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British Expansion In India Notes

History Notes > British India, c.1700-1800 Notes

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C.A. Bayly, The New Cambridge History of India II: Indian Society and the Making of the British Empire (Cambridge, 1988)The Cambridge History starts from the assumption that the centralised Mughal empire was in purely degenerative decline, along with the Indian economy and society; consequently, the English East India Company was forced to intervene in order to protect its own trade and the political stability of its clients; now, however, the Mughal empire seems a much less substantial hegemony, its decline a much more complex and ambiguous process, and the society of eighteenth-century India more varied than the stereotype of decline and anarchy which is the unwritten emblem of the authors of 1929The crisis of eighteenth-century India now appears to have three distinct aspects: (i) there were cumulative indigenous changes reflecting commercialisation, the formation of social groups and political transformation within the subcontinent itself; (ii) there was the level of wider crisis of west and south Asia which was signalled by the decline of the great Islamic empires, the Mughals, and their contemporaries, the Ottomans and Safavids; and (iii) there was the massive expansion of European production and trade during the eighteenth century and the development of more aggressive national states in Europe which were indirectly echoed in the more assertive policies of the European companies in India from the 1730s, and notably of the English Company after 1757Commercial growth which had succoured the power of Delhi ultimately eroded it; commercial men, scribal families, and local gentry consolidated their power at the expense of the centre; many of these elements later provided capital, knowledge, and support for the East India Company, thus becoming its uneasy collaborators in the creation of colonial IndiaIndia's crisis reflected the conflict between many types of military, merchant, and political entrepreneur wishing to capitalise on the buoyant trade and production of the Mughal realm; in the early eighteenth century, this conflict was supercharged with a wider regional conflict reflecting commercialisation and a crisis of empire throughout the whole central and eastern Islamic world; in 1739, a Persian army entered India and conquered Delhi; in the 1750s and 1760s, Afghans invaded north India, following their harrying of IranAsia remained marginal to European trade and world power; until 1820, the Caribbean and the Americas were vastly more important; yet the increase of European and especially British trading activity and commercial power had already transferred much of the most valuable areas of inter-Asian trade into British ships before 1750; burgeoning private trade and the ruthless creation of monopolies in tropical produce by the East India Companies had bitten deep into the wealth of coastal India by the 1780s; to begin with, Europeans working in India were dependent on the support of Indian commercial groups which had augmented their own wealth and influence during the transformation and commercialisation of the late Mughal empire; in a sense, Indian capital and expertise was drawn inexorably into a partnership with the alien invader; but in time the EIC began to create its own state using the territorial revenues of Bengal; this fusion of military and commercial power revealed the Europeans achieving on a larger and more ominous scale what Indian local rulers had been doing for the last centuryThis expansion was a slow, piecemeal operation using lines of power and flows of commodities and silver which already existed; but two developments transformed the crisis and speeded it up after 1780: (i) change in ideology and grasp of the state in Europe which accompanied the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars; (ii) the stakes in India had been raised by the emergence of more powerful and determined kingdoms in the shape of Mysore in the south and the Marathas in the west; although these powers were ultimately unable to challenge Britain at sea, their resistance and response forced the British to construct yet more powerful armies and also significantly changed the social and economic face of large parts of inland India; Indians remained, therefore, active agents and not simply passive bystanders and victims in the creation of colonial IndiaMany threads of continuity between pre-colonial India and the India of the Company; one was commercialisation and the marketing of political power; this had created many of the conditions for the decline of Mughal hegemony and had provided the Europeans with the tools to unlock the inland wealth of India; as the British sought to tax the subcontinent and also to extract commodities for international trade from her, Indian commercial people continued to underpin the growth of imperiumAfter 1712, the imperial centre was immobilised by factional conflicts which culminated in the murder of the Emperor Furrukhsiyar in 1718; despite this, Indian notables and Europeans trading from the ports of the coast still regarded the Mughal emperor as one of the great kings of the world; the decline of Mughal power over the next century was dramatic, and although historians in the last two generations have begun to ask questions about the nature of the Mughal empire; the main problem for the Mughals, even at their height, was the restiveness of the Hindu warriors and peasant farmers, buoyed up with new wealth from trade and military service and harassed by the demands of the Mughal tax-gatherersIn the midst of military conflict and disruption, therefore, the eighteenth century witnessed a significant stage in the formation of the social order of modern India; these developments (Hindu merchants becoming more politically important, weakening of Mughal power enabling gentry to seize privileges they were previously denied, and Hindu and Muslim entrepreneurs in revenue rising in importance too) were themselves the culmination of the slow commercialisation of India under the loose but dynamic Mughal hegemonyThe Mughals claimed universal dominion; sometimes they achieved political dominance in India; but for the majority of their Hindu subjects power and authority in India had always been more like a complicated hierarchy than a scheme of 'administration' or 'government'; some historians have described the political system in terms of 'levels of power'; even under strong emperors, the hierarchy was always shifting and realigning
