Social and economic impact of colonialism on India

Social Impact

  • Exposure to modern ideas and institution such as Rationalism, liberalism, humanism, Parliament, etc led to social reforms in Indian society in form of Abolition of sati, widow remarriage, girls’ education, etc
  • It also led to growth of a nationalist and anti-colonial consciousness.
  • The knowledge of English has given Indians an edge in the global market, was introduced during colonial period. Though, English continues to be mark of privilege in some pockets of India, it has become necessity and an important tool of communication.
  • It led to considerable movement of people from one part to another within India and Outside India for employment in tea plantation, as government employees and professionals like doctors and lawyers. This helped in better integration of India and national consciousness.
  • Due to growth of urbanization and industrialization, employment opportunities grew and the remittances were used for the development of the villages- establishment of educational institute, trusts, fashionable houses, etc.
  • To prevent opposition from Indian people, British imposed laws to curtail expression of public opinion. They excluded Indians from responsible position in government and discriminated against them in other institutions and in social life
  • The role of moneylender, Zamindars changed the social structure in villages. The relationship of tribes with forests was changed.
  • Movement of people from India to other colonies threatened the change in social system of caste. It also involved the oppression of laborers by curtailing their freedom and exploiting them.
  • Industrialization also led to growth of new social grouping in the society and new social relationship, which further caused division within society.

Economic impact

  • Industrialization in India was started with the setup of cotton mills in India
  • Railway construction was started on large scale to extend the Indian market for British Goods.
  • New urban centers sprawled up like Bombay and Madras, which was at the cost of decline of old urban centers such as Surat and Masulipatnam.
  • Led to growth of commercial farming and production of cash crops in India.
  • Industrial revolution in England, led to pouring of British goods in India at an unprecedented rate, which ruined the Indian handicraft Industry and led to de-industrialization in some sectors. For example- traditional exports of silk and cotton manufactures declined in India.
  • Money, resources were drained out of India and India’s interests were subordinated more and more to British interests
  • It changed the land ownership laws and decided what crops to be grown and what ought not be grown.


The Colonialism of the West could not last long. During the World War I, it got a severe jolt. The Press, education and political consciousness which grew in these colonies made the people conscious about their rights. On the other hand, the capitalist countries could not fulfil the social and political needs of the people of different colonies. Nationalism grew in these countries and after World War II, the colonies declared their independence one after another.