The first Europeans to establish roots in India since the fall of the Roman Empire were the Protuguese. Led by Vasco da Gama’s landing at Calicut in 1498, they established themselves along the Malabar Coast, trading with the rest of the subcontinent from there. (The Portuguese maintained some holdings in India as late as 1961. ) In 1600, the British East India Company was given the right to a monopoly to trade with India. While the company’s primary objective was to get spices from Indonesia (East Indies), they needed goods to trade for spices.
The good they wanted was cotton, and they got it from India. In 1612, the English won a battle against the Portuguese. Because of this victory, they were able to gain the right to trade and establish factories in India from the Mughal Emporer. Because the Dutch controlled the East Indies, the English focused all their attention on India. The company traded for silk, sugar, and opium among other goods. In 1786, Lord Cornwallis became British governor of India. He strengthened the sepoy armies that the East India Company had raised.
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Also, under Cornwallis and his successor Lord Wellesley, the British slowly expanded their holdings. In 1813, the monopoly of the English East India Company was broken and all British citizens were allowed to trade with India. Over the next 30 years, the British continued to acquire new lands and strengthen their grip on those already under their rule. The British also aggravated the Hindu population of India during this time period. They made English, instead of Persian, the official language The growing Indian discontent with British rule erupted on May 10, 1857.
The sepoys, who were Indians trained by the British as soldiers, heard rumors that the cartridges for their new Enfield rifles were greased with lard and beef fat. Since the cow is sacred to Hindus, and the pig is abhorrent to Muslims, all the sepoys were outraged, and they mutinied. Although initially the mutiny was spontaneous, it quickly became more organized and the sepoys even took over the cities of Delhi and Kanpur. This mutiny was harshly crushed by the British. On September 20, 1857, the British recaptured Delhi, and in the following months, the British recaptured Kanpur and withstood a Sepoy siege of Lucknow.
The British victories were accompanied by widespread recrimination, and in many cases, unarmed sepoys were bayonetted, sown up in the carcasses of pigs or cows, or fired from cannons. On August 2, 1858, the British Parliament passed the Government of India Act. This act transferred autority for India from the East India Company to Queen Victoria. In 1876, Queen Victoria declared herself “Empress of India. ” In 1869, the Suez Canal was completed, reducing the time for sea passage to India from 3 months to 3 weeks.
Because of this, British women began to come to India, and the British developed their own society in India separate from the native society. Another effect of the opening of the Suez Canal was that more and more British goods were imported to India, effectively destroying many Indian crafts. By the end of the nineteenth century, approximately 90% of the Indian population were farmers. This number was even larger at the beginning of the century. Despite this, however, an increasing number of factories, railroads, hospitals, schools, and roads were built.