???????One reason that the 'fall of the Mughal empire' now appears a rather limited theme around which to organise the record of the nineteenth century is that the emperor continued to be a fount of authority throughout India long after his military power had atrophied; furthermore, the spirit of Mughal administration went marching on even when Delhi's military power lay mouldering in the grave; in the south, the frontier of Muslim rule continued to expand with the fall of the Hindu Nayaks of Trichinopoly to the Carnatic rulers in 1732 and the later expansions by their successors into the lands of the chieftains of the far south

???????In matters of authority and administrative culture there was much continuity between the highpoint of Mughal hegemony and the eighteenth-century; the mechanics of political power were not as drastically modified as once thought either; certainly political authorities based on India's ancient ecological and cultural regions became significant after 1707; yet this decentralisation of politics was itself anticipated by the very successes of Mughal expansion; it was on the basis of the expanding commercial economy of the seventeenth century and the slow accumulation of wealth by literate Muslim gentry, Hindu landholders and merchants that the quasi-kingdoms of the eighteenth century were built
???????The most striking political change of the eighteenth century was the long metamorphosis of Mughal provincial government which led to the creation of autonomous kingdoms in Bengal, Awadh, and Hyderabad; factional conflict at Delhi and the impotence of the emperor after 1712 strengthened tendencies towards provincial autonomy
???????Regional power-holders inherited the problems of previous Mughal governors; in Bengal, where the Hindu landholders were more pacific and the money economy and trade was more developed, the Nawabs and later the British had some hope of regular revenues and a degree of control; in Awadh, the picture was mixed; Saadat Khan chastised the fiercely independent Rajput landholders of the central and southern territories, but warrior domains and revenue peculators quickly asserted themselves if the centre was momentarily deflected
???????Seeking allies in local society the regional rulers allowed locally resident Muslim families to build up areas of revenue-free land acquired during the later Mughal period and convert them into fuller proprietary rights; in this way, they hoped to contain the power of the indigenous (largely Hindu) clans more effectively; it is an apparent paradox that during the 'fall of the Mughal empire' many families of former Mughal servants were able to establish a much closer control over the resources of the countryside and become local power-holders; once again, it was the very success of processes of change set moving during Mughal expansion which helped undermine the fabric of their empire
???????In the second half of the century European weapons, methods, and military advisers became more common; all this needed money and Hindu trader-bankers or Muslim revenue farmers who could provide capital became increasingly influential
???????The eighteenth century did not see a resolution of the old tensions between the regional and imperial hegemonies and local kingdoms, so much as an interpretation of these forms of power; despite the high level of violence and destruction, this eased the path to dominion of the more enterprising warriors and their administrative and capitalist clients
???????There were, however, two important conditions for the survival and even development of complex states and administrative forms; first, there needed to be some degree of stability in the villages - some persistent authority to provide a link between the peasantry and the warriors who lived off them; secondly, production and trade needed to survive at sufficiently high levels to provide a constant supply of services and cash for the elites
???????Regional kingdoms and petty states were built up and collapsed quickly, but there was more continuity of power in the villages; throughout southern and western India local leadership remained in the hands of the village headmen (the patel/munigar); the nature of the village elite was rather different in north India; here, joint or individual proprietors exercised lordship rights over villages, controlling the waste and access to land along with ponds, trees, and other sources of income
???????The main forces working on any agrarian economy are population, the diffusion of basic forms of technology and management and the buoyancy of demand which set prices; population growth was held back by epidemic disease and by periodic mortality from the failure of monsoon rains; the Bengal famine of 1769-70 led to the death of at least 25% of the population
???????Bayly differentiated between levels of economic/political activity; first the world of the great cities, of external trade, and the trader-financiers who moved wealth around the subcontinent in the form of bullion and credit notes; secondly, the 'intermediate economy' of mass artisan production, of small country towns, and of the petty farms or assignments of revenue, or shares in office which proliferated in the wake of state-building and expansion; thirdly, the vast bulk of internal agrarian economy
???????An important source of wealth for Indian trader-bankers was investment in political and military activity; indigenous bankers were closely connected with the great families of revenue farmers, giving them advances on the security of their holdings; in several of the smaller eighteenth-century states trader-bankers were a key political group by the 1760s; under the Mughals they may have been vital to the working of economy and society, but they never held open political power
???????To understand the political economy of eighteenth-century India, we must therefore make a distinction between economic institutions and economic cycles; after 1760 many unfavourable trend began to operate on regional economies, though these were certainly not universal; however, long-term development of commercialisation in India - of credit, of markets and of the significance of traders and money-lenders - continued; it was these forms which facilitated, even attracted, British intervention and conquest
