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The British Presence In India Essay

1489 words - 6 pages

The Evolution of the British presence in India
For more than 200 years before the Indian Mutiny of 1857, there had been a British presence in India. British colonization began at Surat, after the establishment of a factory (the English term for the trading post system originally established by Europeans in foreign territories) in 1613. Over the years the British expanded, creating forts for protection and larger trading stations. Eventually, to make certain that there would be stability and a successful trade business, Britain deployed many of its armed forces and also raised native forces, thus becoming an active power in 18th Century India. The area of British control increased. British ...view middle of the document...

The missionaries cast their teachings upon the very conservative Indians, who preferred their own customs and institutions to other people. Indians especially preferred their own religions and Evangelical Christians had little respect, or understanding of, these ancient practices and beliefs. In fact, in Indian culture, “Care is taken ‘not to offend the sensibilities’ of the followers of other religions.” (Wirth) It would have been highly offensive to Indian Muslims and Hindus that “Missionaries try by hook or crook to get converts and target especially the lower classes and even children.” (Wirth). Yet another British change that caused major dissent among the aristocracy was the adjustment to inheritance laws. The British Indian Government enacted the Indian Succession Act of 1865, causing a further religious divide, as the law didn’t apply to Christians. The Succession Act enforced that the only benefactors, and receptors of the deceased’s property, are those offspring that are lineal descendants. The phrase "lineal descendant" means a descendant born out of a lawful marriage. Thus an illegitimate son or daughter cannot be said to be a lineal descendant, and receives no share. Indian unrest had grown to its breaking point.
“On 10th May incendiary fires began at Meerut: then the sepoys massacred their officers and marched away to Delhi.” (Gilliat). The new rifles, which had been issued by the British army, contained a cartridge that required the soldier to bite of the end in order to load the weapon. To make this process easier, the cartridges were greased with the animal fat of a cow or pig. “The Mahommedans, so it was said, believed that the mixture contained hog's lard: thus we had touched on the tenderest spot of both races. The "greased cartridge" became known first to one of the guards in the arsenal at Fort William; and this man ran horror-stricken and told his comrades there was a plot to destroy caste.” (Gilliat) The rumor quickly spread throughout the Indian regiment that this process was being used, and according to Lord Roberts, a leader of British forces, “The affair betrayed and incredible disregard of the natives’ religious prejudices.” (Gilliat) The mutineers took Delhi first with the help of more native regiments, and from there, the rebellion spread quickly but unevenly. Throughout the many battles at, Delhi, Cawnpore, and Lucknow, the natives were never able to completely seize all of India. Britain did manage to survive the fourteen month long battle, but with severe losses. Both the rebels and the British looked at people of the opposite color as enemies, and would slaughter them. Both sides butchered women and children. “Meanwhile, risings and massacres occurred throughout Oude and the Doab… At Cawnpur, Nana Sahib ordered a massacre of men, women and children after promising safe passage…” (Gilliat) The Indian Mutiny of 1857 soon became to be known as the greatest of all imperial wars.
Now that the British had won the...

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