India is one of the oldest civilizations in the world with a kaleidoscopic variety and rich cultural heritage. For a civilization that stretches its roots as far back as several millennia ago, India has emerged as a cultural colossus today. India offers a very diversified geographical, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, political, economic, and religious panorama. The History of India begins with the birth of the Indus Valley Civilization, more precisely known as the Harappan Civilization.
In ancient times, people from all over the world were keen to come to India. The Persians followed by the Iranians and Parsis immigrated to India. Then came the Moghuls, Mongolians, Portuguese and Dutch. The French came and established their colonies in India. Lastly, the Britishers came and ruled over India for nearly 200 years. After the battle of Plassey in 1757, the British achieved political power in India.
The conquest of India, which could be said to have begun with the Battle of Plassey (1757), was practically completed by the end of Dalhousie’s tenure in 1856. However, the Mutiny of 1857, which began with a revolt of the military soldiers at Meerut, soon became widespread and posed a grave challenge to British rule.
Consequent to the failure of the Revolt of 1857 rebellion, one also saw the end of the East India Company’s rule in India and many important changes took place in the British Government’s policy towards India which sought to strengthen the British rule through winning over the Indian princes, the chiefs and the landlords. The birth of the Indian National Congress (INC) in 1885 marked the entry of a newly educated middle-class into politics and transformed the Indian political horizon.
In 1905 Lord Curzon’s policy of divide and rule led to the partition of Bengal which made large implications on Indian society. In 1920, steps toward Indian Independence started with leaders who started mass movements against British rule.
The British raj was a colonizing power and there is no way to look at anything they did in India in a positive light. The things for which they are looked up to, such as introducing the railways and the postal and telegraph services, while undoubtedly useful, were not purported to benefit the Indians but to further the British power in India. But one cannot deny that these things had a positive effect on the nation.
So let’s take a look at 7 good things the British did for India and Indians.
1- English Language
The British made it absolutely clear that it was only taught to serve their own purpose. However, this influenced the popularity of the regional languages. The investment in the education of the Indians by the British opened the doors of the world for us.
2- Indian Railways
The British built the railways primarily for themselves, but it opened up the cultural and geographical barriers and facilitated the commercialization of Indian agriculture. Regardless of the Britisher’s vested interest in building the railways, it ended up being a pivot for the economy and a vital mode of transport for the public at large.
The pride and honor of our nation, the Indian Army has its origins in the years after the Indian Rebellion of 1857, often called the Indian Mutiny in British histories, when in 1858 the Crown took over direct rule of British India from East India Company. The culture, discipline, and a lot of the army practices that still persist belong to the pre-independence era.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there were multiple instances of epidemics in India, owing to Smallpox. Due to the inherent poverty in the country and lack of knowledge in sanitary etiquette, the British were concerned that things could spiral out uncontrollably. Hence, epidemic emergencies were declared as soon as a few cases of Smallpox had been confirmed. There was also a Compulsory Vaccination Act passed in India in 1892 to control the epidemics of Smallpox. ‘Sanitary commissioners’ were given the duty of setting up dispensaries in urban areas.
5- Social Reforms
When the East India Company took control of India in 1612, they began modernizing, westernizing, and industrializing India. This westernization included giving women more rights, an attempt to eliminate the caste system, and the loss of many of the more backward Hindu religious beliefs such as the domination of women by men, sati system, child marriage, and denying an entire class of people any rights. Not only they banned such cruel inhumane practices, but they also promoted a widow’s remarriage.
6- India Census
The Indian Census is one of the largest administrative exercises in the world. The first Indian census occurred in 1871 under the British Raj. The creation of the Census was driven mainly by the British emphasis on administration, rather than a genuine desire to uncover the characteristics of India’s population.
7- Surveying India
Formed in 1851 by the East India Company, the Geographical Survey of India holds a very important place in the sector of research and analysis within the country. Its roots can be traced to 1836 when the “Coal Committee”, followed by more such committees, was formed to study and explore the availability of coal in the eastern parts of India.