The history of modern India is marked by arrival of Vasco da Gama in 1498.
In 1498, Vasco da Gama successfully discovered a new sea route from Europe to India, which paved the way for direct Indo-European commerce. The Portuguese soon set up trading posts in Goa, Daman, Diu and Bombay. The next to arrive were the Dutch, the British—who set up a trading post in the west coast port of Surat in 1619—and the French. The internal conflicts among Indian kingdoms gave opportunities to the European traders to gradually establish political influence and appropriate lands. Although these continental European powers controlled various coastal regions of southern and eastern India during the ensuing century, they eventually lost all their territories in India to the British islanders, with the exception of the French outposts of Pondichéry and Chandernagore, the Dutch port of Travancore, and the Portuguese colonies of Goa, Daman and Diu.
Major portion of modern Indian history is about Company (East India Company) Rule. In 1617 the British East India company was given to trade in India. With the increasing powers , they were given duty free business grants in 1717. However, establishing its high profit trade and long rule in India was not an easy task for the British forces and East India Company. The Company went through a fierce competition with other European Merchants like the French and the Portuguese which finally favored the British forces after the defeat of the Portuguese in the Battle of Swally in year 1612. After their victory , the company established itself throughout the nation, which was then under the rule of the Mughal ruler Jahangir. Mughals allowed the Company to establish its reach throughout the India . British took this opportunity with both hands to establish their influence and power in the whole country.The primary strategy of the company had been to capture Indian economy by capturing all the trade routes. Soon they had full control on all the trade ports of India like Madras (now Chennai), Bombay (now Mumbai), Calcutta (now Kolkata).
Gradually, the British forces started to establish its rule in India although they received lot of received lot of resistance from the then Indian rules. After the famous battle of Plassey, the Bengal empire went to the hands of British first. Following was battle of Buxar, which gave Bihar to the British company. Soon, Mysore and Maratha empire (near Bombay) was also overtaken by British rule.
Gradually , company expanded its rule all over the country and ruled for about 100 years. During company rule India saw some major fall in economy and some of the worst famines of all times.
Revolt of 1857
Finally, the East India company rule ended in 1857 after a long struggle which is also known as first war of independence of India. There were many reasons behind the revolt, some of them are briefly described below :
- Miserable Economic conditions for Indians: Although the Company was making huge profits with the trade they were doing with India, the economic conditions of India were getting poor and poorer. Company started to export raw material from India to England at very cheap prices and then import the finished goods back to India at high rates. Although, it was highly profitable business for the company, it broke backbone of many Indian industries like Handloom, Crafts etc. This in turn threw lives of workers and masses in misery and caused aggressive hatred towards company.
- Social imbalance: British paid very little attention to the social setup of India and this caused disparity among different social divisions in the society. This led to the societies turning against British rule rapidly.
- Religious Fury: The Indians started to become skeptical towards British attitude towards Indian religions when heavy taxes were imposed on religious properties. People started to think Britishers wanted to convert them to Christianity and it was totally unacceptable by any religious group that time.
- Poor conditions and unequal status for Indian soldiers in the British army: Although majority of the British force in India constituted Indian soldiers, very little attention was paid towards their welfare. There were no growth opportunities, pay was very less and treatment was unequal. All good ranks were reserved for Britishers. To add fuel, greased cartridges force introduced which were having cow and pig fat shell, something completely non-acceptable by both Hindus and Muslims. This caused outburst of anger within the army. In fact, the revolt started within military led by Mangal Pandey , in Meerut(eastern U.P. now).
The revolt was nationwide and very much successful , but there were some basic reasons due to which it could not succeed:
- The revolt lacked proper plan and unity: Although there were many groups which participated in the revolt at many locations, they lacked proper planning and coordination. Due to this the damage was done in bits and bytes, but it lacked fatal impact on British empire.
- Lack of participation of masses in general: The revolt was aggressive in nature and lacked involvement of general masses. Though, people were dissatisfied with the rule and were filler with anger, lack of proper coordination and aggressive nature of the movement attracted less participation from the Indian mass.
- Back biting by Indian Princely states and local Indian groups: Many Indian princely states supported British in suppressing the revolt with money and manpower. This caused dilution of the effects of revolt where it could have caused major dent in the British ship.