Indian History

History is the study of past events. It helps to understand those processes that enabled the early humans to successfully conquer their environment and develop the present day civilizations. It is not just a study of battles and kings as is normally understood by some. It is an analysis of society, economy and cultural trends over a long period as reflected in available sources.

Towards Freedom

Congress governments in different provinces remained in office for over two years and undertook various measures in the interest of various sections of the people. Reduction in rent for the peasantry, release of political prisoners and the lifting of restriction on the press were some of the steps taken by the Congress governments.

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Constitutional Reforms and Congress Participation in Legislatures

In 1935 was passed the Government of India Act that extended some concessions to the nationalist movement by introducing more autonomy to the elected members in the legislatures of the provinces. This Act also extended the voting rights to a greater percentage of the Indian People.

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Intensification of Radical and Revolutionary Movements & Rise of Left

The years between 1930 and 1934 was also marked by an unprecedented explosion of acts of revolutionary terrorism with its focus in Bengal and Punjab. A total of 92 incidents were reported in 1931 itself that included 9 murders.

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Civil Disobedience Movement

As there was no response to the eleven point ultimatum, the movement of civil disobedience was launched based on the issue of salt. Salt was an item of basic necessity for all and any taxation on it would affect the poorest of the poor, thus salt became the symbol of the deprivation and oppression of the Indian people.

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Boycott of Simon Commission

Amidst this reformulation and resurgence of the revolutionary movement and the subdued state of the mainstream movement was announced the Simon Commission to formulate further constitutional reforms for India. The all-white commission did not include any Indian and thus it was clear that the forthcoming reforms, if any, would not fulfill the aspirations of the Indian people.

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Revolutionary Movement: Reorganisation and Reorientation

The spontaneous upsurge of the non-cooperation movement released the great force of India’s youth that were determined to wrest freedom. The youth of the country had responded eagerly to the call of Gandhi and had participated in the non-cooperation movement.

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Home Rule Movement

Balgangadhar Tilak who served a jail sentence from 1908-1914, returned to the Congress which had now become more open to him after the disappointment of the Council elections under the Morley Minto reforms.

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Gandhian Mass Movement: Initial Years

The British Government introduced the next set of constitutional reforms in 1919 (The Montague-Chelmsford Reforms). Although these reforms claimed to have brought forth local self-government and considerable autonomy to Indians, they kept the real powers firmly in British hands.

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Non-Violent Non-Cooperation

Martial law was imposed in Punjab after the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre. Inhuman treatment was meted out to Indians e.g. men were made to crawl on their bellies in the bylane where a European woman had been attacked. Although the Rowlatt satyagraha had been withdrawn, the feeling of resentment toward British rule grew even more bitter.

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First Phase of Revolutionary Movement in India and Abroad

The rift between the moderates and extemists grew wider and wider within the Congress. The Extremists were in favour of boycott of the assembly elections to be conducted under the constitutional reforms introduced by the colonial government.

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Swadeshi and Boycott: The Extremist Politics

The phase between 1885-1905 is known as the period of the moderates. In 1905 Lord Curzon, the then Governor general announced the partition of Bengal. The province of Bengal at that time comprised of the present states of West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand, Orissa and Assam.

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Indian National Congress and Early Nationaists

The Indian National Congress was formed in December 1885 by a group of 72 politically conscious educated Indians. Mr. A.O. Hume a retired English Indian Civil Service officer played a significant role in its formation.

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Religion and Nationalism

There came into being, in the second half of the 19th century, a thinking on Indian nationalism which was based on religion. It was leaders like Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Dayanand Saraswati, Vivekanand, and Arbindo Ghosh who made Hindu religion and its ideas the motivating force behind Indian nationalism.

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Economic Nationalism

The origins of economic nationalism can be traced back to the second half of the 19th century when Indian leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji, Mahadev Govind Ranade and Romesh Chandra Dutt among others began realizing that the British rule was economically exploiting India and that it was largely responsible for keeping India under extreme poverty.

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Culture and Nationalism

It was in the field of culture that the ideas of nationalism was expressed first.

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Nationalism: Origin and Meaning

The history of this idea is not more than 200 years old. Nationalism, in the sense in which we use it today, did not exist in India before the 19th century. The roots (origins) of this idea do not lie in the Indian history but in the history of Modern Europe.

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Significance of Revolt of 1857

The British though managed to suppress the revolt but realized the extent of people’s resentment. The events of 1857 compelled the British to re-examine their policy towards India, after the revolt; therefore, they adopted a strategy to check the future incidents of such a revolt.

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Causes of Failure of Revolt of 1857

In spite of popular participation in the Revolt of 1857, the rebels were ultimately forced to surrender before the British.

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Nature of Revolt of 1857

Historians are of different opinions regarding the nature of the Revolt of 1857. British historians interpreted the revolt as a mutiny of the sepoys. Ignoring the grievances of the local people and their participation in the movement, the British historians felt that the rebellion was engineered by the sepoys, and some landholders and princes having vested interest.

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Courses of Revolt of 1857

Initial disturbances started in March, 1857 when at Barrackpore, near Calcutta, Mangal Pandey, a sepoy, asked other sepoys to rise against the British military officers and he killed the British Adjutant, Mangal Pandey was later arrested and hanged to death.

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Reasons for Revolt of 1857

There were specific grievances which actually precipitated the people’s discontent against the British Raj and led to the Revolt of 1857. The Revolt broke out on 10th May in Meerut, when Sepoys revolted and started marching towards Delhi to restore the last Mughal ruler, Bahadur Shah II, on the throne.

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Nature and Significance of Early Resistance

The popular revolts makes certain points clear about the nature of these revolts.

