The impact of British rule
Q How did East India Company rule and Crown rule of India differ?
AThe 18th-century mercantile system, which revealed corruption on the part of the East India Company, was replaced by more direct colonisation and an economic, social and cultural imperialism that left little space for Indians’ voice in their own country.
Q Did British rule after 1858 bring more negatives than positives for India’s population?
AFrom the 1820s, the British government via the East India Company colonised further territory, justified on moral and economic grounds: the events of 1857-58 were a reaction to these changes. The official transfer of power to the Crown in 1858 further reduced decision-making by Indians, limited freedom of speech, and introduced the infamous ‘divide and rule’ policy that strongly disturbed the harmony within communities, especially religious differences. High taxation and the establishment of the cash crop system orientated to industries in Britain meant that no real internal industrialisation was possible for the subcontinent. On a more positive aspect, the second empire meant the increase of movement of people across the world, and gender issues (here meaning women, and not other minorities) began to be debated. We should not idealise India before the time of the British rule, but nor should we romanticise British colonialism as beneficial. What is certain, however, is that India has benefitted the Britain of yesterday and today.
Q How did Indian people view British presence in India?
AThe Sahibs and Memsahibs were a very small minority in a large country. Thus they had to show, via the ‘Illusion of Permanence’, both their physical presence and the visibility of their rule through the establishment of cultural and economic signs such as monuments, new buildings and technology (photography, the railway, etc). If the Indian population was indeed under the control of British colonisation, many areas such as rural villages were not directly confronted by Crown rule. Yet lives were affected by Western globalisation, and Indian thinkers, artists and political activists were well aware of this influence.