How, When and Where


How Important are Dates?

  • History is about finding out how things were in the past and how things have changed.
  • Earlier, history was synonymous with dates.
  • History was an account of battles and big events such as:
    The year a king was crowned.
    The year he was married and had a child.
    The year he fought a particular war or battle.
    The year he died.
    The year the next ruler succeeded to the throne etc.
  • Now, historians look more towards why and how events happen and not entirely focussing on when events happened.

How do we periodise?

  • We divide history into different periods in an attempt to capture the characteristics of  time, its central features as and when they appear to us.

British classification of Indian History

  • In 1817, James Mill, a Scottish economist and political philosopher, in his book ‘A History of British India’ divided Indian history into three periods:


  • According to Mill, all Asian societies were at a lower level of civilisation when compared to Europe.

Another Classification of Indian history

Historians have usually divided Indian history into :


->medieval and 


 This division too has its problems.

Since this periodisation is borrowed from the West where the modern period was associated with the growth of all the forces of modernity such as science, reason, democracy, liberty and equality.

Medieval was a term used to describe a society where these features of modern society did not exist.

  • Many historians refers British rule period as ‘colonial’ since during this rule:

People did not have equality, freedom or liberty.
No economic growth and progress took place.

What is colonial?

  • The British came to conquer the country and establish their rule, subjugating the local nawabs and rajas.
  • British established control over the economy and society, collected revenue to meet all their expenses, bought the goods they wanted at low prices, and produced crops only that they needed for export.
  • British rule brought in values and tastes, customs and practices.


  • When the subjugation of one country by another leads to these kinds of political, economic, social and cultural changes, we refer to the process as colonisation.

  • Historians have used various sources in writing about modern Indian history of the last 250 years.

Administration produces records

  • The official records of the British administration are one of the important sources.
  • Every instruction, plan, policy decision, agreement, investigation was written since British believed that the act of writing was important.
  • British set up record rooms attached to all administrative institutions as they felt that all important documents and letters needed to be carefully preserved.

Surveys become important

  • The British believed that a country had to be properly known before it could be effectively administered, therefore, the practice of surveying became common under the colonial administration.
  • By the early nineteenth century detailed surveys were being carried out to map the entire country.
  • In  villages, revenue surveys were conducted to know the topography, the soil quality, the flora and fauna, the local histories and the cropping pattern  they followed.
  • From the end of the nineteenth century, Census was held every ten years which provided detailed records of the number of people in all the provinces of India, noting information on castes,religions and occupation.
  • Other surveys such as botanical surveys, zoological surveys, archaeological surveys, anthropological surveys, forest surveys were also done.

What official records do not tell

  • Official records do not tell what other people in the country felt, and the reasons behind their actions.
  • We need to look at these things in unofficial records which are more difficult to get than official records.
  • Sources of the Unofficial records are:
    Diaries of people
    Accounts of pilgrims and travellers
    Autobiographies of important personalities
    Popular booklets in the local bazaars
    Written ideas of  Leaders and reformers
    Written records of poets and novelists.

Limitation of Unofficial records

  • They were produced by those who were literate.
  • From these records, we can not clearly understand how history was experienced and lived by the tribals and the peasants, the workers in the mines or the poor on the streets.


From Trade to Territory

(The Company establishes power)

End of Mughal Empire


  • Aurangzeb was the last of the powerful Mughal rulers.
  • In 1707, after his death, many Mughal governors (subadars) and big zamindars established regional kingdoms.


By the second half of the eighteenth century, however, a new power was emerging on the political horizon – the British.

East India Company Comes East


  • Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese explorer, had discovered the sea route to India in 1498.


  • The Portuguese were the first Europeans who came to India. 

  • They established their presence in the western coast of India, and had their base in Goa.

  • In 1600, the East India Company acquired a charter from the ruler of England Queen Elizabeth I.


  • By the early seventeenth century, the Dutch and the French also arrived into the scene.


  • All the companies were interested in buying the same things such as cotton, silk, pepper, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon which created competition and ultimately reduced the profits that could be earned.


  • To secure markets, therefore, led to fierce battles between the trading companies.


East India Company begins trade in Bengal


  • The first English factory was set up on the banks of the river Hugli in 1651.


  • As trade expanded, the Company persuaded merchants and traders to come and settle near the factory. 


  • By 1696 it began building a fort around the settlement. 


  • Two years later, the Company gained zamindari rights over three villages.

One of the villages was Kalikata

(later came to be known as Kolkata).


How trade led to battles


  • After the death of Aurangzeb, the Bengal nawabs asserted their power and autonomy.


The Battle of Plassey


  • In 1756, Siraj Ud Daulah became the nawab of Bengal after the death of Alivardi Khan.


  • The Company was keen on a puppet ruler so it helped one of Siraj Ud Daulah’s rivals become the nawab without success. 

  • Angry Siraj Ud Daulah asked the Company to stop interfering in the political affairs of his dominion, stop fortification, and pay the revenues.


  • After negotiations failed, the Nawab marched with 30,000 soldiers to the English factory at Kasimbazar, captured the Company officials, locked the warehouse, disarmed all Englishmen, and

blockaded English ships. 

He then marched to Calcutta to establish his control over the Company’s fort.


  • As the news of the fall of Calcutta reached, Company officials in Madras sent forces under the command of Robert Clive.


  • In 1757, the Robert Clive-led Company’s army marched against Siraj Ud Daula at Plassey.


  • The Nawab was defeated, as the forces led by Mir Jafar, one of Siraj Ud Daulah’s commanders, never fought the battle. 


  • After the defeat at Plassey, Siraj Ud Daulah was assassinated and Mir Jafar made the nawab.


  • Mir Jafar died in 1765 the mood of the Company had changed. 


  • Finally, in 1765 the Mughal emperor appointed the Company as the Diwan of the provinces of Bengal.


  • The outflow of gold from Britain entirely stopped after the assumption of Diwani as now revenues from India could finance Company expenses.


Company officials become “nabobs”


  • After the Battle of Plassey the actual nawabs of Bengal were forced to give land and vast sums of money as personal gifts to Company officials.


  • Many company officials like Clive made vast wealth however, not all Company officials succeeded in making money. 


  • Those who managed to return Britain with wealth led flashy lives and flaunted their riches. They were called “nabobs” – an anglicised version of the Indian word nawab.

Company Rule Expands


  • After the Battle of Buxar (1764), the Company appointed Residents in Indian states.


  • Through the Residents, the Company officials began interfering in the internal affairs of Indian states. 


  • Sometimes the Company forced the states into a “subsidiary alliance”. 

According to the terms of this alliance, Indian rulers were not allowed to have their independent armed forces.

They were to be protected by the Company though they had to pay huge amounts for this


If Indian rulers failed to make these payments, a part of their territory was to be taken away by the Company.


Tipu Sultan – The “Tiger of Mysore”


  • Mysore had grown in strength under the leadership of powerful rulers like Haidar Ali (ruled from 1761 to 1782) and his famous son Tipu Sultan (ruled from 1782

to 1799). 


  • In 1785 Tipu Sultan stopped the export of sandalwood, pepper and cardamom through the ports of his kingdom, and disallowed local merchants from trading with the Company.