???????The growing divorce between the authority and power of the Mughal helped the East India Company to establish legitimacy within the Indian system; in the same way, the military and commercial sophistication of the Indian scene could be turned to the Company's advantage; by paying regular and generous wages its agents could sweep into service men of the north Indian soldier castes; its protection could procure the support of merchant credit-networks; its formal adherence to the science of Indo-Persian justice and revenue management attracted the service of the literate gentry both Hindu and Muslim
??????By buying into revenue-farms, monopolies and the political perquisites which had been the stock in trade of the eighteenth-century kingdoms, Company servants and free-merchants effectively made the transition between trade and dominion before the authorities in England knew what was afootThe EIC was the great beneficiary of the age of war, flux and opportunity; the Company was able to play off one state against another and offer its own formidable services for sale in the all-India military bazaar; at the same time, its own interests in the textile trade encouraged the Company to support the Indian mercantile interests in their periodic conflicts with military entrepreneurs and revenue farmers; the very flexibility and sophistication of these networks for making money inexorably drew the Company and its servants into politics; politics, warfare, and land-management all delicately interpenetrated each other; and since the British inherited the expansive but fragile system of Mughal revenue management, the Company soon found itself in conflict also with the Hindu warrior lords of the countryside


It was in Bengal that the British most clearly exploited the conflicts of the Indian body politic; from the early eighteenth century, the Company had emerged preeminent on India's external routes; the disruption of trade on the west coast resulting from turmoil in Iran and Arabia and the Maratha attacks on the old Mughal seaport had encouraged western Indian Hindu merchant groups to rely increasingly on the protection of the British fleet during the 1730s and 40s Since the Company paid for its goods with silver until Robert Clive's coup of 1757, it had developed close relations with the great banking houses of the Bengal Nawabs, especially the famous Jagat Seths and another north Indian banker, Omichand; the desire of the Company to control textile supplies at source also encouraged them to try to get direct control of local merchants and weavers in inland towns such as Lakshmipur, Dacca, and Patna Volatile politics in Bengal in the 1740s and 1750s were volatile; conflict between the different actors in Bengal politics inevitably brought in the British; the British and the alienated Bengali factions plotted the Nawab's overthrow; Bengal proved to be an extraordinary prize for the British; it put the Company and its servants at an enormous advantage in dealings with all other states and economies in the subcontinent After 1765, when the Company took over direct administration of the revenues as diwan it was able to support its embarrassed trade profits by channelling them into the annual 'investment' in Bengal goods destined for the London market Bayly considers the particular form of commercialisation in late Mughal Bengal which stood out as the Company's greatest advantage; buoyant commodity trade and the inroads of fiscal entrepreneurs under the Nawabs had resulted in the farming out or marketing of 'shares' of a whole range of enterprises; the Company secured control of monopolies of valuable produce such as saltpetre, salt, indigo, and betel nut; its servants penetrating into the interior after 1757 built up huge fortunes by using political influence to gain political privileges and to exempt themselves and their servants from Mughal custom dues But the unstable commercialisation of late Mughal India was modified in one crucial respect; the Company's profits in land-revenue management and private individuals; fortunes built up through the purchase of nawabi perquisites were now used to sustain a system of world trade which stretched to Canton and London; private merchant and Company servants invested much of their earnings in inland trading, so opening up new pressures on the up-country powers of Benares and Awadh Ultimately, pressures from London combined with the need for regular revenues in time of war forced the Company to inhibit the dynamic flow of resources from fiscal through military to trading entrepreneurship; this was the aim of the Permanent Settlement of land revenue in Bengal of 1793, the gradual end to the practice of revenue farming, and the prohibition on private trading by Company servants In southern India, the two centres of Company influence before 1760 were Madras and the rich provinces of the rivers Krishna and Godavari known later as the Northern Circars; the interior of the country was held by large numbers of well-armed Hindu zamindars whose fortressed dominated local market villages; the whole tract was highly productive and commercialised; a British report of 1776 noted that "the forests to the west produce teak and other valuable woods...they have mines which might furnish iron for many useful purposes; saltpetre is made on the borders of Guntoor Circar; the sugar cane grows luxuriantly in Rajamundhry Circar, and over the whole country are weavers in great numbers" As in Bengal, the early eighteenth century saw the agents of regional powers - in this case the Nizam of Hyderabad - intensifying their pressure; the new, more intense pressures generated by Muslim entrepreneurs and their Hindu servants for cash-revenue provided the context within which successive British commercial residents in the coastal towns of Masulipatnam and Vizagapatam penetrated into the market for monopolies and perquisites, both on Company service and for their own private business The Company seized on the growing desperation of the Hyderabad rulers in their contests with the Marathas to prize these valuable provinces out of their hands by promises of regular