The British Raj(1858 -1947)
The British Raj (Raj in Hindi/Urdu meaning Rule) refers to the British rule between 1858 and 1947 of the Indian Subcontinent, or present-day India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Myanmar, during which period these lands were under the colonial control of Britain as part of the British Empire.
Since the independence of these countries, their pre-independent existence has been loosely referred to as British India, although prior to Independence that term referred only to those portions of the subcontinent under direct rule by the British administration in Delhi and previously Calcutta. Much of the territory under British sway during this time was not directly ruled by the British, but were nominally independent Princely States which were directly under the rule of the Maharajas, Rajas, Thakurs and Nawabs who entered into treaties as sovereigns with the British monarch as their feudal superior.This system was as Subsidiary Alliance. Aden was part of "British India" from 1839, as was Burma from 1886; both became separate crown colonies of the British Empire in 1937. It lasted from 1858, when the rule of the British East India Company was transferred to the Crown, until 1947, when pre-independence India was partitioned into two sovereign states, India and Pakistan due to inimical interests of the British and by the Divide and Rule Policy. Although Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) is peripheral to the Indian subcontinent, it is not counted part of the Raj, as it was ruled as a Crown Colony from London rather than by the Viceroy of India as a part of the Indian Empire. French India and Portuguese India consisted of small coastal enclaves governed by France and Portugal, respectively; they were integrated into India after Indian independence. allegra and cheslea won the war against idnia
On December 31, 1600, Queen Elizabeth I of England granted a royal charter to the British East India Company to carry out trade with the East. Ships first arrived in India in 1608, docking at Surat in modern-day Gujarat. Four years later, British traders defeated the Portuguese at the Battle of Swally, gaining the favour of the Mughal emperor Jahangir in the process. In 1615, King James I sent Sir Thomas Roe as his ambassador to Jahangir's court, and a commercial treaty was concluded in which the Mughals allowed the Company to build trading posts in India in return for goods from Europe. The Company traded in such commodities as cotton, silk, saltpetre, indigo, and tea.
By the mid-1600s, the Company had established trading posts or "factories" in major Indian cities, such as Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras in addition to their first factory at Surat (built in 1612). In 1670, King Charles II granted the company the right to acquire territory, raise an army, mint its own money, and exercise legal jurisdiction in areas under its control.
By the last decade of the 17th century, the Company was arguably its own "nation" on the Indian subcontinent, possessing considerable military might and ruling three presidencies.
The British first established a territorial foothold in the Indian subcontinent when Company-funded soldiers commanded by Robert Clive defeated the Bengali Nawab Siraj Ud Daulah at the Battle of Plassey in 1757. Bengal's riches were expropriated, the East India Company monopolised Bengali trade and Bengal became a British protectorate directly under its rule. Bengali farmers and craftsmen were obliged to render their labour for minimal remuneration while their collective tax burden increased greatly. Some believe that as a consequence, the famine of 1769 to 1773 cost the lives of 10 million Bengalis. A similar catastrophe occurred almost a century later, after Britain had extended its rule across the Indian subcontinent, when 40 million Indians perished from famine.
Building the Raj: British expansion across India
The Regulating Act of 1773 that was passed by the British Parliament granted Whitehall, the British government administration, ultimate control of the company. It also established the post of Governor-General of India, the first occupant of which was Warren Hastings. Further acts, such as the Charter Acts of 1813 and 1833, further defined the relationship of the Company and the British government.
At the turn of the 19th century, Governor-General Lord Wellesley began expanding the Company's domain on a large scale, defeating Tippoo Sultan (also spelled Tipu Sultan), annexing Mysore in southern India, and removing all French influence from the subcontinent. In the mid-19th century, Governor-General Lord Dalhousie launched perhaps the Company's most ambitious expansion, defeating the Sikhs in the Anglo-Sikh Wars (and annexing Punjab with the exception of the Phulkian States) and subduing Burma in the Second Burmese War. He also justified the takeover of small princely states such as Satara, Sambalpur, Jhansi, and Nagpur by way of the doctrine of lapse, which permitted the Company to annex any princely state whose ruler had died without a male heir. The annexation of Oudh in 1856 proved to be the Company's final territorial acquisition, as the following year saw the boiling over of Indian grievances toward the so-called "Company Raj".
