The important aspects of the study of History are:
History does not mean only the description of the dates and events related to the kings or dynasties, but rather it also means to study various aspects that shaped the overall personality of the society and the people.
Therefore, the study of history is the study of the entire human past, which goes back to millions of years.
On February 20, 1947, Clement Attlee, British Premier, declared that the British would quit India in June 1948.
The ecstasy of coming independence was marred by the large-scale communal riots during and after August 1946. The Hindu and Muslim communalists blamed each other for starting the heinous killings and competed with each other in cruelty.
Lord Louis Mountbatten, who had come to India as Viceroy in March 1947, worked out a compromise after long discussions with the leaders of the Congress and the Muslim League: the country was to be free but not united.
India would be partitioned and a new state of Pakistan would be created along with a free India.
The Revolt of 1942 and INA had revealed the heroism and determination of the Indian people.
The new struggle took the form of a massive movement against the trial of the soldiers and officers of the INA.
The Government decided to put on trial in the Red Fort at Delhi to Generals Shah Nawaz, Gurdial Singh Dhillon, and Prem Sehgal of the INA, who had earlier been officers in the British Indian Army.
On the other hand, the Indian people welcomed INA soldiers as national heroes. Huge popular demonstrations demanding their release were held all over the country.
The Second World War broke out in September 1939 when Nazi (Germany) invaded Poland in pursuance of Hitler’s scheme of German expansion.
The Government of India immediately joined the war without consulting the National Congress or the elected members of the central legislature.
The Congress leaders demanded that India must be declared free or at least effective power put in Indian hands before it could actively participate in the war. The British Government refused to accept this demand the Congress ordered its ministries to resign.
In October 1940, Gandhi gave the call for a limited Satyagraha by a few selected individuals.
By March 1942, Japan quickly overran the Philippines, Indo-China, Indonesia, Malaya, and Burma and occupied Rangoon. This brought the war to India’s door-step.
The British Government now desperately wanted the active cooperation of Indians in the war effort.
The decade of 1930s witnessed the rapid growth of socialist ideas within and outside the Congress.
In 1929, there was a great economic slump or depression in the United States, which gradually spread to the rest of the world resulting in economic distress and unemployment on a large scale (across the world). But the economic situation in the Soviet Union was just the opposite. There was not only no slump, but the years between 1929 and 1936 witnessed the successful completion of the first two Five Year Plans, which increased the Soviet industrial production by more than four times.
The world depression, thus, brought the capitalist system into disrepute and drew attention towards Marxism, socialism, and economic planning. Consequently, socialist ideas began to attract more and more people, especially the young, the workers, and the peasants.
The economic depression also worsened the conditions of the peasants and workers in India. The prices of agricultural products dropped by over 50 per cent by the end of 1932.
After the Third Round Table Conference, the Government of India Act of 1935 passed.
The Act provided for the establishment of an All India Federation and a new system of government for the provinces on the basis of provincial autonomy.
The federation was to be based on a union of the provinces of British India and the Princely States.
There would be a bicameral federal legislature in which the States were given disproportionate weightage.
The representatives of the States were not to be elected by the people, but appointed directly by the rulers.
Only 14 per cent of the total population in British India was given the right to vote. Even this legislature, in which the Princes were once again to be used to check and counter the nationalist elements, was denied the real power.
Gandhiji came back to active politics and attended the Calcutta session of the Congress in December 1928.
Jawaharlal Nehru was now made the President of the Congress at the historic Lahore session of 1929. This event had its romantic side, as son had succeeded his father (i.e. Motilal Nehru, father of Jawaharlal Nehru was President of the Congress in 1928).
The Lahore session of the Congress gave voice to the new, militant spirit. It passed a resolution declaring Poorna Swaraj (Full Independence) to be the Congress objective.
On December 31, 1929, a newly adopted tri-color flag of freedom hoisted and 26 January, 1930 was fixed as the first Independence Day, which was to be so celebrated every year with the people taking the pledge that it was “a crime against man and God to submit any longer” to British rule.
Socialist and Communist groups came into existence in the 1920s. M. N. Roy became the first Indian elected to the leadership of the Communist International.
In 1924, the Government arrested Muzaffer Ahmed and S. A. Dange, accused them of spreading Communist ideas, and filed a case against them along the others involved in the Kanpur Conspiracy case.
In 1928, under the leadership of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the peasants organized a “No Tax Campaign” and won their demand.
The trade unionism had grown during the early 1920s under the leadership of the All India Trade Union Congress.
