Expansion of British Power in India
Aurangzeb was the
last great Mughal Emperor. His death in 1707 marked the end of a significant
era in Indian history. Though the dynasty continued after him but the Mughal
Empire gradually disintegrated and its power declined. This paved the way for
the expansion of British power in India.
The later Mughals
were poor administrators. Without effective central control, a number of provinces
seceded from the empire and several regional kingdoms came into existence. The
rise of independent regional kingdoms led to the disintegration of the Mughal
As the Empire became
weak, the British gained control. They established their position by the middle
of the nineteenth century and a large part of India came under their direct
rule. The areas that remained independent were indirectly under the British
influence. India thus became a British colony.
How did such a small
nation grow into such a large and wealthy empire? The most astonishing story in
Indian history was the advent of the British. It was not a result of deliberate
planning. It had a humble beginning as a trading company set up to trade with
the east. Later, it developed political interests and ended up ruling the
EUROPEANS AS TRADERS
EXPANSION OF THE
BRITISH; FROM TRADERS TO RULERS
The Europeans had
always been attracted to the resources and wealth of India. For some time, they
were looking for a sea route to India for commercial reasons. The Indian
subcontinent was famous for its spices.
The English East
India Company was chartered by Queen Elizabeth in 1600 for developing trade with
Asia for a period of 15 years. The Company had sole rights to trade with the
east. The Company wanted to trade in commodities like pepper, cinnamon cloves,
cardamom, cotton, silk, indigo, saltpetre, tea and opium. These goods were very
popular in European markets and the Company would make huge profits in the
trade. Since it was a mercantile trading company, it had exclusive rights to
this trade without any competition and thus it could make huge financial gains.
Among the European
powers, the Portuguese were the first to reach India after they had circled the
whole of the African continent. Vasco da Gama arrived in Calicut on May 20th,
Soon other European
trading companies arrived on the scene. The Portuguese set up a trading post
in India. They later founded settlements at Goa, Cochin, Daman and Diu.
Subsequently, other European powers like the Dutch and the French also
established posts. The Dutch East India Company was established in 1602. The
French East India Company was formed in 1642.
The British ships first
arrived in Surat, India in 1608. In 1612, they set up a trading post at Surat.
In 1615, Sir Thomas Roe was more...