British Empire - Extended Summary
The Empire eventually covered the following areas which are covered separately. To tie them together we have produced the following extended summary. Continents ruled by England
- The British Isles
- North America now Canada and USA
- Africa, all the valuable areas including Egypt south to gold and diamond rich South Africa and oil rich Nigeria in the west.
- The Middle East, dominating oil rich Iraq and Iran and the Holy Land of Israel and Palestine.
- Southern Asia including the whole Indian Sub-continent plus Burma and Malay.
- Australasia (Australia and New Zealand)
1000 years ago
England's first conquest was the neighbouring smaller land mass of Ireland a few miles away on its west coast. This was achieved some 1000 years ago under King Henry 2nd. Henry at this time was already ruling the whole of western France from Calais to the Spanish border as well as England and was the most powerful king in Europe. So the conquest of Ireland was not difficult but ruling it was. (Click here for the detailed pages on the History of Ireland where you will find that Henry was invited into Ireland by an Irish King to help with internal squabbles.)
500 years ago
The route England took to "conquer" North America, India, Africa, Palestine, Iraq, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand is a different story. There was competition from much of Europe where France, Spain and Holland were initially more powerful than England.
The catalyst which sent the seafaring European nations exploring was the development of a powerful Islamic state called the Ottoman Empire. 1450 saw the Islamic Ottomans (headquartered in Istanbul Turkey) become so powerful that the Mediterranean Sea was called an Ottoman Lake. Any Christian ship was blown out of the sea which caused the Christian Europeans to look for another route to the Spice Islands of Indonesia and China for Silk and porcelain (China wear). Italians from Venice and Genoa were the best navigators of the time;
- The Spanish hired Christopher Columbo from Genoa, who in 1492 sailed west and "discovered" the Caribbean for King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.
- English Henry 7th hired the Genoan Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot) who was told to keep well away from the powerful Spanish and find something further north perhaps even the fabled North West Passage to India. He discovered Newfoundland in 1497.
Henry 8th (1509-1547) set the scene for England with three critical moves:
- Henry stopped attacking France to get his Norman, (Western French,) lands back and spent his money on the commencement of a powerful navy.
- At the time of the Reformation, Henry took England away from the Pope in Rome and kept the money which would have been sent to the Pope from England. In addition he plundered many of the Catholic monasteries in England and Ireland which added hugely to his naval funds.
- After Henry, England moved significantly away from the Christian Roman Catholic faith towards the new Christian Protestantism which created a religious minefield of different Protestant cults. Worshipers were generally forbidden to follow their particular brand of their chosen faith if it was not the Church of England. Emigration to a new land was therefore a definite option for the Puritans and Quakers.
- By the Elizabethan period the English Protestant navy was ready to hone its fighting skills against the powerful Catholic navies from France and Spain (Armada etc) and English privateers like Drake honed their skills of seamanship by hijacking the Spanish Galleons laden with gold and silver as they sailed from Mexico and South America past the Caribbean Islands. One hijack could finance a year's fiscal expenditure for all of Elizabethan England.
English maritime pirates and the religious fever developed to defend Protestant England against mighty Catholic aggressors was the catalyst to the early success of the English colonialists and traders.
In the early part of this century English explorers travelled, settled and farmed in three main areas in the West where the local inhabitants were still a stoneage civilisation.
- Virginia (USA)
- Boston area (USA)
- The Caribbean
Simultaneously in the East the English set up trading posts, as the local inhabitants had a sophisticated culture (Muslim and Hindu based) and were already farmers and manufactures of tradeable goods.
The Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and French did likewise but initially there was room for all as these new territories were comparatively huge and the number of settlers small. This period also saw a settlement in Southern Africa by strict Dutch Presbyterians refugees. Also known as Boers or Afrikaners.
The commencement of a Jewish based banking system in England. At much the same time, English rulers Oliver Cromwell followed by Charles 2nd, observing how the Dutch economy was booming fuelled by Jewish money lenders, agreed to a request from some fleeing Jews from northern Europe and Spain to settle in England. From this moment on it was the Jews of England who could finance the military expenditure required by the British to support their colonies, which was not available to either France, Portugal or Spain where Jews were still non persona grata or worse.