  • He established close relationships with the French in India, and modernised his army with their help.


  • Four wars were fought with Mysore (1767-69, 1780-84, 1790-92 and 1799). 

In the last – the Battle of Seringapatam – did the Company ultimately win a victory. 


  • Tipu Sultan was killed defending his capital Seringapatam, Mysore 


  • The former ruling dynasty of the Wodeyars placed a subsidiary alliance on the state.


War with the Marathas


  • After the defeat in the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761, they were divided into many states under different chiefs ( sardars ) belonging to dynasties such as Sindhia, Holkar, Gaikwad and Bhonsle. 

These chiefs were held together in a confederacy under a Peshwa (Principal Minister).


  • Anglo-Marathas wars were fought between these and the company.

The first war that ended in 1782 with the Treaty of Salbai, there was no clear victor. 

The Second Anglo- Maratha War (1803-05) resulting in the British gaining Orissa and the

territories north of the Yamuna river including Agra and Delhi. 

The Third Anglo-Maratha War of 1817-19 crushed Maratha power, the Peshwa was removed and the Company now had complete control over the territories south of the Vindhyas.


The claim to paramountcy


  • Under Lord Hastings (Governor- General from 1813 to 1823) a new policy of “paramountcy” was initiated which claimed its power was greater than that of Indian states. 

In order to protect its interests it was justified in annexing or threatening to annex any Indian kingdom.


  • In the late 1830s the East India Company became worried about Russia as Russia might expand

across Asia and enter India from the north-west.


  • They fought a prolonged war with Afghanistan between 1838 and 1842 and established indirect Company rule there. 


  • Sind was taken over in 1843. 


  • After the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839, two prolonged wars were fought with the Sikh

kingdom and in 1849, Punjab was annexed.


The Doctrine of Lapse


  • Lord Dalhousie, the Governor-General from 1848 to 1856 devised a policy that came to be known

as the Doctrine of Lapse.

It declared that if an Indian ruler died without a male heir his kingdom would “lapse”, that is, become part of Company territory. 


  • Many kingdoms were annexed under this rule:

Satara in 1848

Sambalpur in 1850

Udaipur in 1852

Nagpur in 1853

Jhansi in 1854

Awadh in 1856


Setting up a New Administration


  • Warren Hastings (Governor-General from 1773 to 1785) played a significant role in the expansion of Company power.


  • British territories were broadly divided into administrative units called Presidencies. There were three Presidencies: 





  • Each was ruled by a  Governor and the supreme head of the administration was the Governor-General.


  • From 1772 a new system of justice was established. 


  • Each district was to have two courts 

a criminal court (faujdari adalat) 

a civil court (diwani adalat)


  • In Civil courts, Maulvis and Hindu pandits interpreted Indian laws for the European district collectors.


  • The criminal courts were still under a qazi and a mufti but under the supervision of the collectors.


  • The collector’s main job was to collect revenue and taxes and maintain law and order in his district with the help of judges, police officers and darogas.


The Company army


  • From the 1820s, the cavalry requirements of the Company’s army declined because the British empire was fighting in Burma, Afghanistan and Egypt where soldiers were armed with muskets and matchlocks.


  • In the early nineteenth century, the British began to develop a uniform military culture.


  • The soldiers were given European-style training and were subjected to drill and discipline.




  • The East India Company was transformed from a trading company to a territorial colonial power.


  • By 1857 the Company came to exercise direct rule over about 63 percent of the territory and 78 percent of the population of the Indian subcontinent.


Ruling the Countryside


The Company Becomes the Diwan


  • On 12 August 1765, the Mughal emperor appointed the East India Company as the Diwan of Bengal.
  • As Diwan, the Company became the chief financial administrator of the territory under its control.

Revenue for the Company

  • The company made an effort to increase the revenue as much as it could and buy fine cotton and silk cloth as cheaply as possible.
  • Within five years the value of goods bought by the Company in Bengal doubled.


Now the revenue collected in Bengal could finance the purchase of goods for export.


  • The Bengal economy was facing a deep crisis because artisans were deserting villages since they were being forced to sell their goods to the Company at low prices.
    Agricultural cultivation showed signs of collapse.
  • In 1770 a terrible famine killed ten million people in Bengal.

The need to improve agriculture

  • Most Company officials began to feel that investment in land had to be encouraged and agriculture had to be improved.
  • In 1793, the Company finally introduced the Permanent Settlement.
    By the terms of the settlement, the rajas and taluqdars were recognised as zamindars.
  • They were asked to collect rent from the peasants and pay revenue to the Company which was fixed permanently.
  • This would ensure a regular flow of revenue to the Company And at the same time encourage
    the zamindars to invest in improving the land.

The problem

  • The zamindars were not investing in improving the quality of land.
  • The revenue fixed was too high for the zamindars.
  • As long as the zamindars could earn by giving out their land to tenants, they were not interested in
    improving the land.
  • On the other hand, in the villages, the cultivator found the system extremely oppressive.

A new system is devised

  • By the early nineteenth century, many of the Company officials were convinced that the system of revenue had to be changed again to meet the growing expenses.

Mahalwari settlement

  • The collectors went from village to village to estimate the land revenue that each village (mahal) had to pay.
  • The charge of collecting the revenue and paying it to the Company was given to the village headman, rather than the zamindar.
  • This system came to be known as the mahalwari settlement.

The Munro system

  • The new system that was devised came to be known as the ryotwari (or ryotwari).
  • It was tried on a small scale by Captain Alexander Read.
  • It was subsequently developed by Thomas Munro, which was gradually extended all over south India.

Ryotwari system and its problem

  • The settlement had to be made directly with the cultivators ( ryots ) who had tilled the land for generations.
  • British should act as paternal father figures protecting the ryots under their charge.
  • To increase the income from land, revenue officials fixed too high a revenue demand.
  • Peasants were unable to pay, ryots fled the countryside, and villages became deserted in many regions.

Crops for Europe

  • The British persuaded or forced cultivators in various parts of India to produce other commercial crops:

jute in Bengal

tea in Assam

sugarcane in the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh)

wheat in Punjab

cotton in Maharashtra and Punjab

rice in Madras.

  • The British used a variety of methods for increasing cultivation of crops that they needed.
  • One such crop was Indigo, which had a great worldwide demand.

Why the demand for Indian indigo?

  • By the thirteenth century, Indian indigo was being used by cloth manufacturers in Italy, France and Britain to dye cloth.
    But the price of indigo was very high.
  • European cloth manufacturers, therefore, had to depend on another plant called woad to make violet and blue dyes which were pale and dull.
    Therefore, cloth dyers, however, preferred indigo as a dye.
  • The French began cultivating indigo in St Domingue in the Caribbean islands, the Portuguese in Brazil, the English in Jamaica, and the Spanish in Venezuela.
  • Between 1783 and 1789 the production of indigo in the world fell by half.
  • Cloth dyers in Britain started looking for new sources of indigo supply.

Britain turns to India

  • The Company in India looked for ways to expand the area under indigo cultivation.
  • By 1810, 95 percent of the indigo imported into Britain was from India.
  • Many Company officials left their jobs and numerous Scotsmen and Englishmen came to India and became planters attracted by the prospect of high profits.

How was indigo cultivated?

