How did the British colonize India?
World Tournament called Colonization- If I may extend the analogy of Cricket World Cup Tournament to Imperialism/Colonization that began in 1490s, then the key teams were Spain and Portugal, who were later joined by French and Dutch, competing for domination in Americas, Africa, Asia, Pacific regions. British arrived late into the game. Late by over 100 years. Since it was a tournament, Britain had to worry about playing against many other teams – French, Portuguese, Spanish, other colonies, and not just India. East India Company and the British crown had many things to worry about – profits, shareholders, global supply routes and prices of cotton, spices etc, fighting their arch enemies, the French, all over the world, competing with Spanish in North America, how to suppress rebellions in various parts of the world – Native Indians in America, American rebels fighting for independence, Aborigines in Australia fighting settlers, Maoris in New Zealand fighting for their land, rebellion in Caribbean islands, rebellion in Sudan, Boers Wars in South Africa, Opium wars in China, and then fighting 2 World Wars in 1900s, etc.
Our understanding of the British and Colonisation – Have you ever wondered what was History of Britain like? Or what was going on in Britain before 1600s? Why did Spanish and Portuguese all of sudden get on ships in 1490s to explore the world and why not before? Why did the Spanish not come to India when they colonized all of South and Central America despite India having all the riches? Why were the Italians and Germans not out in oceans competing with others? How many British people can you name besides Robert Clive and Thomas Roe in the period from 1600 till 1857? What drove the British in the first place to make such a long journey of over 19,000 kms to colonize India? What did they know about India? Were they sitting in London strategizing about state of the Mughal empire and an opportune moment to attack? Why were they late to the party by over a 100 years considering that Portuguese (Vasco Da Gama) had discovered a sea route to India and had colony setup with headquarters in Goa by 1490s?
Who were the brains behind all the strategizing? Who was the CEO of East India Company? Who were the venture capitalists who funded the ventures? Who were the visionaries behind the creation of the Empire? Who were their Faulkner, Starc or Clarke? How did British officers view a posting in India when they could have gone to America or Australia or New Zealand or South Africa or anywhere else with a milder climate?
Taking a view of British being treacherous, cruel, unfair or that they bribed Mir Jafar, or that rain did not help us in Battle of Plassey, or they followed divide and rule policy would be too simplistic and naïve.
Few lines on History of Britain - Interestingly, History of Britain sounds somewhat similar to History of India. They were a bunch of nice people living peacefully on an island next to Europe and were constantly hounded and invaded by 'outsiders' like Vikings, Normans, Romans over the last 2,000 years. England is named after 'Angles' which happens to be in Germany. Romans invaded Britain and ruled for around 350 years (43AD - 410AD) just like British were present in India for around 350 years (1600-1947)! There are Roman monuments and ruins all over England including city of London (Called Londinium by Romans), just like cities in India have remnants of Mughals and British. English language is a mixture of several languages from mainland Europe, like Latin. British people come in various shades and features (blonde, red heads, browns, dark hair, blue eyes, brown eyes...) somewhat like Indians do. So when and how did they become all civilized, inventive, exploratory, dynamic compared to India when we know that Britain was nowhere comparable to India in the past (Stonehenge culture Vs Indus Valley Civilization, Mauryan empire)?
1500s - British envious of success of Spanish and Portuguese - Since Columbus' discovery of America and Vasco Da Gama's discovery of sea route to India in 1490s, Spain and Portugal had become immensely rich. In 1500s, they intercepted a Spanish cargo ship in Atlantic Ocean as pirates and took the looted bounty back home. The value of that cargo was more than entire British treasury! That is how they woke up to the golden opportunity along with recommendations of explorers like Sir Walter Raleigh.
Visionaries behind the British empire - Here are few key names that you need to read about in order to understand the context and the times -