The British in India

India has a rich, colorful history of more than 5,000 years. It would take many, many journals for me to share everything I have learned about this country. Instead, I will focus on a tiny snapshot of India’s past: British India.

“Wait! Don’t the British live on another continent?” I can hear you asking. Yes, you are correct, but there was a time not too long ago when the British controlled most of India. To understand this, we must first understand the Age of Exploration. This was a period of several centuries during which many of Europe’s kings and queens sent explorers around the world to find new trade routes and riches. In 1600, Queen Elizabeth I granted a Royal Charter to send the British East India Company to establish trade relations in India. India was well-known for its tea and spices, and the British wanted to take advantage of these resources.

The British East India Company quickly became the most powerful foreign trader in India. By the 1800s, the British East India Company completely controlled trade over tea, spices, silk, and cotton. To protect the valuable trade business, the British East India Company had its own private military to help keep order and control.

Over time, many of the local Indians became very frustrated with the British East India Company. In 1857, a large gathering of Indians tried to revolt against the British, in what became known as the Indian Rebellion of 1857. The British government decided that it would be better to directly control its trade interests in India. It cancelled the British East India Company’s royal charter. From 1858-1947, Great Britain controlled India, which became known as British India.

On August 15, 1947, the Indian people gained their independence from Great Britain. However, the British influence can still be seen in many parts of India, such as in the architecture, food, and printed signs.

Even as I walk the streets of Mumbai today, I can see the mixture of East and West. What a truly fascinating place India is!