  • There were two main systems of indigo cultivation –  nij and ryoti.

Nij cultivation and problems

  • The planter produced indigo in lands that he directly controlled.
  • The planters found it difficult to expand the area under nij cultivation.
  • Indigo could be cultivated only on fertile lands which were all already densely populated.
  • A large plantation required large number of labour at a time when peasants were
    usually busy with their rice cultivation.
  • It also required many ploughs and bullocks.
  • Till the late nineteenth century, planters were therefore reluctant to expand the area under  nij cultivation.

Indigo on the land of ryots

  • Under the ryoti system, the planters pressured the village headmen to sign the contract on behalf of the ryots.
    Those who signed the contract got cash advances from the planters at low rates of interest to produce indigo.
    But the ryot had to cultivate indigo on at least 25 percent of the area under his holding.
  • When the crop was delivered to the planter after the harvest, a new loan was given to the ryot, and the cycle started all over again.
  • The price provided to the peasants for the indigo they produced was very low and the cycle of loans never ended.
  • Indigo also exhausts the soil rapidly.
    After an indigo harvest the land could not be sown with rice.

The “Blue Rebellion” and After

  • In 1859, the indigo ryots felt that they had the support of the local zamindars and village headmen in their rebellion against the planters.
  • As the rebellion spread, intellectuals rushed to the indigo districts and wrote of the misery of the ryots, the tyranny of the planters, and the horrors of the indigo system.
  • The government set up the Indigo Commission to enquire into the system of indigo production.
    The Commission held the planters guilty, and criticised them for the coercive methods they used with indigo cultivators.
  • After the revolt, indigo production now shifted their operation to Bihar.
  • Mahatma Gandhi’s visit in 1917 marked the beginning of the Champaran movement against the indigo planters.


Tribals, Dikus and the Vision of a Golden Age

How Did Tribal Groups Live?


  • By the nineteenth century, tribal people in different parts of India were involved in a variety of activities.

Some were jhum cultivators

  • Jhum cultivation is another name of shifting cultivation.
  • The cultivators cut the treetops to allow sunlight to reach the ground, and burnt the vegetation on the land to clear it for cultivation.
  • They spread the ash from the firing, which contained potash, to fertilise the soil.
  • They broadcast the seeds, that is, scattered the seeds on the field instead of ploughing the land
    and sowing the seeds.
  • After harvesting crops on one field, they moved to another.
    Cultivated one was left fallow for several years.
  • These cultivators were found in the hilly and forested tracts of north-east and central India.

Some were hunters and gatherers

  • In many regions tribal groups lived by hunting animals and gathering forest produce.
  • The Khonds were such a community living in the forests of Orissa.

They ate fruits and roots collected from the forest and cooked food with the oil they extracted from the seeds of the sal and mahua.

They used many forest shrubs and herbs for medicinal purposes, and sold forest produce in the local markets.


  • Tribal groups often needed to buy and sell in order to be able to get the goods that were not produced within the locality.
  • This was done through traders and moneylenders.
  • Traders came around with things for sale, and sold the goods at high prices.
    Moneylenders gave loans to met their cash needs but the interest charged on the loans was usually very high.
  • So for the tribals, market and commerce often meant debt and poverty.
    Therefore came to see the moneylender and traders as evil outsiders and the cause of their misery.

Some herded animals

  • Many tribal groups lived by herding and rearing animals.
  • The Van Gujjars of the Punjab hills and the Labadis of Andhra Pradesh were cattle herders, the Gaddis of Kulu were shepherds, and the Bakarwals of Kashmir reared goats.

Some took to settled cultivation

  • Before the nineteenth century, many from within the tribal groups had begun settling down, and cultivating their fields in one place year after year, instead of moving from place to place.
  • They began to use the plough, and gradually got rights over the land they lived on.
  • In the Mundas of Chota Nagpur, the land belonged to the clan as a whole.
  • All of them had rights on the land.
    But some people within the clan acquired more power than others, some became chiefs and others followers.
  • British officials saw settled tribal groups like the Gonds and Santhals as more civilised than hunter-gatherers or shifting cultivators.

How Did Colonial Rule Affect Tribal Lives?

What happened to tribal chiefs?

  • Before the arrival of the British, in many areas the tribal chiefs enjoyed a certain amount of economic power and had the right to administer and control their territories.
  • Under British rule, the functions and powers of the tribal chiefs changed largely.
    They were allowed to keep their land titles and rent out lands, but they lost much of their administrative power and were forced to follow laws made by British officials in India.
    They also had to discipline the tribal groups on behalf of the British.

What happened to the shifting cultivators?

  • The British wanted tribal groups to settle down and become peasant cultivators.
  • The British also wanted a regular revenue source for the state.
  • The British introduced land settlements – that is, they measured the land, defined the rights of each individual to that land, and fixed the revenue demand for the state.
  • Some peasants were declared landowners, others tenants.
  • The British effort to settle jhum cultivators was not very successful.
  • Settled plough cultivation is not easy in areas where water is scarce and the soil is dry.
  • Facing widespread protests, the British had to ultimately allow them the right to carry on shifting cultivation in some parts of the forest.


Forest laws and their impact

  • Forest laws classified some forests as Reserved Forests for they produced timber which the British wanted.
    In these forests people were not allowed to move freely, practise  jhum cultivation, collect fruits,
    or hunt animals.
  • Many shifting cultivators, therefore, were forced to move to other areas in search of work and livelihood.
    This poses problem of laborers for the Britishers to cut trees for railway sleepers and to transport logs.
  • Thus, the Britishers decided that they would give jhum cultivators small patches of land in the forests and allow them to cultivate these on the condition that those who lived in the villages would have to provide labour to the Forest Department and look after the forests.
  • Many tribal groups rose in open rebellion.
    Such was the revolt of Songram Sangma in 1906 in Assam, and the forest satyagraha of the 1930s in the Central Provinces.

The problem with trade

  • During the nineteenth century, traders and money-lenders started coming to forests more often wanting to buy forest produce, offering cash loans, and asking tribal groups to work for wages.
  • Hazaribagh was an area where the Santhals reared cocoons.
    The traders dealing in silk sent in their agents who gave loans to the tribal people and collected the cocoons.
    These cocoons were then exported to Gaya, where they were sold at five times the price.
    The middlemen who arranged deals between the exporters and silk growers made huge profits.
    The silk growers earned very little.


The search for work

  • The condition of tribals who had to go far away from their homes in search of work was even worse.
  • From the late nineteenth century, tea plantations started coming up and mining became an important industry.
    Tribals were recruited in large numbers to work the tea plantations of Assam and the coal mines of Jharkhand and were paid miserably low wages, and prevented them from returning home.

A Closer Look

  • Through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, tribal groups in different parts of the country rebelled against the changes in laws, the restrictions on their practices, the new taxes they had to pay, and the exploitation by traders and moneylenders.
  • The Kols rebellion in 1831-32
  • Santhals rose in revolt in 1855
  • The Bastar Rebellion in central India broke out in 1910
  • The Warli Revolt in Maharashtra in 1940
  • The movement of Birsa.