tribute and military aid; still, in the first instance it seems to have been the private interests of Company officials which benefited most from the acquisition It was further south in Madras that the triangle of tensions and alliances between the Muslim state, British private capital and the Hindu entrepreneur found its most dramatic form; the Coromandel coast and the rich deltas of the rivers Kavery, Vaigal, and Tambraparni had long supported high agricultural production and flourishing external trade Until the 1730s the British trade in cloths on public and private account had encountered fewer vicissitudes here than in the north and west, secure in good relations with local rulers and their distant Deccan overlords; but increasingly the reverberations of Muslim state-building were felt on the Coromandel coast; lieutenants of Hyderabad began to increase their hold on the region's agricultural resources, pushing south and east from the fortress towns of Vellore and Arcot By 1763, British naval and financial superiority had virtually banished French power from the coast and had helped Mahomed Ali Wallajah to consolidate his position as Nawab of Arcot; in the meantime, powerful bonds of dependency had been tied which were ultimately to strangle Arcot and draw the British into direct administrative control of the Tamil country In the first place, the British had adopted and perfected the mechanism of the subsidiary alliance, which they had copied via the French from the practice of Indian powers; in return for a tribute - a subsidy in eighteenth-century parlance - or the lease of productive territories, the Company engaged to support Ali against his enemies and to maintain their own troops in his lands and garrisons; in practice, however, these alliances put intolerable strains on fragile Indian states whose rulers were never likely to be certain on the out-turn of revenue from month to month; shortfalls in subsidiary payments faced the British with mutinies among their own unpaid troops and led to piecemeal annexation in order to stabilise the financial situation; it is ironic that the subsidiary alliance system, designed to set bounds to British territorial intervention, in fact pointed to its unlimited extension In the case of Bengal, Indian mercantile capitalists allied with revenue entrepreneurs and disenchanted soldiers to encourage the expansionist ambition of Company servants; in the Northern Circars, and the Carnatic, the trading and money-lending activities of the British helped undermine the finances of indigenous states, while Indian entrepreneurs provided the skills and means by which they could appropriate local resources; on the west coast again the priorities and fate of the Indian merchants were to prove a critical spur to British expansion


The reaction of the Nayars against Mysore rule was savage in Malabar, and the British appear to have felt that working through the Nayars as independent rulers was an inadequate security for political stability or for the pepper trade, hence the situation necessitated 'the interposition of Company authority to enforce law and order and protect the Moplahs who are a very useful merchant class'; private traders working within the ambit of the Company's influence also appear to have favoured a 'forward policy' on the coast Further north in Bombay's sphere of influence similar considerations caused the British authorities to play a more interventionist role; Indian merchant communities were able to influence Company policies towards expansion on occasion in part because it was they who kept the bankrupt and exposed Presidency alive by remitting money from Bengal through the inland town of Benares during the wars of the latter half of the century The conflicts between different styles of European and Indian entrepreneurship provided the occasion for British expansion in seaboard India, and these conflicts also forced the British to intervene more directly in the countryside; the 1790s witnessed experiments designed to stabilise rural society in the environs of Madras; the Company's aim was once again to control the conflicts between different types of rural and tax entrepreneurs which had become increasingly disruptive to regular revenue returns; in particular the Company hoped to eliminate some conflict by diminishing the role of revenue-farmers and dubashes While the legislative assault by the British on the 'corruption' of Indian society was not initiated until evangelical Christian and utilitarian pressures became stronger in the 1820s, European norms had begun to influence the conduct of Indian elites from an earlier period; Indians had become, in the first 'colonial societies', acquainted with notions of positive law, judicial process, western science, and above all the notion of linear historical change before the turn of the nineteenth century Administrative consolidation (through the Regulating Act, 1778, Pitt's India Act, 1784, and the Charter Act, 1793) was a continuation of the process of British expansion itself; territorial acquisition was a response, directly or indirectly, to the complex manoeuvring between forms of Indian capital and revenue entrepreneurs; only a commercial system acceptable to the English landed gentry, creditworthy and separated from political entanglements could be allowed to flourish in India A rationalisation of Company government was also required by the vast growth of Indian country and international shipping and by the slow change in India's commercial relations with the rest of the world; for instance, the Company's stake in western India had to be reorganised and put on firmer footing after 1784, when the cotton (and later opium) trades to China from Gujarat through Bombay dramatically increased, bringing new profits to private British traders and relief for the Company's own battered finances The British had been drawn into the politics of coastal India by lust for profit and the intricate connections between markets in produce and markets in revenue and political perquisites; the need to control the conflicts of a society in the process of rapid change forced them to elaborate their own style of Indian government How to deal with new, expansionist, Indian states was a problem for the British; conquest seemed the only option in the case of Mysore, still a threat to the rich land