800s famines swept India
British rule also brought peace and order, promoted justice, and improved travel and communication
A French artist's rendering of Calcutta in the early 19th century.
Some Indians urged following a western model of progress, others felt the answer to change lay within their own culture
Ram Mohun Roy combined both views and because of his influence, he is often hailed as the founder of Indian nationalism
This statue of Raja Rammohun Roy stands outside Bristol Cathedral.
In an essay on whether Indians should be taught in English or their native languages, English historian Thomas Macaulay wrote that: “A single shelf of a good European library is worththe whole native literature of India and Arabia."
The British disagreed among themselves about India - a few admired Indian culture but most British viewed India with contempt
In 1835, Thomas Macaulay articulated the goals of British colonial imperialism most succinctly: "We must do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, words and intellect."
During the years of British rule, a class of western-educated Indians emerged who dreamed of ending imperial rule
In 1885, nationalist organized the Indian National Congress, known as the Congress party, which called for greater democracy
At first, Muslims and Hindus worked together, but in 1906 Muslims formed the Muslim League to pursue their own goals
By the early 1900s, protests and resistance to British rule increased. Some Indian nationalists urged that Indian languages and cultures be restored. More and more Indians demanded not simply self-rule but complete independence. Their goal finally would be achieved in 1947, but only after a long struggle against the British and a nightmare of bloody conflict between Hindus and Muslims.