Instruments of civilization: British economic imperialism in India during the nineteenth century
LE3 .A278 2013
Bachelor of Arts
History & Classics
On 10 May 1857 a group of Indian soldiers known as Sepoys took up arms against the British in India. The revolt was immense, but the British were ultimately able to suppress the mutiny and retain control over India. However, the Sepoy Mutiny showed the British government that its involvement in India would have to change if it wanted to maintain control of the subcontinent. Indeed, the British government needed to keep India under its thumb in order to make up for the massive debts that the colony had incurred. By examining the Sepoy Mutiny, one can see the original purpose of the British in India was economic, and by exploring the nearly half century after the event, it is obvious that their purpose for keeping India as a colony did not change. The societal and infrastructural changes made in India by the East India Company and the British government were made with the desire to extract revenue from the colony. Land and tax reforms forced the peasantry to alter their lifestyles, which culminated in 1857 with the Sepoy Mutiny, and in 1876 with the Great Famine. While the British government attempted to prevent scenarios like these from happening, the discourses and projects that the British government engaged in made these situations almost impossible to avoid. Railway networks, irrigation canals, and a shift to a market-based economy were all detrimental to rural India, despite the fact that they were all implemented by the British government to help ‗improve‘ the colony. This thesis examines the impact of British economic imperialism on India during the nineteenth century. It uses contemporary British parliamentary documents, including an 1856 text which discusses whether or not India, or any colony, was worth maintaining.
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