and trade of Madras; the governor-General hoped that the Maratha problem could be dealt with more subtly The political theory and practice of the Wellesley circle represented the first coherent imperial policy in British Indian history; Clive was an opportunist, and Hastings had sought to protect British trade by refurbishing the Mughal successor state of Bengal; Cornwallis and his men were pragmatists, shoring up the Company's defences while purging its administration along the lines of Whig 'economical reform'; both Richard and Arthur Wellesley asserted Britain's right to India by conquest; the Company, they argued, had saved Bengal by its military protection It is notable that though Wellesley's successors discountenanced the semi-royal character of the governor-generalship, they nevertheless stressed the need for the Company to be seen as an Indian sovereign in matters such as public ritual and the creation of irrigation works, kingship's traditional duties After 1790, the pace of British military expansion in India speeded up notably; between 1789 and 1805, the Company's total strength increased from about 115,000 to 155,000, making it one of the largest European-style standing-armies in the world; the development of military organisation had its repercussions in the field of government and politics; despite the Wellesley's stated desire to keep military and civilian, executive and judicial powers separated, they recognised that Company rule was a military despotism outside Bengal; much of the information which enabled the British to control and tax their Indian possessions was gathered by army and naval officers and resulted from the growing military character of the Company after Cornwallis It is clear that Europeans were in control of a significant sector of Awadh's economy before 1800; the European commercial penetration had two effects: (i) free passes and privileges extracted by Europeans and Indian allies denied important sources of a revenue to the state so aggravating its fiscal and political crisis; (ii) alliance between British commercial interests and semiindependent magnates strengthened the forces of decentralisation against Lucknow The Company was drawn into conquest in the western Deccan and central India primarily because the demands of its fiscal and military machine, expressed through the subsidiary alliance system, was incompatible with the fluid practice of indigenous politics and taxation

C.A. Bayly (1998) 'The first age of global imperialism, c.1760-1830', The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 26:2, 28-47, Published online 01/07/2008Imperialism can be broadly defined as the complex of intentions and material forces which predispose states to an incursion, or attempted incursions, into the sovereignty of other states. General historical works about empires are etiolated and bloodless without the concept of imperialism. They risk becoming little more than a litany of special cases or an elegy of exceptions. Nor does the passive, naturalistic term 'expansion' fill the bill; the word gives no hint of the ruthless drive for dominance in the overseas world which periodically seized metropolitan statesmen, missionaries, soldiers, and sailors.It is true that several recent syntheses of the history of the British empire have paid some attention to the period and have reached a degree of consensus about its character. Marrying the work of John Brewer and Linda Colley together with that of

??????Indian and Caribbean historians, Peter Cain and Anthony Hopkins designate the period as an important moment in the history of gentlemanly capitalism, characterized by the expansion of what has been called the 'military fiscal state'. This article accepts much of that position. Even in the case of Britain, however, the argument needs to be strengthened. In particular, we need to be more precise about the causal mechanism which linked metropolitan changes in the finance of warfare with territorial acquisitions overseas. We also need to examine the ideology and practice of the imperial state in the periphery and its impact on the societies of subject peoples in the light of this so-called military fiscalism. The effects of imperialism are as much part of its character as its causes The growth of international trade and finance provides a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for European imperial expansion during the years 1760-1830. The influence of colonial mercantile corporations ensured that political stability at home was intimately connected with the success of overseas commerce. No eighteenth century ministry or economic theorist could ignore threats to resources of trade in the periphery. Beyond the international expansion of trade and finance, the second element which helps to explain the imperialism of the revolutionary age both within and outside Europe was military finance. The cost of warfare, always the greatest part of state expenditure in the West before about 1830, considerably increased in the course of the eighteenth century. This was a critical determinant of many of the major developments of the era: the emergence of new banking and monetary systems, the collapse of state finance, and European revolution and territorial expansion within and beyond Europe's borders. Technical developments in warfare were important here, though only in the context of political and social organization. The early part of the eighteenth century witnessed the ousting of the matchlock gun by the flintlock; the middle and later part of the century saw the development of the breech loader, greater sophistication in rifling, and new forms of heavy artillery. The cost of servicing the Royal Navy, for instance, the largest item of government expenditure in Britain was PS1/2 million per annum by mid-century and rose steeply thereafter. As John Rule writes, 'The cost of financing the [British] industrial revolution was small beer compared with waging war." HMS Victory, launched in 1785, cost five times more than the fixed capital invested in Ambrose Crawley's ironworks, one of the most celebrated contemporary examples of industrial enterprise If military expenditures, the largest item of all state budgets in the age of neo-absolutisms, were expanding exponentially, the sources of income open to most rulers were severely constrained, even falling, especially