Indian National Movement

Background of the Movement

No movement develops in a vacuum. India’s national movement was the product of numerous factors, both internal and external. The British rule in India prepared a ground on which was evolved and built our national movement. There are two phases of the British rule in India: one, the English East India Company’s regime until 1857 and second, the direct rule of the British Government over India between 1858 and 1947. The two phases had their own impact on India: its economy, society, administration, education, culture and the like, all shaping and reshaping our national movement as also the building of independent India.

IA. Company’s Regime: Impact on India

The Company’s regime, both as a trading and a territorial power, had considerable impact on India; the impact of which can be stated briefly, as under:

(i) In the year 1608, the English East India Company began its settlements in India; it was first set up in Surat. In 1611, another settlement came up at Masulipatam while a trading outpost in Madras was set up in 1639; Bombay was given to the Company in 1668 by the British Crown as a dowry gift to Charles II by marrying the Portuguese princess, in 1661. The Company’s Hoogly factory was established earlier in 1640; Calcutta was founded by Job Charnock in 1686 . Thus by the mid- 18th  century, the three presidencies-_Madras Presidency (1640), Bombay Presidency (1687), Calcutta Presidency (1690) were each governed by a Governor. Following the battles of Plassey (1757) and of Buxar (1764) and the grant of Diwani (1765), and of Nizamat (1772), the Company rose as a territorial power as well (in addition to the trading one) and her territories in India began increasing: the Company had the dominions of Raja of Banaras and the island of Salsette (between 1773 and 1785), portions of Mysore (1792), Tipu Sultan’s territories in 1799, Carnatic (1801). The other annexed regions of the Company included North-Western Provinces (i.e., Rohilkhand, Gorakhpur, the Doab (1801), Delhi (1803), Sindh (1843), Punjab, North-West Frontier Province and Kashmir (as a results of Anglo-Sikh wars in 1849) though Kashmir was sold in 1846 to the Dogra dynasty of Jammu), Berar (1854) and Oudh (1856), Kumaon, Garhwal and east Sikkim had already been annexed. During the times of Dalhousie and as a result of the doctrine of lapse, Satara (1846), Jaitpur and Sambalpur (1849), Nagpur and Jhansi (1854) became parts of the Company’s possessions. Numerous states accepted the British suzerainty which included Cochin (1791), Jaipur (1794), Travancore (1795), Andaman Islands (1796), Hyderabad (1798), Mysore (1799), Cis-Sutlej Hill States (1815), Central India Agency (1819), Kutch and Gujarat Gaikward territories (1819), Rajputana (1818), Bhawalpur (1833). Thus, one estimate claims that 910700 sq miles area with over 13 crore population was either under the Company or its suzerainty on the eve of 1857.

(ii) Between 1773 and 1857, the English East India Company had appointed 14 permanent Governors-General, nine out of which waged wars with the native rulers or with India’s neighbours; Charles Cornwallis not only gave what is called Cornwallis code, but also introduced the Permanent Settlement (i.e., the zamindari system); Wellesley’s contribution to India was his Subsidiary Alliance which took the shape of annexing the territories of the native rulers through the doctrine of lapse, profusely used by Dalhousie; Bentinck abolished the Sati and suppressed thuggee and dacoity; Auckland established post offices and Ellenborough was able to enact the Slavery Act; during Dalhousie’s times, the construction of the Indian railways began, first telegraph line was laid and the Caste Disabilities Act was passed whereas Canning got the Hindu Widow Remarriage Act enacted.

(iii) The British government, with a view to controlling the Company’s administration both in England as well as in India, began regulating the affairs of the Company. Accordingly, the British authorities passed and enacted numerous acts. The first such act was the regulating act of 1773 . The act of 1773 asserted that (i) the Company could act as sovereign power on behalf of the Crown, (ii) the Company made rules subject to the regulations laid by the British government and the parliament, (iii) the Company was required to submit all civil, military and revenue communication for scrutiny by the British government, (iv) the Company’s Bengal Presidency headed by the Governor-General-in-Council was asked to control the other Presidencies. (v)The Company’s employees were asked not to engage themselves in private trade. There after followed a series of acts. The Pitt’s India Act of 1784, in the process of controlling the Company, established a Board of Control (of six members) in England to supervise the Company’s affairs and prevented the shareholders to interfere in the Company’s governance of India: the act of 1784 extended the supervisory powers of the GovernorGeneral-in-Council over the other Presidencies, the act gave the power of patronage (appointment power) to be British Government to be exercised through the Board. The Charter Act of 1813) terminated Company’s monopoly except in tea and trade with China, opening, thus, India’s trade to the private investors, and allowed missionaries to come to India. The Charter Act of 1833 revoked the Company’s trade licence altogether, seeking the Company to rule the Indian possessions as a part of the British Government. The Act bestowed the title of the Governor-General of India together with all the powers, centralized all the powers in the hands of the Governor-General of India assisted by his Council. The Charter Act of 1853 authorised the Company to administer the territories and possessions in India on behalf of the British Crown till the time the British parliament, otherwise provided. The Parliament took over the Company’s Indian administration in 1858.


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