All India Trade Union Congress was established in October 1920 at Bombay.
The politically-conscious Muslims were critical of the treatment meted out to the Ottoman (or Turkish) Empire by Britain and its allies who had partitioned it and taken away Thrace from Turkey proper.
This was in violation of the earlier pledge of the British Premier, Lloyd George, who had declared: "Nor are we fighting to deprive Turkey of the rich and renowned lands of Asia Minor and Thrace which are predominantly Turkish in race."
The Muslims also felt that the position of the Sultan of Turkey, who was also regarded by many as the Caliph or the religious head of the Muslims, should not be undermined.
A Khilafat Committee was soon formed under the leadership of the Ali brothers, Maulana Azad, Hakim Ajmal Khan, and Hasrat Mohani, and a countrywide agitation was organized.
Gandhiji gave a call for a mighty hartal on 6 April 1919. The people responded with unprecedented enthusiasm.
The Government decided to meet the popular protest with repression, particularly in the Punjab.
An unarmed but large crowd had gathered on 13 April 1919 at Jallianwalla Bagh to protest against the arrest of their popular leaders, Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew and Dr. Satyapal.
Jallianwala Bagh (located in Amritsar, Punjab) was a large open space which was enclosed on three sides by buildings and had only one exit.
General Dyer surrounded the Bagh (garden) with his army until closed the exit with his troops, and then ordered his men to shoot onto the trapped crowd.
To win popular support for their war effort, the Allied nations – Britain, the United States, France, Italy, and Japan, promised a new era of democracy and national self-determination to all the peoples of the world; but after their victory, they showed little willingness to end the colonial system.
Nationalism had gathered its forces and the nationalists were expecting major political gains after the war; and they were willing to fight back if their expectations were thwarted.
The economic situation in the post-war years had taken a turn for the worse. There was first a rise in prices and then a depression in economic activity.
The Indian industries, which had prospered during the war because foreign imports of manufactured goods had ceased, now faced losses and closure.
Two Home Rule Leagues were started in 1915-16, one under the leadership of Annie Besant, and S. Subramaniya Iyer.
The two Home Rule Leagues carried out intense propaganda all over the country in favor of the demand for the grant of Home Rule or self-government to India after the War.
It was during Home Rule agitation, Tilak gave the popular slogan i.e. “Home Rule is my birth-right, and I will have it.”
The war period also witnessed the growth of the revolutionary movement, as the terrorist groups spread from Bengal and Maharashtra to the whole of northern India.
Indian revolutionary in the United States of America and Canada had established the “Ghadar (Rebellion) Party in 1913.”
Modern political consciousness was late in developing among the Muslims. As nationalism spread among the Hindus and Parsees of the lower middle class, it failed to grow equally rapidly among the Muslims of the same class.
After the suppression of the 1857 Revolt, the British officials had taken a particularly vindictive attitude towards the Muslims, hanging 27,000 Muslims in Delhi alone.
To check the growth of a united national feeling in the country, the British decided to follow more actively the policy of 'Divide and Rule' and to divide the people along religious lines. They encourage communal and separatist tendencies in Indian politics.
The British promoted provincialism by talking of Bengali domination. They tried to utilize the caste structure to turn the non-Brahmins against Brahmins and the lower castes against the higher castes.
After Bengal partition, all sections of the National Congress united in opposing the partition and supported the Swadeshi and Boycott movement of Bengal.
There was much public debate and disagreement between the moderate and the militant nationalists. While the latter wanted to extend the mass movement in Bengal as well as in the rest of the country, the Moderates wanted to confine the movement to Bengal and even there to limit it to Swadeshi and Boycott.
There was a tussle between the militant nationalists and moderates for the president-ship of the National Congress. In the end, Dadabhai Naoroji, respected by all nationalists as a great patriot, was chosen as a compromise.
The conditions for the emergence of militant nationalism had developed when in 1905 the partition of Bengal was announced.
On 20 July 1905, Lord Curzon issued an order dividing the province of Bengal into two parts i.e. Eastern Bengal and Assam with a population of 31 million and the rest of Bengal with a population of 54 million, of whom 18 million were Bengalis and 36 million were Biharis and Oriyas.
The Indian national movement in its early days had increasingly made a large number of people conscious of the evils of foreign domination and of the need for fostering patriotism. It had imparted the necessary political training to the educated Indians.
There was a strong demand for more vigorous political action and methods than those of meetings, petitions, memorials, and speeches in the legislative councils.
