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British Raj

The effect of British rule in India is a noteworthy matter. There are two viewpoints or sides to this matter, which makes this issue complex. Some people believe that British had a positive effect on Indian people and some believe that they had negative effects on Indian people. It’s had to form a unanimous opinion over this issue because each side has strong reasons to support its views. Some people see negative impact more noteworthy because the British rule resulted in exhaustion of our material reserves and making people poor. On the other hand some people see more positive impacts because British people brought with them technology and infrastructure when they came. But both viewpoints are equally important.

British colonization had both positive effects and the negative effects. British Raj brought with itself 70,000 miles of concrete road ways and 40, 000 miles of well paved railroads. This made it easier to travel within India in much shorter time period. With the introduction of large scale irrigation techniques, they helped and boosted the agricultural sector in India. They also industrialized the nation. It is due to these reasons that no famines were witnessed during the colonial rule in India. The Britishers set up a prolific government and built many institutes in India. They established courts of justice and structured judicious laws.

The best things that British accomplished in India were the social reforms they imposed for the betterment of society. The custom of Sati was abolished and steps were taken to stop female infanticide. British made education mandatory for Indian especially for women to study at least the lower grades. British even encouraged widow remarriage and intermarriages. They gave importance to health which resulted in better health standards among Indians in terms of general physical health.

Interestingly, British founded the main cities of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. Some view that Indian would not have existed as a single state had British not come to India. It would have existed as number of separate states ruled by different monarchies.

However, there are negative effects of British rule in India too. The British colonization of India had its set of drawbacks. The great freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi once told the English that even though you have given us our own government but you have not given us any responsibility to run the government. Gandhi was of the view what seemed to be positive in the beginning had other hidden implications. India had no role in running its own government and natives did not hold any positions in the administration. Before the advent of British in India there were many skilled workers specializing in ship building, glassblowing, metal work and paper making. But the British broke the traditional industries causing an increase in unemployment.

Both India and Britain were equally affected by the annexation of India. But the Great Britain benefited more than suffering setbacks by the annexation of India. The colonization of India added more land to British Empire and they imported raw materials from India. British used India as naval colony and used Indian soldiers to fight the war of seas against European and Portuguese traders. They employed Indian soldiers in their army for fight battles. Indian soldiers fought in World War II with the British army. India became the market for Britishers to set up industries in order to exploit its labour and raw materials. Bombay and Calcutta were the major trading cities and gateways to trade with Asia and rest of the world.

British Raj had damaging effects on the political, cultural and economic aspects of India. The looted the riches of Indian people, weakened the economy and denied the Indians of their rights as citizens of India. The English were proud of their culture and education so they wanted to spread and promote it as much as possible. They tried to impose their culture, religion, traditions, customs and values on the Indian people but they resisted and have maintained their legacy till date.

It is very difficult to answer, whether British raj was good for India or not because for that for we have to construct another alternative theory based upon the happening during the British rule.


  1. Kedar Anil Gadgil says:


    i very much doubt your statement, “It is due to these reasons that no famines were witnessed during the colonial rule in India.” there were indeed great famines during the british raj, notably in bengal (in fact, the first state they took over). in fact, amartya sen, in his excellent book ‘poverty and famines: an essay on entitlement and deprivation’, spends quite a time mulling over this. and yes, they were indeed because of lack of good governance and democracy and not because of what he describes as ‘an absolute scarcity’. there were, in fact five great famines (apart from several small ones) during the british raj. 1850-1875: 2.5 millions died in orissa famine of 1866; rajputana famine of 1869; and the bihar famine of 1873–74. then, 1875-1902: 7–8 million died (of this, in the great famine of 1876–78 5.25 millions) and then in 1943, the second bengal famine in which over 3 million people died. not a good statistic for someone whose rule lasted about 200 years (if you count the east india company’s rule as essentially british too). i have no reason to believe that the british raj was in any way good for india and pakistan, except that both of these countries are the results of this so-called ‘raj’, to be honest. the notion that we as a ‘people’ or as a ‘nation’ are also a ‘state’ came from the british raj but beyond that, i very much doubt if by now, we would still be without paved roads, electricity, post & telegraph, railways, canals or a modern education system. there might even have been a different india, a much larger one, or maybe several smaller independent states. we might have been communist or maybe even a dictatorship. we might have been a superpower to rival the united states or maybe down there along with guinea-bissou and cote d’ivoire. who knows? it is a matter of ‘what if’ hypothesis that is completely speculative. however, it might be a good bet to say that we would have neither been better off nor worse if there was no british raj. but for sure, to say that there were no famines during the british raj because of good governance is not only mistaken, it is factually and historically wrong.



    • Puneet Kuthiala, PMP says:

      Thanks for dropping by and sharing your views. I am sure it will help me a lot in my quest.
      I am on my way to know more about history of India and therefore writing this blog.

  2. ASHNA says:

    That was awsome you just helped me to get 10 extra marks in school

  3. David says:

    I find this very interesting. I wonder if I might trouble you for your thoughts.My ex wife’s great great grandfather was stationed in India at the turn of the century. We once found an old army chest filled with photos from the visit by George V in 1911 (I think) and this brought up the question “what do people in India today think of that period?” Is there any degree of nostalgia or fondness? Is it seen as an elegant time? An indian Belle Epoch. Or is it a time when India was oppressed by a foreign power – us, sorry – and it’s best consigned to history? One of the reasons this came up was there seems to be so much nostalgia in Britain for the good old days and even a modern clothes shop looks like an old time tailors, Our local Massimo Dutti even has pictures of the Queen in the shop. Have you come across this notion before?Yours SincerelyDavid Brown

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