Did the Indian Mutiny of 1857 Create the British Raj?
Did the Indian Mutiny of 1857 create the British Raj? The Indian Rebellion of 1857, which was also called the Indian Mutiny, or the War of Independence was a turning point in the history of Britain in India. However, whether this lead to the formation of the British Raj, will be explicitly explored in this essay. The East India Company traded in cotton, silk, tea and opium. They won over Bengal after gaining victory in the Battle of Plassey in 1757, under Robert Clive.
The East India Company functioned as the military authority in growing sections of India, as well. By 1770, heavy taxation and other policies had left millions of Bengalis deprived. While British soldiers and traders made their fortunes, the Indians starved. Between 1770 and 1773, about 1/3 of the population died from famine. At this time, Indians also were barred from high office in their own land, which meant people like Robert Clive had more opportunities and privileges. The British considered them inherently corrupt and untrustworthy.
The Company began to vigorously expand its area of control in India, making it easier for young aristocrats from Britain to exploit its potential. The British felt there were two positive economic benefits provided by the India. It was a captive market for British goods and services, and served defence needs by maintaining a large standing army at no cost to the British taxpayer. Amongst these benefits were the large scale capital investments in railways, canals and irrigation works, shipping and mining; the commercialisation of agriculture and the establishment of an education system in English.
This emphasised law and order creating suitable conditions for the growth of industry and enterprise; and the integration of India into the world economy. Conversely, the British Raj are criticised for leaving Indians poorer and more prone to devastating famines; exhorting high taxation in cash from penniless people. Also, draining Indian revenues to pay for an army beyond India’s own defence needs and servicing a huge debt. This was the result of the economic power left in British hands. In 1784, the Board of Control was established, this gave British Parliament he right to oversee all aspects of the East India Company. The Governor General managed the Board of Control, he was was appointed by the British Government, this meant that the British had control over the east India Company, giving them the power to impose restrictions on certain prospects. There was a great deal of racial distrust between the British and Indians living in India at the time of the British Raj. Moreover, many Indians despised the English, they felt that they were only concerned about their own Industrial Growth this made them uneasy with the new ‘Alien Rule’.
Many were unhappy with the rapid cultural changes imposed by the British. They worried that Hindu and Muslim would be ‘Christianized’, mainly by the missionaries. There is some truth to these statement, but there were a number of other underlying causes for the rebellion. The Indian soldiers were believed to be under a ‘double rule’, both a military and religious rule, which meant the two often came into conflict, causing them vast problems. One of these problem was the cause of The Great Rebellion.
The main reason the Indian Sepoys mutinied against their British commanders was because they had heard that the newly issued rifle cartridges were greased with pig and cow fat, making them unacceptable for both Hindu and Muslim soldiers. This led to a monumental outbreak, as the Muslims and Hindus rebelled ceaselessly. What started as a small conflicting group of Indian soldiers from a single regiment, soon expanded to a vast number of Indian Sepoys fighting for their integrity and freedom.
Following the Indian Mutiny, the East India Company was abolished by Act of Parliament and the British crown assumed full rule of India. The British used violence and negotiation to put an end to the Uprising, resorting to merciless tactics to restore order. This created resentment, opportunity for revenge and long-term problems. They used fear to breed control, which was very disorderly. The British dispatched more troops to India and eventually succeeded in putting down the mutiny. Many sepoys who had surrendered were executed by British troops.
To ensure that British rule could never be threatened in such a way again the Indian Army was reorganised so that it needed its British components to function effectively. Alternatively, the British should have dealt with this issue in a more political and diplomatic way, instead of as an act of vengeance. The conflicts of 1857 and 1858 were brutal and bloody, The bitter legacy of murder and mutilation of atrocities committed by both sides circulated in newspapers and illustrated magazines in Britain, poisoning relationships for decades.
The Government of India act 1935 gave Indian provinces more independence. For the first time direct elections were introduced and the right to vote was increased from seven million to thirty-five million. The British government never actually intended to take control of India, but when British interests were threatened the government had to step in. The embodiment of the new British rule in India was the office of the Viceroy. British rule from the time after the mutiny is often called the Raj.
During this period small amount of British officials and troops (about 20,000) ruled over 300 million Indians. This was often seen as evidence that most Indians accepted and even approved of British rule. Undoubtedly, Britain could not have controlled India without the co-operation of Indian princes and local leaders, as well as huge numbers of Indian troops and many others. Moreover, British rule of India was maintained by the fact that Indian society was so divided that it could not unite against the British.
In fact, the British encouraged these divisions. The British embarked on a furious policy of “Divide and Rule”, fomenting religious hatred as never before. The better-off classes were educated in English schools. They served in the British army or in the civil service. They effectively joined the British to rule their poorer fellow Indians. For much of the 1800s the average Indian peasant had no more say in the way they were ruled than did the average worker in the United Kingdom.
The British view tended to portray British rule as a charitable exercise – they suffered India’s environment (climate, diseases) and in return they bought India a good government and economic development (railways, irrigation, medicine). On the other hand, Ruling India brought huge benefits to Britain. India’s huge population made it an attractive market for British industry. In the 1880s, about 20% of Britain’s total exports went to India. By 1910 these exports were worth ? 137 million.
India also exported huge quantities of goods to Britain, especially tea, which was drunk or exported on from Britain to other countries. Then there were the human resources. The Indian army was probably Britain’s single greatest resource. Around 40% of India’s wealth was spent on the army. This army was used by Britain all over the world, including the First and Second World Wars. It was the backbone of the power of the British empire. In 1901, the British viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, said ‘As long as we rule India, we are the greatest power in the world.
If we lose it we shall straight-away drop to a third rate power’. Overall, I have a mixed opinion on whether that Indian Mutiny of 1857 did actually create the British Raj. They used the same tactics the East India Company used, divide and conquer. They broke India up into small kingdoms and put a native Raj in power over that Kingdom. In this way no Raj had enough power to challenge British Rule. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that the Indian Mutiny did in fact contribute towards strengthening the British Raj, yet did not ultimately create it.