What The British Do To India: Inglorious Empire

Los británicos gobernaron la India durante casi doscientos años y se valieron de su gran riqueza de recursos naturales y humanos para construir su exitoso imperio. Un reconocido político y autor indio considera que nunca es tarde para exigir reparaciones.

Lourdes Gràcia

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Rachel Roberts

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The British occupation of India is one of the most controversial periods in history. From the 17th century until the mid-19th century, the English — and, after the Treaty of Union in 1706, the British — had direct or indirect control over the Indian Ocean region, including modern-day countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. A key institution in the colonisation of this vast and rich subcontinent was the East India Company, established in 1600 with the aim of trading mainly tea, cotton and silk. With the consent of the local rulers, the Mughal emperors, the company was allowed to own land and set up duty-free trading posts, mostly on the Indian coast. At the height of its power, the East India Company accounted for half the world’s commerce.

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the raj

In 1857, after several months of increasing tension, the so-called Indian Mutiny broke out against the dominance of the British East India Company. Although the insurrection, also known as the First War of Independence, was brutally subdued, the Company was disbanded and the British Government took direct control of the area, which became known as the Indian Empire. This period, which lasted from 1858 to 1947, is historically known as the Raj — the ‘rule’ or ‘kingdom’ in Hindi —, with Queen Victoria being proclaimed Empress of India in 1877. By the end of the 19th century, the area was Britain’s biggest source of revenue.

The end of British Rule

Strong resistance to British rule began to grow at the turn of the 20th century, led by the country’s oldest political party, the Indian National Congress. Protests became more frequent and sometimes violent. However, one of the nationalist leaders was the lawyer Mahatma Gandhi who, alongside other fellow-nationalists, called for non-violent protest and civil disobedience. This movement finally led to the Indian Independence Act of 1947, when the British announced the partition of the area into two independent states: India, for the Hindu and Sikh population, and Pakistan for the Muslims. Almost immediately, around two million people fled across the borders in order to seek refuge in the state where their ethnic group would not be a minority. It was one of the greatest migrations in human history, during which time around fourteen million people were displaced and between a quarter and half a million people were killed in sectarian violence. Unrest and violence continues to this day between Muslims and Hindus in Pakistan and India. 

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