Colonialism 19th and 20th Century
Century India and Britain
HEIC and Parliament continued
their dual responsibility for India through the first half of the 19th century. The
combination of dual responsibility and poor communication (it took five months to get a message to India!) allowed
the Governors General a free hand. They could be recalled, but they could
not be controlled. Profit was their responsibility; fame was their
During the 19th century a succession of Governors General continued the British conquests in India. Some Indian kingdoms were forcibly taken with military might and ruled directly as part of the Indian government. Others were coerced into paying what was in effect "protection" money to be left alone as "independent princely states". Some of these latter kingdoms would then be annexed by a succeeding Governor General particularly if the "independent" state was prospering or was needed as a bulwark against a perceived hostile power.
By 1830 almost all of India was under direct or indirect British control. About two thirds were Indian "provinces" governed directly by the Indian Civil Service (ICS). About one third were "princely states" ruled by puppet Rajahs. The Rajahs were controlled by British "Residents" who lived in the capital of the state and kept tabs on them. If they did not "behave" they were deposed. If they were very prosperous they were deposed. At the end of the Raj in 1947 there were about 600 of these "princely" states.
It was in the mid 19th century that the idea of creating "Brown Englishmen" emerged. Thomas Macaulay (Minister of Education in India and creator of the British/Indian law system) and others (the Anglicists) set up a system of education and rewards to create a class of Indians "...who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, a class of persons Indian in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinions, words and intellect." -- Thomas Macaulay 1837
In 1857 the "Indian Mutiny" ("Sepoy Uprising", "First War of Independence", take your pick!) took place in northern India starting in Bengal. Parliament blamed the HEIC for mismanagement, and the following year the British Government effectively brought the Company to an end. Victoria was proclaimed Queen and later "Empress of India". India was thereafter governed by London through a Viceroy in Calcutta. The old HEIC employees continued in their jobs. The Governor General remained the same. His tile was changed from Governor General to Viceroy.
The 1857 uprising changed the relationship between Indians and the British. The Indian army was reorganized with a greater ratio of Britons to Indians. Indian soldiers were forbidden to handle heavy artillery. Certain Indian "races" were banned from military service. Separation of the societies already begun by Cornwallis and accelerated by Wellesley dramatically accelerated after 1857.
After 1857 British military strategy in India began to emphasize rapid troop movement to trouble spots in India. First class communications infrastructures were essential. Construction on roads, post and telegraph and in particular railways was now the top priority.
Ex British soldiers and their offspring were the natural employees for these projects. With one exception, every one of my direct male ancestors after Thomas Blanchette and Robert Roberts, worked for the railway. Those of my male relatives who did not, were employed as police sergeants, customs officers, postal inspectors and as other civil service type employees.
In the middle of the 19th century reformers in the British Parliament were beginning to be heard. Their ideas of investing in the (English) education of Indians so they could become part of the lower levels of government became acceptable. "Brown Englishmen" would become the interpreters of British values for their less educated brethren. "Western Oriental Gentlemen", "WOGS" in common British parlance would do the dirty work of Empire.
By 1885 Indians educated in England became a "critical mass" in India and began to demand greater representation in top government jobs. Highly educated Indian lawyers, graduates of the best English Universities, continued to petition the government with some modest success. Gandhi, Jinnah and Nehru who became leaders of the Independence movement in the 1920's, were all lawyers trained in Britain. Matters continued in this gentlemanly manner until after WW I.
In 1914 when Britain declared war on Germany, Indians in all walks of life rallied to the cause and supported Britain. Even pacifists like Gandhi organized ambulance brigades to help out. Indians volunteered for active duty by the tens of thousands. Indian princes sent money and troops. Indian soldiers died by the thousands in Flanders fields and in the Middle East. The Indian army contributed 1 million men to the conflict. Indian soldiers acquitted themselves magnificently and all taint of "non martial" behavior was forever laid to rest.
Indian leaders like Gandhi and Jinnah and Nehru were firmly convinced of the fairness of the British system and fully expected to make rapid progress towards "self government" within the British Commonwealth after WW I. Instead in 1918 they were greeted with the "Rowlatt Acts" (the Black Acts) a set of wartime laws which removed habeas corpus and otherwise further restricted the freedom of Indians. Gandhi and Jinnah and virtually all senior Indian politicians felt betrayed and lied to. The 1918 Amritsar mass punishment of innocent Indians by making them crawl along the ground further inflamed Indians.
In 1919 the Jalianwallah Bagh massacre occurred in the Punjab where a British officer ( Brigadier General Dyer) ordered his troop of Gurkha soldiers to fire on unarmed civilians including women and children. This was the last straw and from this point on the race for complete Independence was the goal of Indians, both Muslim and Hindu. The Jallianwallah Bagh incident was so outrageous that even Winston Churchill, uncharacteristically, condemned the action of a British officer in one of his most eloquent Parliamentary speeches. As usual the local Anglo Indian community in India fully endorsed Dyer's actions.
Britain and the local British had no intention of letting go completely. Various compromise measures were attempted by the Raj during the 1920's and 1930's. Indian princes and Muslims were played off against the Hindu Congress in the time tested British tradition.
Between 1919 and the end of WW II in 1945, there were constant arrests and deportations and hunger strikes and more arrests and so on. WW II bankrupted Britain and Atlee's Labor government of 1945 charged Viceroy Mountbatten with the task of getting Britain out of India as soon as possible.
The partition of India at Independence in 1947 is one of the major tragedies of the 20th century. Somewhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 people died. About 14 million people were displaced. Since 1947, two peoples who had lived together for centuries have fought three wars and now snarl at each other across boundaries fortified with nuclear weapons. On to "An Indian Childhood" OR "Genealogy"