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British Industrialization in India

With two degrees in history, I enjoy researching and writing about historical events that the history books tend to gloss over.

East India Company


The East India Company

In 1600 the East India Company was granted a royal charter, which conferred the monopoly of English trade in Asia and the Pacific. Eventually, the Company became a military strong arm for itself. The war between Britain and France in the 1740’s had spread to India. The war culminated in 1757 when the East India Company seized control of Bengal. To further bolster the military presence of the Company, the Mughal Emperor granted the Company the right to reap the revenues of Bengal, Orissa, and Bihar in 1765. After several years of bloody rebellion against the East India Company by the Indian people, British Crown Rule was then established in India in 1858, ending the rule of the East India Company. The influence of British rule changed how India developed. Britain, through Crown Rule, created controversial railways for import and export in India, caused economic changes, and paved the way for Indian self-rule.


The Great Rakasha

Prior to industrialization, transportation in India was conducted by road or water. The roads were few and poorly maintained, with some not even accessible during monsoon season. Along the roads, trade goods were either moved in carts or carried on the heads of the porters. Water transportation was restricted to the Indus, Ganga river basins, and along the coast. Railways were first introduced in India to make transport of raw cotton easier and more cost effective for British merchants. A railway system would also open the Indian market to British goods. The railroad boosted India’s commercial modernization, however, Indians did not like the railroad and referred to it as the Great Rakasha (ghost). The trains were designed to bolster the British economy, not help the local Indian people. As an unforeseen and unintended result, the export of grain from India drove the prices so high that poor Indian workers could not afford it. Furthermore, the trains also transported epidemic diseases from station to station facilitating the rapid spread of disease.


Economic Expansion

India, a largely agrarian society, had a variety of industries. After 1850, being under Crown rule, India again became a primarily agrarian society for British manufacturing. Plantations for jute and cotton were built and steel mills erected. With the exception of textile factories, all other industry was under British control. The industry growth rate was comparable to other contemporary countries at that time. Unfortunately, this industrial growth ended the smaller cottage industry manufacturing in the country.

This caused the Indian economy to change. It turned into an importer of cheap British manufactured goods while exporting and depriving themselves of grains, teas, and other goods. Additionally, there was a draining of the wealth of India by the British. As almost all markets were British owned, the revenue from those markets went back into British pockets. During Crown Rule, there was not advancement in Indian economy, and the citizens lived very poorly. According to economist Radhakamal Mukherjee, the wages of Indian Laborers were reduced by fifty percent during British rule.


Indian Home Rule

In 1870 Viceroy Lord Mayo’s Resolution sought to decentralize power to efficiently meet people’s demand and add to the finances of colonial regime. It began to bring about local institutions. Later, in 1882 Lord Ripon set out to further recognize local governments and work with them. It was not until the twentieth century, however, that real steps began to be taken to free India of colonial rule. The desire for Indian Home Rule gave rise to the National Congress. According to Gandhi, there were English that desired Home Rule in India just as much as Indians. He goes on to state that through the National Congress, Indians were brought from all over, and became enthused of the idea of Nationality, or Nationalism. The Congress desired self-government modeled after Canada. It was not until 1947 that the Indian Independence Act was signed, granting India freedom to govern themselves.


Indian Independence Act

Britain, through Crown Rule, created controversial railways for import and export in India. This caused economic changes and paved the way for Indian self-rule. While benefits and detriments of British rule in India has been debated for years, it cannot be denied that under their influence, India was changed forever. India served under British Rule for over two hundred years. First under the East India Company, and then under Crown Rule. A market for Indian goods was created in England which facilitated the building of railways in India.

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The increase in trade, however, depleted the needed food goods that those in rural India so greatly needed. The expanded British trade destroyed India’s cottage industries and drove up prices until Indians could not afford their own goods. Eventually, India tired of being under the thumb of England and even prominent British serving in India, felt that India’s own rule would be best for the country. It took until 1947, when the Indian Independence Act granted India the freedom to govern themselves.

Works Cited

Morayef, Soraya. "A Brief History of the English East India Company 1600–1858 | Qatar Digital

Library." Soraya Morayef. August 13, 2014. Accessed October 29, 2017.

Kaul, Dr Chandrika. "History - British History in depth: From Empire to Independence: The

British Raj in India 1858-1947." BBC. March 03, 2011. Accessed October 29, 2017.

"Infrastructure and railroads." Infrastructure and railroads | Environment & Society Portal.

Accessed October 29, 2017.

"Industrial Development in India during the British Rule." History Discussion - Discuss

Anything About History. December 30, 2015. Accessed October 29, 2017.

Local self-government in India. Accessed October 29, 2017.

Gandhi, Mahatmas. Indian Home Rule. Cambridge University Press, 1997.

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