British Colonialism in India: Beginning and End of British Colonialism in India

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

British Colonialism in India refers to the British rule over its colonial holdings in India. Colonialism is a term that defines which a colonizing country takes direct control over a colonized state by economic, military, and political means. British Colonialism in India is known as a period of direct british rule over India from 1858 until independence. In this article, you will get to know about a brief history of British Colonialism in India.

In addition, we have also covered the colonial ventures of the East India Company. This article would help the UPSC aspirants to gain insights into British Colonialism in India and make them exam-ready.

British Colonialism in India

The downfall of the Mughal Empire was one of the most significant drawbacks for India in history.

  • Since ancient times, Britishers have been known as the best traders in the world.
  • Britishers wanted to take advantage of the geographic location of India for trade. However, it wasn’t successful due to the Portuguese’s entrance.
  • After the Collapse of the Mughal Empire, Britishers had the power to control most parts of India from 1526 until Aurangzeb’s demise in 1707.
  • The fall down of the Mughals led to war between the Maratha and Persian. British took advantage of this situation, and it paved the way for British Colonialism in India.

Facts About British Colonialism in India

We have covered some important facts about British Colonialism in India below.

  • The first Viceroy during British Colonialism in India was Charles Canning, and the Viceroy was Lord Louis Mountbatten.
  • Capitals during the British rule in India were Calcutta (1858–1911), New Delhi (1911–1947), Shimla (summer capital) (1864–1947)
  • Masulipatnam (1611) was the first factory established by the East India Company.
  • East India Company used to trade items like Cotton, Silk, Indigo, Saltpeter, Tea, and Opium.

Beginning of British Colonialism in India

Britishers wanted to make a monopoly in the trading market worldwide. However, at that time Portuguese dominated the oceans. To challenge the Portuguese, the Britishers and Dutch built their own private stock company. however, they soon came into conflict with each other.

  • Dutch were successful in the Indonesian archipelago, and the Britishers established In 1600 the East India Company to trade.
  • After a peace agreement between the Dutch and English, the East India Company kept the textile industry, and the more valuable spice trade was left to the Dutch.
  • With time, the trade in textiles overtook the spice business. British overtook the Dutch in terms of profitability. The East India Company shifted its base to Fort St. George in Calcutta.

Positive Impacts of British Colonialism in India

There were many positive impacts on India due to British rule in India, such as:

  • In 1872, a law was passed, and it legalized intercaste marriage in India. Slavery was also declared illegal, and the Widow remarriage Act was also passed in 1856.
  • Lord Hardinge banned the ritual of offering little children as sacrifices.
  • One of the best things about British Colonialism in India was the connection of Railways in inland areas.
  • A new system of law and justice in India was introduced in India.
  • With British colonies in India, ideas of liberty, equality, and freedom were introduced in India.
  • Many universities and institutes were opened that enhanced the education system in India. English language and western ideas had a positive impact on Indian society.

Negative Impacts of British Colonialism in India

There were many drawbacks as well due to the British rule in India. We have mentioned them in brief below.

  • The decrease in traditional livelihood resulted in the loss of jobs for many artisans.
  • Charter Act 1813 allowed free trade to British Citizens, and on the other hand, heavy duties were levied on imports from India in Britain.
  • To maximize the rent, the government imposed a permanent settlement system.
  • Due to British Colonialism in India, many families were exposed to poverty.
  • Indians were forced to grow commercial crops like coffee, cotton, opium, etc, and sell them as instructed by the Britishers.
  • Due to British Colonialism in India, there was a massive import of machine-made clothes. It was a threat to handicraft industries in India.

British Rule in India

Queen Victoria promised that the British Government would work for the development of Indian subjects.

  • To minimize the threats during British rule in India, the British government embarked on a policy that divided Hindus and Muslims against one another.
  • In 1914, the British declared war against Germany on India’s behalf. Around 1.5 million Indian soldiers served the British army. But unfortunately, this didn’t change the British’s attitude towards Indians.
  • During British Colonialism in India, World War 2 broke out, and here also India contributed significantly.
  • By then, the economic losses of Britain in the war started taking a toll. At this time, the independence movement took place, and the British started losing control over India.
  • British Colonialism in India came to an end with the passing of the Indian Independence Act of 1947.
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