British East India Company



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British Imperialism in India Vocabulary and Questions Pages 1 and 2
British East India Company: started in 1600 by 25 men; a trading corporation; formed a trade monopoly between England [Great Britain] and East India; established trade route centers in Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras; traded cotton chintz and calico cloths; took control of banking on India’s east coast in 1765 and became the largest power in India; by 1784 it acted as the administrative government in India and controlled the whole country; took commercial control and expanded Indian trade; had its own army; valued cash crops of spices, cotton, indigo, jute, coffee and tea and opium; built infrastructure to enhance transportation for trade
Moghul Empire: started in 1526 in India; conquerors were from Central Asia; they were Muslim in religion and Turkish in ethnicity and Persian in culture; power ended in 1800s but at one time it had 100million people in the empire; its lessening power caused by civil wars, allowed Great Britain to take over
maharajah: ruler of small states within India; eventually they broke from the moghuls and supported the BEIC
sepoys: Indian soldiers of Hindu and Muslim backgrounds who served in the BEIC army under white, British officers
buffer zones: neutral areas of neighboring territories that separate a country from hostile nations: in Indian these zones were: Burma in the east, Ceylon an island off the south coast of India
protectorate: a state or area controlled by another, bigger more powerful country; Afghanistan was under Britain
sphere of influence: a country or area in which another country has power to effect developments [trade] within the area but the other country has no formal authority over it; Persia or Iraq under British “guidance”
mutiny: revolt or insurrection in which people [usually soldiers] rebel against the greater authorities [officers]; a refusal to obey orders and usually results in disciplinary action against the rebel[s]
Indian Caste System: social classes determined at birth in India; Indians could not move out of the caste in which they were born…it was inherited and stayed that way; upper caste was “pure” while the lowest caste was “untouchable” or “polluted”; castes determined occupations of the lower caste such as civil service jobs, servants, soldiers; reinforced Anglo-Saxonism among the British in India
nationalism: extreme patriotism for one’s country
Sepoy Mutiny or the Great Rebellion 1857-1859 A Turning Point in Indian History: 1857 rumors started that the British coated rifle cartridges with pork and beef fat which were off limits to all Muslim and Hindu soldiers [pork was forbidden in Islam and the cow was sacred in Hinduism]; to empty the gunpowder into the rifle barrel, the end of the cartridge had to be bitten off…to do so for Muslims and Hindus would make them unclean polluted and ostracized; 85 sepoys at Meerut refused to obey the commander who told them to use the cartridges; they were sentenced to 10 years hard labor; this caused a mutiny by 2357 sepoys who killed every officer and white person and Indian Christian and burned the fort down; they captured Delhi, massacred the British at Kanpur but Britain sent in troops, put down the revolt, tied sepoys to canons and blew them up; RESULT: Britain took charge of Indian government, dismissing the BEIC marking the end to the Moghul Empire and the BEIC
Kanpur: area ruled by an Indian prince who was upset with the British who refused to let him have his inheritance of an $80,000 pension; in retaliation he led sepoys against the British who were outnumbered and surrendered; the troops were massacred as they tried to leave Kanpur; women and children were returned to Kanpur and massacred; 200 died. Triggered British vengeance…more troops arrived and put down the revolt
Raj: period of Indian history when the BEIC command was abolished and Great Britain took over and ruled in the name of Queen Victoria monarch of GB and crowned empress of India in 1877

viceroy: title for the British ruler of India after 1877
Sikhs: a hostile religious group who hated the Moghuls and remained loyal to the British; became depth of the British army in India
Sati or suttee: upper caste practice of throwing the live widow on the funeral pyre of her dead husband so she burns with his body
thuggees: a group of men who terrorized the countryside of India robbing and killing travelers in honor of the terrifying Hindu goddess Kali ; [where the word thug comes from…it means violent criminal]
Age of Consent Act 1891: the government raised the age for marriage relations for girls to 12 to stop the practice of 10 year old girls, forced into marriage of being forced to have marriage relations with their husbands; tough to enforce in the culture
Answers to Questions of Pages 1 and 2

1. What effect did the imperialism of the East India Company have on Great Britain? On India?

The imperialism of the British East India Company opened doors of trade between Great Britain and the East. The industrial revolution coveted India’s raw materials and India became the number one exporter of these valuables to the British Empire. Great Britain consumed agricultural products and natural resources from India including: cotton, indigo, jute, coffee, tea, spices, gold, jewels, and silk and opium. In return 300 million in India became consumers of British made goods.

