How did the British come to Rule in India

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Exploring New Trade Zones

The English East India Company was founded in 1600. It was then known as The Company of Merchants of London trading with the East Indies. It started trading in India and very soon was able to establish a factory in Masulipatnam on the Eastern coast of India in 1611. They were granted the rights to establish a factory in Surat in 1612 by the Mughal emperor Jahangir. After about eighteen years, in 1640, the Company received permission from the Vijayanagara ruler, a second factory was established in Madras on the south-eastern coast.

Bombay Island, not far from Surat, was leased by the Company in 1668. Two decades later, the Company established their presence in the Ganges river delta, where a factory was set up in Calcutta.

What Changed the Thinking of the Company?

When India was under the rule of Jahangir, it was a stronger nation. The British were happy to be traders and nothing more. However, Nadir Shah of Iran invaded India in 1738. The Mughal rulers were badly defeated and that signalled to the world that India was very weak. The East India Company immediately latched on and made use of the weakness.

They started setting up army, building fortresses and in the name of their protection from other European powers maintained a large ammunition bank with strong soldiers to save their cargo and ships. British troops were very well organized and used advance techniques & strategic skills on the war field.

The Complete Take Over

Clive arrived at Fort St. George in June 1744, where he worked as an assistant shopkeeper, tallying books and arguing with suppliers of the East India Company. During the 1748 Siege of Pondicherry Clive distinguished himself in successfully defending a trench against a French sortie.

Gradually he established himself as the most fierce and successful officer who rose to the level of commanding officer after each successive war, whether it was Carnatic War I or War II. Robert Clive, the Governor General of the company won the Battle of Plassey in 1757 and another victory was achieved in the year 1764 in the Battle of Buxar, Bihar. This made the Company extremely powerful.

Now they were in a position to force Emperor Shah Alam II to appoint it as the diwan, or the revenue collector of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa. This way the Company came to rule the most important areas of the lower Gangetic plain by 1773. This meant a complete control over the most fertile region and an effective control over the revenue generators of the provinces and states.

There next anchorage was towards the port towns of Bombay and Madras. The Anglo-Mysore Wars in 1766 to 1799 and the Anglo-Maratha Wars from 1772 to 1818 facilitated the occupation of the large area of South India and that near the fertile planes of Sutlej River. After the Marathas lost their battle to the Company there was no one to stop the wrath and havoc of the British trader invaders. This was evidently the beginning of the rule of the British over Indian subcontinent.

 

What Went Wrong With the Company?

Despite of winning the, two most important battles that of Plassey and that of Buxar, Clive and his Company were showing huge losses to the British government. The “nabobs” as they were called back in England the officer’s victory, and the award of the diwani of the rich region of Bengal, brought India into the public spotlight in Britain returned to Britain with large fortunes of gems, Gold and goods. The Company’s money management ways came under the scrutiny of the British government. It was said that all the riches acquired by these Company officers were acquired unscrupulously.

The wars seemed to have drained out the company and its accounts, so by 1772, the Company needed British government to provide them loans to stay afloat. The government was sure that they had to stop the operations of the East India Company in India as they were eating into the funds meant for the public and developmental work in England. The British parliament held several inquiries and in 1773.

Under the premiership of Lord North, an Act was passed, that was to regulate the management of the affairs of the East India Company. It was called the Regulating Act which meant to look into the affairs of the India East India Company and one that in Europe.

Result of This Tough Step

All Lord North wanted to do was, to curtail the power of the Company and let the British government take over. He wanted the Company’s territories to be under the British Crown and be administered directly to overcome the problems like corruption and crime. Instead of support, he got a strong political opposition from many quarters, including some in the City of London and the British parliament.

As a result the Act was distorted to suit the desires of the Company. Instead of curtailing to the powers of the Company, it made them stronger. According to this law the new territories acquired by the Company and the old ones that the Company could act as a sovereign power on behalf of the Crown.

 

The Court of Directors of the Company were required under the Act to submit all communications regarding civil, military, and revenue matters in India for scrutiny by the British government. The Governors of these Presidencies were directed in general terms to obey the orders of the Governor-General-in-Council, and to transmit to him intelligence of all important matters.” The Regulating Act also attempted to address the prevalent corruption in India: Company servants were henceforth forbidden to engage in private trade in India or to receive “presents” from Indian nationals.

Still More Despotism

William Pitt’s India Act of 1784 was established by a Board of Control in England both to supervise the East India Company’s affairs and to prevent the Company’s shareholders from interfering in the governance of India. Lord Cornwallis, the new Governor-General appointed in 1786, had more power than Hastings. He also had the support of the cabinet minister of the Britain Government. From 1784 onwards, the British government decided upon all major appointments made in India. “A candidate would be considered suitable for a senior position only if he had great political strength rather than his administrative ability.”

Hastings was not only corrupt but also a cause of distress on people of India. The British Government had realised that it was their responsibility to provide proper governance to the people of their colony. Thus they came out with another Charter Act of 1813 according to which the Company’s Charter was renewed but its monopoly was terminated opening Indian trade to both private investments and missionaries. With more Britishers coming in India, the British power increased and so did the supervision by the British Crown of all the Indian affairs.

The Final Acquisition

Under the terms of The Charter Act of 1833, the British Parliament cancelled the Company’s trade licence.  This brought the Company under direct orders of the British Crown. But the administration of British India remained the responsibility of the Company officers. The Charter Act of 1833 also made the Governor-General-in-Council the in charge of civil and military administration of the whole of India. A few of Princely states were governed by Indian Kings, the Britishers made them as well granting the office the exclusive power of legislation. He reported back to the Secretary of State for India and the British Parliament.

Thus British Raj came into being. It is worth noting that the Raj included two-thirds of India, with the other portions under the control of local princes. This was the same time when Mughal Empire was on its decline and Last Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was sent to Burma on an exile. With no strong leadership at the top, Indians were left at the mercy of the British government to relieve them from the atrocities caused by the Company on the Indian masses. Britain, on their part, exerted a lot of pressure on these princes, effectively controlling whole of India. Even though, some portions in South were under the governance of the French.

Expansion of Company’s Power

The expansion of the Company’s power mainly was in two ways the first one was the outright annexation of Indian states that resulted in direct governance of the cities under that state. That was the beginning of the way British India was taking birth. The annexed states and cities included the North-Western Provinces – Rohilkhand, Gorakhpur, and the Doab, Delhi, Assam’s Ahom Kingdom, and Sindh. Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, and Kashmir, were annexed after the Anglo-Sikh Wars in 1849–56. Kashmir was sold under the Treaty of Amritsar to 1850 to the Dogra Dynasty of Jammu.  In 1854 Berar was annexed, and the state of Oudh two years later.

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