Coming of Europeans

British raj, period of direct British rule over the Indian subcontinent from 1858 until the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947. British almost took a century to expand and consolidate their power to become a trader to ruler with help of diplomatic and military tactics. The English had imposed every possible means of war and administrative policies to consolidate their own rule over entire India.

Reasons For British Supremacy In India:

Superior Arms and Military strategy

    • The British had modern muskets and cannon were well equipped with a speed of firing and range which were better than Indian arms.
    • For that matter, many Indian rulers imported European arms and employed European as military officers, but they never think about military strategy which was made them mere imitators.

Loyalty, Military discipline and regular salary

    • The British were very particular about regular salary and a strict regime of discipline which ensure that officers and the soldiers were loyal.
    • On the other hand, Indian rulers did not have sufficient funds to pay salaries on a regular basis.
    • Some of the rulers were dependent on personal retinues or a rabble of mercenary elements that were not disciplined and loyal.

Procedure for the Selection of officers

    • The British select their officers and soldiers on the basis of reliability and skills not on the basis of heredity, caste and clan.
    • They were very strict on the subject of discipline and objectives of their campaign.
    • On the other hand, Indian rulers select their administrator and military officers on the basis of caste and personal relations that sometimes disregarding the merit and ability.

Quality of leadership

    • Robert Clive, Warren Hastings, Elphinstone, Munro etc. shows their high quality of leadership.
    • The British had also advantage of second line of leadership such as Sir Eyre Coote, Lord Lake, Arthur Wellesley etc. who fight for the cause and glory of their countrymen.
    • Although, Indian side had also brilliant leadership like Haider Ali, Tipu Sultan, Madhu Rao, Sindhia, Jaswant Rao Holkar but lacked by second line of leadership.
    • It is noteworthy that Indian rulers were not united and their enmities were immensely used by British to each other’s.

Strong Financial Backup

    • The British had enough funds to pay its shareholders with good dividends that compel them to finance the English wars in India.
    • Moreover, the British trade added enormous wealth to England that makes their government to help them indirectly or directly through money, material and money.

Lack of National Pride and unity

    • The Indian rulers were not well-versed in a materialistic vision of diplomacy whereas British believe in material advancement. Indian rulers were lacking by unified political nationalism, which was masterly used by British to engage them into fight among themselves.
    • Political faction and lack of unity among the Indian rulers forced the British to aspire from trader to ruler. The British officers started acquiring territory just to promote and protect their trade interest, but political hostility in India compelled them to establish an empire.
    • A number of powerful kingdoms such as Bengal, Avadh, Hyderabad, and Mysore arose and became virtually independent from the Mughal Empire.
    • The weakened Mughal Empire was challenged by Marathas time and again. Marathas captured vast swathes of territory in northern and central India.
    • The remaining illusion of continued domination of Mughal power was shattered by Nadir Shah’s (Shah of Persia) invasion of India in 1739.

The British who came to India for trade eventually became the political master of India. From Battle of Plassey to annexation of Punjab in 1849, the entire Indian sub-continent had been brought under British control. Apart from outright wars they employed methods like Subsidiary Alliance and Doctrine of Lapse to expand and consolidate their empire in India.

Possible Questions on this topic:

  1. Out of all the major European powers that came to India, the British were able to establish a long-lasting pan Indian Empire. Examine the factors responsible for it. (250 words)