British Imperialism in India The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire

The British Expand control over India

The image above represents The Battle of Plassey. This Battle was significantly important and led to the East India Company becoming the leading power in India. It was the beginning of British control.

The East India Company quickly took advantage of the growing weakness of the Mughals. In 1757, Robert Clive led company troops in a decisive victory over Indian forces at the Battle of Plassey. From that time on, the East India Company was the leading power in India. The area controlled by the company grew over time. Eventually, it governed directly or indirectly an area that included modern Bangladesh, most of southern India, and nearly all the territory along the Ganges River in the north.

The gentleman above is Robert Clive who led the British to victory at the Battle of Plassey in 1757.

East India Company Dominates

The two maps show how the British East India Company obtained territory over time. The areas that are pink show the controlled areas from 1765-1805.
The image above shows the British discussing terms with the local people. The Indians did welcome the British involvement, but they did not have much choice in the matter.

Officially the British government regulated the East India Company's efforts both in London and in India. Until the beginning of the 19th century, the 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.

The image above is of Mountstuart Elphinstone who commented on the sepoy army.
The governor of Bombay, Mountstuart Elphinstone, referred to the sepoy army as "a delicate and dangerous machine, which a little mismanagement may easily turn against us."

This quote from Mountstuart Elphinstone expresses how the sepoy army laid on the fringe of revolt. Elphinstone was concerned that British actions in Indian combined with racism and hatred between the two groups could lead to mass conflict. The sepoy army was a dangerous force in India that was capable of biting the hand that fed it.

"Jewel in the Crown" Produces Trade Products

This image shows British and Indian trade relations and how the British tried to keep a firm hand on the Indians. They tried to keep India locked in with them to milk the country for the most amount of profit.

At first, India was treasured by the British more for its potential than its actual profit. The Industrial Revolution had turned Britain into the world's workshop, and India was a major supplier of raw materials for that workshop. Its 300 million people were also a large potential market for British-made goods. The British set up restrictions that prevented the Indian economy from operating on its own. British policies called for India to produce raw materials for British manufacturing and to buy British finished goods. In addition, Indian competition with British finished goods was prohibited. For example, India's own handloom textile industry was almost put out of business by imported British textiles. Cheap cloth and ready -made clothes from England flooded the Indian market and drove out local producers.

The picture above shows the Indian railway. Once this railway was established India became economically valuable to the British.

India became economically valuable only after the British established a railroad network. Railroads transported raw products from the interior to the ports and manufactured goods back again. The majority of the raw material 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 sold in England.

The image above is a unique depiction of British and Indian relations. In the picture sepoy soldiers can be identified as well as high ranking officials.

Impact of Colonialism: Positive

The image above represents the improved infrastructure as a result of British Colonialism in India.

India both benefited from and was oppressed by British colonialism. On the positive side, the laying of the world's third largest railroad network was a major British achievement. When completed, the railroads enabled India to develop a modern economy and brought unity to the connected regions. Along with the railroads, a modern road network, telephone and telegraph lines, dams, bridges, and irrigation canals enabled India to modernize. Sanitation and public health improved. Schools and colleges were founded, and literacy increased. Also, British troops cleared central India of bandits and put an end to local warfare among competing local rulers.

This is La Martiniere in India. This school is a result of British colonialism and increased the literacy rate.

Impact of Colonialism: Negative

On the negative side, the British held much of the political and economic power. The British restricted Indian-owned industries such as cotton textiles. The emphasis on cash crops resulted in a loss of self sufficiency for many villagers. The conversion to cash crops reduced food production, causing famines in the late 1800s. The British officially adopted a hands-off policy regarding Indian religious and social customs. Even so, the increased presence of missionaries and the outspoken racist attitude of most British officials threatened Indian traditional life.

The graph above represents the amount of deaths that occurred because of the British force of cash crops. This limitation of self sufficiency limited the Indians and resulted in malnutrition and starvation.
The image above reflects British oppression and racism towards the local people.

Indians Rebel

The image above shows Indians ready for conflict because of increased tensions with the British. The local people believed that the British were trying to control their daily life and religion. There was also a great deal of racism.

By 1850, the British controlled most of the Indian subcontinent. However, there were many pockets of discontent. Many Indians believed that in addition to controlling their land the British were trying to convert them to Christianity. The Indian people also resented the constant racism that the British expressed toward them.

Sepoy Rebellion

The image above depicts the Enfield rifle and the grease cartridges that were suppose to be used for them. The cartridge sparked mayhem because of the grease that was believed to be used in the making of it.

As economic problems increased for Indians, so did their feelings of resentment and nationalism. In 1857, gossip spread among the sepoys, the Indian soldiers, that the cartridges of their new Enfield rifles were sealed with beef and pork fat. To use the cartridges, soldiers had to bite off the seal. Both Hindus, who considered the cow sacred, and Muslims, who do not eat pork, were outraged by the news.

This is the attack of the mutineers on the Redan Battery which was part of the Sepoy Mutiny.

On May 10, 1857, the sepoys rebelled. They marched to Delhi, where they were joined by Indian soldiers stationed there. They captured the city of Delhi. From Delhi, the rebellion spread to northern and central India. This was known as the Sepoy Mutiny. The uprising spread over much of northern India. Both the British and the sepoys tried to slaughter each other's armies. The East India Company took more than a year to regain control of the country. The British government sent troops to help them.

