This book by a scholar and social activist who taught for four decades at Ramjas College, Delhi University, is divided into five parts. Part I deals with the British conquest of India and its consequences in the different aspects of the conquered people'slife. Part II deals with the mainstream of the national movement. Part III deals with the sectional and minor streams of the national movement. The armed revolutionary movements constitute the subject matter of Part IV which also has a section on the INA led by Subhas Chandra Bose and the RIN rebellion. Part V contains all the constitutional plans and negotiations, right from the Cripps Mission to the Mountbatten Plan.
The gradual occupation of India by the British in the 18th and 19th centuries was more than a ?mere amazing and even bizarre act? in world history, says the author. How could not India either at the central or the regional level successfully resist the British aggressive attempts? Was something wrong with our polity or economy which could not prevent British occupation of India? Though divergent views are expressed, consensus is seen on the main reason??the central striking power of the Mughals had considerably weakened, leading to the emergence of a number of regional powers. The dynamics of these regional powers facilitated gradual occupation of the entire country by the British.?
The major regional states of the 18th century were Hyderabad, Bengal and Awadh. The East India Company set up by a Charter with the purpose of conducting trade, on learning of Indian textiles, decided to enter India. It faced a major challenge from three European powers, namely Portugal, Holland and France whom the British eliminated one by one. Then followed British occupation of India despite stiff resistance from Bengal and Awadh. British machinations and superior military might coupled with the mutual recriminations and rivalries of the regional powers led to the latter'sdecline.
The British rule had a far-reaching impact on Indian agriculture, particularly the introduction of zamindari, ryotwari and mahalwari systems of land revenue fixation and collection. Commercialisation of agriculture was another major change brought about by the British. They began to concentrate on the export of those Indian agricultural goods which would be useful as the raw materials for the British industries. The long-term consequences of this were rural indebtedness, fragmentation of landholdings and emergence of new classes of rural India, leading to disruption of the old village systems, destroying its social as well as its economic fabric.
British rule had a disastrous effect on the industrial structure of India. With the industrial revolution in England, the British turned India into a captive market for their furnished goods and also as suppliers of raw materials for their own factories. British rule on the socio-cultural life created inequalities and infirmities. It created a new class of landless labour by smashing the traditional system of production and creating a new institution of private property in land through the zamindari system.
The Indians responded through armed resistance, including the 1857 rebellion, social-religious reformation and a new spirit of nationalism. The author describes the founding of the Indian National Congress and its policies and programmes; the partition of Bengal; the swadeshi movement; the freedom struggle; the Home Rule; the Khilafat and non-cooperation movements; the Civil Disobedience and Quit India movements and Mahatma Gandhi'scontribution to the freedom struggle.
This book is different to other books in its theme as it is devoid of ideological biases that continue to bedevil authors of such a subject. It thus avoids extremes of sentimentalism and ideology-based criticisms.
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