Humanities 210 MIC/WIC- Cora Agatucci
Cultures & Literatures of Asia

India Timeline 3 :
The British Raj
(late 17th - early 20th c.)

Asian Timelines Table of Contents Literary & Cultural History
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The timeline pages are under construction and probably always will be...

European Colonialism

18th c.
Rising competition leads to Western European wars of empire-building (5 major wars) in India and other parts of eastern Asia.
1661 British port and trading center established at Bombay.
1668 First French trading post and factory established at Surat.
1674 -1698 Calcutta established as the center of British activity in Bengal province, after forcibly suppressing native resistance begun in 1674.
1675 Sikh resistance to Moghuls intensifies after Emperor Aurangzeb executes Guru Teg Bahdur, the 9th Sikh Guru. (See Jigar Shah's 1993 article on Sikhism.)
1707 Emperor Aurangzeb, the "terrorist" Mughal, dies.
1712 Independent state of Hyderabad is established, one of many Muslim and Hindu states to emerge amid the rapid decline of Moghul centralized authority and political chaos in India.
18th c. The Marathas, non-Brahmin castes in the Maharashtra region, were notorious for their plundering raids, and many states paid them "protection money"—direct and indirect Maratha subjection of enough Indian territory justifies the concept of a "Maratha Empire," although their defeat in 1761 by Afghan Shah Durrani ended their expansion to the west, and soon after they fell to the British imperial power.
By 18th c. Parsi settlement concentrated in Bombay. (See image of a Parsi Woman, ca. 1860; Bombay, India, from the Bombay Center for Photography.)
Mid-18th c. Mughal Empire had disintegrated, after Delhi was plundered by the Muslim forces of Persian king Nadir Shah in 1739, and Delhi was again captured in 1756 by Ahmad Shah, emir of Afghanistan, who had previously seized the Punjab. A united of force of Marathas and Sikhs could not defeat the invaders, and the possibility of a reunification of Indian peoples into a strong national state dims. India thereafter came increasingly under domination by Great Britain.
1746-1748 French-British fighting intensified when a French fleet seizes Madras in 1746, but hostilities ended in stalemate and the French return Madras to the British in 1748. The French had also begun to operate in India in 1675, and threatened the growing power of the British East India Company
1756-1758 French and British war reopens in India, an extension of the European Seven Years' War. Robert Clive, employee of the British East India Co., distinguished himself in fight for control of Hyderabad and Carnatic. Clive’s important victory over the French at Plassey secured for Britain wins the main prize: control of commerce of India, and the British drove the French from trading stations. (See Coming of the Europeans, including photo from the "years of the [British] Raj.")
After 1764 British East India Co. controls Bengal, India’s most populous province, as well as important areas of the Deccan, and launches the British Empire in India. From favorable locations on coasts--esp. Madras, Bombay, Calcutta—the East India Company tapped interior resources of India's well-developed manufacturing economy, vast population, and solid agricultural base; British limit India's access to world trade with tariffs, command India's textile industry and export Indian gold. Neither the remains of the Mughal empire nor the Maratha confederacy was strong enough to resist increasing British power in India (see The English East India Company (EIC)).
1765 Mughul Emperor Shah Alam "grants" Dewani of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa to the British East India Company.


1770 - 1773 Venality, corruption of British "nabobs" exploited Indian peasants and artisans, caused the crisis of the Famine of Bengal, and prepared the way for the British East India Co. losing its private commercial status in 1772-1773, when it came under more direct control of the British government. Warren Hastings was appointed first Governor-General of British India in 1772. The British relied on superior military power, as well as bribery, extortion, political manipulation of native chieftains, and the disunity among various Indian kingdoms, to subjugate the entire subcontinent. (See also the English East India Company's China Trade, based on the company's monopoly in Indian opium obtained in 1773.)
The Western world's interest in The Bhagavad Gita began around the end of the eighteenth century when the first English translation of the Gita was published. All religious texts of ancient India were written in Sanskrit. In November 1784, the first direct translation of a Sanskrit work into English was completed by Charles Wilkins. The book that was translated was The Bhagavad Gita
(see e-text trans. Ramanand Prasad).. Friedreich Max Mueller (1823-1900), the German Sanskritist who spent most of his working life as Professor of Comparative Philology at Oxford University, served as the chief editor of the Sacred Books of the East. (Oxford University Press). The Gita was included in this famous collection (Soumen De, The Historical Context of The Bhagavad Gita and Its Relation to Indian Religious Doctrines )
1786 -90s British political reforms in India under Cornwallis: British East India Co. was made directly accountable to British gov't, which reduced power of local British administrations. However, the British crown still mistrusted and restricted Indian participation in governance. British East India Company retained indirect control of much of India, esp. through Indian princes dependent on the British for protection.