English colonialists, by comparison with those from Spain, were traders and farmers, rather than gold and silver thieves or religious missionaries (Catholic). In addition even though French and Spanish peasants were worse off economically than their English equivalents at the time, it was the English who emigrated voluntarily in vast numbers (more than 20 times their nearest rivals(the French). The French and Spanish governments could not persuade their countrymen to leave their homeland. This, particularly in North America is the reason why Americans speak largely English rather than French or Spanish. Internal religious conflict was the obvious reason to leave England the other was simply the entrepreneurial culture which the Protestant religions engender.
In the latter part of this period the English had two vital victories over the French as a culmination of the so called Seven Years War.
- In North America (actually in modern day Canada) English army general, James Wolfe (1725-59) captured the French impenetrable fortress town of Quebec on the St Lawrence seaway in 1759. From this time the French influence in North America collapsed.
- In India, Englishman Clive (Baron Robert Clive of Plassey 1725-74) defeated the French at Arcot 1751 and then in 1757 he recaptured Calcutta from the local Bengali ruler, and later defeating him at Plassey, putting England, via the British East India Company, in charge of the richest area in India. Now mainly Bangladesh. (And the taxes rolled in.)
The English were now set to rule the world, being by far the most powerful nation in Europe and experienced no aggression from China who had stagnated since the sixteenth century. Not only this, the English Protestant entrepreneurial spirit not only produced explorers and traders but also thinkers, scientists and inventors who created the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. English factories were powered by English inventions and English colonial raw materials and transported in English designed and built shipping. The Army and Navy to protect all this was expensive and London taxed the colonies to help pay the bill. The rich state of Bengal in India accepted the burden but not so the English settlers in North America who, even though they were only taxed at one tenth of those at home, rebelled and by 1800 North America was split into two, present day Canada who wanted to stay within the Empire and the USA who fought their English brothers and won their freedom.
Outside North America the British Empire steadily expanded as the English colonised firstly Australia and then New Zealand both also stone age countries like America. Both countries speak English as a result. The Indian colony grew to rule most of India initially under the East India trading company and then by direct rule from Westminster. India's easterly neighbours Burma and Malay also fell to England and England made their Eastern strong hold at Fortress Singapore.
The last unexplored continent by white men was Africa and around 1880 Europeans started a race to individually rule as much of Africa as possible. Small parts of Africa was already under some sort of European rule which had commenced 400 years previously as the Portuguese, French and English occupied watering ports round the African shores needed for their passages to India and the Far East not to mention slaving stations commenced about the same time. The only large white immigration to Africa before 1850 were the fundamentalist Protestant Dutch settlers in South Africa called Boers or Afrikaners who settled in 1650. They remained isolated and religiously happy as God's farmers amongst the local black majority who they despised and terrified with there superior weaponry, hard work and orderly life style.
The first white man to systematically explore Africa was Scotsman Dr David Livingstone (1813-1877). As a one man band he had two aims to spread Christianity and find the source of the Nile. His writings and lectures in London were the catalyst to later emigrants notably Cecil Rhodes 1853-1902 who secured the whole of Southern Africa for the English on the backs of his wealth gained by dominating the discovery and exploitation of the local diamond mines.
In the north of Africa, the Suez Canal, the link between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean was designed and built by the French but protected by a powerful English garrison, as three quarters of the shipping through the canal was British on their way to the British colonies in the East. The English came to a defence agreement with Egypt to enhance their position. This developed into effective control of all Egypt and their southern neighbour Sudan by the English by 1914. By this time the partition of Africa was complete with England ruling all the valuable parts from Egypt in the north east, south to the southern tip of Africa plus on the west coast, Nigeria and the smaller states of Gambia and Sierra Leone. The French on the other hand, ended up with a load of sand and tropical forests namely, Algeria and most of the Sahara desert and Madagascar. The rest was split between Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Italy.
World War One. 1914-18
This was a European war started by Germany with England coming in to help France. The Turkish Ottoman Empire which ruled the whole of the Middle East as far as Iraq, including Syria and Palestine, came in on the German side. The English were supported by their formidable Empire but still needed the Americans to come and help in 1918 to break the stalemate and help the English win. After the war the Ottoman Empire was split up between the English and the French with the English taking Iraq and Palestine and the French Syria and Lebanon. Again the French obtained nothing of importance and the English obtained Iraqi (and Iranian) oil and Palestine into which it supported and aided a return of the Jews.
