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British Raj in India was it Good or Bad?

Updated on August 1, 2012

The British ruled India for almost 200 years. The battle of Plassey or Palassy was won by the East India Company in 1757 and the rule began which was ended in 1947 after Indian independence. The rule was indirect through the company till 1857-58 great revolt. After that India was under the direct rule of the British crown. Almost 60% of the country was under British officials control and the rest was ruled via Native princes who were actually puppets. Now the question is was the British rule in India good or bad for India?

I know this is a very controversial issue. Some will say the British raj was actually good and some will totally contradict. There are some stereotypical answers and myths – some which are true or partly true and some are baseless.

Map of British India

British India
British India

Did the British have selfish intentions?

The harsh critiques of the raj always say that all the minimal development like vast rail lines or road networks, bridge and other infrastructures were built only to loot India. They will argue they have no good wish to improve India.

Off course, the British were here to gain. The British raj was a vast system of planned slow plundering of India of her wealth. There is no doubt about it. But the question is they have any good intentions or not were their Raj was good for India?

The Modernization of India and the Raj

The modern age of India has come after the introduction of western education and culture was introduced by the British in India. There was nothing philanthropic about it. They intended to create a class of “babus” who will serve the British masters and also will act as loyal buffers against the native antagonist forces.

But, despite of their selfish goals the western contact brought the modernization and enlightenment in India. An educated and conscious middle class was generated as a process. Who was and still is the driving force of modern India.

British made Infrastructures in India

The ancient stone aged communication system was modernized with the vast rail network. The railways itself was a huge development in India. The people and business began to flow and the limitations of the area, state, race and cast began to fade away. The good roads, bridges etc was actually very beneficial to Indian populace.

Howrah Bridge - a great British made infrastructure in India.
Howrah Bridge - a great British made infrastructure in India.

What would happen without the British?

What would happen to India if the British could not conquer it?

This is a question of speculations. It is very difficult to answer this question correctly. Some will say that the industrialization and modernization would occur automatically even without the Britons. They will argue the British has actually destroyed our native industries and never let any native industry to rise and flourish.

It is too much probable that the modernization and industrialization would also inevitably come to India without the British. But most probably it would take more time. It is also can be doubted that how much modern the country would be, I think like nothing better than the Soudi Arabia or such countries.

The Unity of India and the British Rule:

India was unified under the British crown. The British empire of India was the all-time largest in India history. This unity made the Indians subject of exploitations disregarding language, cast or religion.

The concept of modern unified nation state would not be possible without the Raj. Without them the modern India would be divided among thousands of big and small countries ruled by Rajahs and Nawabs.

The Systematic Looting of India

The British raj and East India Company has exploited India’s resources to gain wealth. India was the source of cheap raw materials and labors which had boosted the British industries. Time to time there exploiting was so hard for the people that famine was commonplace. Millions of people have died in several famines during the Raj.

This was very harmful to India. This foraging by the British was the main culprit for destruction of native economy.

The Unity of India and the British Rule

The British raj held together the all of India for a long time as an empire. The people of all the Indian empire rose together against the British atrocities which gave birth to the pan Indianism.

Without the British rule there would be, most probably, hundreds of tiny and medium sized states scattered throughout the subcontinent.

Hindu – Muslim Conflict and the British Raj

The British had taken the divide and rule policy to keep Indians underfoot. They wanted to lead the Hindus and Muslims of the country to be at perpetual enmity. They got success in that mission to make India weak.

But it is not all the British imperialism which is responsible for Hindu-Muslim conflicts in India. I think they are not childish fools to be duped by the British so easily. The invasion of Muslim powers from outside and replacement of Hindu rulers by Muslims had its impact on the relationship between these two religions.

Jalianwala Bagh Massacre
Jalianwala Bagh Massacre

Atrocities of the British Raj

The British Raj in India has done many atrocities towards the Indian people. Everybody knows about the massacre of Jalianwalabag. But, the British brutality was most visible after the 1857 revolts. While suppressing the uprising the British had killed thousands of innocent people. They mass hanged innocent villagers for the crime of being native black Indians. These hideous acts were supported by the then mainstream British media and intellectual people. General Neil was one of the British army officials responsible for countless murders.

It is true that a great many of the rebels were no saints though. Many incidents, like that of the Chauri Choura against the innocent British people including women and children inflamed the British army against the rebels. But, that cannot be an excuse for killing thousands of harmless villagers by mass hanging from trees.

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    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 

      4 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Thank you. Some day I may return. But till then, i have my memories, Bollywood, and books on the past.

      No, I'm not advocating a return of the Raj. But this Indian would love to return to his homeland some day.

    • pinappu profile imageAUTHOR

      pinappu 

      4 years ago from India

      To be precise, India is known for its multi-ethnic fabric. Despite of some narrow minded politically motivated people, this country has maintained its generosity to all. You are welcome too Twilight Lawns.

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 

      4 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Thank you for an interesting and balanced article.

      I am an Anglo Indian/Anglo Pakistani, who never realised in my growing up, that although I was born in Quetta, Baluchistan, and lived, eventually, in Pune (Poona) Maharashtra province, that I was any different from my friends, and the other Indians I lived with; loved and called my friends and compatriots.

      I am afraid, Pinappu, that not enough people know about the atrocities perpetrated by some of the British: Jalianwalabag, for example. But there were many, my parents and, of course, myself, who loved the country and its peoples and I, even now, look on it as my country.

    • pinappu profile imageAUTHOR

      pinappu 

      6 years ago from India

      Peter Geekie, Kashmir was a really peaceful and very, very beautiful place during the Raj.

      It is said that the Kashmiri girls are famous for their beauty. It was called as the "heaven on earth".

      Now the situation is different for political reasons.

      Anyway, nice to know the facts about great, great grandfather.

    • pinappu profile imageAUTHOR

      pinappu 

      6 years ago from India

      Thank you Samraj 19 for your valuable comment. Despite of all divisions there is always a sense of unity in India. Which is called the "Unity in Diversity". It was present throughout the Indian history.

    • pinappu profile imageAUTHOR

      pinappu 

      6 years ago from India

      Thanks vuni

    • Peter Geekie profile image

      Peter Geekie 

      6 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Pinappu

      Thank you for a balanced view. The British Empire had many faults but also brought law and order and an industrial system among other benefits.

      Although I have never visited I have a certain affinity with India as my great, great grandfather was a British officer in Kashmir in the days of the Raj. He married an Indian lady and she returned to England with him. Unfortunately I can't trace any of her family as it was too long ago.

      Kind regards Peter

    • profile image

      Samraj19 

      6 years ago

      Once India was united when Buddhism was ruling India. Later divided when Hinduism was ruling India in the medieval period. United some extend again when Islam was ruling India towards the end of medieval period. India was united again under the British Raj which is a Benefit for India.

      Due to Hindu Muslim divide and fight Pakistan was created out of India towards the end of British Raj for which they cannot be blamed alone. Many Hindu Taliban-ism kind of social behaviors are removed from the society

      The infrastructure were created for Trade and Mutual benefit. East Indian Company has created the Global market and India was used as the supplier for their raw material (Mainly agriculture & Minerals). India had a surplus Forex reserve created from the agriculture Industry once during British Raj period and now it becomes the subsidy Industry in India.

      Arrogant attitude shown for crushing the freedom moments was sad part of it.

    • profile image

      Rajesh Bhuin 

      6 years ago

      good and informative post...........

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