Deliberate imitations of Sanskrit lyric poems and meters, with highly Sanskritic vocabulary, were written by 18th-century pandita, or "learned" poets or court poets like those of the Telugu-speaking kingdom of Vijaynagar. Historical events were also recounted in 18th century Assamese and Marathi prose chronicles, ballads, and folk drama, with much song and dance.
1790 First Sanskrit grammar was published in Europe. After the 16th century, Western "discovery" of Sanskrit, Panini’s grammar, and methods of teaching it stimulated the establishment of philology and the science of comparative linguistics. Sanskrit writings made accessible to Western scholars influenced the study of comparative mythology, religion and jurisprudence.
18th century Urdu literature: Urdu spoken in the Dehli region, was written using Persian forms like the ghazal (essay by Abhay Avachat) for love poetry and an Islamic form of bhakti, the masnavi for narrative verse, and the marsiya for elegies. Wali, an Urdu poet, wrote in the Islamic kingdoms of the Deccan. Urdu was used as the literary language in Dehli and Lucknow, and the ghazals of Mir and Mirza Ghalib (1797-1869) marked the highest achievement of Urdu lyric verse. Urdu poets were mostly sophisticated, urban artists, but some writing especially in Punjabi, Pshtu, and Sindhi, adapted folk poetry idioms during this period.
After 1817: With British control of India came new literary influences and values, many of which remain dominant in India today. During the mid-19th century in the great ports of Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras, a prose literary tradition arose—encompassing the novel, short story, essay, and literary drama (this last incorporating both classical Sanskrit and Western models)—that gradually engulfed the customary Indian verse genres. The northern heartland of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh was the last to be affected by these new Western traditions; and because Muslims for the most part did not take advantage of the new education, Urdu writing preserved much of its integrity. Urdu poets remained faithful to the old forms and meters while Bengalis were imitating such English poets as Percy Bysshe Shelley in the 1840s or T. S. Eliot in the 1940s. In the process of Westernization, Bengali led the way, and today has one of the most extensive literatures of any Indian language.


Early 19th c. British social reforms in India spurred by Evangelicalism (esp. Methodism). Lord Bentinck as Governor-General (1828-1835) pushed for Western education; calling for end of banditry, human sacrifices, female infanticide, sati (widow’s self-immolation on husband’s funeral pyre); and for sweeping "westernization" of India and widespread infusion of Western technology
1835 Britain decided to give state support to English education in British India, with English adopted as the medium of instruction and the language of Indian law courts. The British used the educational system to create an indigenous elite of civil servants to help them administer the vast country. Hindus, Muslims, and other Indian peoples increasingly feared the loss of their cultural identity, as well as of political power. Educated Indians were exposed to Western ideas of democracy, individual freedom and equality, and later thinkers like Raja Rammohan Roy, Bankim Chandra, and Vidyasagar would help create the Indian National Congress in 1885 and crystalize the independence movement.
1845-1846 Sikhs of Punjab attacked British positions, starting a costly war. The Sikhs were one of many groups or individual states that resisted British exploitation, brutality, and territorial seizures at sporadic intervals. However, the Sikhs, like others, were defeated by the British colonialists, and the Punjab was annexed by the East India Company. Dalhousie’s annexationist policy, declaring Britain’s right to govern any Indian state where there was no natural heir to the throne, resulted in the annexation of several more Indian states upon the deaths of native rulers, and created deep hostilities among the Indian peoples.
1857 First British railway line constructed in India, joined the building of bridges, roads, irrigation systems, telegraph and postal services. Ironically the vast railroad network across the entire land stimulated ideas of unity among peoples of the subcontinent now within easier reach of each other.