The English or British Empire was now at its maximum but the eyes of the British brown and black subjects had been opened as they had observed during the war how they were second class subjects but were clearly not intellectually inferior to the average English Tommy.
World War Two 1939-45
This was indeed a world war. The English had lost their total domination of industrial and military strength so necessary if it was to maintain the control and leadership of such a huge empire. New nations to worry the English were the Germans and the Japanese. The Germans, the English knew, were at least equal to the British in military might. The English also knew the Japanese had territorial ambitions which included the British eastern strongholds like Australia for space and agriculture, Malay for rubber and indeed India The English totally underestimated the Japanese military machine. Fortunately for the English the Japanese also had eyes on the American controlled Philippines. The Australians were terrified that the English would defend England first, India second, Malay third and Australia last and sort a new defence relationship with the powerful but dormant USA. The English were the only European nation to stand up and fight the massive German blitzkriegs (a combination of air and tank assaults). The English people in "their finest hour" defeated the German air invasion in the "Battle of Britain". (The English were not out numbered by German Aircraft but almost ran out of anybody who could fly a plane.) In the East the Japanese easily overran the lightly or poorly defended British outposts with battleships, fighter planes and a ruthless well trained army. By 1941 the once mighty England were bankrupt and were standing alone against Fascist Germany (and Italy) who were expanding in Europe, North Africa and potentially eastwards into English held territories like Egypt, Iraq and Iran towards the "Jewel in the Crown" India. Simultaneously England were standing against Japan's territorial ambitions which included not only China but also much of Britain's eastern empire. Churchill tried to persuade the Americans to help but they were reluctant to be dragged into a war which they thought had nothing to do with them and which would prop up the English Empire which they did not approve of. The Americans did provide food and arms on credit but not manpower. Fortunately for England and the British Empire and of course France and the rest of non Nazi Europe the Germans torpedoed American supply ships and the Japanese in a daring pre-emptive strike knocked out much of America's Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour (Hawaii). America at this time were not the dominant force they are in the early 21st century and had armaments no better than England's, Germany or Japan but they had the mass manufacturing capabilities to build planes, tanks and ships very quickly. It took 4 years to force the Germans and the Japanese to surrender and the allies (the whole of the British Empire plus America) needed the help of the rapidly improving Russian military to destroy Germany's eastern flank and the invention of the Atomic Bomb to cause the Japanese to submit. It was a close call.
1946 The British Empire is dead but it refuses to lie down. There was no respite for the exhausted and bankrupt English. Initially the Americans refused to have anything to do with supporting England in regaining authority in its wavering empire. They were particularly concerned with the obvious poor treatment of Indian, African, Arab, Burmese, Malay and Chinese (or non Anglo Saxon white Protestant) members of the British armed forces who had served so gallantly in the war but had been treated as second class citizens by the arrogant and superior Brits. Communism and the Cold War.
This was all to change as it soon became obvious that Stalin (Russia) was about to try and expand his Communist ideology worldwide. In Europe, already ensconced in Eastern Germany, he created a continuous "Communist Block" all the way to Russia and the "Iron Curtain" was erected. In the rest of the world the wavering British Empire was his next goal. India and Pakistan, (who gained their independence from England in 1948) were obvious targets. India courted the Soviets but Pakistan remained with the West as measured by where they purchased their arms. Burma and Malay now Malaysia were overrun with communist ideology. Similarly the British Empire in Africa and the oil rich, British influenced Iraq and Iran, were soon to be courted by Stalin. The American policy to England changed overnight as they realised that Britain and the Empire must stand against the rapid ideological spread of Communism. The most obvious example of this was in the Suez Canal Zone which became the largest centre of military power in the world hosting American B 39 bombers from where they could drop their deadly nuclear bombs on the now nuclear armed Russia. The Cold War had commenced.
The attraction of Communism 50 years ago is similar to Islam today, a perceived alternative for the poor against an arrogant, wealthy, unfair, capitalist West. It took 40 years to demonstrate to their adherents that Marxists ideologies are not as successful as Capitalism in producing wealth.
