Discuss the factors which provided an opportunity to the Britishers to establish  their political hegemony in India. उन परिस्थितियों का वर्णन कीजिए जिनके सहयोग से अंग्रेज भारत में अपना राजनीतिक आधिपत्य स्थापित करने में सफल हो पाए। [BPSC, 1993]

Discuss the factors which provided an opportunity to the Britishers to establish  their political hegemony in India. उन परिस्थितियों का वर्णन कीजिए जिनके सहयोग से अंग्रेज भारत में अपना राजनीतिक आधिपत्य स्थापित करने में सफल हो पाए। [BPSC, 1993] ©


By the middle of the nineteenth century the Britishers had annexed about 63 per cent of the territories of the Indian subcontinent and remaining India were indirectly under British influence. The Process of subjugation of Indian states had been long and various opportunities were exploited by British to meet this end.

The factors which provided an opportunity to establish political hegemony:

  • Mutual conflict among Indian states:
    • Politically each one of Indian states was trying to establish supremacy over others and the English were looked upon as a new force in this power game.
    • The rivalry among the native powers weakened the internal stability of the state and made it an easy prey to imperialist intervention.
      • As we have seen in the case of Mysore and the Marathas that disputes between these two states helped the British to use one against the other to establish British hegemony over both the states.
    • Combining as a nation against an alien power was beyond the imagination of the Indian princes in the eighteenth century political context.
      • The dream of Nana Fadnis to forge a confederacy of Indian princes pitted against British power never really actualised.
    • It was no wonder, therefore, that often they entered into diplomatic alliances with the Company in order to turn the balance of power in their favour in their contests against neighbours.
  • lnternal rivalry within court:
    • Administration based on personal favour and loyalty and along the line of caste and other social divisions gave birth to different factions and interest groups in administration who were oppostd to each other. For example:
    • British could ally with Mir Jafar to treacherously gain the control over Bengal.
    • In case of Maratha a succession dispute provided the first opportunity for intervention, as Raghunath Rao, who had his nephew Peshwa Narayan Rao killed in a conspiracy, now faced combined opposition of the Mararha sardars and began to look at the British in Bombay as a possible new ally.
      • The Maratha chiefs in different regions like Sindia, Bhonsle, Gaikwad, Holkar were trying to establish their independent authority with nominal allegiance to the Peshwa.
    • Similarly, in Punjab  court factions became active after the death of Ranjit Singh and ultimately led to annexation of Punjab by Dalhousie.
    • All these caused political instability which the British fully exploited in their favour.
  • Failure of resource mobilisation was another important factor.
    • The Maratha state failed to evolve a stable economic policy. They were was primarily dependent an resources from outside like chauth and Sardeshmukhi because internally they were not in position to tap new resources.
    • Though Mysore was comparatively better managed under Haidar and Tipu,  they were not successful in tapping the resources from the countryside.
    • The lack of resources was a major constraint for the Indian states to fight against British who were already in control over Bengal which was one of the most productive part of the country. British also had the backing of their home government.
  • Inferior Military System:
    • The Indian armies were badly-trained and poorly-paid was no match for the disciplined and well-trained British forces. The Indians were technologically backward as well.  Indian rulers neglected the paramount importance of artillery.
    • Treachery in the ranks was instrumental in weakening the Indian power. e.g. During battle of Plassey the forces under Mir Jafar didn’t participate.
    • Though full of personal prowess and valour, the Marathas were inferior to the English in organisation of the forces, in war weapons, in disciplined action and in effective leadership.
    • However, according to one view, too much emphasis on the incapacity of Indian military organisation is also not acceptable, especially when we find that the Mysore rullers tried to modernise the army on European model. The Maratha also developed European style infantry and artillery wings.
  • Inept Leadership of Indian rulers:
    • Wicked nature and lack of patience in the Siraj-ud-Daulah led to alienation of important groups like Jagat Seth, Mir  Jafar etc. On the other hand Robert Clive showed high quality of leadership.
    • leaders Bajirao II, Daulatrao Sindhia and Jaswantrao Holkar were worthless and selfish leaders. They were no match for the English officials such as Elphinstone, John Malcolm and Arthur Wellesley.
    • Bigoted mindset of Tipu and his policy of making Mysore an ‘Islamic state’ is said to have backfired reason being Mysore was too dependent on Hindu warriors and on Tamil Brahmin administration.
  • Lack of diplomatic skill and strategic foresightedness among Indian rulers:
    • English had better diplomatic skill to win allies and isolate the enemy.
    • Had Marathas, state of Mysore and Nizam of Hyderabad allied, they could have easily defeated the British. But due to their short sightedness and poor diplomacy these regional powers failed to forge a healthy alliance against British. This allowed British to tackle one power at a time and accordingly defeat it.
    • Raghunath Rao and Baji rao II due to their myopic vision and vested interests in haste signed with British Treaty of Purander 1776 and subsidiary alliance respectively, making it easier for the British to consolidate their rule in south.
  • Elimination of French from India and arrival of Crown troops to India:
    • French were the main European rival of British in India. The three Carnatic wars led to would up on French. Indian states can no longer ally with them against British.
    • The Anglo-French rivalry by bringing in Crown troops to India in significant numbers considerably enhanced the military power of the English East India Company vis-a-vis the other Indian states. The balance of power in India had now begun to tilt decisively in its favour.
  • From very early, Indian rulers were constantly pressurised to grant immunities and concessions and in the end, such successive demands corroded the authority of the Indian states. This motivated British for further control over the Indian states.

Then the existing rivalry among local powers and the volatile political situation in the region provided a favorable ground for political intervention by the British. While the commerce provided the will to conquer and the political disunity provided the opportunity. ©

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