Economic Impact: India

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The Imperialist Experience: India/China Mini Research Project

Economic Impact: India
When the British came to India they started an economic system where India produced raw materials for the factories of Great Britain and then the goods from those factories were sold to the Indian people who were forbidden to purchase goods from anyone else.

Document 1: British effect on factories and industry in India, Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India, The John Day Company, 1946 (adapted)

This process continued throughout the nineteenth century. Other old Indian industries – shipbuilding, metalwork, glass, paper – and many crafts were broken up. Thus the economic development of India was stopped and the growth of new industry prevented… A typical colonial economy was build up. India became an agricultural colony of industrial England. It supplied raw material and provided markets for England’s industrial goods. The destruction of industry led to unemployment on a vast scale… The poverty of the country grew. The standard of living fell to terribly low levels.

1. What happened to India’s factories and manufacturing when the British took over?

Document 2: Cotton Exports from India, Egypt, and Brazil, 1860–1866, in Million Pounds.

Data from: Government of India, Annual Statement of the Trade and Navigation of British India and Foreign Countries vol. 5 (Calcutta, 1872); vol. 9 (Calcutta, 1876); Roger Owen, Cotton and the Egyptian Economy, 1820–1914 (Oxford, 1969), 90; Estatisticas historica do Brasil (Rio de Jeneiro, 1990), 346.

table 1

2. Who produced the most cotton?

3. Where was that cotton being grown?

Document 3: Estimated Famine Deaths in India 1876-1902family

Statistics and photo from Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World (London: Verso, 2001), p. 7.


Number of deaths


6.1-10.3 million


6.1-19.0 million

4. How are these famine deaths connected to the growing of cotton in India?
Economic Impact: China

From the moment Europeans saw Chinese goods like silk, tea and porcelain, they wanted to buy as much of it as they could. But China didn’t want anything produced in Europe. The English solved this problem by smuggling opium, a highly addictive drug, into China, because they found addicts would pay any price for their next dose. With the money they made selling opium on the black market, the English bought all the luxury goods they could want.

Document 4: Painting for the Export Trade Detail: Studio of Guan Lianchang, also known as Tinqua (active 1830s-1870s), Guangzhou (Canton)Peabody Essex Museum

Chinese artists and artisans responded eagerly to the European demand for souvenirs of their time in the Pearl River area by adapting Western styles to Chinese models of portraits and landscapes . This image of an artist’s studio in Canton shows employees making multiple copies of paintings in various media using an assembly line system where each artist is responsible for only a part of the finished picture.

5. How is this painting studio like a factory for art?

Economic Impact: China

Document 5: The Stacking Room, Opium Factory at Patna India- Lithograph after W. S. Sherwill, ca. 1850


Document 6: Opium Imports to China from India- Jonathan Spence, Chinese Roundabout (1992)


(1 chest = approximately 140 pounds)


1,000 chests


4,000 chests


18,000 chests


40,000 chests


76,000 chests


81,000 chests (peak)

6. What economic effect will buying all that Opium have on the Chinese people?

7. Where is the money, the wealth of China going?

Political Impact: India- Sepoy Rebellion/Mutiny

In 1857, Indian soldiers rose up in rebellion and tried to drive the English out of India. Atrocities were committed in the name of making India too terrible a place to stay, women and children were targeted in particular. The British responded with similar violence and eventually put the rebellion down.

Document 6: Causes of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan Delhi: Asha

Jyoti Book Sellers & Publishers. (Original work published in 1859)

In Causes of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan outlines his view on the roots

of the rebellion of 1857. The most important cause in Khan’s view was state act’s that interfered with the religion of India.

There is no doubt that all, be they illiterate or intelligent, high or low in society, they all thought that the heartfelt desire of our government (the British ruling India) was to intervene in religious and social customs and turn all, be they Hindus or Muslims, to Christianity and followers of the customs or norms of their own country. This was the main reason for the rebellion.

8. What are the Indian people afraid the British will force them to do? Why might they be willing to die over it?

Document 7: Scene of the Massacre of British Women and Children in Cawnpore, July 21, 1857- Report of an Officer in General Havelock’s Relieving Force

I never was more horrified. The place was one mass of blood. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the soles of my boots were more than covered with the blood of these poor wretched creatures. Portions of their dresses, collars, children’s socks and ladies’ hats lay about, saturated with their blood; and in the sword cuts on the wooden pillars of the room, long dark hair was carried by the edge of the weapon….

….Their bodies were afterwards dragged out and thrown down a well outside the building where their limbs were to be seen sticking out in a mass of gory confusion.

Document 8: The British retaliate (fight back) against the Indians after the attack on Cawnpore- Streets, H. The rebellion of 1857: Origins, consequences, and themes. Teaching South Asia: An internet journal of pedagogy, 1, 85-104. 2001.