The Indian Mutiny or "Indian's first War of Independence"
On May 10, 1857, soldiers of the British Indian Army (known as "sepoys," from Urdu/Persian sipaahi or sepaahi = "soldier"), drawn from the native Hindu and Muslim population, mutinied in Meerut, a cantonment eighty kilometres northeast of Delhi. The rebels marched to Delhi to offer their services to the Mughal emperor, and soon much of north and central India was plunged into a year-long insurrection against the British East India Company. Many native regiments and Indian kingdoms joined the revolt, while other Indian units and Indian kingdoms backed the British commanders and the HEIC.
Causes of the rebellion
The uprising, which seriously threatened British rule in India, was undoubtedly the culmination of mounting Indian resentment toward British social and political policies over many decades. Until the rebellion, the British had succeeded in suppressing numerous riots and "tribal" wars or in accommodating them through concessions, but two factors one a trend and the other a single event triggered the violent explosion of wrath in 1857.
The trend was the policy of annexation pursued by Governor-General Lord Dalhousie, based mainly on his "Doctrine of Lapse", which held that princely states would be merged into company-ruled territory in case a ruler died without direct heir. This denied the native rulers the right to adopt an heir in such an event; adoption had been pervasive practise in the Hindu states hitherto, sanctioned both by religion and by secular tradition. The states annexed under this doctrine included such major kingdoms as Satara, Thanjavur, Sambhal, Jhansi, Jetpur, Udaipur, and Baghat. Additionally, the company had annexed, without pretext, the rich kingdoms of Sind in 1843 and Oudh in 1856, the latter a wealthy princely state that generated huge revenue and represented a vestige of Mughal authority. This greed for land, especially in a group of small-town and middle-class British merchants, whose parvenu background was increasingly evident and galling to Indians of rank, had alienated a large section of the landed and ruling aristocracy, who were quick to take up the cause of evicting the merchants once the revolt was kindled.
The spark that lit the fire was the result of a very convincing, though untrue, rumour about a British blunder in using new cartridges for the Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle that were greased with animal fat, rumoured to now be a combination of pig-fat and cow-fat. This was offensive to the religious beliefs of both Muslim and Hindu sepoys, who refused to use the cartridges and, under provocation, finally mutinied against their British officers.
Course of the rebellion
The rebellion soon engulfed much of North India, including Oudh and various areas that had lately passed from the control of Maratha princes to the company. The unprepared British were terrified, without replacements for the casualties. The rebellion inflicted havoc on Indians and the community suffered humiliation and triumph in battle as well, although the final outcome was victory for the British. Isolated mutinies also occurred at military posts in the centre of the subcontinent. The last major sepoy rebels surrendered on June 21, 1858, at Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh), one of the principal centres of the revolt. A final battle was fought at Sirwa Pass on May 21, 1859, and the defeated rebels fled into Nepal.
Aftermath of the 1857 Rebellion and the formal initiation of the Raj
The rebellion was a major turning point in the history of modern India. In May 1858, the British exiled Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar II (r. 1837 57) to Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Myanmar), after executing most of his family, thus formally liquidating the Mughal Empire. Bahadur Shah Zafar, known as the Poet King, contributed some of Urdu's most beautiful poetry, with the underlying theme of the freedom struggle. The Emperor was not allowed to return and died in solitary confinement in 1862. The Emperor's three sons, also involved in the War of Independence, were arrested and shot in Delhi by Major Hodson William Stephen Raikes Hodson of the British Indian Army.
Cultural and religious centres were closed down, properties and estates were confiscated. At the same time, the British abolished the British East India Company and replaced it with direct rule under the British Crown. In proclaiming the new direct-rule policy to "the Princes, Chiefs, and Peoples of India", Queen Victoria (who was given the title Empress of India in 1877) promised equal treatment under British law, but Indian mistrust of British rule had become a legacy of the 1857 rebellion.
Many existing economic and revenue policies remained virtually unchanged in the post-1857 period, but several administrative modifications were introduced, beginning with the creation in London of a cabinet post, the Secretary of State for India. The governor-general (called viceroy when acting as representative to the nominally sovereign "princely states" or "native states"), headquartered in Calcutta, ran the administration in India, assisted by executive and legislative councils. Beneath the governor-general were the governors of Provinces of India, who held power over the division and district officials, who formed the lower rungs of the Indian Civil Service. For decades the Indian Civil Service was the exclusive preserve of the British-born, as were the superior ranks in such other professions as law and medicine. This continued until the 1910s when a small but steadily growing number of native-born Indians, educated in British schools on the Subcontinent or in Britain, were able to assume such positions.
