February 25, 2024

HPAS/Allied Mains 2022 Answer Writing Challenge Day 11 : Model Answer

QUESTION :-  “Our acquisition of India was made blindly. Nothing great that has ever been done by Englishman was done so unintentionally and so accidentally, as the conquest of India” Critically Analyse the statement and give your arguments either for or against. (20 marks 400 words)

Understanding of question: the statement says that conquest of India was an unintentional act, it was not the British who planned the conquest of India but it an accidental conquest. You have to analyse the thought either supporting view or writing against it. Some students might have written for the statement and some might have written against so in this model answer both the sides are covered, but in real we only have to justify 1 side  
IntroductionThe entire imperial history of Britain can be periodised into two phases, the ‘first empire’ stretching across the Atlantic towards America and the West Indies, and the ‘second empire’ beginning around 1783 (Peace of Paris) and swinging towards the East—Asia and Africa. Trading rivalries among the seafaring European powers brought other European powers to India. The Dutch Republic, England, France, and Denmark-Norway all established trading posts in India in the early 17th century. This slowly turned in to a British conquest alone. 
Main BodyHistorians have debated over the fundamental query, whether the British conquest of India was accidental or intentional.

British conquest was an accident:-

John Seeley leads the group which says that the British conquest of India was made blindly, unintentionally and accidentally, and in a “fit of absent-mindedness”. This school of opinion argues that the British came to trade in India and had no desire to acquire territories or to squander their profits on war waged for territorial expansion. The English, it is argued, were unwillingly drawn into the political turmoil created by the Indians themselves, and were almost forced to acquire territories.

Supporting views are

1.      Industrial revolution:-

a.       The Industrial Revolution in Britain led to the increase in demand for raw materials for the factories there.

2.      Need for markets:-

a.       At the same time, they also required a market to sell their finished goods. India provided such a platform to Britain to fulfill all their needs.

3.      Weak power in India:-

a.       The death of Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707 was followed by a rapid disintegration of the Mughal Empire in the first half of the 18th century. This gave British an opportunity for political power.

b.      The Indian states of the 18th century fought frequent wars of expansion against each other. These mutually exhausting wars gave the Europeans the opportunity to interfere in Indian political and military affairs.

c.       In the process the European trading companies extracted significant economic concessions from these states. Thus the decline of the Mughal Empire paved the way for the rise of British power in India.


British conquest was very planned:-

1.      The desire to control local resources, obtain supplies of cheap goods and exclude competitors from trade pushed the Company towards territorial conquest and war.In the light of these facts with Battle of plassey and Buxar  they realised their strength and potential to conquer smaller Indian kingdoms and marked the beginning of the imperial or colonial era in South Asia..Since then, the British East India Company adopted a threefold strategy of ideological, military and colonial administrative apparatus to expand and consolidate the British Indian Empire.

2.      Diplomacy:-The Company also successfully involved the Nizam of Hyderabad in the war against Tipu Sultan. In general, the Company leaders proved skillful diplomats. They made sure that a lasting alliance of Indian powers against the British never materialized.Means such as intrigue, bribes and efficient espionage were used rather efficiently by the Company in its pursuit of commercial and political ambitions.

3.      Defeated other European powers:-They defeated their foreign rivals in  trade so that there could be no competition.

4.      Economic and administrative policies:-Their new administrative and economic policies helped them consolidate their control over the country.Their land revenue policies help them keep the poor farmers in check and get huge sums as revenues in return.They forced the commercialisation of agriculture with the growing of various cash crops and the raw  materials for the industries in the Britain.With the strong political control, the British  were able to monopolise the trade with India.They monopolised the sale of all kinds of raw materials and bought these at low prices whereas the Indian weavers had to buy them at exorbitant prices.Heavy duties were imposed on Indian goods entering Britain so as to protect their own industry.Various investments were made to improve the transport and communication system in the country to facilitate the easy transfer of raw materials from the farms to the port, and of finished goods from the ports to the markets.

5.      Education:- English education was introduced to create a class of educated Indians who would assist the British in ruling the country and strengthen their political authority. All these measures helped the British to establish, consolidate and continue their rule over India.

6.      Subsidiary alliance:-Indian states fell to the advancing Company one by one during the 18thand 19th centuries through the policy of dual government and other policies .Those who were not totally wiped out became part of Wellesley’s Subsidiary Alliance treaty system.The consequences of this treaty system were grave for the Indian states. They lost their sovereignty and the real power in their capital shifted to the British residency. Their armies were disbanded and they began to maintain troops generally for ceremonial and internal policing duties only.

7.      Doctrine of lapse:-Some of the Indian states declined due to these developments and this gave the British the excuse to annex them in the future, as was done during the tenure of Lord DalhousieDalhousie used the ‘Doctrine of Lapse’ and the charge of maladministration to annex some Indian states like Awadh (1856), Jhansi and Nagpur (1854) and Satara (1848).

8.      British crown and divide and rule policy:-After 1857 revolt the East India Company lost its powers of government and British India formally came under direct British rule, with an appointed Governor-General of India.

Conclusion In contrast to the other European powers the English were led by resolute men of vision who were inspired by notions of empire and civilization. 
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