This last episode covers the British East India Company, the "Mutiny," the subsequent British Raj, and finally India's partition and independence in Read more about Episode 6. Print Email Share. An ancient Indo-European language, Sanskrit is widely believed to have been introduced to the Indian subcontinent by outsiders who called themselves "Aryans" or noble ones and who progressively migrated to the Indian subcontinent from the northwest starting around BCE. Sanskrit's first written record can be found in the Rig-Veda c.
The writing of the great Indian epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata c. Between CE and CE Sanskrit developed into an international scholarly and liturgical language across south Asia, rather like Latin in the medieval West. In the 18th century, Sir William Jones , a judge and language scholar, theorized that Sanskrit was linked to Greek and Latin through a common original language.
His work, along with that of others interested in Asian history and culture, advanced philology and European knowledge and awareness of India.
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Used primarily for religious and ceremonial purposes in modern India, Sanskrit is one of the country's 23 official languages which includes English. Lakshmi Bai CE was a rani queen of the Maratha state of Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh and a leading figure in the struggle for Indian independence. As a child, Lakshmi Bai's education included fencing, weaponry, and horsemanship. Following the death of her husband, the Raja of Jhansi, in , the British East India Company refused to recognize the Raja's adopted heir and seized Jhansi by invoking the "doctrine of lapse.
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The Rani repeatedly petitioned the British for her adopted son's rightful inheritance, but her pleas were rejected. When British army sepoys Indian-born soldiers rebelled in Jhansi, killing British women, children and soldiers, the Rani was held accountable despite her lack of involvement in the mutiny.
In March , the British Bombay army attacked Jhansi. The Rani defended her city until she was forced to flee after the storming of Jhansi Fort. In June, the Rani—along with the military command of a fellow resistance leader, Tatya Topi—seized Gwalior in northern India. They had held Gwalior Fort for less than a month when the Rani was killed during a British assault.
Reports of her death vary, with some indicating she was killed while scouting from the fort's ramparts and others that she was shot in battle while leading her army. The Rani became a symbol of resistance against British rule and is widely considered a heroine and martyr in India. In the s, an all-women unit of the Indian National Army, formed to fight British colonial rule, was named after her.
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Born in , he was the son of Joseph Hume, a Scottish doctor and radical politician. After studying medicine and surgery, Hume joined the Bengal Civil Service at Etawah, in Uttar Pradesh, in the midth century and steadily rose within its ranks, becoming the central government's Director-General of Agriculture in Throughout his career, he advocated for and initiated progressive social reforms, such as free primary education in Etawah, and was an unabashed critic of the British government, especially when its policies contributed to the unwarranted suffering of the Indian population.
In , a year after retiring from the civil service, he called on the graduates of Calcutta University to form an Indian political organization that would seek greater independence for their country and better treatment of its people from the British. This was the impetus for the creation of the Indian National Congress , which held its first meeting in Bombay in Hume left India in , but remained a committed supporter of Indian independence.
While in India, Hume also gained renown as an ornithologist and amassed an important collection of botanical and bird specimens. He died in The Indian Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp in his honor in The rebellion came out of the sepoy's long-held grievances about unfair assignments, low pay, limited opportunities for advancement, and the reorganization of Awadh, a region from which a third of them had been recruited.
A more immediate cause of insult to the sepoys was the new Lee Enfield rifle that required soldiers to reload by biting off the ends of cartridges greased with pig and cow fat, substances offensive to both Muslim and Hindu religions. On May 10, , the sepoys posted in Meerut attacked officers and marched on Delhi after their colleagues had been punished for refusing to use the new cartridges.
Once in Delhi, the uprising gained legitimacy when the sepoys made the year-old Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah II the leader of their rebellion. Other soldiers, primarily those stationed in northern India, joined the revolt, and popular uprisings also broke out in the countryside. Central India and the cities of Delhi, Lucknow, and Cownpore Kanpur became the primary areas of unrest while areas further south, where the Bombay and Madras armies and many princes and elites remained loyal, were largely untouched by the rebellion.
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By September, the British had regained control of Delhi , exiled Bahadur Shah, and killed both of his sons. After the siege of Gwalior in the summer of , the British regained military control, and those sepoys who had revolted were severely punished—a number of captured sepoys were fired from cannons. The army was reorganized to include a higher ratio of British to Indian soldiers, recruitment focused on regions that had not revolted, and units were composed of soldiers representing many Indian ethnicities, so as to prevent social cohesion among sepoys.
Loss of British revenue as a result of the rebellion was severe, and in , an act of the British Parliament transferred the East India Company's rights in India to the Crown.
The new administration of India included a British secretary of state, viceroy, and member advisory council. In , Queen Victoria declared herself Empress of India. British rule extended over present-day India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan together about a fifth of the world's population. Under the new administration, a governor-general with a five-member council governed in India, while a secretary of state and member council oversaw Indian affairs in Britain. Provincial governments included executive and legislative councils and were divided into districts, each overseen by a commissioner.
The Indian Civil Service, composed of magistrates, revenue officials, commissioners, and other bureaucratic positions, formed a fundamental segment of the new government. After , examinations required for entry into the civil service were held in India, not only Britain, and by , most Civil Service officials were Indian.
Policies of nonintervention in religion and recognition of regional princes—numbering approximately —were among the first issued under the British administration, perhaps reflecting the religious causes of the Great Rebellion of A newly restructured army that included more British officers had the foreign policy responsibility of keeping Russia out of Central Asia, leading to the Anglo-Afghan Wars during much of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. By , India had the fourth largest railway system in the world, one that unified the country geographically and economically.
