World History – Greenberg Assignment #5: Differing Perspectives on British Imperialism in India

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World History – Greenberg
Assignment #5: Differing Perspectives on British Imperialism in India
Historical Context

India had been the focus of British economic influence since the 1600’s but as Mughal Dynasty declined, British influence increased over India. By the 19th Century, the newly industrialized England increased its influence and domination over India. India became the most valuable “jewel in the crown” of the British Empire because of its abundant raw materials and huge market for selling British manufactured goods. The impacts of this imperial relationship were complex and had both positive and negative effects as seen in these documents.

Document 1 – British Perspective

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.

Source: O.P. Austin, “Does Colonization Pay?” The Forum, 1900

Document 2 – Indian Perspective

To sum up the whole, the British rule has been – morally, a great blessing; politically, peace and order on one hand … on the other, materially, impoverishment … The natives call the British system … “the knife of sugar.” That is to say there is no oppression, it is all smooth and sweet, but it is a knife, nevertheless. Europeans (the British) occupy almost all the higher places in every department of government … Natives, no matter how fit, are deliberately kept out of the social institutions started by Europeans… All they (the Europeans) do is live off of India while they are here. When they go, they carry all they have gained.

Dadabhai Naoroji, Essays, Speeches, Addresses and Writings, 1887.

Document 3 – Indian Perspective

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.

Source: Romesh Dutt, The Economic History of India Under Early British Rule, 1902

Document 4 – British Perspective

British brains, British enterprise, and British capital have changed the face of India. Means of communication have been developed. There are great numbers of bridges, more than 40,000 miles of railway, and 70,000 miles of paved roads. These testify to the skill and industry of British engineers. Irrigation works on a very large scale have brought 30 million acres under cultivation. This has greatly added to the agricultural wealth of the country. Industrialization has also begun. India now has improved sanitation and a higher standard of living. It has a fine transport system and carefully thought-out schemes for relief work. Because of these things famines have now almost disappeared.

Source: J.A.R. Marriott, The English in India, Clarendon Press, 1902

Document 5 – British Perspective

British rule brought with it from the West certain standards of humanity that Indian society had not reached. Early action was taken to stop infanticide (the killing of female babies) as well as the killing of widows upon the death of their husbands… The slave trade was ended and the owning of slaves was forbidden… One result of the new order was a steady rise in the value of India’s export trade.

Source: Sir Reginald Coupland, India: A Restatement, 1945
Document 6 – Indian Perspective

You English committed one supreme crime against my people. For a hundred years you have

done everything for us. You have given us no responsibility in our own government... Because India has become impoverished by the Government. They take away our money from year to year. The most important posts are reserved for themselves. We are kept in a state of slavery. They behave insolently (insultingly) towards us and disregard our feelings…”

Source: Mohandas Gandhi, Indian Home Rule, 1938,

Document 7 – Indian Perspective

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.
Considering the documents and summarize the positive and negative effects of imperialism below:

Indian Perspective

British Perspective





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