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British Raj – British Rule in India

History | 7-14 yrs | Interactive, Learning Pod

How did India come under foreign British Raj (British Rule)?

India became an independent nation on August 15th, 1947. That fact makes you wonder how did we get to be ruled by this foreign power that came here on ships as merchants and slowly became rulers? How British Raj in India started?

The answer is complicated but it takes us back to to 1600 AD when The British East India company was given a Royal Charter to pursue trade in the East Indies. Competing European kingdoms all had subjects trading with the kingdoms of India, these foreign merchants would befriend kings and serve as a foreign diplomat in their courts.

The Portuguese were the first major presence in the region and was mostly restricted to the west coast in Calicut, Cannanore, and Cochin in Kerala; Daman and Diu in Gujarat; and Goa, which became the headquarters of the Portuguese empire in India. But they are known to have been one of the first to open a factory in India which was on the banks of river Hugli, near present day Kolkata in 1579.

The next to follow were the French who settled on the East coast. Their largest trading post was Pondicherry. Then came the British who also began to acquire land and build factories with permissions from different Rajas.

The foreign trading companies used their diplomatic relations with local kings to protect their interests against traders from other kingdoms. They also helped their patrons overthrow their enemies in return for privileges over land and commerce in the newly acquired kingdom.

They expanded their trade from there and invited traders to settle near their factory itself. They also persuaded Aurangzeb, the Emperor then, to allow them to trade without paying taxes.

After Aurangzeb died, the Nawabs began to assert their authority and refused any concession to the Company. They accused the Company of deceit while the Company on their part accused the Nawabs of denying trade to flourish within their own kingdoms.

In 1756, Sirajuddaulah, the then Nawab of Bengal, was aware that the British intended on colonising India. He took Fort William of Calcutta and began to shut down English factories and warehouses. In retaliation, the British sent Robert Clive with forces from Madras to counter Sirajuddaulah at Plassey.

This led to the very famous Battle of Plassey in 1757, which the English won because they bribed Mir Jafar, Sirajuddaulah’s army chief and other top officials of his court.

After the Battle of Plassey, the British realised that they could install puppet kings whom they could control and eventually dethrone.

At first the British East India company brought over private mercenaries to help them fight these battles, even employing native Indians to protect the company’s properties.

But when the Indian soldiers also revolted in 1857, the English monarchy sent in imperial troops. In 1858 the British monarchy took over supervising the military affairs in the region and by 1874 the British East India Company was nationalised and absorbed by the government.

In 1876, Queen Victoria was crowned Empress of India. It then went on to become the Jewel in the Crown of the British Empire and the largest colony under British Raj. Indian soldiers fought for the British in both World Wars while India was a large source of tea, cotton, indigo and spices.

Glossary

Royal Charter: formal permission given by a monarch for exclusive rights to operate in any activity
Diplomat: a person who is appointed by the a government or king to conduct official negotiations and maintain political and social relations with another country
Commerce: an interchange of goods on a large scale
Imperial: of, like, or pertaining to an emperor or empress

Comprehension

In what year was the British East India Company awarded a royal charter to trade with Indian kingdoms?

In what year did the Portuguese build a factory in Hoogli, which is now near modern day Kolkata?

How did the Battle of Plassey change British presence in India?

In what year was Queen Victoria crowned Empress of India?

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