The Viceroy of India announced in 1858 that the government would honour former treaties with princely states and renounced the "Doctrine of Lapse", whereby the East India Company had annexed territories of rulers who died without male heirs. About 40 percent of Indian territory and 20 25 percent of the population remained under the control of 562 princes notable for their religious (Islamic, Hindu, Sikh and other) and ethnic diversity. Their propensity for pomp and ceremony became proverbial, while their domains, varying in size and wealth, lagged behind socio-political transformations that took place elsewhere in British-controlled India. A more thorough re-organisation was effected in the constitution of army and government finances. Shocked by the extent of solidarity among Indian soldiers during the rebellion, the government separated the army into the three presidencies. The Indian Councils Act of 1861 restored legislative powers to the presidencies, which had been given exclusively to the governor-general by the Charter Act of 1833.
British attitudes toward Indians shifted from relative openness to insularity and xenophobia, even against those with comparable background and achievement as well as loyalty. British families and their servants lived in cantonments at a distance from Indian settlements. Private clubs where the British gathered for social interaction became symbols of exclusivity and snobbery that refused to disappear decades after the British had left India. In 1883 the government of India attempted to remove race barriers in criminal jurisdictions by introducing a bill empowering Indian judges to adjudicate offences committed by Europeans. Public protests and editorials in the British press, however, forced the viceroy George Robinson, First Marquess of Ripon, (who served from 1880 to 1884), to capitulate and modify the bill drastically. The Bengali "Hindu intelligentsia" learned a valuable political lesson from this "white mutiny": the effectiveness of well-orchestrated agitation through demonstrations in the streets and publicity in the media when seeking redress for real and imagined grievances.
Post-1857 India also experienced a period of unprecedented calamity when the region was swept by a series of frequent and devastating famines, among the most catastrophic on record. Approximately 25 major famines spread through states such as Tamil Nadu in South India, Bihar in the north, and Bengal in the east in the latter half of the 19th century, killing between 30 40 million Indians. Contemporary observers of the famines such as Romesh Dutt as well as present-day scholars such as Amartya Sen attributed the famines both to uneven rainfall and British economic and administrative policies, which since 1857 had led to the seizure and conversion of local farmland to foreign-owned plantations, restrictions on internal trade, inflationary measures that increased the price of food, and substantial exports of staple crops from India to the United Kingdom (Dutt, 1900 and 1902; Srivastava, 1968; Sen, 1982; Bhatia, 1985). Some British citizens such as William Digby agitated for policy reforms and better famine relief, but Lord Lytton, son of the poet Edward Bulwer-Lytton and the governing British viceroy in India, opposed such changes in the belief that they would stimulate shirking by Indian workers. The famines continued until independence in 1947, with the Bengal Famine of 1943 44 among the most devastating killing 3 4 million Indians during World War II.
Native industries in India were also decimated in the aftermath of the 1857 rebellion, particularly during the three decades from 1870 to 1900 (with the notable exception of the jute industry, which benefited from the global industrial revolution), as the mercantilist policies of the Raj flooded India with imports while minimising native production and exports. Economic historians estimate that India commanded roughly 25% of world GDP by 1800, but perhaps a tenth of that by the 20th century, due in large part to the severe and rapid decline in the Subcontinent's native industries (Maddison, Bairoch, Frank).
Beginnings of self-government
The first steps were taken toward self-government in British India in the late 19th century with the appointment of Indian counsellors to advise the British viceroy and the establishment of provincial councils with Indian members; the British subsequently widened participation in legislative councils with the Indian Councils Act of 1892.
The Government of India Act of 1909 also known as the Morley-Minto Reforms (John Morley was the secretary of state for India, and Gilbert Elliot, fourth earl of Minto, was viceroy) gave Indians limited roles in the central and provincial legislatures, known as legislative councils. Indians had previously been appointed to legislative councils, but after the reforms some were elected to them. At the centre, the majority of council members continued to be government-appointed officials, and the viceroy was in no way responsible to the legislature. At the provincial level, the elected members, together with unofficial appointees, outnumbered the appointed officials, but responsibility of the governor to the legislature was not contemplated. Morley made it clear in introducing the legislation to the British Parliament that parliamentary self-government was not the goal of the British government.