In the mean time the English were generally successful in keeping the Communist ideology at bay in their territories even though nearly all members of the worlds biggest empire was choosing independence to be replaced in many places by a loose confederation called the Commonwealth, held together by a common ideology of freedom and fairness under the rule of law, under the young British Queen, Elizabeth 2nd.
For those who have not read the general story of the development of the British Empire some of the important elements outside India have been included here.
1600 CHRISTIAN EUROPEANS ESTABLISH TRADING POSTS IN INDIA
The foundations of the British Empire and the English-India story.
The English ended up with the largest empire in the world, rather than the competing and originally more powerful French, Spanish, Portuguese or Dutch. The "Jewel in the English Crown" was India. How was this achieved when all of the above listed European countries were trying to do the same thing and at the time the key players were more powerful than the English. France in particular, in the early years, was economically stronger and with a much larger population. (England 7 million, France 20 million c1650.) The answer was the British Navy and a better banking system-Jewish. At the end of the day it came down to a hundred year dual, normally called the 7 Years War, between England and France and little England won each key battle. (Not to be confused with the earlier 100 years war, 1337-1453, between England and France when the English tried and almost succeeded in retrieving much of the land in France which Norman English Kings had originally ruled but subsequently neglected.)
The Americas were the first lands colonised by Europeans, purely by chance in fact, as the explorers did not know the Americas existed. They were sailing west to find new routes to, China for silks and porcelain and to Java, Indonesia for spices. The shorter routes east were blocked by the hated and feared Islamic Ottoman Turks from about 1400.
Spain was the first off the mark west, financed by the Christian anti Jewish fanatics, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella commencing of course with Columbus. (Probably an Italian-Genoese Jew but financed by the Spanish royal family.) The Spanish at this time were the most powerful nation in Europe but were barbaric plunderers, not colonialists. They eliminated the established cultures in Mexico and South America while they stole their silver and gold. The Role of the English was almost as barbaric, being "the pirates of the Atlantic". Hiding in the Caribbean, they high-jacked much of the stolen gold from the Spanish ships. (The gold from one Spanish ship could double the normal annual income to the king's purse.) The first colonising ventures of the English (who followed the Portuguese by 100 years) was the building of sugar plantations in the Caribbean using slaves as labour, initially English or Irish but they could not stand the heat, then Negros purchased in Africa. Virginia in North America followed soon after, with people like Sir Walter Raleigh creating organised tobacco plantations. (1584-89). At exactly the same time Europeans were following the sea routes discovered by Portuguese explorer, Vasco de Gamma, to India via South Africa and were setting up trading posts in the Indian sea ports when Indians were ruled by the highly sophisticated Islamic Mughals. (From 1526) The British East India Company was set up in Calcutta, east India, in 1600 and the Dutch equivalent in 1602. (The French followed 50 years later)
For the English to achieve simultaneous domination of both North America and India it was the French who had to be removed from both countries. In fairness to the French, they had equal interest in land battles in Continental Europe, (France wanted to conquer both Spain and the German- Austrian Hapsburg Empire) whereas as we have seen elsewhere on this site, after Henry 8th , the English gave up land retrieval in Europe and concentrated on keeping European Roman Catholic Christians at bay by building up a world beating Navy. The Dutch threat was removed when in 1689, the English who asked William of Orange, the Protestant Dutch Grandson of England's Charles 1st to become King of England. After this period the Dutch concentrated their South East Asia efforts in Indonesia.
The build up to empire 1550 to 1750
It is interesting to have a closer look at the 150 year period from about 1600 to 1750 to assess the magnitude of England's achievement.
1588 English Naval tacticians under Francis Drake were already formidable as they defeated the much larger Catholic Spanish Navy which was sent with the Pope's approval to occupy Protestant England ruled by "that bastard woman" Queen Elizabeth the 1st . (Spanish Armada)
But the story really started some 100 years previously
1434-1500 European trade with the Far East, which was mainly spices from Java, particularly pepper and with China for silk and porcelains, had been made impossible or at least very expensive and precarious via the traditional route through the Mediterranean to Alexandria(Egypt) and the Red Sea because of the hostile Islamic Ottomans headquartered in Istanbul Turkey. Actually the strength of the Ottoman Navy was due to a deal they struck with Barbarossa or Red Beard who was a North African Muslim (Berber) sea pirate. Hence the Barbary Coast.