in the later eighteenth century. There seems little doubt that the rising population of much of continental Europe and of Ireland in the eighteenth century was keeping living standards low, or even reducing them to judge by the constant subsistence crises of the period. These damaged the ability of rural society to pay taxes to the military fiscal states. It also forced them to spend more on internal security. While the parallel between North and South America has had much airing in the recent work stimulated by Anthony Pagden and Nicholas Canny, this article emphasizes the common themes which link the Americas with south Asia, the second major domain of empire-building during these years. Indian historians have now shown quite clearly that the predominant, though not the only, motive force behind the English East India Company's massive territorial expansion into India between 1760 and 1856 was the need to finance its army. Of course, the Company stake in Bengal had been created in the first instance by its trading interests and by the informal political influence that it thereby achieved. Certainly, the need to finance the annual investment of Indian goods sent for sale to Britain and uphold the value of the Company's stock remained critical throughout. The mechanism of territorial expansion, however, was driven forward by the relentless and increasing pressure of the military budget and the costs of warfare on the Company's balance sheet. In 1756 it had maintained a mere 3,000 troops in Bengal; in 1766 the number had risen to 26,000. It could not call on the British government for further resources without losing its independence. It had, by law, to pay its dividend in London. It simply had to raise more resources locally, at a period when endemic warfare was damaging its trade in Indian cotton piece goods. Directly or indirectly, the East India Company found ways of grabbing bigger and bigger shares of India's territorial revenues: the revenues paid in silver rupees by peasants and landlords to its indigenous governments. The Indian rulers were forced to pay huge subsidies to service British armies. In time they were forced to cede territory to the Company's direct administration or to revolt against its demands for cash Quite apart from strategic imperatives --- scorned by modern historians --- and the desire to secure revenues to balance military expenditure, the large and politically influential armies in the 'garrison states' of southern Asia created their own powerful momentum for domineering and conquest. Douglas Peers is quite right when he discounts strictly commercial motives for the wars against Nepal (1814-16) and against Burma (1824-26). There was some interest in the teak of the Burmese coast and people were mesmerized by the hope for a great new China trade, of course. But, in the words of Peers, 'war arose because Anglo-Indian militarism demanded it'. Hundreds of bored and discontented British officers, the under-employed detritus of the Waterloo generation, demanded action, abetted by a rabid Anglo-Indian press in Calcutta. For the military gentlemen and gentlemen soldiers who ruled these revived multi-ethnic empires, the engrossing of trade might be the first object of economic domination, but what has been elsewhere called 'agrarian patriotism' was the guarantee of their long-term stability. Only by measuring, settling, and making the land pay could military defence or expansion be maintained and the rule of benevolence expanded. For the French in Europe and north Africa as for the British in India and southern Africa, the land survey - developed out of earlier military surveys - became the chief engine of agrarian knowledge-gathering. It is important to reiterate that the picture of empires over this long period and vast area should not be monolithic even if one overriding cause drove their expansion. In time, commerce and the interests and attitudes of the first generation of white settlers played a significant role from Albany in South Africa to Adelaide in Australia. The desire of officials and missionaries to stamp British law and sovereignty on 'ungodly and barbarous peoples' from the Indian Thugs to the American Iroquois was a vital motive, especially after 1830. The myth of civilian, as opposed to military, control remained important in the British empire, and was reinforced in the 1830s. Soldiers and civilians tussled for power and office. Missionaries and settlers had begun to influence counsels. Legislatures argued with autocratic governors in Canada and the Cape. These other interests and agendas, however, were heavily influenced by military and naval requirements and patterns of thinking. We are now generally agreed that British expansion during the years from 1760 to 1830 was something or other to do with wars and finance. This essay has suggested that we need now to be more precise about the connection between military finance and that territorial expansion. We need also to confirm or modify the thesis of British exceptionalism by considering other European


and non-European powers. This paper has argued, unusually for today's academia, that Lenin and Schumpeter got it right in part. The great age of imperialism was, indeed, a stage in the history of capitalism, when powerful and well-armed bodies of aristocrats and financiers struggled to re-divide the resources of the whole world, as Lenin argued. These struggles brought a generation of mass warfare and propelled the collapse of whole civilizations into revolution or servitude to foreigners. My main modification of Lenin's position is that he was, in general, reviewing a past even in 1916 a hundred years behind him, rather than revealing the present and future. In the same way, Joseph Schumpeter considered the imperialism of the 1890s to be a product of the atavism, or social nostalgia, of the rising middle classes seeking to explore the martial values of the old aristocracy in extra-European settings. But Schumpeter's new imperialism was also past its climactic moment. It was represented, not by Rhodes or Gulbenkian, the arms traders and adventurers of the 1890s and 1900s, but by Napoleon's marshals enjoying their revenue-fiefs in Hungary and by the Duke of Wellington's Anglo-Irish and Scottish companions who sought to 'repair their fortunes' with Indian blood and Indian silver.