The Hindus were divided into numerous castes (jath). The caste, into which a person was born, determined large areas of his/her life.
The caste system determined whom he/she would marry and with whom he/she would didn’t.
Caste largely determined one’s profession and his social loyalties. The castes were carefully graded into a hierarchy of status.
At the bottom of the ranking, scheduled castes (or untouchables caste) came, they constituted about 20 per cent of the Hindu population.
The untouchables suffered from numerous and severe disabilities and restrictions, which of course varied from place to place. Their touch was considered impure and was a source of pollution.
Based on the various religious practices and the personal laws, it was assumed that the status of women was inferior to that of men.
After 1880s, when Dufferin hospitals, named after Lady Dufferin (wife of the Viceroy), were started, efforts were made make modern medicine and child delivery techniques available to Indian Women.
Following are the significant religious reformers of modern India −
Ramakrishna Parmhansa (1834-1886) was a saintly person who sought religious salvation in the traditional ways of renunciation, meditation, and devotion (bhakti).
Parmhansa, again and again, emphasized that there were many roads to God and salvation and that service of man was service of God, for man was the embodiment of God.
Many Indians realized that social and religious reformation was an essential condition for the all-round development of the country on modern lines and for the growth of national unity and solidarity.
After 1858, the earlier reforming tendency was broadened. The work of earlier reformers, like Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Pandit Vidyasagar, was carried further by major movements of religious and social reform.
The second half of the 19th century witnessed the full flowering of the national political consciousness and the growth of an organized national movement in India.
In December 1885, the Indian National Congress was established under whose leadership, Indians waged a prolonged and courageous struggle for independence from foreign rule, which India finally won on 15 August 1947.
There was hardly any aspect of the Indian economy that was not changed for better or for worse during the entire period of British rule down to 1947.
The economic policies followed by the British led to the rapid transformation of Indian’s economy into a colonial economy whose nature and structure were determined by the needs of the British economy that totally disrupted the traditional structure of the Indian economy.
Tibet lies to the north of India where the Himalayan peaks separate it from India. It was ruled by a Buddhist religious aristocracy (the Lamas) who had reduced the local population to serfdom and even slavery.
The chief political authority was exercised by the Dalai Lama, who claimed to be the living incarnation of the power of the Buddha.
The lamas wanted to isolate Tibet from the rest of the world; however, since the beginning of the 17th century, Tibet had recognized the nominal suzerainty of the Chinese Empire.
The Chinese Government also discouraged contacts with India though a limited trade and some pilgrim traffic between India and Tibet existed.
The British Indian Government fought two wars with Afghanistan before its relations with the Government of Afghanistan were stabilized.
During the 19th century, the problem of Indo-Afghan relations got inextricably mixed up with the Anglo-Russian rivalry. Britain was expanding colonial power in West, South, and East Asia, Russia was an expanding power in Central Asia and desired to extend its territorial control in West and East Asia.
The two imperialisms openly clashed all over Asia. In fact, in 1855, Britain in alliance with France and Turkey, fought a war with Russia, known as the Crimean War.
The conflict between Burma and British India was initiated by border clashes. It was whiffed by the expansionist urges.
The British merchants cast avaricious glances on the forest resources of Burma and were keen to promote export of their manufactures among its people.
The British authorities also wanted to check the spread of French commercial and political influence in Burma and the rest of South-East Asia.
Through three successive wars, the independent kingdom of Burma was conquered by the British during the 19th century.
Under the British rule, India developed relations with its neighbors. This was the result of two factors:
The Government of India spent most of its income on the army and wars and the administrative services and starved the social services.
In 1886, of its total net revenue of nearly Rs. 47 crores, the Governmental India spent nearly 19.41 crores on the army and 17 crores on civil administration but less than 2 crores on education, medicine, and public health and only 65 lakhs on irrigation.
The few halting steps that were taken in the direction of providing services like sanitation, water supply, and public health were usually confined to urban areas, and that too to the so called civil lines of British or modern parts of the cities.
The British attitude towards India and, consequently, their policies in India changed for the worse after the revolt of 1857, they now consciously began to follow reactionary policies.
The view was now openly put forward that the Indians were unfit to rule themselves and that they must be ruled by Britain for an indefinite period. This reactionary policy was reflected in many fields.
Before 1857, British had availed themselves of every opportunity to annex princely states. The Revolt of 1857 led the British to reverse their policy towards the Indian States.
Most of the Indian princes had not only remained loyal to the British but had actively assisted in suppressing the Revolt.
