2 Jan 2024 : Daily Answer Writing

Q1) Why did British colonial enterprise succeed in securing rule over India while efforts from other European powers failed to give them a firm foothold in the country?


The British were the one amongst many colonialists that came to India since the dawn of the 15th century. The British were the most successful of all the colonial powers in India despite not being the first one to set foot in the country:

  1. Portuguese were the first to arrive in India (Calicut), under the leadership of Vasco Da Gama, in 1498.
  2. Next, the Dutch arrived in India (Sumatra and Bantnam) under the leadership of Cornelis DeHoutman in 1596.
  3. It was in 1609 that Captain Hawkins arrived in the court of Jahangir to seek permission to establish a British factory in Surat (not granted). In 1611, English started trading in Masulipatnam.
  4. In 1620, a Danish factory was established at Tranquebar (present day Tharangambadi), Tamil Nadu.
  5. The French were the last Europeans to have come to India for trade. The first French factory was established in Surat, in 1668.

Though the race for colonies among the European powers was intense, it was the British who could succeed in securing rule over India while efforts from other European powers failed, as:

  1. Efficient nature of English trading company:
  2. a) The English East India company was controlled by an elected board of directors. On the other hand, the directors of trading companies of France and Portugal were nominated by the monarch.
  3. b) The large involvement of shareholders in English trading companies made it more efficient and accountable, as opposed to the trading companies of France and Portugal.
  4. Naval superiority: The British navy fleet was not only the largest but also the most advanced of its times. E.g., British defeated Portuguese and French in India, with help of fast-moving naval ships.
  5. Economic Factors:
  6. a) The early onset of industrial revolution in England gave it an edge over other European country. Inventions like spinning Jenny, steam engine, power loom etc.,gave it economic advantage.
  7. b) The Britain’s innovative use of the debt markets to fund its wars, safeguarded its economic health, while, its rivals emptied their financial resources. E.g., Napoleonic wars drained France of its economic resources.
  8. Superiority of leadership: The British interest were served by various well-disciplined and trained leaders like Eyre Coote, and Robert Clive. E.g., Reverses faced by France in second Carnatic wars at the hands of Robert Clive.
  9. Religious zeal: The British were more focused in territorial and economic conquests then in spreading Christianity, unlike Portuguese and Dutch.
  10. Stable governments: In contrast to other European powers, the British saw long periods of stable governments, facilitating its colonial conquests.

The colonial rule of the British in India was marked by plunder of indigenous wealth of the country, state excesses, and brutal repression of civil rights. As a response to this oppressive regime, national freedom struggle of India was waged to eradicate the exploitative foreign regime from the country.

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