Birsa Munda

  • Birsa was born in the mid-1870s
  • He was the son of a poor father, grew up around the forests of Bohonda, grazing sheep, playing the flute, and dancing in the local akhara.
  • The Birsa movement was aimed at reforming tribal society.
  • He urged the Mundas to give up drinking liquor, clean their village, and stop believing in witchcraft and sorcery.
  • In 1895, Birsa urged his followers to recover their glorious past when Mundas lived a good life, constructed embankments, tapped natural springs, planted trees and orchards, practised cultivation to earn their living.
  • The political aim of the Birsa movement was to drive out missionaries, moneylenders, Hindu landlords, and the government and set up a Munda Raj with Birsa at its head.
  • As the movement spread the British officials decided to act.
    They arrested Birsa in 1895, convicted him on charges of rioting and jailed him for two years.
  • When Birsa was released in 1897 he began touring the villages to gather support.
  • His followers attacked police stations and churches, and raided the property of moneylenders and
  • They raised the white flag as a symbol of Birsa Raj.
  • In 1900 Birsa died of cholera and the movement faded out.
  • The significance of Birsa movement:
    It forced the colonial government to introduce laws so that the land of the tribals could not be easily taken over by dikus (outsider like moneylenders, traders).
    It showed once again that the tribal people had the capacity to protest against injustice and express their anger against colonial rule.


When People Rebel 1857 and After

Policies and the People

Nawabs lose their power

  • Since the mid-eighteenth century, nawabs and rajas gradually lost their authority and honour.
  • Residents had been stationed in many courts, the freedom of the rulers reduced, their armed forces disbanded, and their revenues and territories taken away by stages.
  • Many ruling families tried to negotiate with the Company to protect their interests however the Company, confident of its superiority and military powers, turned down these pleas.
  • In 1801, a subsidiary alliance was imposed on Awadh, and in 1856 it was taken over in the name of British rule was needed to ensure proper administration.
  • In 1856, Governor-General Canning decided that Bahadur Shah Zafar would be the last Mughal king.

The peasants and the sepoys

  • In the countryside, peasants and zamindars annoyed with the high taxes and the rigid methods of revenue
  • Many peassants failed to pay back their loans to the moneylenders and gradually lost the lands they had tilled for generations.
  • The Indian sepoys were unhappy about their pay, allowances and conditions of service.
    Also, some new rules violated their religious sensibilities and beliefs such as crossing the sea results in losing their religion and caste.
  • Sepoys also reacted to what was happening in the countryside.
    So the anger of the peasants quickly spread among the sepoys.

Responses to reforms

  • The British passed laws to stop the practice of sati and to encourage the remarriage of widows.
  • English-language education was promoted.
  • The Company allowed Christian missionaries to function freely and even own land and property.
  • In 1850, a new law was passed to make conversion to Christianity easier and allowed an Indian who had converted to Christianity to inherit the property of his ancestors.

Through the Eyes of the People

A Mutiny Becomes a Popular Rebellion

  • A massive rebellion that started in May 1857 and threatened the Company’s presence in India.
    Sepoys mutinied in several places beginning from Meerut
    A large number of people from different sections of society rose up in rebellion.

From Meerut to Delhi

  • On 29 March 1857, a young soldier, Mangal Pandey, was hanged to death for attacking his officers in Barrackpore.
  • Some days later, some sepoys of the regiment at Meerut refused to do the army drill using the new cartridges, which were suspected of being coated with the fat of cows and pigs.
  • On 9 May 1857, Eighty-five sepoys were dismissed from service and sentenced to ten years in jail for disobeying their officers.
  • On 10 May, the soldiers marched to the jail in Meerut and released the imprisoned sepoys.

They attacked and killed British officers, captured guns and ammunition and set fire to the buildings and properties of the British and declared war on the foreigners.


  • On the morning of 11 May, sepoys of Meerut reached Delhi and the regiments stationed in Delhi also rose up in rebellion.
  • The soldiers forced their way into the Red Fort and proclaimed Bahadur Shah Zafar as their leader.
  • The ageing emperor accepted the demand and wrote letters to all the chiefs and rulers of the country to come forward and organise a confederacy of Indian states to fight the British.

The rebellion spreads

  • After a week, regiment after regiment mutinied and took off to join other troops at nodal points like Delhi, Kanpur and Lucknow.
  • After them, the people of the towns and villages also rose up in rebellion and rallied around local leaders, zamindars and chiefs.
  • Many famous leaders lead troops at different places:
    Nana Saheb in Kanpur
    Birjis Qadr in Lucknow
    Rani Lakshmibai Jhansi
    Kunwar Singh in Bihar
    Bakht Khan in Bareilly
  • The British were greatly outnumbered by the rebel forces and were defeated in a number of battles.

The Company Fights Back

  • The company brought reinforcements from England, passed new laws so that the rebels could be convicted with ease, and then moved into the storm centres of the revolt.
  • In September 1857, Delhi was recaptured from the rebel forces.
  • Bahadur Shah Zafar was tried in court and sentenced to life imprisonment alongwith his wife Begum Zinat Mahal in Rangoon in October 1858.
    Bahadur Shah Zafar died in the Rangoon jail in November 1862.
  • Lucknow was taken in March 1858.
  • Rani Lakshmibai was defeated and killed in June 1858.
  • Tantia Tope was captured, tried and killed in April 1859.
  • The British also tried their best to win back the loyalty of the people.
    They announced rewards for loyal landholders who would be allowed to continue to enjoy traditional rights over their lands.
  • Hundreds of sepoys, rebels, nawabs and rajas were tried and hanged.


  • By the end of 1859, the British had regained control of the country.

Important changes introduced by the British after 1858:

  • The British Parliament passed a new Act in 1858 and transferred the powers of the East India Company to the British Crown.
    A member of the British Cabinet was appointed Secretary of State for India and made responsible for all matters related to the governance of India.
  • All ruling chiefs of the country were assured that their territory would never be annexed in future.
    They were allowed to pass on their kingdoms to their heirs, including adopted sons.
    The Indian rulers were to hold their kingdoms as subordinates of the British Crown.
  • The proportion of Indian soldiers in the army would be reduced and the number of European soldiers would be increased.
  • The land and property of Muslims was confiscated on a large scale and they were treated with suspicion and hostility.
  • The British decided to respect the customary religious and social practices of the people in India.
  • Policies were made to protect landlords and zamindars and give them security of rights over their lands.


Weavers, Iron Smelters and Factory Owners



  • The chapter tells the story of the crafts and industries of India during British rule by focusing on two industries:


Iron and steel.

Indian Textiles and the World Market

  • Around 1750, India was by far the world’s largest producer of cotton textiles.
  • Indian textiles had long been renowned both for their fine quality and exquisite craftsmanship.
  • They were extensively traded in Southeast Asia and West and Central Asia.
  • From the sixteenth century, European trading companies began buying Indian textiles for sale in Europe.

