British Raj

| August 19, 2012 | Reply

Reforms during British Raj

When the Lord Curzon (Viceroy 1899-1905) took control of higher education and then split the large province of Bengal into a largely Hindu western half and “Eastern Bengal and Assam,” a largely Muslim eastern half. The British goal was efficient administration but Hindus were outraged at the apparent “divide and rule” strategy.” When the Liberal party in Britain came to power in 1906 he was removed. The new Viceroy Gilbert Minto and the new Secretary of State for India John Morley consulted with Congress leader Gopal Krishna Gokhale. The Morley-Minto reforms of 1909 provided for Indian membership of the provincial executive councils as well as the Viceroy’s executive council. The Imperial Legislative Council was enlarged from 25 to 60 members and separate communal representation for Muslims was established in a dramatic step towards representative and responsible government. Bengal was reunified in 1911. Meanwhile the Muslims for the first time began to organize, setting up the All India Muslim League in 1906. It was not a mass party but was designed to protect the interests of the aristocratic Muslims, especially in the north west. It was internally divided by conflicting loyalties to Islam, the British, and India, and by distrust of Hindus.

Famines during British Raj

During the British Raj, famines in India, often attributed to failed government policies, were some of the worst ever recorded, including the Great Famine of 1876–78 in which 6.1 million to 10.3 million people died and the Indian famine of 1899–1900 in which 1.25 to 10 million people died. The Third Plague Pandemic started in China in the middle of the 19th century, spreading plague to all inhabited continents and killing 10 million people in India alone. Despite persistent diseases and famines, the population of the Indian subcontinent, which stood at about 125 million in 1750, had reached 389 million by 1941.

The Indian independence movement

The numbers of British in India were small, yet they were able to rule two-thirds of the subcontinent directly and exercise considerable leverage over the princely states that accounted for the remaining one-third of the area. There were 674 of the these states in 1900, with a population of 73 million, or one person in five. In general, the princely states were strong supporters of the British regime, and the Raj left them alone. They were finally closed down in 1947-48.

The first step toward Indian self-rule was the appointment of councillors to advise the British viceroy, in 1861; the first Indian was appointed in 1909. Provincial Councils with Indian members were also set up. The councillors’ participation was subsequently widened into legislative councils. The British built a large British Indian Army, with the senior officers all British, and many of the troops from small minority groups such as Gurkhas from Nepal and Sikhs. The civil service was increasingly filled with natives at the lower levels, with the British holding the more senior positions.

From 1920 leaders such as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi began highly popular mass movements to campaign against the British Raj using largely peaceful methods. Some others adopted a militant approach that sought to overthrow British rule by armed struggle;revolutionary activities against the British rule took place throughout the Indian sub-continent. The Gandhi-led independence movement opposed the British rule using non-violent methods like non-cooperation, civil disobedience and economic resistance. These movements succeeded in bringing independence to the new dominions of India and Pakistan in 1947.

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Category: History of India

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