5-4: Imperialism in India

British Imperialism in India

Part 1 of 2: Read the following background information on British Imperialism in India.

EMPIRE BUILDING: The British in India

British East India Company: The Seven Years’ War (1756 – 1763) left Britain the major power in India. Princes who ruled portions not governed directly by Britain usually signed treaties placing their states under British protection. With some restrictions, the East India Company ruled India until 1857. It exported Indian cotton, silk, and sugar. Within India, it built telegraph, railroad, and irrigation systems and set up a postal service and school system. It supervised the Sepoy units (Indian soldiers) defending India. British missionaries arrived to convert Hindus and Muslims.

Status of Indians: The East India Company denied Indians equal rights and opportunities. Factory workers and servants earned low wages. Farmers get very little for their produce. Indians could not hold important government positions. Moreover, schools taught English and Western ideas, while ignoring Indian history and advanced culture. After the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, the British government took over the administration of India.

British Rule: The British government appointed a viceroy (governor) to head the Indian government. An Indian Civil Service (ICS) was created. Although the ICS employed Indians and Anglo‐Indians in clerical and other positions, higher level administrators were British.


Part 2 of 2: Examine the following characteristics of British Rule in India. Then determine if each is a positive or negative event.

Characteristics of European Imperialist Rule in India

  • Creation of a Court System based on English laws
  • English was made the official language of India
  • British education was set up, giving many the opportunity to be educated
  • British created a civil service exam (needed to pass this in order to get a government job)
  • Western medicine introduced, hospitals were built
  • Ancient Indian culture and practices were banned
  • British law outlawed the Caste System
  • Few Indians held government positions
  • British education stressed Western culture, history, and attitude
  • British encouraged production of cash crops, which led to a decrease in food crops

Enrichment Activity

Part 1 of 1 Read the following quotes and answer the questions:

‘When the British came to India they created railways to link the whole subcontinent, now travel time is less.’

1. Do you think the author of this quote would support the British in India?


‘When the British came to India they banned certain practices because they thought they were barbaric, such as arranged child marriages.’

2. Do you think the author of this quote would support the British in India?