Looter and the looted, British atrocities prior to Indian Sepoy Revolt of 1857 - 01

British Imperialism. www.angelfire.co.

Once India was a self-reliant and self-sustained country with well developed agriculture and cottage industries, well balanced  foreign trade, and most importantly, debt less farmers. After the appearance of British on the scene, the Indian scenario had changed dramatically - the economy shattered, people lost their quality of life and became poorer. We can very much understand how  India was slowly pushed to the point of starting a big rebellion against a  foreign country that at the outset begged the rich Indian rulers to allot a piece of land for mercantile trade.

1600 to 1757: 

It was an era of prosperity and plenty for India; through export of silk, cotton, handicraft, calico, spices, sugar ivory, carpets, etc India earned gold, silver and other valuable stuff. European countries set up trade posts in various parts of the country to collect the commodities and export them to their countries. There was acute competition among them

''Dandi'' method of paying advance to the skilled people and craftsmen helped them a lot and they were not bogged down by loans and interest payment.

Because of Indian monopoly on textiles, etc in Europe, the cotton mills in Europe faced crisis. Worst affected was England, factories closed  and the number of people on the dole began to swell fast. With no other option, the English government increased the duties on imported cotton textiles and fined people up to15 to 20 pounds, if they sold or wore Indian cotton.

1757 to 1947: 

The invention of ''jenny'' a multi spindle spinning frame by James Hargreaves in 1764 in Lancashire, England
Spinning Jenny,1764. en.wikipedia.org

helped the British produce cotton on a large scale. This machine reduced the amount of work to produce yarn. Manchester became the textile center of the world and the major suppliers of cotton were southern American states. Since cotton was their staple crop and huge money spinner, the southern American states formed a confederacy and wanted to become an independent country. The civil war between the Union and the Confederates over slavery became so grave, the exports of cotton to England other countries were  very much affected. Slowly the British turned their attention to India  to take care of the need of British textile industries.

US supporters of India's struggle.hsidhuch25.blogspot.com

After Bengal came under the full control of the British company as a result of complete victory at the battles of Plassey (1757) and Buxar (1764) and later the two  treaties of Allahabad, their expansionism was at a rapid clip. The British company got the full right for 'collection of revenue'(known as "Diwani")  not only from Bengal but also from parts of Bihar and Odisha (Orissa). The Nawob of Bengal became their permanent puppet ruler, the great Mogul ruler Shah Alam II was receiving annual pension from them and was content with a fancy title bestowed on him. As for Nawob of Awadh, he was restored to his title and kingdom. The British did not want to take over Awadh and kept it purposely as a buffer state between theirs and the adjacent Maratha kingdom who posed a challenge to them. As the Indian Maharajas and Nawobs were not united  and self- centered, the job became easier for the British Bobs to gobble up the lands one by one with full support from the Crown in England. They  expanded  the territories around Madras and Bombay residencies. They also later subdued the great Maratha rulers to a great extend through skill, tactics and efficient military power. Almost every day their power and stature on the soils of India grew faster than expected.

At one point when they became a dominant force to reckon with, the British, drunken with newly-found revenue and military power, ill treated the Indians and  barred them from high office in their own land.  Surprisingly the corrupt and untrustworthy British Sahibs considered the highly tolerant and hospitable Indians  inherently corrupt and dishonest. They shamelessly  followed "divide and rule" policies, pitting Hindu and Muslim Indians against one another.
They forced Indian to buy British textiles . They imposed 70% to 80 % duty on cotton industry and the British company captured the monopoly of cotton fabrics. By a charter of 1833, the English people got the right to purchase properties in India. So, they flocked to India in thousands and settled down in plains to mountain hills. They bought vast tracks of Indian lands at a cheap rate changed the traditional crop patterns and started cultivating cotton, opium indigo, jute, tea, etc for their needs back in England, ignoring the needs of Indian people. Paddy and wheat fields shrank in size. Land owners became bonded laborers. Ryotwari and Mahalwari systems of leasing and revenue sharing were against the Indians. Zamindars were not hereditary owners of the land and they could be removed at any time. The rate of payment to the government was so high, both peasants and Zamindars faced untold problems. If revenue  was not paid on time, the British behaved like loan sharks and squeezed them. Th traditional  ''enam lands"(free lands) enjoyed by many families
were taken over by the government.

In short, as a result of commercialization of vast Indian lands for the exclusive benefits of the British, both rich land owners and peasants were pushed to poverty which became widespread in rural areas. At the same time British coffers both in India and England started to swell.

The advent of Lord Dalhousie, Lord Warren Hastings and Lord Canning saw further down fall of India and its economy.  They were actually hardcore imperialists in every sense of the term.  

In 1780, the conservative British politician of good repute Edmund Burke claimed that Warren Hastings and other top officials had ruined the Indian economy and society. Indian historian Rajat Kanta Ray (1998) was of the opinion that the new economy brought by the British in the 18th century was a form of "plunder" and a catastrophe for the traditional economy of the Mogul Empire. He also claimed that the British  depleted the food and money stocks and imposed high taxes that ultimately led to the terrible Bengal famine of 1770, which killed a third of the people of Bengal.It was something like bull-whipping a dying population of Indian natives on their own mother land.



Moore, "Imperial India, 1858–1914", p. 431
Zareer Masani, Indian Tales of the Raj (1988) p. 89

"Ideology and Empire in Eighteenth-Century India: the British in Bengal". History.ac.uk. History. Retrieved 2 August 2014

                                                           (Modified: June 14, 2015)