A Coin has two sides: Colonial India

A Coin has two sides : Colonial India


The British came into India as Traders in the form of East India Company which has the Exclusive right of trading which was granted by Queen Elizabeth. In the Wake of Sepoy Mutiny, the British crown directly take responsibility over the Governance of India. Though they enslaved Indians and ruled India for more than 200 years, they do some important reforms in India which are appreciable. In this article, I research those remarkable events of the British in Colonial India. In 1817, James Mill a Scottish economist also a Political Philosopher published a book “A History of British India”. In that he divided India into three parts that is Hindu, Muslim, British. Mill said All Asian Societies were at Lower Level of Civilisation than Europe. There are so many Religious Intolerance, Caste taboos, Superstitious Practices. He believed that British rule will civilise India and forced British to Conquer all territories in India and ensure enlightenment, happiness to people.

Industrial Reforms:

Blue Reforms:

Indigo plants grew primarily in Tropical Areas. Indigo Colour has its Own kind of Fashionate in those days. But only small amount of Indigo reached in Europe. By the 18th century, the demand for Indian Indigo grew further. It gives more employment to the Poor Indians. Especially, Bengal Indigo became World Famous. In 1788, about 30% of Indigo Imported into Britain was from India. This boosted the cultivators to grow more Indigoes.

Indian Textiles and the World Market:

Around 1750, India is the World’s largest producer of cotton textiles. Indian textiles sold in Southeast Asia (Java, Sumatra, Penang), West and Central Asia. From 16th century onwards European trading Companies begun to buy Indian Textiles in European Market. The Company Purchased cotton and silk in India by importing Silver. Sholapur in Western India and Madura in South India are new Important centres of weaving in late 19th century. Khadi gradually become symbol of Nationalism. The first Cotton Mill in India was set up as a spinning mill in Bombay in 1854.

Iron and Steel Factories:

Rajagiri Hills is One of the Finest ores in the World. Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO) was set up in 1912 near the banks of the River Subarnarekha in Jamshedpur. At that time, Indian economy was very low, people’s primary need was food not iron. TISCO company had earn no profit in the early period. During Second World War, there is a great demand for Iron and Steel. British bought more of steel from TISCO.

Colonialism and the City:

In the Late 18th century Calcutta, Bombay, Madras rose in Importance as Presidency cities. Old Trading centres and Ports could not survive when the flow of Trade moved to new centres. It is therefore called deurbanization. In Early 19th century, Machilipatnam, Surat, Seringapatam were deurbanization. In Early 20th century, 11% of Indians lived in the cities. Delhi has been Capital for more than 1000 years. So far, 14 Capital cities were founded on the left bank of River Jamuna.

Making of New Delhi:

In 1803, British gained control of Delhi after defeating Marathas. Since the Capital of British India was Calcutta. In the Great Rebel of 1857, people believe Mughal Emperor as their Leader. So, they want to show their strength and rule the Mughal City. The British wanted Delhi to forget its Mughal past. In 1911, King George fifth was crowned in Delhi was announced. New Delhi took nearly 20years to Build. It was Planned to contrast Shahjahanabad. New Delhi was born in the hands of British.

Civilising the Natives:

William Jones, a Linguistic and Henry Thomas Celebrooke and Nathaniel Halhed wanted to set Asiatic society of Bengal and started a Journal called Asiatic  researchers. Madrasa was set up in Calcutta in 1781 to promote the study of Arabic, Persian, Islamic Law. Hindu College was established in Benaras in 1791 to encourage the study of ancient Sanskrit. British said that knowledge of east was full of errors, it is non- serious and light hearted. James Mill suggested that the aim of education is to teach what is useful and practical. Thomas Babington macauly stated that India as an uncivilised country. There is no Branch of Eastern Knowledge. He said, “Single Self of a good European library was worth the whole native Literature of India and Arabic”. He also urged the need to taught English. Because of him, the English Education Act 1835 was introduced.

British strongly believed that Moral Education improved only through Christian Education. Colleges established in 1818. Over 19th century, school opened in all Over India. Up to mid-19th century, the company concerned primarily with Higher Education. After 1854, it decided to improve the system of Vernacular Education. It measures appointments of government pandits each in charge of looking four to five schools. The task of the pandit was to visit pathshalas and improve the standard of teaching. Guru must summit Periodic report and must conduct Exams. On the other hand, “Tagore’s abode of peace” ~ Santiniketan was started by Tagore in 1901. While Gandhi criticized the western civilisation, Tagore wanted to combine science and technology with Indian Tradition.

Social Reform:

Two Hundred Years ago, most of the children married at early age. Both Hindu and Muslim had more than one wife. Widow who practised Sati were praised. Women had no access to Education. People believe that if women got education, she would become widow. There was a Caste system that implies

  • Brahmanas and kshatriyas (upper caste)
  • Traders, Money Lenders (Vaishyas / after the upper class)
  • Peasants, artisans, weavers, potters (shudras / lower caste)

Between 19th century to 20th century, many of these norms and perceptions slowly changed due to interference of British in Indian society. In 1829, Sati was Banned. Another law was passed on 1856 permitting widow remarriages. In second half of 19th century, widow remarriages spread to Telungu-speaking areas of Madras Presidency. In 1929, Child Marriages restraint act was passed which gives men age limit above 18 and for women above 16 to get married. Girls begin going to Schools. Both Hindu and Muslim Orthodox Families feared that schools bring Girls away from Home, prevent them from doing their domestic duties. They felt that their women begun adopting the western culture and corrupt their own culture. In Aristocratic Muslim households in North India, Women learnt to read Quran in Arabic. In 19th century, women begun to write in Magazines and newspaper and in 20th century, they formed a Political Pressure Groups to force the right to vote for women. In 1920s, many of them joined Nationalist and Socialist Movements. In later Vedic Period, women were enslaved in homes. But in 19th century women begun to raise voice for her rights.


Though British enslaved Indians and their wealth. They do some important Reforms which changes the burden of women in Indian society, which developed the industries in India, which Civilise the Natives and educating the India. British not only wanted to colonise India, they also wanted to make people to think and gave up Traditional taboos. There is always another side of darkness that is light. Without them, there will be no social transformation of India. They gave us an Idea of how to Govern the state? The constitution of India had their roots deepen from the British India onwards. I hereby conclude by saying that there is always another side of coin. We must look upon each side. Yesterday we are enslaved to British, today we have been chained to politicians but tomorrow the young India is ready to
change the history of India. Let’s create our History by making change in ourself.

Author: K Sangeetha,
Government law college, chengalpattu

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