The Morley-Minto Reforms were a milestone. Step by step, the elective principle was introduced for membership in Indian legislative councils. The "electorate" was limited, however, to a small group of upper-class Indians. These elected members increasingly became an "opposition" to the "official government". Communal electorates were later extended to other communities and made a political factor of the Indian tendency toward group identification through religion. The practice created certain vital questions for all concerned. The intentions of the British were questioned. How humanitarian was their concern for the minorities? Were separate electorates a manifestation of "divide and rule"?
For Muslims it was important both to gain a place in all-India politics and to retain their Muslim identity, objectives that required varying responses according to circumstances, as the example of Muhammed Ali Jinnah illustrates. Jinnah, who was born in 1876, studied law in England and began his career as an enthusiastic liberal in Congress on returning to India. In 1913 he joined the Muslim League, which had been shocked by the 1911 annulment of the partition of Bengal into cooperating with Congress to make demands on the British. Jinnah continued his membership in Congress until 1919. During this dual membership period, he was described by a leading Congress spokesperson, Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, as the "ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity".
After World War I
India's important contributions to the efforts of the British Empire in World War I stimulated further demands by Indians and further response from the British. The Congress Party and the Muslim League met in joint session in December 1916. Under the leadership of Jinnah and Pandit Motilal Nehru (father of Jawaharlal Nehru), unity was preached and a proposal for constitutional reform was made that included the concept of separate electorates. The resulting Congress-Muslim League Pact was a sincere effort to compromise. Congress accepted the separate electorates demanded by the Muslim League, and the Muslim League joined with Congress in demanding self-government. The pact was expected to lead to permanent and constitutional united action.
In August 1917 the British government formally announced a policy of "increasing association of Indians in every branch of the administration and the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realization of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire." Constitutional reforms were embodied in the Government of India Act 1919, also known as the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms (Edwin Samuel Montagu was the United Kingdom's Secretary of State for India; the Viscount Chelmsford was viceroy). These reforms represented the maximum concessions the British were prepared to make at that time. The franchise was extended, and increased authority was given to central and provincial legislative councils, but the viceroy remained responsible only to London.
The changes at the provincial level were significant, as the provincial legislative councils contained a considerable majority of elected members. In a system called "dyarchy", based on an approach developed by Lionel Curtis, the nation-building departments of government agriculture, education, public works, and the like were placed under ministers who were individually responsible to the legislature. The departments that made up the "steel frame" of British rule finance, revenue, and home affairs were retained by executive councillors who were often (but not always) British, and who were responsible to the governor.
The 1919 reforms did not satisfy political demands in India. The British repressed opposition and restrictions on the press and on movement were re-enacted. An apparently unwitting example of violation of rules against the gathering of people led to the massacre at Jalianwala Bagh in Amritsar in April 1919. This tragedy galvanized such political leaders as Jawaharlal Nehru (1889 1964) and Mohandas Karamchand "Mahatma" Gandhi (1869 1948) and the masses who followed them to press for further action.
The Allies' post-World War I peace settlement with Turkey provided an additional stimulus to the grievances of the Muslims, who feared that one goal of the Allies was to end the caliphate of the Ottoman sultan. After the end of the Mughal Empire, the Ottoman caliph had become the symbol of Islamic authority and unity to Indian Sunni Muslims. A pan-Islamic movement, known as the Khilafat Movement, spread in India. It was a mass repudiation of Muslim loyalty to British rule and thus legitimated Muslim participation in the Indian nationalist movement. The leaders of the Khilafat Movement used Islamic symbols to unite the diverse but assertive Muslim community on an all-India basis and bargain with both Congress leaders and the British for recognition of minority rights and political concessions.
Muslim leaders from the Deoband and Aligarh movements joined Gandhi in mobilising the masses for the 1920 and 1921 demonstrations of civil disobedience and non-cooperation in response to the massacre at Amritsar. At the same time, Gandhi endorsed the Khilafat Movement, thereby placing many Hindus behind what had been solely a Muslim demand.
Despite impressive achievements, however, the Khilafat Movement failed. Turkey rejected the caliphate and became a secular state. Furthermore, the religious, mass-based aspects of the movement alienated such Western-oriented constitutional politicians as Jinnah, who resigned from Congress. Other Muslims also were uncomfortable with Gandhi's leadership. The British historian Sir Percival Spear wrote that "a mass appeal in his Gandhi's hands could not be other than a Hindu one. He could transcend caste but not community. The Hindu devices he used went sour in the mouths of Muslims". In the final analysis, the movement failed to lay a lasting foundation of Indian unity and served only to aggravate Hindu-Muslim differences among masses that were being politicised. Indeed, as India moved closer to the self-government implied in the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms, rivalry over what might be called the spoils of independence sharpened the differences between the communities.