P. Marshall, (ed.) The Oxford History of the British Empire, Vol. II, The Eighteenth Century, P.J. Marshall, 'The British in Asia: Trade to Dominion, 1700-1765'; R.K. Ray, 'Indian Society and the Establishment of British Supremacy, 1765-1818'; H.V. Bowen, 'British India, 1765-1813: The Metropolitan Context', pp.487-507; 508-529; 530-551Pepper and spices had dominated early trade between Asia and Europe, but during the seventeenth century, they were eclipsed by the mass import of textiles, cotton cloth, and raw silk; Indian cotton goods were immensely popular throughout Europe and they had a buoyant re-export market in the Americas and along the West African coastSuccessful trade with Asia required commercial organization on a large scale; the early-eighteenth-century English East India Company was already set into a pattern that was to last into the nineteenth century; by contemporary standards, it was a gigantic organization; its stock was fixed in 1708 at PS3,200,000, subscribed by some 3,000 shareholders, and it borrowed very extensively on bond; PS6million was set as the limit in 1744; the value of its annual sales fluctuated between PS1,250,000 and
PS2millionTrade on the scale pursued by the East India Companies could not be separated from politics; only at sea or in dealing with small-scale Asian regimes could Europeans hope to impose their own terms; as Portuguese armed ships had demonstrated early in the sixteenth century, Europeans had clear advantages in maritime technology which they could exploit to good effectFor much of the seventeenth century, the Muslim empires of Eurasia - the Ottoman Turks, the Safavids in Persia and the Mughals in India - maintained their power and in some cases increased the territory under their controlAt the beginning of the eighteenth century, about 90% of the Company's cargoes were obtained from India; in western India, the English operated out of the great Mughal port of Surat, and from their own settlement granted to the Crown by the Portuguese at Bombay; Madras, held outright on a grant from a local chief, was the major English settlement on the south-east or Coromandel Coast; in Bengal, Calcutta - a town largely founded by the English - was growing very rapidly indeedExcept when its trade was disrupted by the European wars at the beginning of the eighteenth century, the East India Company was a highly-successful commercial organisation; the British were pulling ahead of the Dutch EIC that had enjoyed a dominant position for so longThe history of the British in Asia seems to fall into two clearly demarcated periods during the eighteenth century; a long period of stability ended in mid-century, when the British shifted from apparently peaceful trade to wars and conquests in India; it is a transformation that is hard to explainIt is clearly not the case that Europe was able at this point to assert political or military capacities that were overwhelmingly superior to those of any Asian opponent; British warships had no Asian rivals; even heavily outnumbered British armies were dauntingly formidable against Asian forces; but the essential technology of warfare - the cannon and musket - was still the same for both sides, while Indian soldiers provided much of the British manpowerNor is it easy to find any conscious drive to empire on the British side; British interests in Asia had not changed significantly since the establishment of the Company in the seventeenth century; they were still in Asia to buy Asian commodities; a commercial imperative empire was not recognized by those who directed the Company's affairsYet fundamental changes took place in the role of the British in India; the year 1744 is often said to be the turning point, the start of these changes; in 1744, hostilities commenced on land and sea against the French; in 1746, the British and French fought out their own rivalries in part as allies of contestants for the succession of both the Nawab and the Nizam; British victory (after some 15 years) meant that the territories of the British-backed Nawab of Arcot became a client state of the East India CompanyAfter Clive's retaking of Calcutta from Siraj-ud-Daula, within a few years Bengal became a province under actual British rule; successive Nawabs were deposed in 1760 and 1763, when the deposed Nawab was driven to outright resistance and war; both he and his allies (the Mughal emperor and the Wazir of Oudh) were defeated at the Battle of Buxar in 1764, and a settlement ensued at the Treaty of Allahabad of 1765, by which the Emperor gave the EIC the diwani - or responsibility for the civil administration of Bengal and the provinces connected with it - while the Wazir of Oudh accepted a British alliance and a British garrison; this settlement gave the British rule over some 20 million people in Bengal together with access to a revenue of about PS3million, and it took British influence almost as far as DelhiAs is clear from this brief description, by the middle of the eighteenth century the British were dealing not with a unified Mughal empire, but with a number of regional rulers; Western historians have traditionally placed much emphasis on the disintegration of the Mughal empire as having created the conditions of chaos and weakness that made foreign rule in India possible or, in older accounts, that made it necessaryThe British themselves have long been seen as having done little if anything to manufacture the opportunities from which they were to profit so spectacularly; recent scholarship has begun to revise this interpretation; in the first place, the British presence in India is no longer seen as purely passive until the mid-eighteenth century; the British appear to have been increasingly assertive well before open military and political intervention began; secondly, the history of eighteenth-century India is undergoing reinterpretation; the proposition that the breakup of the Mughal empire left a void of disorder that the British were eventually obliged to fill is being questioned; on the contrary, some scholars are arguing that British rule was built not on Indian collapse but on the emergence of a new order in eighteenth-century India