A Portuguese writer summarised the aims of the Christian Kings as the solution to the Islamic blockade of the Mediterranean as: To discover what lay beyond the Canaries; to trade with any Christian who might dwell in the land beyond: to discover the extent of the Islamic dominions, to find a Christian king who would help him fight the infidel; to spread the Christian faith; to fulfil the predictions of the horoscope; which bound him to engage in great and noble conquests and attempt the discovery of things that were hidden from other men.
The main seafaring/trading nations of Europe were, Italians from the city states of Venice and Genoa, Spain, Portugal, Holland and to a lesser extent England and France. The Royal families of Spain and Portugal took the initiative and financed brave seafaring explorers to find another route for this trade. Initially the Spanish went west and discovered America and the Portuguese went East round the southern tip of Africa and set up save haven ports en-route to Java in (Portuguese) Angola, (Portuguese) Mozambique, Mombassa, the Indian west coast (Goa) and Malacca in Malaysia.
1500 About 6000 Spanish, following the lead of the Genoan Columbus, emigrated in large numbers to South America, Mexico and the Caribbean. The Spanish became rich with the gold and silver they found belonging to the local Aztec and Inca civilisations which they destroy. At the same time the Portuguese started sugar plantations in Brazil manned with slaves bought in Africa.
1607 The English set up their first official colony in North America in Jamestown Virginia. (Note; 7 years after the formation of the East India Company in Calcutta) (Sir Walter Raleigh was a prisoner in the Tower for treason at the time) In the next 50 years many North American settlements were made by the English who dominated the east coast and central Canada (Hudson Bay Company 1668). At exactly the same time the French, using the St Lawrence and Mississippi rivers, settled in central North America from Quebec, the capital of New France 1608, to New Orleans, 1699. Then the Spanish who dominated Mexico moved north along the American west coast towards Los Angeles in 1780. The Russians who occupied Alaska and the North American West Coast moved south towards Los Angeles. The Dutch had a colony in New York then called New Amsterdam. 1626-1664.
1750-1770 At this time the two huge land masses of North America and the Indian sub-continent, were part occupied and ruled by the English and French plus of course the local "native" populations which the English called Indians in both territories. In North America the Native Americans or "Red Indians", were relatively small in number and still almost a Stone Age civilisation. In India at this time the population was huge by comparison (some 200 million) and were highly cultured and civilised Hindus ruled by the Islamic Mughals. During these 20 years, the English removed the French from both territories and the battles with France returned to a solely European theatre. The tactics used by the English to remove the much larger French forces from both India and America simultaneously was by blockading the French Atlantic coastal ports thus keeping the French supply ships in harbour and the French troops short of reinforcements, armaments and any special foods. The key French-English coastal battles took place in 1757 and 1761.
1757 At the same time the English under Baron Robert Clive won crucial battles in India against the French, notably at Plassey (north of Calcutta) giving them total control of the rich province of Bengal (now mainly Bangladesh). Money generated from taxing the relatively wealthy Bengalis enabled the English to finance a huge standing army (mainly locals) and conquer the rest of India.
The English had another advantage over the French during these times, a source of money to finance the army and navy. This was because both Oliver Cromwell and Charles 2nd had realised that Jews were the best bankers in Europe and agreed to them resettling in England. The Jewish banking families financed virtually all England's war efforts whereas the French who hated the Jews were generally strapped for cash.
1750 England now dominates as the world's superpower
The English rule in North America, India and Ireland and commence their colonisation of Australia 1770
So for a short time thence tiny England ruled the two huge continents of North America and India and enjoyed total freedom in exploiting Anglo, Indian and American trade, to fuel the rapidly advancing Industrial Revolution at home. Australia was initially used as a penal colony as the English in North America no longer would have convicts dumped on them. Stupidly the English got greedy and imposed bigger and bigger taxes on the North American colonies to pay for the huge standing armies they thought they needed in this country. One of the better known taxes was on tea shipped from India in English ships to the tea loving English in America. (Boston Tea Party). The American colonists revolted and then with the help of the hated French, who wanted their own back on the English, the Americans gained independence in 1776-1783. However the English have had a very special friendly relationship with the now USA ever since-to the consternation of the French. The English blockade of French ports went on until 1805 culminating in the historic battle of Trafalgar when the English, under Nelson beat the combined French and Spanish fleets on the Atlantic side of the straits of Gibraltar. The story ends with the defeat by the English of the French land armies led by Emperor Napoleon at Waterloo in Belgium in 1815.
