RISE OF THE WEST AND ITS IMPACT ON INDIA
From 1450 onwards, three important developments had changed the shape of Europe:
(i) the invention of printing press,
(ii) the beginning and the spread of the Renaissance and the Reformation movements and
(iii) the discovery of new trade routes.
Thereafter, Europe made great progress in the fields of science, exploration and gunnery. Soon, their armies and navies became the best in the world. Scientific education began to spread. Logic and reason thus became the touchstone on which the old dogmas and learning were tested.
Among these European countries, the Portuguese and then the Dutch, the French and finally, the British entered into a race to control the trade from India. The British ultimately succeeded in not only controlling trade but also the country and for about two centuries India remained under her domination where her entire human resources were recklessly exploited and her wealth was drained away for the benefit of the ruling nation. To further their interest the British used the prevailing social and political situation in India. Where a large number of states had cropped up after the decline of the Mughal Empire. The British took advantage of this situation and had one ruler fight against the other or supported a usurper to the throne. Though Tipu Sultan of Mysore tried to use the same principle as used by the British, that is making use of the rivalry between the French and the British, he could not match the superior diplomacy and fire power of the British.
The British domination of India was built upon successive phases. The first phase consisted of taking hold of the Indian trade. They bought Indian goods at very low prices and sold them in the Western markets at very high prices, thereby making enormous profits without giving anything to the peasants. In this, they were helped by the Indian Seths and gomastas.
In the second phase, the British took control of the production activities in a manner that the Ages would suit their export objectives. In the process they successfully destroyed the Indian industries. This was because India was a potential buyer of their goods.
The third phase was an intensified phase of British Imperialism and colonial exploitation when India was ruled by the British for fulfilling British economic interests.
The Britishers came to India for making profits through trade. Slowly they gained political and economic control of the country. After the Battle of Plassey in 1757 A.D., they had become the real masters of Bengal. They used political control over Bengal to increase their trade and export of foreign goods. They eliminated the Indian as well as foreign rivals in trade so that there could be no competition. They monopolised the sale of raw cotton and made the Bengal weaver pay exorbitant prices. They imposed heavy duties on Indian goods entering Britain so as to protect their own industry.
With the coming of the industrial revolution in Europe, the Indian industries were hit very hard. By 1813, the Indian handicrafts lost both the domestic as well as the foreign market. Indian goods could not compete with the British factory made products, where machines were used.
On the other hand, the English merchants had accumulated a lot of wealth which they now invested in setting up industries and trade. The East India Company helped in financing and expanding their industrial base. During this time there was a class of manufacturers in England who benefitted more from manufacturing than trading. They were interested in having more raw materials from India as well as sending their finished goods back. Between 1793 and 1813, these British manufacturers launched a campaign against the company, its trade monopoly and the privileges it enjoyed. Ultimately in 1813, they succeeded in abolishing the East India Company’s monopoly of Indian trade. With this India became an economic colony of industrial England.
As a result, Indian hand made goods faced extinction as British machine made goods were cheaper. These goods either had a free entry or paid very low tariff rates to enter India. Indians were to be modernised so that they could develop taste for western goods and buy them. The Indian industries suffered as a result of exploitation at the hands of the British, who did not at all care about Indian trade interests. They did not protect Indian trade nor did they introduce any advanced technology in the country during this period. Indian handicrafts suffered when foreign goods were given free entry. On the other hand, Indian handicrafts were taxed heavily when they entered Britain. Indian sugar mills paid duty three times its original price when sent to Britain. So the trade from India virtually came to a stop.
India had become an excellent consumer of British goods and a rich supplier of raw materials by the year 1813 A.D.
Since England wanted to exploit India for commercial gains, that is, by buying raw materials and selling finished goods, they introduced steam ships and railways in India. The railways opened a vast market to the British and facilitated export of Indian raw material abroad.
Do you know that it was in 1853 that the first railway line running from Bombay to Thane was opened to public? The railways connected the raw material producing areas with the exporting ports. As a result British goods flooded the Indian market.
Do you know that the railways played an important role in the national awakening of the country, too? They helped to bring people and ideas come closer together—something that the British had never anticipated. Isn’t this ironical?
Do you know that it was again in 1853 that Dalhousie opened the first telegraph line from Calcutta to Agra and also introduced the postal service in India?