This image shows the sepoy rebellion and the mass carnage that occurred. Both armies were determined to completely eradicate one another. One can identify the British soldiers wearing red and the Indian sepoys wearing white.

Indians could not unite against the British due to weak leadership and serious splits between Hindus and Muslims. Hindus did not want the Muslim Mughal Empire restored. The Hindus preferred British rule to Muslim rule. Most of the princes and maharajahs who had made alliances with the East Indian Company did not take part in the rebellion. The Sikhs, a religious group that had been hostile to the Mughals, also remained loyal to the British. The Sikhs became the mainstay of Britain's army in India.

Turning Point

The image above displays British officials trying to assist with famines in India.

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 1947. India was divided up into eleven provinces and some 250 districts.

This picture displays a form of execution that the British used to deal with the Indians during and after the Sepoy Rebellion. There was also a great deal of racism expressed by the British soldiers as well.

The Sepoy Mutiny fueled the racist attitudes of the English. The mutiny increased distrust between the British and the Indians. A political pamphlet suggested that both Hindus and Muslims "are being ruined under the tyranny and oppression of the treacherous English."

This is an image of Lord Kitchener
"It is this consciousness of the inherent superiority of the European which has won for us India."- Lord Kitchener

In this quote Lord Kitchener expresses how the dominant personality and the mindset of the Europeans allowed them to take control of India. The Europeans viewed the local people as incapable and unequal. They saw that with their control the area would flourish rather than it be wasted by the unworthy inhabitants.

Lord Kitchener
"However well educated and clever a native may be, and however brave he may prove himself, I believe that no rank we can bestow on him would cause him to be considered an equal of the British officer"- Lord Kitchener

Here Kitchener expresses the racist attitudes see with some of the officers and officials in India. In his eyes, he believes that these racist attitudes will cause the Indians to always be seen at a lesser level. No matter how hard they work or how hard they prove themselves, those racist attitudes felt by the soldiers are an impassible barrier that will hinder Indian progress.

Indian nationalist movement begins

The image above shows rallies by the local people in order to gain better treatment and more control over the country.

Besides modernization and westernization, nationalist feelings started to surface in India. Indians resented a system that made them second-class citizens in their own country. Even Indians with a European education faced discrimination. They were barred from top posts in the Indian Civil Service. Those who managed to get middle-level jobs were paid less than Europeans. A British engineer on the East Indian Railway, for example, made nearly twenty times as much money as an Indian engineer.

This is an image of the Indian National Congress's flag. It was founded in 1885.
This is the Muslim League's flag. It was founded in 1906

A spirit of Indian nationalism led to the founding of two nationalist groups, the Indian National Congress in 1885 and the Muslim League in 1906. At first, such groups concentrated on specific concerns for Indians. Gradually their demands broadened. By the early 1900s, they were calling for self government.

This photo represents the partition of Bengal which occurred in 1905. The partition led to mass conflict and even acts of terrorism.

The nationalists were inflamed in 1905 by the partition of Bengal. The province, which had a population of 85 million, was too large for administrative purposes. So the British divided it into a Hindu section and a Muslim section. Acts of terrorism broke out. The province was on the edge of open rebellion. In 1911, yielding to the pressure, the British took back the order and divided the province in a different way.

key terms

Sepoy- Indian soldier, used by the British to maintain control.

"Jewel in the crown"- Term was used to describe India, which was the most valuable of all of Britain's colonies.

Sepoy Mutiny- Started on May 10, 1857; The sepoys marched to Delhi, where they were joined by Indian soldiers stationed there. They captured the city of Delhi. From Delhi, the rebellion spread to northern and central India. This outbreak was known as the Sepoy Mutiny.

Raj- The part of India that was under direct British rule was called the Raj; Also the term referred to British rule over India from 1757 until 1947. India was divided into eleven provinces and some 250 districts.



1850- By this time the British controlled most of the Indian subcontinent

May 10, 1857- This was the beginning of the Sepoy Rebellion

1858- The British government took direct control of India

1885- The Indian National Congress was founded

1906- The Muslim League was created

1905- This was the partition of Bengal; this action inflamed nationalist movement

1757- Robert Clive led company troops in a decisive victory at the Battle of Plassey; East India Company was the leading power in India

Important Figures

This is an image of Robert Clive

Robert Clive is an important figure because he opened the doorway for the East India Company to take control. Once he led company troops to victory at the Battle of Plassey in 1757, it ignited a catalyst that allowed the British empire to have a better hold on India. His efforts allowed British colonialism to come into India. In a way he was the start to India's new British controlled future.

This is an image of Ram Mohun Roy

Ram Mohun Roy was a modern- thinking, well educated Indian. He began a campaign to move India away from traditional practices and ideas. He was known as "The Father of Modern India". He called for an end to widow suicide and saw child marriages and the rigid caste separation as parts of religious life that needed to be changed to bring India into a more modern frame of mind. He believed that if the practices were not changed, India would continue to be controlled by outsiders. His writings inspired other Indian reformers to call for adoption of Western ways. Roy also founded a social reform movement that worked for change in India. His efforts drove India towards the path of more western practices and his ideas began to bring the country closer together under the pretenses of nationalism and modernization.

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