So the English had defeated the French, Spanish and Danish fleets and all the key colonial prizes were in English hands. England had also secured a trouble free shipping route to East India via safe, English owned ports in, South Africa (the Cape), Mauritius (taken from the French) and Ceylon now Sri Lanka.
The Indian story continued
1800 By this time the English had ousted all the other Europeans except for the friendly Portuguese on the West coast in Goa and the friendly Dutch. In addition by military might and playing off the Hindu Marathas against the Muslim Mughals the English ruled huge tracts of the Indian subcontinent. Notably all the south and east coasts and the whole of Bengal and the Ganges valley up to Delhi. The administration was not the British government but the commercial British East India Company who by monopolising all the trade of the rich state of Bengal could afford to finance their own army of 100,000 Indian born troops under British command.
The climax and the demise of the British Empire which started in America now spreads to India 1800-1947
- 1816 The English defeat the Gurkhas. Gurkhas is the name given to a north "Indian" tribe from Nepal who because of their fighting skills have been in the British army ever since. A Gurkha regiment of the British Army is, even today, respected worldwide.
- 1818, the English defeated the huge Hindu Maratha territories in central India and thence became the rulers of the whole of India via the non government but commercial trading body, the British East India Company. In the next 30 years the English, now dominant and arrogant, enlarged their "Indian" domain to fortify the centre
- 1824 The English take Burma on the eastern frontier. (now called Myanmar)
- 1843 The English conquer Sind (Now southern Pakistan)
- 1849 The English conquer the Punjab (now split between India and northern Pakistan) This is the main centre of the Sikh community who now came under British rule. English rule of the Indian sub Continent now stretched from the Afghan border (North West Frontier) in the west into Malaysia then called Malay in the East with a total population of some 350 million subjects to England's 20 million.
Thus all religions in India now come under Christian rule and British Protestant missionaries abound. Conversion is low other than a few in the lower Hindu casts who obviously see an instant opportunity to get to heaven rather than the 1000s of years of reincarnation ahead of them. The majority of English sent to India by the East India Company remain superior and disinterested or even disgusted with these "primitive faiths" but a small minority are highly moved. Particularly they find Hindu and Muslim women much better in bed than the prudish and sexually ignorant English girls back home and some set up mini harems and even arrive home with an extra Islamic Indian bride or two to the consternation of their English wife.
- 1857 Mutiny. (For those interested in English attitudes to non English peoples this is a time to remember and read the story of the Irish potato famine which was also been going on at this time) India had been invaded by zealot Christian missionaries as Britain was in the throes of a fundamentalist fervour. A good example was the Scottish missionary and explorer Doctor David Livingstone (1813-73) who was the first white man to fully explore the most inner parts of "Darkest" Africa. Many like Livingstone tried to spread Protestant fundamentalism and Victorian prudish values in India and like Livingstone in Africa they failed to get any converts and generally antagonise the locals. So English attitudes to their colonial subjects in Victorian times was, high and mighty, with little regard to local customs and cultures, little regard also for developing a local economy, indeed exploiting it would be the general objective. Christian dogma states clearly that the only route to salvation is through Jesus Christ the son of God, which means that all other faiths must be wrong and their follower's second class and indeed heretics. By comparison both Islam and Hinduism were at this time, welcoming and interested in other faiths. Islamic rulers generally allowed non Muslims to live in peace in their territories. Even though English generated trade and much improved the gross trading position of the Indians, the English saw that all the value added goods were manufactured in England leaving the Indians the tasks of unskilled peasants. Indeed by 1853 India had lost its worldwide market for textiles and was actually importing cloth from England. Finally the Indians revolted, which commenced as a mutiny in the East India Company's army which was largely manned by locals controlled by "Victorian" British officers. The British officers failed to consider that the pig and cow fat used to lubricate the rifles might be religiously impossible to accept for Muslims and Hindus soldiers. A bitter revolt lasted 14 months and when finally subdued the government in London decided to end the long period of rule by the East India Company and administration was taken over by the British Crown in London.
