The Impact Of The British Empire On Colonial India

India, a land of heavenly nature and cultural diversity; home to some of the most intellectual geniuses; filled with ornate architecture gifted by God to mankind in the form of mountains, beaches, and waterfalls. The country possesses a variety of fabrics, including, silk, cotton, and Cashmere wool, all necessary in our daily lives. India stands to be the top exporter of spices, that takes our food another step closer to perfection. But all this has changed once the British attained control of India. In 1858, the British colonized India through support provided by the East India Company, a group of British trading officials, who captured superior control over the trading exchanges within India. The British Raj had many negative impacts from the 200 years that it ruled India in many aspects of government, which include economy, population growth, and health of the citizens.

The governing style that the British Empire implemented in Colonial India negatively impacted India’s foreign relations and economy. The many restrictions and tariffs that the British imposed on Indian peasants caused revolts to occur. These taxes forcibly collected by the British government were used for the betterment of the military, which was necessary to terminate the signs of a revolution that was visible among the Indian presence. In 1835, the British Raj imposed taxes on salt which was an essential commodity of the time. The peasants were forced to accept these constraints and did not know how to approach the British. Mahatma Gandhi, one of the most significant freedom fighters of India, conducted the Salt March, a protest against the taxation of salt along with the poet, Sarojini Naidu. The British took immediate action against the Indians and “. . . 2,500 peaceful marchers were attacked and beaten by police. . . 60,000 people were in jail”. Many of the arrested victims included freedom fighters like Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, who remained in custody for over 6 months, facing the ill-treatment of the British officials. The prisoners were forced to eat bland food with no spices, including salt. They were also not allowed to drink tea or coffee. Once Gandhi returned home from jail, he made a decision that In his book, The Story of My Experiments With Truth, Gandhi wrote a quote showing how much he detests the British and their government, “an occasion which compelled me to give up salt altogether, and this restriction I continued for an unbroken period of ten years”. Gandhi didn't want to give the British Raj any extra money through taxes that he could refrain from paying. Thus, he gave up eating salt for over 10 years, until the salt taxes were no more. Many freedom fighters followed steps of non-violence originally proposed by Gandhi to protest against the British Empire.

The high taxes on everyday necessities caused great struggles in the lives of the peasants, as they were facing difficulties paying the extra charges on top of their daily spendings. Indians suffered severely during times of drought and famine because despite facing a loss of income due to the failure of crops, the peasants still had to hand in their monthly taxes to the British Empire. Ghulam Hussain precisely mentions this through a quote in his book, Siyar -Ul-Mutakherin, “[Indian peasants] were simultaneously fighting nature and the British Raj. ” This caused many cultivators to leave their homes and farmland to avoid paying the high taxes that the British forced upon the peasants. The poverty and death tolls skyrocketed, as well. “Fifty to sixty persons died from the effects of hunger every day in the public streets of Patna. The numbers of beggars in the city of Patna rose to about eight thousand”. Indians tried to sneak onto ships, run away, and even commit suicide in order to escape the severe taxes demanded by the British Empire. The high taxation of the British Raj caused a decrease in the population and economy of the country.

The British used Indian resources and foreign relations to implement forceful and unfair trade exchanges, resulting in an increase of British wealth. The East India Company (EIC), a group of British merchants, voluntarily arrived in India pre-British rule and established a trading system within the country to hold absolute power on all the imports and exports that crossed the borders of India. The EIC was believed to be a good trading company, but later “became involved in politics and acted as an agent of British imperialism in India from the early 18th century to the mid-19th century”. Once the EIC and the British Raj united, all things went downhill for India. India’s foreign relations were severely hurt and the economy plummeted. One of the most impactful trade exchanges that occurred during the reign of the British Raj was the Opium Wars, which was a war between the British and China over the trade of opium. The British Raj wanted porcelain and tea found in China, but the Chinese government was not willing to trade it for Indian spices. Thus, the British took an extreme step forward and smuggled opium, an illegal drug that grew on Indian premises, into China in exchange for the goods that they desired. This highly addictive drug resulted in an increase in death tolls in China. China was not able to control the British Raj and thus came to a conclusion to dump the “1200 tons of opium” into the pools of the country near the borders of India and China. “It took 500 workers more than three weeks to get rid of it all”. The Opium Wars was considered a great tragedy and the world belived that it was both the British and the Indians’ fault, even though the Indians had no way of resisting the event from taking place. The Opium Wars is a prime example of how the reign of the British brought about a bad reputation to India and ruined its foreign trade relations.