Every native that appeared in sight was shot down without question, and in the morning

Colonel Neill sent out parties of regiment (military men)…and burned all the villages near where the ruins of our bungalows stood, and hung every native that they could catch, on the trees that lined

the road.

9. Based on these two documents, how would you characterize (describe) the fighting in the Sepoy Rebellion/Mutiny?

Document 9: The Telegraph Memorial- Old Telegraph Office, Delhi, India.

Two British soldiers by the names of Brendish and Pilkington used this telegraph office to successfully warn the Indian Army of the Punjab (British soldiers in India) about the Sepoy uprisings at Delhi and Meerut. The telegraph message, moving faster than the horses Sepoys were using to spread word of the rebellion, arrived in time for the British to prepare and plan a counter attack.

The inscription on the front … of the Delhi Telegraph Memorial is as follows : —


Erected on the 19th April 1902, by Members of the Telegraph

Department, to commemorate the loyal and devoted services of the

Delhi Telegraph Office Staff, on the eventful 9th May 1857. On

that day two young Signalers,



remained on duty till ordered to leave, and by telegraphing to

Amballa information of what was happening at Delhi, rendered

invaluable service to the Punjab Government.

In the words of Sir Robert Montgomery —

"The Electric Telegraph has saved India."

9. How did technology help the British win in the fight against the Sepoys even when they were greatly outnumbered?

Political Impact: China- Opium Wars
In 1839 Britain waged a successful war against China over Opium. China had tried to get England to stop illegally smuggling opium and addicting her people (some historians claim as many as 12 million people became addicted) by destroying the opium shipments that came to Canton. England used the destruction of their “property” as an excuse to start a war they knew they could win. In the end, the peace treaty legalized opium in China and gave England greatly expanded trade rights at the expense of the Chinese people.

Document 10: A Disgraceful War- British historian and professor Thomas Arnold in a letter to W. W. Hull, March 18, 1840

This war with China . . . really seems to me so wicked as to be a national sin of the greatest possible magnitude, and it distresses me very deeply. Cannot anything be done by petition or otherwise to awaken men's minds to the dreadful guilt we are incurring? I really do not remember, in any history, of a war undertaken with such combined injustice and baseness. Ordinary wars of conquest are to me far less wicked, than to go to war in order to maintain smuggling, and that smuggling consisting in the introduction of a demoralizing drug, which the government of China wishes to keep out, and which we, for the lucre of gain, want to introduce by force; and in this quarrel are going to burn and slay in the pride of our supposed superiority.

Simplified: This war with China really seems in my opinion to be so evil that the whole country is committing a sin by doing it and it makes me very upset. Can't people see how terrible this is and how guilty we will feel later? I do not remember any other war in history that has this combination of injustice and unsophistication (lack of civilization). Ordinary wars to conquer land are to me far less evil than to go to war in order to guarantee that we can keep smuggling a soul sucking drug, which the government of China wishes to keep out. We are forcing this drug on the Chinese people for money and in this conflict we are going to burn and kill (civilians) in the name of being superior.

10. What is England getting out of winning the Opium Wars?

11. Why is Thomas Arnold so upset about it?

Advanced technology gave the British their advantage in the Opium Wars, when the 660-ton iron steamer Nemesis entered the fray. Constructed in Liverpool for the East India Company, the Nemesis was distinctive in several ways. Driven by two paddle wheels powered by a massive steam engine, the warship was made almost completely of iron. It was flat bottomed, with an unusually shallow draught of only six feet when fully loaded—making it particularly suitable for navigating China’s shallow waters.

Document 11: “The Hon. East India Company’s Steamer “Nemesis” and the boats of the Sulphur, Calliope, Larne, and Starling destroying the Chinese War Junks in Ansons Bay. January 7, 1841”

National Maritime Museum


12. According to this image, what do the Chinese junks appear to be made out of?

13. How are the British able to defeat the Chinese?

Social Impact: India

Document 12: Benefits to India during British Imperialism- Romesh Dutt, The Economic History of India Under Early British Rule, K. Paul Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd, 1902 (adapted)

Englishmen… have given the people of India the greatest human blessing – peace. They introduced Western education. This has brought an ancient and civilized nation in touch with modern thought, modern sciences, and modern life. They have built an administration that is strong and efficient. They have framed wise laws and have established courts of justice.

Document 13: “Does Colonization Pay?” O.P. Austin, The Forum, 1900 (adapted)

Modern progressive nations (European colonizers) … seek to control “garden spots” in the tropics. Under their direction, these places can yield the tropical produce that their citizens need. In return the progressive nations bring the people of those garden spots the foodstuffs and manufactures they need. They develop the territory by building roads, canals, railways, and telegraphs. The progressive nations can establish schools and newspapers for the people of the colonies. They can also give these people the benefit of other blessings of civilization which they have not the means of creating themselves.