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Tribal Uprisings

The establishment of colonial rule also affected the tribal people. Living outside the boundary of the mainstream population the tribals lived in their own world being governed by their own traditions and customs.

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Peasant Uprisings

Growing burden of taxation, eviction from land and the Bengal famine led to the impoverishment of a large section of the peasantry. Many of these people being evicted from lands joined the bands of Sanyasis and Fakirs.

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Popular Resistance to Company Rule

The early years of the English East India company’s rule in India witnessed a large number of uprisings and rebellions. Over a period of 100 years, starting from 1750s to 1850s, the English East India company adopted various measures to transform India into a colony.

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Growth of Press in India

The growth of press and journalism formed an important background for the rise of new consciousness during the modern period. The spread of printing technology meant that books were easily available.

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Hunter Commission

A commission was set up in 1882 under W.W. Hunter to review the progress made in the field of education following Wood’s Dispatch. It was confined mostly to secondary and primary education.

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Wood's Dispatch

The most important part of the development of education in 19th century, especially English education, was the guidelines prepared by Charles Wood, the Secretary of State, in 1854, popularly known as the Wood’s Dispatch.

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Debate on Medium of Education and Role of Macaulay

Very soon a debate arose about the choice to be made with regard to the medium of education in India on which the company’s government was to spend. There were impassioned debates between the votaries of Oriental and English systems.

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Introduction to English Education and Charter Act of 1813

English education was first introduced in India in 18th century through some charity schools in Calcutta, Madras and Bombay for educating European and Anglo-Indian children.

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Rise of Western Education in India

British rulers were keen to spread their ideology and culture in India. This could strengthen their roots in this country. Besides, it would also create a class of Indians who might act as reliable agents of the British Empire.

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Socio-Religious Reforms

A distinct feature of the 19th century India was the urge for social and religious reforms which cut across castes and communities. India had a long tradition of religious reforms and social dissent.

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Reform Movements Among Muslims

There was a sense of loss of power among educated and elite Muslims of India. This happened mainly because of (i) transfer of power from Mughals to British, and (ii) replacement of Persian by English as the language of employment and advancement in the new bureaucracy.

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Arya Samaj

The most profound reform movement in the late 19th century India was the Arya Samaj. It started in the western India and the Punjab, and gradually spread to a large part of the Hindi heartland.

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Reform Movements in Western India

Many important reform movements arose during the 19th century western India. Reformers like KT Telang, VN Mandalik and RG Bhandarkar glorified India’s past.

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Ramakrishna Mission

During the late 19th century, another notable reform movement in Bengal, which soon spread to other parts of the country, was the Ramakrishna Mission. The movement began under an ascetic and priest Gadadhar Chatterjee or Swami Ramakrishna Paramhansa (1836-86) who achieved inner peace around 1871-2.

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Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar

Another Bengali reformer who actively raised the issues related to women was Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar. He was an active proponent of education of girl child as he believed that lack of education was the real cause underlying all their problems.

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Brahmo Samaj

Rammohan Roy from Bengal was the most notable reformer of the modern times. He was among the first to bring political questions in the ambit of public debate. His Atmiya Sabha, founded in 1814, discussed important social and political questions of the time.

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Bengal Renaissance

Reform movements which took deep roots within Bengal have often been termed as Bengal Renaissance. Bankim Chandra Chatterji and Bipin Chandra Pal referred to developments in the 19th century Bengal as a period of Renaissance.

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British Cultural Policies in India

The beginning of British rule in India witnessed many imperial ideologies in operation. Back home in England, there were divergent ideologies at work regarding best possible ways of governing the Empire.

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Third Phase of British Colonialism

The third phase is seen to have begun from the 1860s, when British India became part of the ever-expanding British empire, to be placed directly under the control and sovereignty of the British crown. This period was one of ‘finance-imperialism’, when some British capital was invested in the colony. This capital was organized through a closed network of British banks, export-import firms and managing agencies.

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Commercialization of Agriculture

It is often believed that the colonial administration encouraged the commercialization of agriculture that improved the position of peasants in many areas of the Indian colony.

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Second Phase of British Colonialism

The ‘Second Phase’ is generally seen to have begun with the charter Act of 1813, when the Company lost its monopoly trading rights in India, and ended in 1858, when the British crown took over the direct control and administration of all British territory in India.

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Land Revenue Policies

After the diwani of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa was granted to the East India Company in 1765, the maximization of revenue from the colony became the primary objective of the British administration.

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First Phase of British Colonialism

The ‘First Phase’ is generally dated from 1757, when the British East India Company acquired the rights to collect revenue from its territories in the eastern and southern parts of the subcontinent, to 1813, when the Company’s monopoly over trade with India came to an end.

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Bristish Judicial System in India

By the mid-eighteenth century, the British had a political presence in the three presidency towns of Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta which also saw the emergence of British judicial system in India.

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Growth of Colonial Administrative Apparatus

The need for constitutional change arose after the East India Company became the political power in 1757. The British Government was no longer willing to allow the Company’s affairs to continue unsupervised. Pressure from merchants and manufacturers to end the monopoly of the Company mounted.

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Ideology of Expansion: Tools and Methods

Shifting its role from a trading corporation, the English East India Company gradually became supreme political power in India. There were other regional kingdoms which were conquered by the British.

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Dual System of Administration of Bengal

The early mechanism of the establishment of Company rule in Bengal followed the administrative system under the Mughals. The Mughal provincial administration had two main heads - nizamat and diwani.

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British Occupation of Bengal: Plassey to Buxar (1757-1765)

The first major conflict of the British against an Indian power was in Bengal. The history of Bengal from 1757 to 1765 is the history of gradual transfer of the power from the nawabs to the British.

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