Words tell us histories

  • European traders first encountered fine cotton cloth from India carried by Arab merchants in Mosul in present-day Iraq.
    They began referring to all finely woven textiles as “muslin” – a word that acquired wide currency.
  • The cotton textiles which Portuguese took back to Europe, along with the spices, came to be called “calico” which became the general name for all cotton textiles.
  • In 1730, English East India Company sent to its representatives in Calcutta to order a variety of cloth pieces in bulk.
    Amongst the pieces ordered in bulk were printed cotton cloths called chintz, cossaes (or khassa) and bandanna.
    Chintz is derived from the Hindi word chhint, a cloth with small and colourful flowery designs.
    The word bandanna term is derived from the word “bandhna” refers to any brightly coloured and printed scarf for the neck or head.
  • The printed cotton clothes are called chintz, cossaes (or khassa) and bandanna.
  • There were other clothes in the order book that were noted by their place of origin such as Kasimbazar, Patna, Calcutta, Orissa, Charpoore.

Indian textiles in European markets

  • By the early eighteenth century, worried by the popularity of Indian textiles, wool and silk makers in England began protesting against the import of Indian cotton textiles.
  • In 1720, the Calico Act was introduced in England which banned the use of printed cotton textiles – chintz.
  • Competition with Indian textiles led to a search for technological innovation in England.
    In 1764, the spinning jenny was invented by John Kaye which increased the productivity of the traditional spindles.
    In 1786, steam engine was invented by Richard Arkwright which revolutionised cotton textile weaving.
  • European trading companies – the Dutch, the French and the English – made large profits through textile trade with India.
  • These companies purchased cotton and silk textiles in India by importing silver.
  • When the English East India Company gained political power in Bengal, they used revenues from peasants and zamindars in India to buy Indian textiles.

Who were the weavers?

  • Weavers often belonged to communities that specialised in weaving.
  • Their skills were passed on from one generation to the next.
  • Some communities famous for weaving:
    tanti weavers of Bengal, the julahas or momin weavers of north India.
    sale and kaikollar and devangs of south India.
  • The first stage of production was spinning done mostly by women in which charkha and the takli were used.
  • After weaving, spinning was done mostly by men.
  • For coloured textiles, the thread was dyed by the dyer, known as rangrez.
  • For printed cloth the weavers needed the help of specialist block printers known as chhipigars.

The decline of Indian textiles

  • The development of cotton industries in Britain affected textile producers in India in several ways: Indian textiles now had to compete with British textiles in the European and American markets.
    Exporting textiles to England also became increasingly difficult since very high duties were imposed on Indian textiles imported into Britain.
  • By the beginning of the nineteenth century, English-made cotton textiles successfully displaced Indian goods from their traditional markets in Africa, America and Europe.
  • By the 1830s, British cotton cloth flooded Indian markets.


  • Some types of cloths could not be supplied by machines thus handloom weaving did not completely die in India.
  • Later, during the national movement, Mahatma Gandhi urged people to boycott imported textiles and use hand-spun and hand-woven cloth.
    Khadi gradually became a symbol of nationalism.
  • Many weavers became agricultural labourers.
    Some migrated to cities in search of work, and others went out of the country to work in plantations in Africa and South America.
    Some handloom weavers also found work in the new cotton mills that were established in Bombay, Ahmedabad, Sholapur, Nagpur and Kanpur.

Cotton mills come up

  • The first cotton mill in India was set up as a spinning mill in Bombay in 1854.
  • From the early nineteenth century, Bombay had grown as an important port for the export of raw cotton from India to England and China.

By 1900, over 84 mills started operating in Bombay.


  • The first mill in Ahmedabad was started in 1861.
  • Growth of cotton mills led to a demand for labour.
    Thousands of poor peasants, artisans and agricultural labourers moved to the cities to work in the mills.
  • The textile factory industry in India faced many problems.
    It found it difficult to compete with the cheap textiles imported from Britain.
  • The colonial government in India usually refused to protect the local industries.

  • During the First World War, textile imports from Britain declined and Indian factories were called upon to produce cloth for military supplies which increased the development of cotton factory production in India.

The sword of Tipu Sultan and Wootz steel

  • Tipu Sultan who ruled Mysore till 1799 had a sword made up of a special type of high carbon steel called Wootz which was produced all over south India.
  • Wootz steel when made into swords produced a very sharp edge with a flowing water pattern.
  • Wootz steel was produced in many hundreds of smelting furnaces in Mysore.
  • Indian Wootz steel fascinated European scientists.
    Michael Faraday, the legendary scientist and discoverer of electricity and electromagnetism, spent four years studying the properties of Indian Wootz (1818-22).
  • The Wootz steel making process, which was so widely known in south India, was completely lost by the mid-nineteenth century.
  • The swords and armour making industry died with the conquest of India by the British and imports
    iron and steel from England displaced the iron and steel produced by craftspeople in India.

Abandoned furnaces in villages

  • Iron smelting in India was extremely common till the end of the nineteenth century.
  • The furnaces were most often built of clay and sun-dried bricks. The smelting was done by men while women
  • By the late nineteenth century, however, the craft of iron smelting was in decline.

This was because:

  • New forest laws enacted by the colonial government prevented people from entering the reserved forests, which reduced the supply of charcoal.
  • By the late nineteenth century iron and steel was being imported from Britain.
    Ironsmiths in India began using the imported iron to manufacture utensils and implements.
  • By the early twentieth century, the artisans producing iron and steel faced a new competition as new iron and steel factories come up in India.

Iron and steel factories come up in India

  • In the year 1904, Charles Weld and Dorabji Tata explored the hill pointed out by the Agarias people and found one of the finest iron ores in the world.
    Rajhara Hills has one of the finest ores in the world.
  • A few years later a large area of forest was cleared on the banks of the river Subarnarekha to set up the factory and an industrial township – Jamshedpur.
  • The Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO) that came up began producing steel in 1912.
  • In 1914, when the First World War broke out, imports of British steel into India declined dramatically and the Indian Railways turned to TISCO for supply of rails.
  • By 1919 the colonial government was buying 90 per cent of the steel manufactured by TISCO.
  • Over time TISCO became the biggest steel industry within the British empire.



Civilising the “Native”, Educating the Nation



  • The British in India wanted not only territorial conquest and control over revenues but also felt that they had a cultural mission and had to “civilise the natives”, change their customs and values.

How the British saw Education

The tradition of Orientalism

  • In 1783, William Jones arrived in Calcutta who was a linguist.
    He had studied Greek and Latin at Oxford, knew French and English, Arabic and Persian.

At Calcutta, he started learning Sanskrit language, grammar and poetry.

Soon he was studying ancient Indian texts on law, philosophy, religion, politics, morality, arithmetic, medicine and the other sciences.


  • Englishmen like Henry Thomas Colebrooke and Nathaniel Halhed were also busy discovering the ancient Indian heritage, mastering Indian languages and translating Sanskrit and Persian works into English.
  • Together with them, Jones set up the Asiatic Society of Bengal, and started a journal called Asiatick Researches.
  • Jones and Colebrooke went about discovering ancient texts, understanding their meaning, translating them, and making their findings known to others.
    They believed this project would help the British learn from Indian culture and also help Indians
    rediscover their own heritage, and understand the lost glories of their past.
    In this process, the British would become the guardians of Indian culture as well as its masters.
  • Influenced by such ideas, many Company officials argued that the British ought to promote Indian rather than Western learning.
  • They felt that institutions should be set up to encourage the study of ancient Indian texts and teach Sanskrit and Persian literature and poetry.
  • In 1781, a madrasa was set up in Calcutta to promote the study of Arabic, Persian and Islamic law
  • In 1791, the Hindu College was established in Benaras to encourage the study of ancient Sanskrit texts that would be useful for the administration of the country.
  • Not all officials shared these views and many crticised the Orientalists.

