Imperialism: Effects on India

Shruti Satheesh

Shruti Satheesh


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8 November 2022


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8 Minute Read

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Before British

Disclaimer: This work is solely produced based on research performed at school and does explicitly mean anything.

"Among the many misdeeds of British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest"(Shukla). This was a quote by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Gandhi was one of the most prominent freedom fighters for Indian independence. Hindustan or Bharat, predominantly, nowadays known as India, was the Kohinoor (most precious diamond. Origin: India) of the British colonel crown. Britain viewed it as the most "Prized possession" that an empire could ever own. But India had to face a lot of issues being in the British colonel crown. British imperialism impacted India politically, economically, and culturally. Politically, India has faced a great amount of betrayal and lack of representation in the British-controlled Indian government. Additionally, destruction of various Indian industries such as local/traditional cloths, metal, and carpentry have negatively impacted the economy. Cultural drawbacks such as cultural differences, assimilation, the loss of traditions, and eventually leading to acculturation.

Before the British set their foot on the India soil, India and its citizens was prospering, under the rule of the “Mughals” or other small-province princes. It was before November 1, 1858, when India saw great heights of peace, welfare, wealth, and a good government. November 1 was the seeds sowed by the British in India started to germinate ("British"). Before that dawn, most of India (especially the North) was ruled by the Mughals. Mughals were the descendants from the Persian ancestor known as Mongols ("India"). This continued until this confounding empire took its decline ("India"). When the empire's ruler Aurangzeb passed away, without declaring his successor, his 3 sons fought for the throne, during this period the vast empire struggled a lot for power, control, and division. A couple of months before this event, the British had already arrived in India and introduced themselves as a trading company under the name " The East India company". When the Mughal empire took its decline, the British saw this as the best opportunity to conquer India and took power politically("British"). This continued for a long period of time until the British government decided to take direct control of India after the atrocities the East India company had done. "The Indian Mutiny, filled with stories about massacres of British women and children by Indian rebels, caused a major controversy in England. Queen Victoria and her advisers decided that the East India company could no longer handle its administration of the Indian colony and that the British government needed to assume direct responsibility"(Darraj). But the British government taking control of India did not make any difference. In fact, it added oil to the raging fire. Government became stricter, persecution of Indian royals took place. Increased fear, violence, and thousands of casualties.

Political Effects

Talking about the political perspective, the British government ill-treated the Indian nation by disregarding their opinions, betraying the Indian provinces to take control, and gave them less to no representation. But the Englishmen thought that the Indian traditions were terrible and saw this to help them “improve” and “live the Elite way”. Long attempts to change the Indian government and the role of Indians in it were taken by the British (Tompson). Most of these attempts were unsuccessful because of the strong Mughal rule as stated earlier. But when taking-over became successful, a lot of problems were caused. They often did not care about ethnic borders, and local opinion when it came to governing the country. Similar problems lead to a lot of political rebellions from imperialism, an example occurred when the East India company introduced the new type of cartridges (“East”). The Indian sepoys (sepoys were Indian soldiers working for the British government) were forced to use a new shotgun which had arrived freshly from England. But before inserting the bullet, the end of a cartridge, which was greased with pork and beef fat, had to be bitten off to be able to fire it. This offended the sepoys because sepoys were dominantly Hindus and Muslims. Hindus did not eat meat while Muslims did not eat pork. The Indians saw this as a threat to them and their culture. This created the most recognized sepoy mutiny. Sepoy Mutiny or First War of independence, widespread but unsuccessful rebellion against British (“East”). This Feared the East India company. Immediately, the next year, Queen Elizabeth had taken the decision that India will now be officially ruled by the British. And crowned herself as the queen of India. But there is a quite interesting fact “Perhaps what is the most revealing about the relationship between India and Britain is that era-what best symbolizes the disconnect between the conqueror and conquered-was the fact that Queen Victoria never once visited the land of which she was empress” (Darraj). This clearly indicates how the relationship between the Indians and the British government would have been. “Mis-match” is what historians describe this political situation. Where they did not regard Localities’ opinions, which constantly lead to several bloody wars.