Canning declared in 1862 that “the Crown of England stood forward, the unquestioned Ruler and Paramount Power in all India.” Princes were made to acknowledge Britain as the paramount power.
All positions of power and responsibility in the administration were occupied by the members of the Indian Civil Service who were recruited through an annual open competitive examination held in London.
Indians also could sit in this examination. Satyendranath Tagore, brother of Rabindranath Tagore, was the first Indian civil servant.
Almost every year, thereafter, one or two Indians joined the coveted ranks of the Civil Service, but their number was negligible compared to the English entrants.
The Indian army was carefully reorganized after 1858. Some changes were made necessary by the transfer of power to the Crown.
The East India Company's European forces were merged with the Crown troops. But the army was reorganized most of all to prevent the recurrence of another revolt.
Financial difficulties led the Government to further decentralize administration by promoting local government through municipalities and district hoards.
Local bodies were first formed between 1864 and 1868, but almost in every case, they consisted of nominated members and were presided over by the District Magistrates.
The local bodies did not represent local self-government at all nor did the intelligent Indians accept them as such. The Indians looked upon them as instruments for the extraction of additional taxes from the people.
In 1882, Lord Ripon Government laid down the policy of administering local affairs largely through rural and urban local bodies, a majority of whose members would be non-officials.
For the administrative convenience, the British had divided India into provinces; three of which - Bengal, Madras, and Bombay were known as Presidencies.
The Presidencies were administered by a Governor and his three Executive Councils, who were appointed by the Crown.
The Presidency Governments possessed more rights and powers than other provinces. Other provinces were administered by Lieutenant Governors and Chief Commissioners appointed by the Governor-General.
The Act of 1861 marked the turning of the tide of centralization. It laid down that legislative councils similar to that of the center should be established first in Bombay, Madras, and Bengal and then in other provinces.
Even though spread over a vast territory and widely popular among the people, the Revolt of 1857 could not embrace the entire country or all the groups and classes of Indian society.
Most rulers of the Indian states and the big zamindars, selfish to the core and fearful of British might, refused to join in.
On the contrary, the Sindhia of Gwalior, the Holkar of Indore, the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Raja of Jodhpur and other Rajput rulers, the Nawab of Bhopal, the rulers of Patiala, Nabha, Jind, and Kashmir, the Ranas of Nepal, and many other ruling chiefs, and a large number of big zamindars gave active help to the British in suppressing the Revolt. In fact, no more than one per cent of the chiefs of India joined the Revolt.
The Revolt was suppressed. Sheer courage could not win against a powerful and determined enemy who planned its every step.
The rebels were dealt an early blow when the British captured Delhi on 20 September 1857 after prolonged and bitter fighting.
The aged Emperor Bahadur Shah was taken prisoner. The Royal Princes were captured and butchered on the spot. The Emperor was tried and exiled to Rangoon where he died in 1862.
The Revolt began at Meerut, 36 miles from Delhi, on 10 May 1857 and then gathering force rapidly spread across Northern India. It soon embraced a vast area from the Punjab in the North and the Narmada in the South to Bihar in the East and Rajputana in the West.
The major causes of 1857 Revolt can be studied under the following heads:
Perhaps the most important cause of the people’s discontent was the economic exploitation of the country by the British and the complete destruction of its traditional economic fabric.
In 1857, a Revolt broke out in Northern and Central India and nearly swept away British rule.
The Revolt began with a mutiny of the sepoys, or the Indian soldiers of the Company's army, but soon engulfed wide regions and people. Millions of peasants, artisans, and soldiers fought heroically for over a year and by their courage and sacrifice wrote a glorious chapter in the history of the Indian people.
Western conquest exposed the weakness and decay of Indian society. Hence, thoughtful Indians began to look for the defects of their society and for the ways and means of removing them.
The central figure in the awakening was Ram Mohan Roy, who is rightly regarded as the first great leader of modern India.
Till 1813, the British also followed a policy of non-interference in the religious, social, and cultural life of the country, but after 1813, they took active steps to transform Indian society and culture.
Science and technology also opened new vistas of human progress.
The 18th and 19th centuries witnessed a great ferment of new ideas in Britain and Europe, which influenced the British outlook towards the Indian problems.
Modernization of India was accepted by many English officials, businessmen, and statesmen because it was expected to make Indians better customers of British goods and reconcile them to the alien rule.
The basic dilemma before the British administrators in India was that while British interests in India could not be served without some modernization, full modernization would generate forces, which would go against their interests and would, in the long run, endanger British supremacy in the country.