Education About Asia: Online Archives

The British Impact on India, 1700–1900

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By Fritz Blackwell

The period 1700 to 1900 saw the beginnings, and the development, of the British Empire in India. Empire was not planned, at least not in the early stages. In a sense, it just happened. The first British in India came for trade, not territory; they were businessmen, not conquerors. It can be argued that they came from a culture that was inferior, and a political entity that was weaker, than that into which they ventured, and they came hat-in-hand. They would not have been viewed as a threat by the Indians—who most certainly would not have thought of themselves as “Indian,” at least in any political sense. National identity was to be established much later, during the Independence Movement (which, indeed, was also known as the Nationalist Movement). Identity was in terms of region and caste, which, to a considerable extent, it still is today. The British and the Indians would go on to affect each other in profound ways that still are important today. In what follows, because of limited space, the impact of Imperial Britain on India is addressed. Hopefully, a future useful essay on the impact of India on Great Britain will also be published in EAA.