India and the British Empire
India was the greatest jewel in the British Empire’s crown and although it started off as a commercial venture, the impact that the British had on the sub-continent remains practically to this day after 300 years of rule. The beginnings with the East India Company were quite daredevil with several risks being taken but after the British took control of the trade routes inside India, their economic power simply exploded.
The East India Company ran India like a fiefdom, and it brought great profits to its shareholders as well as to Britain as a whole. The creation of agricultural crops such as tea and rice as well as a vast quantity of trade in silk, brought untold riches back to the British Isles. Another aspect of British colonization was the weakening of the Mughal Empire, that brought about a further influx of European powers into the mix such as French, Dutch and the Portuguese. The British also courted the Mughal Emperor and slowly usurped his lands until the 1857 Mutiny when he was banished from power. The British were very canny at acquiring further influence in the region and through the East India Company, they managed to do away with all the competing powers in one fell swoop.
One of the more positive aspects of colonization was the introduction of the British system of government inside India. The enormity of the country proved that it was difficult to govern, but with several Princes conducting treaties with the British, control of several areas was far simpler. The raising of the Indian army and the accomplishments of the native soldiers was another important aspect of British colonization.
The Industrial Revolution definitely changed the way the British administered India since the country was seen as an immense opportunity to put the railway system into practice. Probably the greatest achievement of the British was the building of the Indian railway network that spanned three countries and that remains in use up to this day.
The Indian Mutiny of 1857 was a wakeup call for the British and this also spent the end of the East India Company with the country eventually coming under the direct administration of the British crown. Although nationalist sentiment continued to create ferment, the brutal suppression of the mutiny heralded a new age in the relations between the British and the Indians.
Another important aspect that came with the British colonisation of India was the bequeathing of some impressive architecture. The building of a new capital in Delhi was certainly awesome with huge buildings, especially the Viceroys Palace that was designed by Edward Lutyens, creating a sense of awe and belonging for the British. The mountainous settlement of Simla, was another jewel, palatial villas set in the cool, leafy glades that were far away from the heat of the cities.
Viewed from a neutral perspective, one could say that British colonization of India was largely positive although the negative aspects such as subjugation cannot be denied. When India gained independence in 1947, the country had matured and would take much of the influence of the last 300 years with it, although its partition along sectarian and religious lines was to prove tragic. The Industrial Revolution changed India and brought the railways that are still being used to this day. One could call this the ultimate legacy of colonialism.