The Age of New Imperialism began in the late nineteenth century and persisted until the beginning of the twentieth century. Imperialism is the act of imposing political control by seizing land and resources through warfare and conflict. Some notable countries in this quest for power includes France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands and Great Britain. This essay focuses on imperialism in India and looks at possible alternative realities. However, to come up with a different reality, one must first analyze British rule in India, whether it was beneficial or detrimental to the country and what could’ve been had Britain not begun rule in India.The Mughal dynasty had been the ruling power in the Indian subcontinent until the mid eighteenth century; with local leaders gaining independence and an opposing warlord sacking Delhi, the capital of the Empire, discontent grew. When the last emperor, an Islamic fundamentalist, discarded the traditionally lax policies, he was met with revolt by Hindus, further weakening his rule. The emperor went on to attempt to gain control over the areas not under Mughal control. Unsuccessful, his endeavors bankrupted the empire and power shifted to the hands of local leaders. By the time Britain started to expand in India, the country was at political unrest, fragmented by the fall of the Mughal empire. The East India Trading Company had acquired a small army at that point and slowly began to grow their influence over small regions. The British did not deal directly with citizens, instead collecting taxes and enforcing laws through the elites. Rajahs and Sultans agreed to make the British empire their heir in exchange for assurance they wouldn’t be attacked. Upon the death of these rulers, the British would allow other local rulers to absorb the land, stationing troops on some land that they would take. Each ruler was also given an advisor to help them make decisions. By doing all this, the East India Company slowly gained power. The citizens of the Indian subcontinent were not opposed to this rule. At the time, the British did not interfere with traditions and the way of life, a reassurance to Hindus and Muslims alike after the disbanding of the Mughal empire. Citizens were sought to be apart of troops, used to expand the East India Company’s territory. This was especially helpful when it came to defeating other countries with an interest in India. Portugal and France had strong bases in India and were considered a threat. The British Royal Navy was the largest maritime force in the world at the time, combined with the many soldiers the East India Company had, it was easy to isolate their rivals. Cut off from their home countries and without reinforcements or supplies, the French and Portuguese were easily defeated by Britain.The fact that British rule in India was marked by exploitation, corruption and decades of oppression is indisputable. However, some still make a counter-argument, offering political unity and railway as benefits. It is imperative at this point to understand that none of these were well-meaning gifts, but rather, calculated moves made by the East India Trading Company to further their own agenda. Had Britain not used their particular strategy to “unite” India, there’s reason to believe the country would’ve come together anyway. In the Vedas, a collection of early Hindu scriptures, a land between the Himalayas and the seas is described. Because of this, many historic rulers had quested to conquer and unite the land. In fact, the Mauryas- a civilization existing three centuries before the common era- and the Mughals both came the closest to achieving this fabled land by conquering 90% of the subcontinent. The railways were a scam meant to help the British prosper while taking from the taxpayers of India. British shareholders invested in the railways and made profits, paid from Indian taxes. There were luxurious compartments made only for white while the ones for Indians were sparsely decorated and small, inadequate for the amount of Indians who used the railway. Not only that but the railway was staffed exclusively by Europeans to “protect investments”. This absurd policy extended even into the twentieth century. So while political unity and the railways may be something left behind from British rule, the fact that they did immense harm is not debatable. Furthermore, the blatant racism that came to light in the later years of British rule is outrageous. Laws to separate people on religion, skin colour, tribe and language were all put into place, successfully dividing the citizens of the country and pitting them against one another. India was also limited to only importing goods from Britain, a dependency that weakened the country’s ability to stand on its own. None of these decisions were made by the people, as the citizens of India had no say in government, with all positions of power being held by Europeans. One possibility to consider is that India could have been a prosperous nation, had the British not imperialized the land. Had Britain been met with a stable government, it’s extremely unlikely they would’ve attempted to exploit India’s resources. According to economic historian Angus Maddison, one fourth of of the shares in the global economy was India’s in the year 1700. The country exported textiles, dyes, spices, salt, sugar, wax, beads and much more; apart from a few luxury items, India did not require much export from other countries. Legislations to foster a dependency on Britain crippled the country. Had the British not gained control of the government, it’s easy to assume that India could have developed as a different country than the one we see today.To recap, the East India Company used clever tactics to gain a monopoly on India’s resources. While this rule left behind political stability, railway and use of the English language, all of these so called benefits could’ve happened on their own without European intervention. Lastly, had Britain not colonized India, it’s likely political unity would’ve eventually occurred anyway. Having explored how British rule came to be, how it impacted India and possible alternate realities, this essay now draws to a close.
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