“Grave errors of the East”

  • From the early nineteenth century many British officials began to criticise the Orientalist vision of learning.
  • According to them, knowledge of the East was full of errors and unscientific thought.
  • James Mill was one of those who attacked the Orientalists and declared that the aim of education ought to be to teach what was useful and practical.
    Indians should be made familiar with the scientific and technical advances that the West had made, rather than with the poetry and sacred literature of the Orient.
  • By the 1830s the attack on the Orientalists became sharper.
    Thomas Babington Macaulay saw India as an uncivilised country that needed to be civilised.
    According to him, no branch of Eastern knowledge could be compared to what England had produced.
  • Macaulay gave importance to the need to teach the English language.
    • He felt that knowledge of English would allow Indians to read some of the finest literature the world had produced.
    It would make them aware of the developments in Western science and philosophy.
    Thus, it is a way of civilising people, changing their tastes, values and culture.
  • The English Education Act of 1835 was introduced.
    The decision was to make English the medium of instruction for higher education and to stop the promotion of Oriental institutions like the Calcutta Madrasa and Benaras Sanskrit College.

Education for commerce

  • In 1854, the Court of Directors of the East India Company in London sent an educational despatch to the Governor-General in India come to be known as Wood’s Despatch which emphasised once again the practical benefits of a system of European learning, as opposed to Oriental knowledge.
  • It said, European learning would enable Indians to recognise the advantages that flow from the expansion of trade and commerce, and make them see the importance of developing the resources of the country.
  • Wood’s Despatch also argued that European learning would improve the moral character of Indians and would make them truthful and honest.
  • Following the 1854 Despatch, education departments of the government were set up to extend control over all matters regarding education.


What Happened to the Local Schools?

The report of William Adam


  • In the 1830s, William Adam, a Scottish missionary, toured the districts of Bengal and Bihar and was asked by the Company to report on the progress of education in vernacular schools.
  • Adam found that there were over 1 lakh pathshalas in Bengal and Bihar imparting education to over 20 lakh children.
    These institutions were set up by wealthy people, or the local community.
  • The system of education was flexible.
    There were no fixed fee
    There were no printed books
    There were no separate school building
    There were no benches or chairs
    There were no blackboards
    There were no system of separate classes
    There were no roll-call registers
    There were no annual examinations
    There were no regular time-table.
  • Adam discovered that this flexible system was suited to local needs.
    For example, classes were not held during harvest time when rural children often worked in the

New routines, new rules

  • Up to the mid-nineteenth century, the Company was concerned primarily with higher education.
  • After 1854 the Company decided to improve the system of vernacular education.
  • Each guru was asked to submit periodic reports and take classes according to a regular timetable.
  • Teaching was now to be based on textbooks and learning was to be tested through a system of annual examination.
  • Students were asked to pay a regular fee, attend regular classes, sit on fixed seats, and obey the new rules of discipline.
  • Pathshalas which accepted the new rules were supported through government grants.
  • The new rules and routines affect the children from poor peasant families negatively as new system demanded regular attendance, even during harvest time.
  • Inability to attend school came to be seen as indiscipline, as evidence of the lack of desire to learn.

The Agenda for a National Education

  • From the early nineteenth century, many thinkers from different parts of India began to talk of the need for a wider spread of education.
  • Some Indians felt that Western education would help modernise India
    They urged the British to open more schools, colleges and universities, and spend more money on education.
  • There were other Indians who reacted against Western education. Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore were two such individuals.

“English education has enslaved us” (Mahatma Gandhi’s view on Indian Education)

  • According to Mahatma Gandhi, colonial education created a sense of inferiority in the minds of Indians.
  • It made them see Western civilisation as superior, and destroyed the pride they had in their own culture.
  • Mahatma Gandhi wanted an education that could help Indians recover their sense of dignity and self-respect.
  • As per Mahatma Gandhi, western education focused on reading and writing rather than oral knowledge; it valued textbooks rather than lived experience and practical knowledge.
  • He argued that education ought to develop a person’s mind and soul.
  • Literacy – or simply learning to read and write – by itself did not count as education.

Tagore’s “abode of peace” (Rabindranath Tagore’s view on Indian Education)

  • Rabindranath Tagore started the Santiniketan in 1901.
  • Tagore felt that childhood ought to be a time of self-learning, outside the rigid and restricting discipline of the schooling system set up by the British.
  • Teachers had to be imaginative, understand the child, and help the child develop her curiosity.
  • According to Tagore, the existing schools killed the natural desire of the child to be creative, her sense of wonder.
  • Tagore was of the view that creative learning could be encouraged only within a natural environment.
    So he set up santiniketan, 100 kilometres away from Calcutta in a natural setting, where living in harmony with nature, children could cultivate their natural creativity.

Difference in Gandhi and Tagore view about Indian Education

  • Gandhiji was highly critical of Western civilisation and its worship of machines and technology. Tagore wanted to combine elements of modern Western civilisation with what was seen as the best within Indian tradition.
  • Gandhiji considered work with their hands, learning a craft, and knowing how different things operated as education while Tagore emphasised the need to teach science and technology at Santiniketan, along with art, music and dance.


Women, Caste and Reform

Early Years

  • Before two hundred years, society was totally different.
  • Most children were married off at an early age.


  • Both Hindu and Muslim men could marry more than one wife.


  • ‘Sati Pratha’ (a widow burns herself on the funeral pyre of their husbands) was prevailing in Hindu society.


  • Women’s rights to property were also restricted.


  • Most women had virtually no access to education.


  • In most regions, people were divided along lines of caste. 

Brahmans and Kshatriyas considered themselves as “upper castes”. 

Traders and moneylenders, referred to as Vaishyas, were placed after them. 

Peasants, and artisans such as weavers and potters referred to as Shudras were at the lowest rung.


  • Over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, many of these norms and perceptions slowly changed.


Working Towards Change


  • From the early nineteenth century, after the development of new forms of communication, debates and discussions about social customs and practices started.


  • These debates were often initiated by Indian reformers and reform groups. 


Raja Rammohun Roy (1772-1833) was one such reformer who founded a reform association known as the Brahmo Sabha (later known as the Brahmo Samaj) in Calcutta.

  • Reformers were those people who felt that changes were necessary in society, and unjust practices needed to be done away with.


  • He was interested in spreading the knowledge of Western education in the country and bring about
    greater freedom and equality for women.
  • He wrote about the way women were forced to bear the burden of domestic work, confined to the home and the kitchen, and not allowed to move out and become educated.

Changing the lives of widows

  • Rammohun Roy was particularly moved by the problems widows faced in their lives so he began a campaign against the practice of sati.
  • By the early nineteenth century, many British officials had also begun to criticise Indian traditions and customs therefore, they were more than willing to listen to Rammohun who was reputed to be a learned man.
  • In 1829, sati was banned.
  • Another reformer, Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, used the ancient texts to suggest that widows could remarry.
  • His suggestion was adopted by British officials, and a law was passed in 1856 permitting widow remarriage.
  • In the Telugu-speaking areas of the Madras Presidency, Veerasalingam Pantulu formed an association for widow remarriage.
  • In the north, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, who founded the reform association called Arya Samaj, also supported widow remarriage.

