Imperialism in India Trading between Europe and India had been going on for a long time. European merchants made regular voyages to India. Dutch, Portuguese, French, and English traders fought each other for control of Indian trade.
In 1600 a private business called the British East India Company was formed. Its purpose was to trade with India. It set up trading posts along India’s coastline at Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras. At around this time the Dutch East India Company was formed and began operating out of Java, Indonesia.
The Europeans gained little in India as long as the Mogul Empire was in power. But by the mid 1700s there was no longer a strong central government in India. The British East India Company became very involved in what went on in the country. It took sides in Indian civil wars and it supported rulers who gave England favorable trade rights.
When the French began the French East India Company the British went to war with them. In 1757 an Englishman named Robert Clive led the British to victory against the French. Both Clive’s army and the French army used Indian soldiers to fight their war. These Indian soldiers were called sepoys. The British drove the French out of India and the British East India Company became a powerful force in India.
Soon agents of the East India Company became stronger than the local rajas or princes. By 1850 the British agents controlled more than half of the land in India. The British put their own men into all the important positions. Englishmen led sepoy armies and they became wealthy landowners.
The British imposed their own ways on Indian society. They built Christian churches and spoke out against the Hindu caste system. Many of the Indians did not like the English ways and they did not like the East India Company either.
For almost 100 years, Britain indirectly ruled India through its East India Company. India was not officially a British colony, but the British held all the power. In 1858 the British Parliament (government) took over the rule of India. India became a colony of Great Britain and it was called “British India.”
A viceroy or British governor ran the colony. HE was appointed by the British monarch. In 1877 the British held a splendid ceremony in India and name Queen Victoria empress of India. The British profited from their Indian colony. They called India the “Jewel of the British Empire.” In turn, the British government tried to treat Indians more fairly than the East India Company had.
The British tried to solve the problems of poverty that had always troubled India. They helped farmers dig irrigation canals. They set up hospitals in cities and in some villages. They built railroads, factories, roads, and schools. The British tried to do away with the harsh caste system that kept many people poor and tried to give women rights.
But many Indians were unhappy. Some were poorer than ever. India’s raw materials were all going to British industry. Manufactured goods were brought in from Britain, killing off India’s own industries. Machine-made cloth poured in from Britain. This resulted in Indian spinners and weavers being put out of work and all of India’s top jobs went to the British.
It was clear to the Indians that the British looked down on them. The British did not allow Indians in their restaurants or hotels. To the people of India it seemed that British imperialism encouraged British feelings of superiority.