The positive impact of the British rule over India
India was unknown to Europe till the early 14th century. But the arrival of Portuguese traveler Vasco Da Gama in Calicut on May 20, 1498 changed the history of India for many centuries to come.
The colonial era of India began in 1502, when the Portuguese established their trading centre at Kollam following which other seafaring European powers like the Dutch, French and the British came to India for its famed spices and wealth. At first these powers were only interested in trade but over the time they fought among themselves to gain control of the regions and the British were successful in overthrowing the others. The British East India Company’s decisive win in the battle of Plassey in 1757 established itself as a military authority in India. Following the Great Indian Mutiny in 1857, the British government assumed direct control over India in 1858 and it eventually dissolved the British East India Company. The British rule transformed India socially, culturally, economically and religiously.
Transport and Communication
The most important change came in the field of transport and communication. Till the 19th century India never had proper roads or means of transport and depended on bullock carts . But all this changed when the British started tea, cotton cultivation and established coal and iron industries. In order to transport raw materials they built a network of roads. The British rebuilt the Grand Trunk Road connecting Sonargaon in Bangladesh to Peshawar in Pakistan. In 1853, Lord Dalhousie inaugurated the first Indian railway line, between Bombay and Thane. This change also helped to bring greater unity among different parts of the country and its people and by 1900 India had the longest railroad in Asia. During the World War I, the railways were used to transport troops and grains to the ports of Bombay and Karachi en route to Britain, Mesopotamia and East Africa.
Lord Dalhousi must also be credited for introducing efficient Postal and Telegraph systems in 1853. These changes helped the British to strengthen their administrative control over its colony.
The British rule put an end to some age old customs practiced among Hindu societies. Laws passed in 1829 and 1856 improved the status of women, by abolishing sati and allowing widows to remarry. These laws changed the status of women in society. Britain also passed a law in 1872 that let people from different castes to marry, which was a jolt to the caste system prevalent in India. These laws altered the Indian society for better.
Through a number of Acts, the British introduced English education in schools across India. The missionaries who came to the country urged the authorities to make education compulsory. The British also thought that by educating Indians they can get clerical staff for running the administration. However, this had a better impact on the country with educated Indians realizing the importance of ‘Freedom’. It also modernized young Indians. The country which was earlier divided on the basis of language got a sense of unity with English as a common language.
By the end of 18th century, western scholars began to take keen interest in the study of India’s culture. Many ancient Indian literary works were translated and contributions were made in the field of Indian Archaeological studies.
William Jones established the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1784 and translated Kalidasa’s play Abhijnanashakuntala. Max Mueller, a German scholar, translated the Rigveda and Upanishads and Charles Wilkins translated the Bhagwadgita. Indian social reformers encouraged fellow Indians to free themselves from blind customs and superstitions and take pride in India’s glorious past. This led to a cultural awakening in the country. As a result, many dramas, short stories and novels were written based on patriotism and culture.