Girls begin going to school

  • Many reformers felt that education for girls was necessary in order to improve the condition of women.
  • Vidyasagar in Calcutta and many other reformers in Bombay set up schools for girls.
  • People feared that schools would take girls away from home, preventing them from doing their domestic duties.
  • Also, girls had to travel through public places in order to reach school which would have a corrupting influence on them.
  • Throughout the nineteenth century, most educated women were taught at home by liberal fathers or husbands.
  • In the latter part of the century, schools for girls were established by the Arya Samaj in Punjab, and Jyotirao Phule in Maharashtra.
  • In aristocratic Muslim households in North India, women learnt to read the Koran in Arabic.
    They were taught by women who came home to teach.
  • Some reformers such as Mumtaz Ali reinterpreted verses from the Koran to argue for women’s education.

Women write about women

  • From the early twentieth century, Muslim women like the Begums of Bhopal founded a
    primary school for girls at Aligarh.
  • Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain started schools for Muslim girls in Patna and Calcutta.
  • By the 1880s, Indian women began to enter universities and trained to be doctors, some became teachers.
  • Tarabai Shinde, a woman educated at home at Poona, published a book, Stripurushtulna, (A Comparison between Women and Men), criticising the social differences between men and women.
  • Pandita Ramabai, a great scholar of Sanskrit, wrote a book about the miserable lives of upper-caste
    Hindu women.
    She founded a widows’ home at Poona to provide shelter to widows.
  • By the end of the nineteenth century, women themselves were actively working for reform.


  • They wrote books, edited magazines, founded schools and training centres, and set up women’s associations.
  • From the early twentieth century, they formed political pressure groups to push through laws for female suffrage (the right to vote) and better health care and education for women.

Caste and Social Reform

  • Some of the social reformers criticised caste inequalities.
  • Rammohun Roy translated an old Buddhist text that was critical of caste.


  • The Prarthana Samaj was attached to the tradition of Bhakti that believed in spiritual equality of all castes.
  • In Bombay, the Paramhans Mandali was founded in 1840 to work for the abolition of caste.
  • Many of these reformers and members of reform associations were people of upper castes who were often, in secret meetings, these reformers would violate caste taboos on food and touch.
  • During the course of the nineteenth century, Christian missionaries began setting up schools for tribal groups and lower-caste children.
  • The expansion of cities created new demands of labour.
    The poor from the villages and small towns, many of them from low castes, began moving to the cities where there was a new demand for labour.
    Some also went to work in plantations in Assam, Mauritius, Trinidad and Indonesia.
    The people from low castes, saw this as an opportunity to get away from the oppressive hold that upper-caste landowners exercised over their lives and the daily humiliation they suffered.

Demands for equality and justice

  • By the second half of the nineteenth century, people from within the Non-Brahman castes began organising movements against caste discrimination, and demanded social equality and justice.
  • The Satnami movement in Central India, founded by Ghasidas who worked among the leatherworkers and organised a movement to improve their social status.
  • In eastern Bengal, Haridas Thakur’s Matua sect worked among Chandala cultivators.
  • In present-day Kerala, a guru from Ezhava caste, Shri Narayana Guru, proclaimed the ideals of unity for his people and argued against treating people unequally on the basis of caste differences.
  • All these sects were founded by leaders who came from Non- Brahman castes and worked amongst them.


  • Jyotirao Phule was born in 1827 and studied in schools set up by Christian missionaries.
  • He set out to attack the Brahmans’ claim that they were superior to others, since they were Aryans.
  • Phule argued that the Aryans were foreigners, who came from outside the subcontinent, and defeated and subjugated the inhabitants of the country.
  • He proposed that Shudras (labouring castes) and Ati Shudras (untouchables) should unite to challenge caste discrimination.
  • Phule founded the Satyashodhak Samaj, an association which propagated caste equality.
  • In 1873, Phule wrote a book named Gulamgiri, meaning slavery and dedicated his book to all those Americans who had fought to free slaves, thus establishing a link between the conditions of the
    “lower” castes in India and the black slaves in America.

Who could enter temples?

  • Ambedkar was born into a Mahar family and faced discrimination since childhood.
  • On his return to India in 1919, he wrote extensively about “upper”-caste power in contemporary society.
  • In 1927, Ambedkar started a temple entry movement, in which his Mahar caste followers participated.
  • Ambedkar led three such movements for temple entry between 1927 and 1935 with the aim to make everyone see the power of caste prejudices within society.

The Non-Brahman movement

  • In the early twentieth century, the non-Brahman movement started by non-Brahmin castes that had acquired access to education, wealth and influence.
  • They argued that Brahmans were heirs of Aryan invaders from the north who had conquered southern lands from the original inhabitants of the region – the indigenous Dravidian races.
  • E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker, or Periyar, as he was called, came from a middle-class family, founded the Self Respect Movement and believed that the untouchables had to free themselves from all religions in order to achieve social equality.
  • Periyar was an outspoken critic of Hindu scriptures, especially the Codes of Manu, the ancient lawgiver, and the Bhagavad Gita and the Ramayana as these texts had been used to establish the
    authority of Brahmans over lower castes and the domination of men over women.
  • These assertions were challenged by orthodox Hindu society who began founding Sanatan Dharma Sabhas and the Bharat Dharma Mahamandal in the north, and associations like the Brahman Sabha in Bengal.
  • Debates and struggles over caste continued beyond the colonial period and are still going on in our own times.



The Making of National Movement: 1870s-1947


The Emergence of Nationalism


  • India was the people of India where all the people irrespective of class, colour, caste, creed, language, or gender resides.


  • The British were exercising control over the resources of India.
  • The political associations were started forming after 1850, especially those that came into being in the 1870s and 1880s.
  • The important ones were the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha, the Indian Association, the Madras Mahajan Sabha, the Bombay Presidency Association, and of course the Indian National Congress.
  • The Arms Act was passed in 1878, disallowing Indians from possessing arms. 
  • In the same year the Vernacular Press Act was also enacted in an effort to silence those who were critical of the government.
  • The Indian National Congress was established when 72 delegates from all over the country met at Bombay in December 1885.
    The early leadership – Dadabhai Naoroji, Pherozeshah Mehta, Badruddin Tyabji, W.C. Bonnerji, Surendranath Banerji, Romesh Chandra Dutt, S. Subramania Iyer, among others – was largely from Bombay and Calcutta.

A nation in the making

  • The Congress in the first twenty years was “moderate” in its objectives and methods.
  • It demanded that Indians be placed in high positions in the government. 
    For this purpose it called for civil service examinations to be held in India as well.
  • The early Congress also raised a number of economic issues.

“Freedom is our birthright”

  • By the 1890s many Indians began to raise questions about the political style of the Congress. 
  • In Bengal, Maharashtra and Punjab, leaders such as Bepin Chandra Pal, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Lala Lajpat Rai started exploring more radical objectives and methods.
  • Tilak raised the slogan, “Freedom is my birthright and I shall have it!”