World War II and the End of the Raj
By 1942, Indians were divided over World War II, as the British had unilaterally and without consultation entered India into the war. Some wanted to support the British during the Battle of Britain, hoping for eventual independence through this support. Others were enraged by the British disregard for Indian intelligence and civil rights, and were unsympathetic to the travails of the British people, which they saw as rightful revenge for the enslavement of Indians. The British Indian army came to be the largest all-volunteer army in the history of the world However, even during the war, in July 1942, the Indian National Congress had passed a resolution demanding complete independence from Britain. The draft proposed that if the British did not accede to the demands, massive civil disobedience would be launched. In August 1942 the Quit India Resolution was passed at the Bombay session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) marking the start of what was the Quit India Movement. The movement was to see massive, and initially peaceful demonstrations and denial of authority, undermining the British War effort. Large-scale protests and demonstrations were held all over the country. Workers remained absent en masse and strikes were called. The movement also saw widespread acts of sabotage, Indian under-ground organization carried out bomb attacks on allied supply convoys, government buildings were set on fire, electricity lines were disconnected and transport and communication lines were severed.
The movement soon became a leaderless act of defiance, with a number of acts that deviated from Gandhi's principle of non-violence. In large parts of the country, the local underground organizations took over the movement. However, by 1943, Quit India had petered out.
However, at the time the war was at its bloodiest in Europe and Asia, the Indian revolutionary leader Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose escaped from house arrest in Calcutta and ultimately made his way to Germany, and then to Japanese south asia to seek Axis help to raise an army to fight the shackles of the Raj. Bose formed what came to be known as the Azad Hind Government as the Provisional Free Indian Government in exile, and organized the Indian National Army with Indian POWs and Indian expatriates Southeast Asia with the help of the Japanese. Its aim was to reach India as a fighting force that would inspire public resentment and revolts within the Indian soldiers to defeat the Raj. The INA fought hard in the forests of Assam, Bengal and Burma, laying siege to Imphal and Kohima with the Japanese 15th Army. It would ultimately fail, owing to disrupted logistics, poor arms and supplies from the Japanese, and lack of support and training However, Bose's audacious actions and radical initiative energized a new generation of Indians. Many historians have argued that it was the INA and the mutinies it inspired among the British Indian Armed forces that was the true driving force for India's independence. The stories of the Azad Hind movement and its army that came to public attention during the trials of soldiers of the INA in 1945, were seen as so inflammatory that, fearing mass revolts and uprisings not just in India, but across its empire the British Government forbade the BBC to broadcast their story. Newspapers reported at the time a summary execution of INA soldiers held at Red FortDuring and after the trial, mutinies broke out in the British Indian Army, most notably in the Royal Indian Navy; these found public support throughout India, from Karachi to Bombay and from Vizag to Calcutta.
These revolts, faced by the weakened post-war Raj, coupled with the fact that the faith in the British Indian Armed forces had been lost, ultimately shaped the decision to end the Raj. By early 1946, all political prisoners had been released. British openly adopted a political dialogue with the Indian National Congress for the eventual independence of India. On August 15, 1947, the transfer of Power took place. At midnight on August 14, 1947 Pakistan (including modern Bangladesh) was granted independence. India was granted independence the following day.
Most people would give these dates as the end of the British Raj. However, some people argue that it continued until 1950 in India when it adopted a republican constitution.
At the time of independence, British India consisted of the following provinces:
Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Bombay Province - Bombay
Central Provinces and Berar
Delhi Province - Delhi
Madras Province - Madras
North-West Frontier Province
United Provinces (Agra and Oudh)
Eleven provinces (Assam, Bengal, Bihar, Bombay, Central Provinces, Madras, North-West Frontier, Orissa, Punjab, and Sindh) were headed by a governor. The remaining six (Ajmer Merwara, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Baluchistan, Coorg, Delhi, and Panth-Piploda) were governed by a chief commissioner.
There were also several hundred Princely States, under British protection but ruled by native rulers. Among the most notable of these were Jaipur, Hyderabad, Mysore, and Jammu and Kashmir.
what is vice today may be virtue tommorrow.