In , King James I sent Sir Thomas Roe as his ambassador to Jahangir's court, and a commercial treaty was concluded in which the Mughals allowed the Company to build trading posts in India in return for goods from Europe. The Company traded in such commodities as cotton , silk , saltpetre, indigo, and tea. By the mids, the Company had established trading posts or "factories" in major Indian cities, such as Bombay , Calcutta , and Madras in addition to their first factory at Surat built in In King Charles II granted the company the right to acquire territory, raise an army, mint its own money, and exercise legal jurisdiction in areas under its control.
By the last decade of the seventeenth century, the Company was arguably its own "nation" on the Indian subcontinent, possessing considerable military might and ruling the three presidencies. Bengal became a British protectorate directly under the rule of the East India Company. Bengal's wealth then flowed to the Company, which attempted to enforce a monopoly on Bengali trade though smuggling was rife. Bengali farmers and craftsmen were obliged to render their labor for minimal remuneration while their collective tax burden increased greatly. Some believe that as a consequence, the famine of cost the lives of ten million Bengalis .
A similar catastrophe occurred almost a century later, after Britain had extended its rule across the Indian subcontinent, when 40 million Indians perished from famine. The Company, despite the increase in trade and the revenues coming in from other sources, found itself burdened with massive military expenditures, and its destruction seemed imminent. Lord North's India Bill, The Regulating Act of , by the British Parliament granted Whitehall, the British government administration, supervisory regulatory control over the work of the East India Company but did not take power for itself.
This was the first step along the road to government control of India. It also established the post of Governor-General of India , the first occupant of which was Warren Hastings. Further acts, such as the Charter Act of and the Charter Act of , further defined the relationship of the Company and the British government. Hastings remained in India until and was succeeded by Cornwallis, who initiated the Permanent Settlement, whereby an agreement in perpetuity was reached with zamindars or landlords for the collection of revenue.
For the next 50 years, the British were engaged in attempts to eliminate Indian rivals. At the turn of the nineteenth century, Governor-General Lord Wellesley brother of the Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington began expanding the Company's domain on a large scale, defeating Tippu Sultan also spelled Tippoo Sultan , annexing Mysore in southern India, and removing all French influence from the subcontinent. He also justified the takeover of small princely states such as Satara, Sambalpur, Jhansi, and Nagpur by way of the doctrine of lapse, which permitted the Company to annex any princely state whose ruler had died without a male heir.
The annexation of Oudh in proved to be the Company's final territorial acquisition, as the following year saw the boiling over of Indian grievances toward the so-called "Company Raj. At the time, the strength of the Company's Army in India was ,, of whom 38, were Europeans. Indian soldiers marched to Delhi to offer their services to the Mughal emperor, and soon much of north and central India was plunged into a year-long insurrection against the British East India Company.
The rebellion or the war for independence had diverse political, economic, military, religious and social causes.
Britain in India, 1858–1947
The policy of annexation pursued by Governor-General Lord Dalhousie, based mainly on his "Doctrine of Lapse," which held that princely states would be merged into company -ruled territory in case a ruler died without direct heir. This denied the Indian rulers the right to adopt an heir in such an event; adoption had been pervasive practice in the Hindu states hitherto, sanctioned both by religion and by secular tradition. The states annexed under this doctrine included such major kingdoms as Satara, Thanjavur, Sambhal, Jhansi, Jetpur, Udaipur, and Baghat. Additionally, the company had annexed, without pretext, the rich kingdoms of Sind in and Oudh in , the latter a wealthy princely state that generated huge revenue and represented a vestige of Mughal authority.
This greed for land, especially in a group of small-town and middle-class British merchants, whose parvenu background was increasingly evident and galling to Indians of rank, had alienated a large section of the landed and ruling aristocracy , who were quick to take up the cause of evicting the merchants once the revolt was kindled. The justice system was considered inherently unfair to the Indians. The official Blue Books — entitled East India Torture — — that were laid before the House of Commons during the sessions of and revealed that Company officers were allowed an extended series of appeals if convicted or accused of brutality or crimes against Indians.
The economic policies of the East India Company were also resented by the Indians. Most of the gold , jewels, silver and silk had been shipped off to Britain as tax and sometimes sold in open auctions, ridding India of its once abundant wealth in precious stones. The land was reorganized under the comparatively harsh Zamindari system to facilitate the collection of taxes.
In certain areas farmers were forced to switch from subsistence farming to commercial crops such as indigo, jute, coffee and tea. This resulted in hardship to the farmers and increases in food prices. Local industry, specifically the famous weavers of Bengal and elsewhere, also suffered under British rule. Import tariffs were kept low, according to traditional British free-market sentiments, and thus the Indian market was flooded with cheap clothing from Britain.
Indigenous industry simply could not compete, and where once India had produced much of England's luxury cloth, the country was now reduced to growing cotton which was shipped to Britain to be manufactured into clothing, which was subsequently shipped back to India to be purchased by Indians.
This extraordinary quantity of wealth, much of it collected as 'taxes', was absolutely critical in expanding public and private infrastructure in Britain and in financing British expansionism elsewhere in Asia and Africa. The spark that lit the fire was the result of a British blunder in using new cartridges for the Pattern Enfield rifle that were greased with animal fat , rumored to now be a combination of pig -fat and cow -fat.