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What were the characteristics of British rule in India?


What were the characteristics of British rule in India? The Company at the beginning of the eighteenth century Company Structure: Approx. 3,000 shareholders ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: What were the characteristics of British rule in India?

What were the characteristics of British rule
in India?
The Company at the beginning of the eighteenth
  • Company Structure
  • Approx. 3,000 shareholders subscribed to a stock
    of 3,200,000
  • 20-30 ships sent to Asia each year
  • Annual sales in London worth up to 2 million
  • Run by 24 directors (elected annually by
  • Key exports
  • Spice
  • Textiles
  • Saltpetre (for gunpowder)
  • Trading with Asia high-risk and high-cost.
  • Trading Companies could raise large sums of money
    on a permanent basis, allowing them to spread
    risk among a corporate body of investors and to
    pursue long-term commercial strategies. The
    companies projected their huge outlays by
    maintaining close links with their parent
    states. (P. J. Marshall. The Oxford History of
    the British Empire p.488)

The structure of the English Company at the
beginning of the eighteenth century
  • By the 1750s the Company held 3 main trading
    stations in India
  • Calcutta
  • Madras
  • Bombay
  • Independently managed through presidents and
    councils, reporting separately to the British
  • Each responsible for its own internal management
    and defence.
  • Average sailing time from England 6 months. So
    initiative left to men in India.

The structure of the French Company at the
beginning of the eighteenth century
  • French La Compagnie française des Indes
    orientales held 2 main trading stations
  • Pondicherry
  • Chandernagore
  • French Company (founded 1664) closely connected
    with home government.
  • Deep in debt to the crown and so at its mercy.
  • French hoped to entrench Company within the
    Indian political system.

The Companys relationship to Indian politics and
  • Throughout the c.17th and c.18th the Company
    operated within an Indian commercial and
    political system.
  • Only at sea or in dealing with small-scale Asian
    regimes could Europeans hope to impose their own
    terms. (Marshall, p.489)
  • Company didnt have the power or inclination to
    challenge large Indian powers few commercial
  • European merchants accommodated themselves with
    Indian rulers and were offered protection in
    return for bringing trade to the region.
  • The Company's trade was built on a sophisticated
    Indian economy. During the seventeenth century
    the effective rule maintained by the Mughal
    emperors provided a secure framework for trade.
  • The British only started to intervene in Indian
    politics in the 1750s

British intervention in regional Indian politics
  • Mughal empire disintegrating and replaced by
    regional states.
  • Earlier interpretations this produced a
    situation of anarchy and chaos
  • More recent views no overall economic decline
    and some of the regional states maintained stable
  • Conflicts within new states contestants for
    power willing to seek European support.
  • Rivalry between British and French in India.
    Allied with opposing regional political factions.
  • Private ambitions great personal rewards for
    European King-makers. e.g. Robert Clive.

The shift from the Company as traders to rulers
  • Amal Chatterjee identifies 3 parts in the period
  • 1740-1760 the Company became involved in local
    politics, establishing Company power in Bengal.
  • 1760-1800 a period of concerted military
    activity. Company run by soldiers who then became
  • 1800-1840 power was transferred to civil
  • The Company controlled a large amount of land in
    India so had to submit to increasingly close
    supervision by the British state. Periodical
    inquiries by parliament.
  • Regions where the Company had helped rulers gain
    their control, many of its servants became
    administrators in the new British regimes.
  • Huge armies created, largely composed of Indian
    sepoys. Used to defend Company territories,
    coerce neighbouring Indian states and crush
    potential internal resistance.
  • Why change in British rule?
  • French aggression forced the peaceful British
    into action?
  • British as more assertive? New ambitions of the
    Company and its leading figures. Hostilities
    between French and British exploiting weaknesses
    in the Indian political system.

Maps showing British territory in the late
eighteenth century
  • 1756 relations between the Company and the
    Nawab of Bengal turned violent when the Company
    rejected an ultimatum from the new Nawab, who
    then took Calcutta.
  • British expedition from Madras (led by Robert
    Clive) recovered Calcutta and defeated the Nawab,
    Siraj-ud-Daula at Plassey in 1757.
  • Bengal then effectively became a client state
    with a new Nawab ruling under British protection.
  • Within a few years Bengal had become a province
    under actual British rule.
  • Settlement arising from the Battle of Buxar
    (1764) gave the Company the responsibility for
    the civil administration of Bengal and its
    connected provinces.
  • Gave the British rule over 20m people in Bengal
    and access to a revenue of about 3m, and taking
    British influence nearly up to Delhi.

The relationship between the Company and the
British Government
  • The Company depended on the state for its
  • Parliament could insist on internal changes to
    the Companys structure when its charter came to
    be renewed, the charter could be withheld if the
    Company refused to comply.
  • Dispute between Clive and Sulivan meant that the
    British government got involved in the activities
    of the Company. In the clash over Clives jagir
    (Mughal reward of territory and its income),
    Sulivan enlisted the help of the government and
    from then on the two were inseperable.
  • Inquiry into the management of the Company in

Company Governments based on Indian systems
  • New Company governments based on those of the
    Indian states effective work of administration
    initially done by Indians.
  • Collection of taxes main function of
  • British judges supervised the courts but they
    applied Hindu or Islamic rather than British law.
  • Little belief in the need for outright
  • Warren Hastings believed that Indian institutions
    were well adapted to Indian needs and that the
    new British governments should try to restore an
    'ancient constitution', which had been subverted
    during the upheavals of the 18th century.

Shift to British systems at the end of the
eighteenth century
  • Changing opinions about British rule in India.
  • Belief that India suffered from deeply ingrained
    backwardness which needed to be 'improved' by
    foreign rule
  • Property relations should be reformed to give
    greater security to the ownership of land.
  • Laws should be codified on scientific principles.
  • All obstacles to free trade between Britain and
    India should be removed.
  • Education should be remodelled.
  • Ignorance and superstition thought to be
    inculcated by Asian religions should be
    challenged by Christian missionaries.

The Regulating Act of 1773
  • 1773 dire financial situation of the Company,
    especially due to loss of tea sales to America
    since 1768. The Company owed money to Bank of
    England and the government.
  • Lord North wanted to overhaul the management of
    the East India Company with the Regulating Act.
  • Company men not trained to govern so North's
    government began moves towards government
  • Provisions of The Act
  • Governor-General and Council of 4 required for
    the government of the presidency of Fort William
    in Bengal.
  • Supreme court of judicature set up at Fort
    William, over all British subjects in Bengal and
    their native servants.
  • British officials in India were prohibited from
    receiving any gifts, presents, pecuniary
    advantages from the Indian princes or other powers

The India Act of 1784
  • This Act said that
  • Trading in India had to be separated from the
    ruling of the country.
  • A Board of Control was to be appointed.
  • Ministerial board to review all Company papers
    and issue orders to the directors.
  • The Company could still appoint offices in India,
    but was subject to the king's over-riding power
    to veto or remove.
  • The Governor-General in Calcutta and his council
    had absolute power with regard to foreign policy
    over the other presidencies in Bombay and Madras.
  • British subjects were made responsible to English
    courts for wrongs done in India.
  • All returning "nabobs" were to declare their
  • System of dual control between Company and Crown
    worked for the next 75 years, until the Indian
    Mutiny. After that, parliament took over complete
    responsibility for India.
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