14. According to these readings, what changes did the British make in Indian society?

Social Impact: China
Even without the foreign onslaught (attacks), nineteenth century China faced enormous problems, many of them resulting from a growing population. By the mid-nineteenth century China's population reached 450 million or more, more than three times the level in 1500. The results of this were land shortages, famine, and an increasingly poor rural population. Heavy taxes, inflation, and greedy local officials (all Chinese) further worsened the farmer's situation. Meanwhile, the Chinese Imperial Government neglected public works and the military, while foreign exploitation continued to plague the Qing regime The following reading give a sense of the host of domestic issues facing the Chinese state.

Document 14: The Autobiography of a Chinese Working Woman- Reprinted with permission from Ida Pruitt, A Daughter of Han: (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1967)

My husband sold everything we had.

There was a fur hat. He wanted to sell it. But I begged him not to sell it.

"Let's keep this." It was my uncle's. "Take my coat." He took the coat and sold it for grain. When he came home for food he drank only two bowls of millet gruel. I wondered why he ate so little. I looked and found that the hat was gone, and knew that he had sold it for opium. Those who take opium care not for food. ...

One year after my mother died I got a stick and a bowl and started out begging. It was the spring of the year and I was twenty-two. It was no light thing for a woman to go out of her home. That is why I put up with my old opium sot so long. But now I could not live in my house and had to come out. When I begged I begged in the parts of the city where I was not known, for I was ashamed. I went with my begging stick (the little stick with which beggars beat off dogs) up my sleeve, that people should not see it. Every day we went out begging. My husband carried the baby and led Mantze (her toddler). When we came to an open gate I would send her in, for people's hearts are moved by a child. ...

14. How has Opium affected this woman’s life, even if she doesn’t smoke it herself?

By the early nineteenth century opium was the principal product that the English East India Company traded in China and opium addiction was becoming a widespread social problem. When the emperor's own son died of an overdose, he decided to put an end to the trade. Lin Tse-Hsu was sent to Canton, the chief trading port of the East India Company, with instructions to negotiate an end to the importation of opium into China. Lin Tse-Hsu's "Letter of Advice to Queen Victoria" was written before the outbreak of the Opium Wars. It was a remarkably frank document, especially given the usual highly stylized language of Chinese diplomacy. There remains some question whether Queen Victoria ever read the letter. Most important sections in BOLD.

Document 15: LETTER TO QUEEN VICTORIA (1839) By Lin Zexu

Lin, high imperial commissioner, a president of the Board of War, viceroy of the two Keäng provinces, &c., Tang, a president of the Board of War, viceroy of the two Kwang provinces, &c., and E., a vice-president of the Board of War, lieut.-governor of Kwangtung, &c., hereby [together] address this public [letter] to the queen of England ...

...During the commercial [trade] which has existed so long [between u], among the numerous foreign merchants ... are some, who, by means of introducing opium by stealth, have seduced our Chinese people, and caused every province of the land to overflow with that poison. These then [seek only] to advantage themselves, they care not about injuring others!...

Every native of the Inner Land who sells opium, as also all who smoke it, are alike [sentenced] to death. Were we then to go back and take up the crimes of the foreigners, who, by selling it for many years have induced dreadful calamity and robbed us of enormous wealth, and punish them with equal severity, our laws could not but award to them absolute annihilation!

We find that your country is distant from us about sixty or seventy thousand miles, that your foreign ships come hither striving the one with the other for our trade, and for the simple reason of their strong desire to reap a profit...By what principle of reason then, should these foreigners send in return a poisonous drug, which involves in destruction those very natives of China?

We have heard that in your own country opium is prohibited with the utmost strictness and severity:---this is a strong proof that you know full well how hurtful it is to mankind. Since then you do not permit it to injure your own country, you ought not to have the [harmful] drug transferred to another country, and above all others, how much less to the Inner Land! Of the products which China exports to your foreign countries, there is not one which is not beneficial to mankind in some shape or other. There are those which serve for food, those which are useful, and those which are calculated for re-sale; but all are beneficial...On the other hand, the things that come from your foreign countries are only calculated to make presents of, or serve for mere amusement. It is quite the same to us if we have them, or if we have them not. If then these are of [so little importance] to us of the Inner Land, what difficulty would there be in prohibiting and shutting our market against them?

15. What is Lin’s main complaint to Queen Victoria?

16. How does he plan to end opium use in China?

17. What effect will this have on the Chinese people?

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