India’s agriculture was revitalized by the BEIC, which built irrigation canals to help in the cultivation of cash crops. Railroads were built throughout India to meet the increasing need of transportation of raw materials from the interior to the coast. New cotton and jute processing plants were built and coal mines opened for fuel. Muslin factories also were built to produce cotton cloth.

Britain got rich. Indian way of life suffered. British Anglo-Saxonism was in full force. No matter what upper caste an Indian to which an Indian belonged, he or she was still regarded beneath the lowest of British citizen in India. Social class caused problems. One commander, a British lord said:



It is this consciousness of the superiority of the European, which has won for us India. However well educated and clever a native may be, and however brave he may prove himself, I believe that no rank we can bestow on him would cause him to be considered an equal of the British officer.

Officers brought their families to India and hired 20 to 30 servants to take of their needs. British often tried to recreate England in India and ignored the culture in India. Christianity was also brought to India by the British and disrupted the way of life.

Westernization of India caused the Great Rebellion [Sepoy Mutiny] and fed racist attitudes on both sides. Neither side trusted each other. In the end the BEIC was destroyed, as well as the Moghul Empire, and the British took full control of India using the divide and conquer rule it had used in Africa…using Sikhs to swell its army which controlled the population of India.
2. Why was the Sepoy Mutiny important? What changes occurred because of it?

The Sepoy Mutiny from 1857 to 1859 showed how imperialism and Anglo-Saxonism caused the destruction of peoples and culture in India. The idea that the British would knowingly use two forbidden meat fats to coat cartridges, which had to be opened by Hindu and Muslims with their teeth, shows the intolerance of the British for Indian religions. It also showed how two opposing religions united against the greater enemy, the British, and led massacres of great proportions. The disdain for the sepoys by the British culminated in the execution of mutineers by blowing them to bits when tied to canons.

Changes were the dissolution of the British East India Company, which was accused of mismanagement and had to take responsibility for the mutiny. In 1858, Parliament took over the governing of India. This marked the end of the Moghul Empire and the British East India Company. This was the turning point in Indian history, now an official colony of the British Empire and under Queen Victoria.
3. Was the impact of British imperialism more a positive or negative to India? Pick one and defend with facts.

Positive aspects of imperialism on India:

British wanted to stop “barbaric” practices against girls and women. The government passed the Age of Consent Act in 1891 to prevent 10 year old brides from being forced to complete marriage act until they were 12 and menstruating. The government tried to stop Sati, when widows were thrown onto fires where their dead husbands were cremated. Christians tried to convert natives to stop worship of Kali. British troops cleared central India of thuggees to make it safe to travel.


A modern railroad, 3rd largest rr network in the world was built. India had a modern economy. Roads, telegraph and telephone lines, dams bridges, and canals were built. English became the official language so all the different tribes united under one language. Public schools were opended to all. Literacy increased especially for girls.
Negative aspects of imperialism on India:

India had 300 million people who were thought to be lesser human than the British, Anglo-Saxons. Britain became rich and the most powerful empire in the world by 1905 while India suffered under British rule. The Hindu and Muslim religions were not respected as evident in the Sepoy Mutiny and this led to massacres and 2 years of bloody rebellion. All their agricultural goods and natural resources were exported to Britain for profit of the BEIC. Divide and rule was used after the mutiny and Sikhs became British puppets of war to control the masses who rebelled against the British.



Indian owned industries were restricted. Cash crops lessened the subsistence farming needed to feed local populations. Food production reduced and 30 million starved in the famine of the late 1800s.

Racism threatened Indian culture. Anglo-Saxons were superior to Indians were served them. Sati, worship of goddesses, and child marriages were barbaric to British but were the norm for certain Indian religions.


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