Last Updated 28 May 2020

British Imperialism in India

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"All the leadership had spent their early years in England. They were influenced by British thought, British ideas, that is why our leaders were always telling the British "How can you do these things? They’re against your own basic values. ". We had no hatred, in fact it was the other way round - it was their values that made us revolt. " -Aruna Asaf Ali, a leader of the Indian National Congress. There is no doubt that British imperialism had a large impact on India.

India, having previously been an group of independent and semi-independent princedoms and territories, underwent great change under British administration. Originally intended to consolidate their hold on India by establishing a population that spoke the same language as their rulers, the British decision in the 1830s to educate Indians in a Western fashion, with English as the language of instruction, was the beginning of a chain of events, including a rise in Indian nationalism, that led to Indian resentment of British imperialism and ultimately to the loss of British control over India.

One of the most important factors in the British loss of control over India was the establishment of English as a unifying language. Prior This in turn led to further resentment of British imperialism, and claims that military regulations were an attempt by the British to destroy the traditional caste system. There was, however, much suspicion that this declaration meant nothing and that Britain had no intention of relinquishing control beyond simple aspects such as health services, agriculture and public works (Cowie, 39, 1994).

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Ghandi"tms Western education allowed him to develop his radical technique of "satyagraha"tm or "truth force"tm, whereby laws were opposed with the force of truth and moral consciousness instead of violence. This movement consisted mostly of British-educated intellectuals, and ironically was made possible by the British encouragement of higher education, originally intended to create a middle management that could carry out simple administration jobs.

Ghandi was ""shrewd enough to utilise the nature of British rule in India to win independence without too much bloodshed" (Masani, quoted in Wood, 32, 1989). With this in mind, the Montagu Declaration was issued in 1917, promising "gradual"tm and "progressive"tm self-government for India. As well as the moderate nationalism that grew within the Indian National Congress, extreme nationalism was also becoming prevalent.

While earlier in the century, the English language and European political principles gave rise to the Indian nationalist movement, these were the tools used to strengthen the movement and to create unity among the Indian people. " (Cowie, 36, 1994) This Congress, however, had no power in terms of action and it can be seen as an attempt by the British to appease Indian nationalists who wanted progress. The Indian National Congress was the largest and most obvious nationalist group, formed so that "educated Indians"could express dissatisfaction with the British colonial administration and suggest reforms.

Ghandi also gained insight into his culture through "discussion with English friends on religion, both Christianity and Hinduism, which he now began to discover on a philosophical level" (Masselos, 121, 1972). The publication of magazines and journals in English was also a great influence on the rise of Indian nationalism. to British colonisation, India was fragmented and multi-lingual, with 15 major languages and around 720 dialects. But in both cases there were actually both.

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