The establishment of the East India Company caused an upsurge in slavery throughout Indian territories. Thousands of Indian serfs were transported to Africa and Europe on ships to work at British businesses for agricultural and trading purposes under harsh conditions, including minimum wage, scraps of food, and cramped dormitories. Additionally, in recent years, there were thousands of forms and paperwork found throughout the country showing details of the Indian peasants who were enslaved and forced to depart from their families. “239,000 people came from India to Guyana alone…”. It can only be given up to the imagination how many more must have gone to other parts of Africa and Europe. One of the reasons that slavery became popular in India was because it was one of the only countries that allowed for the enslavement of peasants at the time. The establishment of the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 in Britain, forced British officials to practice slavery in India, resulting in an increase in the enslavement rates of the country. The East India Company was the largest contributor to slavery in India, due to their use of Indian peasants, along with slaves from Indonesia and West Africa to harvest spices and cotton from plantations. “The East India Company traded between 2,773 and 3,304 African slaves” into India from their homeland to work for trading companies in India. This caused the slavery rates in India to skyrocket, giving the country a bad reputation overall. It was unfair to enslave Indians in their own motherland, however, it is inhumane to bring peasants from other countries to work in countries that are not their own.

Due to the crime and corruption left in India as a result of the British officials’ exploitations, India has retained a lower stance of global power in the world. Before the British took over India, it was one of the richest and most culturally diverse countries in the world. India was home to a great collection of fabrics and spices, which helped trade relations and economy of the country. But once the British took control, the poverty and malnutrition rates of the location increased immensely. “As of 1994, over one-half of all children under the age of 15 were either severely or moderately malnourished. ” In 1947, the British Raj ended and India was free from absolute control. However, the British monarchy left India in complete ruins, and the country continues to be one of the nations with the highest poverty and malnutrition rates. This clearly depicts the levels of ill-treatment the British laid upon Indians. In his paper, Poverty in India: An Empirical Analysis, journalist Bobby Ghosh talks about how the drop in the economy led to the decrease of citizens with shelter and food. This drop in the economy also led to an increase in kids who are severely or moderately malnourished. Pre-British rule, many countries wanted to become allies and trade with India due to the amount of wealth it possessed and high-quality goods it generated. However, currently, many ties have been broken and Indian goods are not as valued by the world. “Although Gandhi’s campaign to win independence for India was ultimately successful, the British, in leaving India, decided to partition it into two parts – India and Pakistan”.

At a time of celebration and revival for India, finally becoming an independent nation of the world, the British announced a partition between India and Pakistan based on religious conflicts that lied between them. British said that it was for the people’s good, but this forced the two countries to develop and gain power separately instead of a whole. This hurt the relationship between India and Pakistan as people in the two places started to build rage for each other, which led to civil wars amongst the two locations, hurting the economy even more. Many freedom fighters who were involved in the independence acts of India were also very disappointed about the partition of the two countries, but there was nothing else that could be done.

The British Empire became the cause of many downfalls in the Indian government, economy, trading and foreign relations. The British Empire lead India to achieve a lower stance in the world, contrasting to India pre-British rule. The reign of the British resulted in an increase in poverty, malnutrition, and population decline throughout the country. It was also a cause of a plummeting economy in the country due to the broken Indian foreign relations, once they left the nation due to high taxation, unfair trade exchanges, and forced labor. Thus, not only did the British give India a bad reputation in some instances, but it also gave Britain many disadvantages from the history of slavery and deceitful actions.

10 December 2020
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