  • In 1905 Viceroy Curzon partitioned Bengal.
    The partition of Bengal infuriated people all over India.
  • The Swadeshi movement sought to oppose British rule and encourage the ideas of self-help, swadeshi enterprise, national education, and use of Indian languages.


  • The Congress split in 1907 however the two groups reunited in December 1915.
  • In 1916, the Congress and the Muslim League signed the historic Lucknow Pact.

The Growth of Mass Nationalism

  • The First World War altered the economic and political situation in India.
  • The government increased taxes on individual incomes and business profits.
  • Increased military expenditure and the demands for war supplies led to a sharp rise in prices.

  • Gandhiji arrived in India in 1915 from South Africa and is well known for leading successful movements against racist regimes.

The Rowlatt Satyagraha

  • In 1919 Gandhiji gave a call for a satyagraha against the Rowlatt Act passed by British that curbed freedom of expression and strengthened police powers.
  • The Rowlatt Satyagraha turned out to be the first all-India struggle against the British government.
  • In April 1919, there were a number of demonstrations and hartals in the country and the government used brutal measures to suppress them.
  • The Jallianwala Bagh atrocities, administered by General Dyer in Amritsar on Baisakhi day (13 April), were a part of this repression.

Khilafat agitation and the Non-Cooperation Movement

  • The leaders of the Khilafat agitation, Mohammad Ali and Shaukat Ali initiated a full-fledged Non-Cooperation Movement.
  • Gandhiji supported their call and urged the Congress to campaign against the Jallianwala massacre, but Khilafat was strong and demanded swaraj.
  • The Non-Cooperation Movement gained momentum through 1921-22.
  • Thousands of students left government- controlled schools and colleges.
  • British titles were surrendered and legislators boycotted.

People’s initiatives

  • Different classes and groups, interpreting Gandhiji’s call in their own manner.
  • In Kheda, Gujarat, Patidar peasants organised nonviolent campaigns against the high land revenue
    demand of the British.
  • In coastal Andhra and interior Tamil Nadu, liquor shops were picketed.
  • In the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, tribals and poor peasants staged a number of “forest satyagrahas”.
  • In Sind (now in Pakistan), Muslim traders and peasants were very enthusiastic about the Khilafat call.
  • In Bengal too, the Khilafat-Non-Cooperation alliance gave enormous communal unity and strength to the national movement.
  • In Punjab, the Akali agitation of the Sikhs sought to remove corrupt mahants– supported by the British.
  • In Assam, tea garden labourers demanded a big increase in their wages.

The happenings of 1922-1929

  • Mahatma Gandhi abruptly called off the Non-Cooperation Movement in February 1922 when a crowd of peasants set fire to a police station in Chauri Chaura.
  • Two important developments of the mid-1920s were the formation of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu organisation, and the Communist Party of India.
  • The decade closed with the Congress resolving to fight for Purna Swaraj (complete independence) in 1929 under the presidency of Jawaharlal Nehru.

The March to Dandi

  • In 1930, Gandhiji declared that he would lead a march to break the salt law.
  • Gandhiji and his followers marched from Sabarmati to the coastal town of Dandi where they broke the government law by gathering natural salt found on the seashore, and boiling sea water to produce salt.
  • The Government of India Act of 1935 prescribed provincial autonomy and the government announced elections to the provincial legislatures in 1937.


  • In September 1939, after two years of Congress rule in the provinces, the Second World War broke out.


Quit India and Later


  • Mahatma Gandhi decided to launch the ‘Quit India’ movement against the British in the middle of the Second World War.


  • Gandhiji and other leaders were jailed at once but the movement spread.


Towards Independence and Partition


  • In 1940 the Muslim League had moved a resolution demanding “Independent States” for Muslims

in the north-western and eastern areas of the country.


  • In 1937, the Congress rejected the League’s wish to form a joint Congress-League government in the United Provinces which annoyed the League.


  • At the end of the war in 1945, the British opened negotiations between the Congress, the League and themselves for the independence of India.

The talks failed because the League saw itself as the sole spokesperson of India’s Muslims.


  • The Congress did well in the “General” constituencies but the League’s success in the seats reserved for Muslims persisted with its demand for “Pakistan”.


  • After the failure of the Cabinet Mission, the Muslim League declared mass agitation for winning its Pakistan demand.


  • 16 August, 1946 was announced as a “Direct Action Day” by the League.

On this day, riots broke out in Calcutta, lasting several days.


  • By March 1947 violence spread to different parts of northern India.


  • Millions of people were forced to flee their homes.


  • Partition also meant that India changed, many of its cities changed, and a new country – Pakistan – was born.


India After Independence


A New and Divided Nation


  • Due to partition, 8 million refugees had come into India from what was now Pakistan.
  • There was about 500 princely states each ruled by a maharaja or a nawab, each of whom had to be persuaded to join the new nation.
  • There were divisions between high castes and low castes, between the majority Hindu community and Indians who practised other faiths.

A Constitution is Written

  • Between December 1946 and November 1949, three hundred Indians had a series of meetings and decided on the formation of the Indian Constitution on 26 January, 1950.
  • The features of Indian Constitution:
    The adoption of universal adult franchise.
    Guaranteed equality before the law to all citizens, regardless of their caste or religious affiliation.
    Offered special constitutional rights to the poorest and the most disadvantaged Indian citizens along with the former Untouchables, the adivasis or Scheduled Tribes were also granted reservation in seats and jobs.
  • The Constituent Assembly spent many days discussing the powers of the central government versus those of the state governments.

  • The Constitution sought to balance claims by providing three lists of subjects: 
    Union List (subjects such as taxes, defence and foreign affairs): Centre
    State List (subjects such as education and health): States
    Concurrent List (subjects such as forests and agriculture): The Centre and the states
  • Another major debate in the Constituent Assembly concerned language which ended with Hindi would be the “official language” of India, English would be used in the courts, the services, and communications between one state and another.


  • Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was the chairman of the Drafting Committee and under his guidance the document was finalised.

How were States to be Formed?

  • A States Reorganisation Commission was set up, which submitted its report in 1956, recommending the redrawing of district and provincial boundaries to form compact provinces of Assamese, Bengali, Oriya, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu speakers respectively.
  • The large Hindi-speaking region of north India were broken up into several states.
  • In 1960, the bilingual state of Bombay was divided into separate states for the Marathi and Gujarati speakers.
  • In 1966, the state of Punjab was divided into Punjab and Haryana, the former for the Punjabi speakers and the latter for the rest.

Planning for Development

  • In 1950, the government set up a Planning Commission to help design and execute suitable policies for economic development.
  • In 1956, the Second Five Year Plan was formulated which focused strongly on the development of heavy industries such as steel, and on the building of large dams.

The Nation, Sixty Years On

  • On 15 August 2007, India celebrated sixty years of its existence as a free nation.
  • That India is still united, and that it is still democratic.
  • As many as thirteen general elections have been held since Independence, as well as hundreds of state and local elections. 
  • There is a free press, as well as an independent judiciary.
  • On the other hand, despite constitutional guarantees, the Untouchables or, as they are now referred to, the Dalits, face violence and discrimination.
  • The Constitution recognises equality before the law, but in real life some Indians are more equal than others.