SOUTH and SOUTH-EAST ASIA, British India - History of the East


CHAPTER 2. British India

India was the first and, in fact, the only state of such a large scale (more precisely, even a group of states later united by a rallying civilization, a religious tradition and a common social and caste principles of the internal structure) that was turned into a colony. Taking advantage of the inherent weakness of administrative and political ties in India, the British are relatively easy, without much cost and loss, even mostly by the hands of the Indians themselves, seized power and established their domination. But as soon as this was achieved (in 1849, after the victory over the Sikhs in the Punjab), the conquerors faced a new problem: how to manage a giant colony? Before the previous conquerors there was no such problem. Without further ado, all of them, right up to the Great Moguls, ruled as it was defined by centuries and understood by everyone. However, the British were a fundamentally different structure, moreover, it was on a steep rise and made increasingly determined and far-reaching demands for its successful development. In a sense, the problem was similar to the one that Alexander solved after conquering the Middle East: how to synthesize one's own and others', the West and the East? But there were new circumstances, fundamentally different from antiquity. The point is that India's accession to Britain was not so much an act of politics, a result of war or a series of wars, as a direct consequence of complex economic and social processes throughout the world, the essence of which was reduced to the formation of a world capitalist market and to the forcible involvement of the colonized countries.

At first, the British colonialists hardly thought about the mentioned problem. Colonization was conducted by the hands of the British East India Company , striving primarily to active trade, huge profits, high rates of enrichment. However, in the course of trade operations and in the name of ever more assured security, other people's property was being taken to their hands, new lands were captured, successful wars were fought. Colonial trade increasingly grew out of its original framework, it was spurred by the fact that the rapidly growing British capitalist industry at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Strongly in need of increasing markets for manufactured goods. India was the ideal place for the application of appropriate efforts. Not surprisingly, in changing circumstances, Indian affairs gradually ceased to be the prerogative of the company or, at any rate, only of the company.

Since the end of the 18th century, especially after the trial of W. Hastings, the first Governor-General of India (1774-1785), the company's activities in ever-increasing amounts began to be controlled by the government and parliament. In 1813, the monopoly of the company was officially canceled for trade with India, and for 15 years after that, the import of cotton fabric fabrics grew fourfold. The Parliamentary Act of 1833 further restricted the company's functions, leaving behind it basically the status of an administrative organization that practically controlled India, and now under the very strict supervision of the London Control Council. India step by step more and more became a colony of Great Britain, transformed into a part of the British Empire, into the pearl of its crown. But the final part of the process of colonization proved to be the most difficult thing. Intervention of the company's administration in the internal affairs of the country and, first of all, the agrarian relations that have been developing for centuries (English administrators did not first understand the real and very difficult relations between farmers and landowners) led to painful conflicts in the country. The influx of factory fabrics and the ruin of many aristocrats accustomed to the prestigious consumption affected the welfare of Indian artisans. In a word, the usual norm of relations used to crack at all the seams for centuries, the painful crisis manifested itself more clearly in the country.

The huge country did not want to put up with it. There was growing dissatisfaction with the new order, which threatened the habitual existence of almost everyone. And although due to the weakness of internal ties and the domination of the numerous ethnocast, linguistic, political and religious barriers separating people, this discontent was neither too strong nor even sufficiently organized, it nevertheless grew rapidly and turned into open resistance to the British authorities. The explosion was brewing. One of the important reasons that provoked it was the annexation by Governor-General JE Dalhousie in 1856 of the large principality of Oud in the north of the country. The fact is that along with the lands, officially and directly subordinate to the administration of the company, in India there were 500-600 large and small principalities, the status and rights of which were very different. Each of the principalities of a special treaty act was associated with the administration of the company, but the number of them gradually decreased due to the elimination of those of them where the line of direct inheritance was broken or the state of crisis was coming. Aud was attached to the company's lands under the pretext of bad management, which caused a sharp discontent with the strongly affected by this decision of the local Muslim population (talukdarov), as well as the privileged zamindar Rajput.

The center of military power of the company was the Bengal army of sepoys, two-thirds recruited from the Rajputs, Brahmins and Jates of Oud. The Sipais of these high castes were particularly sensitive to their humble position in the army as compared to the British who were with them. Fermentation in their ranks gradually increased due to the fact that after the conquest of India, the company, contrary to the promised, not only lowered their salaries, but also began to use it in wars outside India - in Afghanistan, Burma, even in China. The last drop and the immediate cause of the uprising was the introduction in 1857 of new cartridges, the winding of which was smeared with beef or pork fat (biting it, defiled as revered by the sacred cow of the Hindus, and not consumed pork by Muslims). Indignant at the punishment of those who opposed new ammunition, on May 10, 1857, three regiments of sepoys rose up in Meerath near Delhi. Other parts joined the rebels, and soon the sepoys approached Delhi and occupied the city. The British were partially exterminated, partly fled in panic, and the sepoys were proclaimed emperor of the elderly Mogul ruler of Bahadur Shah II, who lived his days on the company's pension.

The insurrection lasted almost two years and was suppressed by the British, who were able to rely on the aid of the Sikhs, Gurkhas and other forces who feared the revival of the Mughal empire. Rightly assessing the uprising as a powerful popular explosion of discontent not only by the rule of the colonialists, but also by a brutal breakdown of the traditional forms of existence of many layers of Indian society, the British colonial authorities were forced to seriously consider how to proceed further. The question was what methods and means to achieve the destruction of the traditional structure. It was clear only that a violent violent breaking here is unacceptable; it should be replaced by a gradual and carefully thought out transformation with an orientation, of course, to the European model. Actually, this was the result of the subsequent policy of the British in India.

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