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Impact of British Rule on India

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. Industrial Revolution that took place in England, and also the discovery of new
sea and trade routes. 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. The modern period in Indian
history began with the coming of European powers to India and about the coming of the British
to India and the impact it had on the economic, social and cultural spheres.
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.

Earlier, Indian handloom had a big market in Europe. Indian textiles such as cotton, linen, silk
and woolen goods already had markets in Asia and Africa. With the coming of industrialisation
in England, the textile industry there made important headway. There was now a reverse of the
direction of textile trade between Britain and India. There was a massive import of machine
made clothes from English factories to Indian markets. This import of large amount of products
manufactured by mechanical looms in England led to increase threat for the handicraft industries
as the British goods were sold at a much cheaper price. The British succeeded in selling their
goods at a cheap price as foreign goods were given free entry in India without paying any duty.
On the other hand, Indian handicrafts were taxed heavily when they were sent out of the country.
Besides, under the pressure of its industrialists, British government often imposed a protective
tariff on Indian textiles. Therefore, within a few years, India from being an exporter of clothes
became an exporter of raw cotton and an importer of British clothes. This reversal made a huge
impact on the Indian handloom weaving industry leading to its virtual collapse. It also created
unemployment for a large community of weavers. Many of them migrated to rural areas to work
on their lands as agricultural laborers. This in turn put increased pressure on the rural economy
and livelihood. This process of uneven competition faced by the Indian handloom industry was
later dubbed by the Indian nationalist leaders as de-industrialisation. The main aim of the British
was to transform India into a consumer of British goods. As a result, textile, metal work, glass
and paper industries were soon out of work. By 1813, the Indian handicrafts lost both their
domestic as well as foreign market. Indian goods could not compete with the British factory-
made products where machines were used.

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

1) Briefly explain Colonialism. Was Colonialism the cause for underdevelopment?


2) Indian handicrafts lost both domestic and foreign market. Comment
3) Discuss commercialization of Agriculture during colonial rule.

4) What are your perspective on the British Rule in India?