- 1857-1947 Queen Victoria was enthroned as Empress of India in 1877 by the British of course. However Queen Victoria never visited India. By 1885 the Indians were sufficiently fed up with British rule and confident in their own abilities to set up their own Indian National Congress. However independence was not gained until 1947, after the Second World War. Then the English were no longer in a military, financial or mental position to resist the pressures from India for independence and all military forces "East of Suez" were withdrawn. During the previous 150 years the English rulers had tried to europeanise the Indian society with Christian values and Victorian bureaucracy. At least there was relative peace between Hindus and Muslims but the overall benefit to India in general is very questionable but the benefits to England were considerable. The British Indian Army manned mainly by Indians, defended all British interests from East Africa to China. This was particularly important in the Second World War not against the Germans but the Japanese who marched into many British territories east of India. (Burma, Singapore, Malay etc) Of particular interest to the Japanese was the oil and rubber production in Burma and Malay. The British centre for Burmese defence was Calcutta. It was touch and go whether the Japanese who easily over ran Malay, Singapore and Burma reached India. After huge losses on both sides the British, with much help from the Indians, finally prevailed.
The influence of Christianity Christian influence prompted new thinking amongst Hindus rather than a conversion to Christianity. In 1820 Indian Hindu, Ram Mohan Roy founded Brahmo Samaj to develop Hindu worship towards a single God. Ram Roy spent much time in England where he finally died. In the same way the Indian Muslim Saiyid Khan formed Aligarh and intended to modernise Islam. After the end of the First World War 1918, when the English were seen by all Muslims as responsible for the downfall of the huge Islamic Ottoman Empire, Muslims in India persuaded their Hindu friends to commence the elimination of British rule in India. The British retained their authority by developing a repressive semi police state which only made matters worse.
- Gandhi-Indian Hindu 1869-1948 Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma) One of the best known names in any part of the world, Mahatma Gandhi led the push to get the British out of India by his peaceful policy of non-cooperation which largely meant non payment of taxes. When he was 20 he studied law in England and practiced initially in British South Africa defending the rights of Indian immigrants in that country. His vision for India without the British was for Muslims and Hindus to live peacefully together but in this he failed. When the English left there was an immediate Hindu-Muslim blood bath which resulted in the splitting of India into three, Muslim Pakistan in the west, Muslim Bangladesh in the east plus India. In the Second World War against the Japanese, the British only gained support from Gandhi and the Indian Army by promising that the British would give India back to the Indians at the end of the war. In 1948 Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu fundamentalist for letting down the Hindu people. Likewise Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi, daughter of Mahatma Gandhi's political partner Jawaharlal Nehru was assassinated in 1984 by a Sikh member of her bodyguard. The Sikhs were angry that she had promised them their own land in the Punjab and not delivered. Her Prime Minister son Rajiv Gandhi was also assassinated by religious extremists.
Today India, compared with almost 100% Muslim Pakistan and Bangladesh, has about 200 million Muslims plus 800 million Hindus and 10 million Sikhs. That is the Muslim population of India is greater than either of its two Muslim neighbours which were created to be Islamic states. Not surprisingly tension between India and Pakistan has always been high and is now of some concern to the rest of the world, as both are Nuclear powers. A solution is now very difficult because of heightened rivalries between the more fundamental Hindu and Muslim sects, together with the disputed border territories of Sikh Punjab and mountainous Kashmir. Pakistan was early in aligning with USA and likewise India chose Russia. The fall of Soviet power made the Indians all the more nervous.
England commenced its Empire outside Europe some 500 years ago, not with the intention of making one but purely for trade. The secret of power was the navy and Jewish money. All parts of the Empire were exploited rather than nurtured and helped the supply of cheap raw materials for England's industrial revolution. Exploitation fuelled revolt and the American War of Independence quickly followed by the French Revolution some 200 years ago gave the message to all colonialised territories that home rule could and should be regained. The Commonwealth is all that remains of the Empire and this does not include USA or Ireland but still includes Canada, Australia and New Zealand. All three countries had very backward almost stone age inhabitants prior to the English flooding the countries with white skinned like minded immigrants. These three countries have their differences with England of course but all share an astonishing rapport manifest in hard work, a sense of time, jokes, drinking parties and sport plus a culture influenced by Protestant Christianity. (French Canadians do not fit so tightly in this brotherhood quite obviously)