How Did The British Enslave India?

How Did The British Enslave India?

For almost two and a half centuries, the people of Hindustan bore the weight of British colonial rule. The struggle against British oppression was marked by the sacrifices of countless brave individuals, both young and old. It’s through their unwavering determination that we find ourselves living in an independent nation today. As we commemorate 76 years of freedom, this milestone is adorned with the celebration of the immortal nectar, known as the Amrit Mahotsav, in our homeland.

A Glimpse of the Past

The British presence in India wasn’t a constant throughout history. When they embarked on their journey to India, the land was under the dominion of the Mughals. The Mughals’ decision to allow their entry played a pivotal role in the establishment of British foothold. However, India wasn’t solely ruled by the Mughal Empire; the powerful Marathas held sway over another part of the country. Under these intricate circumstances, the British had to devise various strategies to solidify their position.

Building Influence: From Trading Posts to Conquest

The British influence in India grew incrementally. The formation of the British East India Company in 1600 marked a turning point. With Queen Elizabeth’s support, the company set its sights on the riches of India. While Emperor Akbar reigned in Delhi during this era, events in Britain were shaping a different story.

Contrasting Fortunes: India’s Prosperity and Britain’s Struggles

Around the 16th century, India’s prosperity shone as it contributed a significant quarter of the world’s total production. This prosperity earned India the moniker of the ‘Golden Bird,’ captivating the world with its opulence. In stark contrast, Britain was trailing behind in development. Emperor Akbar’s opulent rule was in stark contrast to Queen Elizabeth’s reign marked by an agrarian economy. The turmoil within Britain, including the Civil War, limited economic growth to a mere 3-4% at a global scale. Meanwhile, other European powers surged ahead, outpacing Britain on the world stage.

A Desperate Turn: British Pirates and India’s Wealth

Britain’s situation became so dire that British pirates resorted to plundering Portuguese ships to sustain themselves. The scarcity of resources in Britain forced them to seek riches elsewhere.

The East India Company’s Intrusion

During this period, a British sailor’s account of India’s vast wealth reached the British government. In 1600, the British East India Company emerged, comprising 200 traders. With Queen Elizabeth’s endorsement, they embarked on their journey. Simultaneously, Emperor Akbar’s reign ended, and Jahangir succeeded the throne.

In 1608, Captain William Hawkins anchored at the port of Surat in Gujarat. This marked the beginning of a tumultuous history. The British’s establishment of the East India Company paved the way for their entry into India. Valuable gifts were presented to Emperor Jahangir in a bid to win favor. Despite initial resistance, the British persisted, leading to a trade agreement signed by Jahangir, allowing them to set up factories in cities like Patna, Surat, Mumbai, and Chennai.

Initially, the company provided employment and fair wages, fostering collaboration with local merchants. However, greed gradually consumed the British, driving them to develop a plan for India’s subjugation.

Shifting Strategies: Divide and Rule

The British’s failed military encounters against the Mughals led to a realization: they needed to conquer India indirectly. This gave birth to the ‘divide and rule’ strategy, a political maneuver that still resonates in India’s political landscape. Following their defeats, the British made promises to Aurangzeb, learning from their mistakes. These promises secured Aurangzeb’s pardon and allowed them to resume their exploitative trade practices.

Weakening Mughal Rule

Aurangzeb’s death in 1707 created a power vacuum that birthed internal strife among contenders for the Mughal throne. The subsequent weak rulers lacked the ability to manage the vast empire effectively. Their erratic rule presented the British with an opportunity to exploit the situation.

The British Gain Foothold

In 1717, a Mughal ruler granted the British a trade decree exempting them from taxes and duties. This economic advantage coupled with the Persian invasion weakened the Mughal Empire significantly. To save Delhi, the Mughal rulers paid a hefty sum and surrendered precious jewels to the Persian army. This loss left the Mughal Empire in shambles.

Divide and Rule Expands

Continuing their strategies, the British escalated their efforts to gain control over various Indian regions. They pitted groups against each other through the ‘divide and rule’ policy. In 1764, the Battle of Buxar saw the British prevail, further solidifying their dominion. By the late 18th century, their influence extended over numerous aspects of Indian society. They imposed their taxes on trade and resources, amassing substantial profits while exploiting the nation.

Collaborations and Independence Struggle

During the 1857 struggle for independence, some powerful Indian landlords sided with the British, providing crucial support that secured British victory. The defeat marked the end of the Mughal Empire’s legacy. Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal ruler, was imprisoned in Rangoon, symbolizing the conclusion of an era.The British’s enslavement of India was a complex and calculated process. Through economic manipulation, political maneuvering, and military supremacy, they established their rule. The exploitation of India’s internal conflicts and weaknesses eventually led to their dominance. This chapter of history serves as a reminder of the resilience and strength of the Indian people who fought against oppression to regain their freedom.

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