Economic Effects

Talking about the economic perspective, the British government in the name of “Business” ruined a lot of original Indian production industries by importing an outsized number of products. And even banned the use of traditional Made only in India products. Mostly because all the European empires were determined to occupy and conquer as much land as possible to show their power and wealth. To lead this race, the British set their foot in the Indian soil with a strong desire to acquire wealth. “India’s economy was run for the benefit of the British empire rather than for the good of the Indian people '' (“British”). This often-caused indigenous industries to fall, failure of modern industries to replace them and not to mention the high taxation they applied on Indians. The “Empress of India'', who never actually visited India, was strongly determined to bring wealth and prosperity to Britain. And she saw India as a huge contributing source of bringing the wealth and name to Britain (Darraj). Queen Victoria had major plans on how they could get the most out of India and its labor. One such plan was the expansion of cotton industries in India by exporting cotton from India and expanding the British cotton industry, leaving India with no to less profit (Tompson). Another such plan was the expansion of the Indian tea industry. Which made Indian tea cheaper and plentiful. But some readers might view this as an advantage to the Indian economy when the Britishers exported large amounts of products for trade to other countries, and England, eventually, left India with nothing. India faced a lot of famines during the British raj. And one of the biggest ones was the “Great Famine” that took place during 1876-1878(“Indian”). The main cause behind this was the outsized portion of wheat and other products that were imported to Britain. This production season, the wheat industry prospered and the British set their eyes on wheat this time. India was predominantly a huge wheat-consuming country. Since the British now exported large sums of wheat, Indians were left with no wheat, which was the main cause behind the “Great famine”. The number of casualties in these famines were heavy. Around 85 million Indians died due to the famines(“Indian”). Which is 13 times the number of people that died in the Holocaust. British imperialism did not just cause casualties but also loss of various traditions. Traditional ways of market and food production were forced to be forgotten.

Cultural Effects

Connecting back to the point above, cultural aspects have been desecrated too. Not just a culture but several cultures on the verge. Britain brought English and Christian values to the Indian land. Queen Victoria wanted to spread Christian values to parts of the world that she considered “uncivilized” (Darraj). There were several ways that this plan was implemented. They sent special Christian missionaries to earn converts (“East”). Missionaries implemented their lessons through/in schools, orphanages, poor eateries etc.… and other places where it might have been easy to earn converts. As people started assimilating and eventually acculturating, they started to forget their traditional values that were passed down from generation to generation for a long time in the process of modernization. The British even tried to forcibly introduce English-schooling systems and prioritizing English over any other language (Darraj). But they did not understand that this cannot easily be absorbed or followed by the native people. Different ancestral beliefs, education, ethnic values etc... all played a key role in the cultural turnover. There still were good amount of people that converted to the newly introduced religion. Over time, the population of converts kept growing where it eventually led to acculturation and the loss of traditional Indian culture(s). To even add more tension, the British banned some Hindu and Muslim rituals. Which they thought to be extremely dangerous, and terrible. These actions tensioned the Indians so much that often small issues caused some serious rebellion and wars.


As a final analysis, among the political, economic, and cultural impact, the most-long lasting impact on India and its people till date is the cultural impact. “English still remains an official language of the country” (“British”). As enshrined in the Indian National constitution, English still rises as one of India’s many official and wide-spoken languages from the time of British rule to until today. Before the British imperialism, Indian citizens were predominantly Hindu and Muslim. “24 million Christians in India'' (“Religion”). As of after imperialism, the number of Christian populations in India is still growing. Eventually, if this population grows, then the chances of a large number of people following acculturation would increase. At the long look, Christianity could potentially be one of India’s dominant religions.

Even though India has faced lots of brutal treatments, rebellion, and wars, it grew stronger every time Britain strengthened its influence on India. After which they were finally able to gain independence and bloom into one of the world's largest democratic and diverse countries today.