Operating alongside the Company trade was a dynamic private sector of British commercial activity; the Company's servants' own trade, together with that of a limited number of British people outside the service who resided in the Company's settlements, constituted this private sector; private British enterprise in the early eighteenth century was chiefly based on the Indian settlements and involved trading by sea; the extent to which private individuals participated in India's internal trade is less clearly documented; in Bengal, especially, where Company servants were posted at several inland trading centres as well as Calcutta, there is clear evidence that they did so on a considerable scale; this produced friction with the Nawab's governments since private British merchants claimed exemption from his customs duties and interfered with trades over which monopolies had been granted The growth of the Company's settlements is a clear indication of the importance of the British in certain regions; Bombay only emerged as the major port of western India towards the end of the eighteenth century, but it had already begun to attract refugees from Surat; although other ports along the Coromandel coast were able to hold their own in the early eighteenth century in competition with Madras, more and more Indian merchants moved there to deal with the British and to enjoy the relative security that they offered (Arasaratnam, Merchants, Companies, and Commerce on the Coromandel Coast); Calcutta, by contrast, totally eclipsed its rivals in Bengal during the first half of the eighteenth century; although probably overestimated, Europeans claimed that over 100,000 lived in Calcutta by mid-century The dissemination of wealth among their subjects through dealings with Europeans was of course welcome, but if that wealth lay beyond the reach of the ruler within what amounted to a foreign enclave, if that enclave was growing very rapidly, and if some of the Europeans within that enclave seemed to be extending the range of their activities, the challenge to the ruler's authority was unmistakable; Calcutta in particular constituted such a challenge to the rulers of Bengal In some areas, Mughal rule was replaced by regional authorities capable of establishing a stable order; of the areas where the East India Company trade, this was most marked in Bengal; there the Mughal governor freed himself from all effective central control and founded a dynasty of independent Nawabs, who created an effective autonomous administration; further south, Mughal rule had hardly been established when the centre relinquished control; Mughal officials were left to impose their authority on unsubdued Hindu Rajas and other chiefs, while defending their gains from outsiders; rulers in local Maratha states maintained stability within their borders, encouraged economic activity, and also checked any attempt at military expansion by the British at Bombay Eighteenth-century regional states are said to have acquired certain characteristics; they maintained the outward form of Mughal rule, while developing techniques that enabled them effectively to extract resources from agriculture and trade; the establishment of viable regional states along these lines in certain parts of India is now often seen as the necessary precondition for the rise of British territorial power; British commercial enterprise, particularly that of the private traders and their Indian allies, could expand within the framework of opportunities offered by local rulers; the needs of these rulers for cash and troops and the ambitions of the British could coincide to enable the British to play a political role as bankers to the state or as military commanders Political infiltration could later turn to political dominance and eventually to outright rule, as the British took over the administrative structures created for the regional states and made them work for their own purposes, drawing taxation into British coffers and bringing troops into British service The British won power as participants in Indian political struggles; the way in which they exercised their power did not at first mark any sharp break with Indian patterns of rule; as eighteenth-century rulers had done, the British preserved an outward respect for Mughal forms; but also like their predecessors, the British took Indian tax administrators and bankers into partnership; parts of the Indian economy remained buoyant at least until the end of the eighteenth century, and thus the British were able to raise high yields of taxation and to borrow from indigenous bankers; a new colonial order, involving distinctly British modes of government and a new pattern of economic relations between Britain and India, was a long time in coming Insistence on the break in continuity involved in the British take-over is central to all objections to the new historiography of the eighteenth century; the British are seen not as actors in what was essentially an Indian play, but as alien aggressors, seizing power by force and using their power to force abrupt changes which quickly impoverished the areas brought under their control The Company certainly wished to protect its trade from what it took to be threats to it by the French; the Directors could not envisage commercial advantages that would outweigh the costs of and disruptions from prolonged war; the growth of territorial empire in India was neither planned nor directed from Britain; ignorance about Indian conditions and slowness of communications meant that no effective control could be exercised from home - classic 'sub-imperialism' A robust distain for the fighting qualities of Indian armies, combined with confidence in their own capacity to manipulate Indian rulers, encouraged the Company's servants to bold and opportunistic use of force; their objectives were, however, usually limited ones; Indian rulers were to be prevented from exercising any authority in future over the Company's trade or settlements and every opportunity was to be taken for extracting commercial concessions and grants of revenue British war with the French at Madras left the British deeply entangled in the affairs of the Carnatic; it was in the interests both of the Company and of its servants that the Nawab should be able to increase the area under his effective control and add to the resources at his disposal, because he want effectively a client of the British; under British protection, a Carnatic state was gradually built up which the Company was formally to annex at the end of the century In the south, the British intervention created a state; in Bengal, the Company operated within a state that was already formed; within a secure framework created by the Nawabs during the first half of the eighteenth century, the Company had increased its purchases of Bengal textiles, private trade had grown, and Calcutta had become a wealthy city; the British presence in Bengal was becoming too intrusive for an ambitious ruler indefinitely to leave unregulated, and it can be argued that from about the 1720s the British and the rulers of Bengal were set on course for a collision that it would be very difficult to avoid - this was to happen in 1756 To safeguard its hard-won gains in Bengal and the Carnatic, the East India Company had to maintain large armies and enter into diplomatic relations with some of the other regional powers of India; two of the major states established by former Mughal governors, Oudh and Hyderabad, accepted a degree of British influence

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