The Indian Mutiny of 1857,
or The First War of Independence

The Sepoy "Mutiny" or Great Rebellion began in 1857 near Delhi, produced by general unrest and a large-scale conspiracy among sepoys, the native troops employed by the British East India Co. and who by the mid-19th century outnumbered the British 5-to-1. Many sepoys, like leaders Tantaya Tope and Jhansi Rani Lakshmi Bai, fought bravely, some convinced the British would force them to become Christians. Princely rulers, landed aristrocracy and peasantry alike allied against the British, rallying around the person of the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah. Many Indian heroes of epic proportions were produced by the Mutiny, despite its failure, and a sense of unity among Hindus, Muslims, and other groups was strengthened in their opposition to the common enemy, the British. (See The Indian Mutiny of 1857, or the First War of Independence.)
By 1858, the British had put down the "Mutiny" and restored order; one major result was the Act for the Better Government of India, which formally ended East India Co. rule and officially transferred administration of India and its commerce to the British crown. Bahadur Shah was deported to Burma in 1859, bringing a formal end to Mughal rule in India..
After 1858 Thereafter, India became the major springboard for British "gunboat diplomacy" overseas, while important fiscal, legal, educational, and social reforms, and public works, were enacted in British India. Yet the British government also inherited serious problems—poverty, resentment of colonial rule, and a growing spirit of Indian nationalism
1861 Birth of Rabindranath Tagore (see Rabindranath Tagore Home Page).
1869 Birth of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1869-1948 (Sanderson Beck).
1876-77 Queen Victoria declared Empress of India; universities at Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay are founded, spurring the growth of an educated, anglicized Indian class to support British rule. A period of technological growth and socio-religious reform followed, but so did racist policies, economic exploitation, and suppression of native Indian people’s rights.
From the introduction to The Aryan-Dravidian Controversy, by David Frawley: "The British ruled India, as they did other lands, by a divide-and-conquer strategy. They promoted religious, ethnic and cultural divisions among their colonies to keep them under control. Unfortunately some of these policies also entered into the intellectual realm. The same simplistic and divisive ideas that were used for interpreting the culture and history of India. Regrettably many Hindus have come to believe these ideas, even though a deeper examination reveals they may have no real objective or scientific basis. One of these ideas is that India is a land of two races - the lighter- skinned Aryans and the darker-skinned Dravidians - and that the Dravidians were the original inhabitants of India whom the invading Aryans conquered and dominated."
From The Myth of the Aryan Invasion of India, by David Fawley: " is important to examine the social and political implications of the Aryan invasion idea:

First, it served to divide India into a northern Aryan and southern Dravidian culture which were made hostile to each other. This kept the Hindus divided and is still a source of social tension.

Second, it gave the British an excuse in their conquest of India. They could claim to be doing only what the Aryan ancestors of the Hindus had previously done millennia ago [See India Timeline 1: Early India).

Third, it served to make Vedic culture later than and possibly derived from Middle Eastern cultures. With the proximity and relationship of the latter with the Bible and Christianity, this kept the Hindu religion as a sidelight to the development of religion and civilization to the West.

Fourth, it allowed the sciences of India to be given a Greek basis, as any Vedic basis was largely disqualified by the primitive nature of the Vedic culture.

Anti-Colonialism and Indian Nationalist Movements

Later 19th century Social and political ferment spread widely in India, stimulated by vigorous campaigns of the native press, mass meetings, and secret political organizations. Indian nationalist sentiment began to seriously threaten the British position in India, in the decades following the Sepoy Mutiny. Western-educated Hindus introduced European political doctrines and methods in support of growing anti-colonialist movements. (See The Freedom Struggle.)
1885 Indian National Congress was founded, one of many associations dedicated to the struggle against British rule. Many prominent Hindus and Muslims supported the Indian National Congress, and gradually heightened the political awareness of the masses and growing demands for national unification.
In the late 19th – early 20th centuries, Rabindranath Tagore (see biography with photo), celebrated poet and educator, made enduring contributions to the cause of Indian unity in the cultural "wars" against British colonialism. Tagore was born in 1861, during the British colonial era in India. Through lecturing in different countries, founding a school (later a university) in 1901, and writing on social and political themes, Tagore sought to impart a greater understanding between Western and Eastern philosophies, religions, and cultures. He wrote mostly in Bengali, but translated many of his own works into English..
See a sample of Tagore's handwriting, a poem was written by Tagore at the end of February 1921, as a letter to his friend W.W. Pearson. Tagore was visiting US at that time; and penned this poem/letter at his hotel room in Fort Worth, Texas. See also Rabindranath Tagore Home Page (Sandeep Mitra, SUNY Brockport), with a collection of Tagore's poetry.


Early 20th century: Global independence movements
sought independence with growing intensity from Western powers, economic domination & cultural imperialism

1904-1905 The Japanese victory in the Russo-Japanese war inspired colonized peoples with the example of an Asian power defeating a European power.
1905 The partition of Bengal instigates the Anti-Partition Movement. Assassinations and terrorist bombings by radical nationalists in Bengal and boycotts of British goods, led to British retaliation and special criminal laws instituted to deal with the crisis. The British concession of limited self-government in 1909 by the India Councils Act, failed to satisfy Indian demands for full independence.
1906 Muslim League was founded, with British support, diverting important sectors of Indian Muslims from unified support for the Indian National Congress and dividing the independence struggle.
1913 Rabindranath Tagore (1861- 1941) wins the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, "because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with comsummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West. " Tagore is the first non-Westerner to win the prize. He translated into English much of his own prose and verse. Read Tagore's Gitanjali: Song Offerings (1912), a collection of religious poems that especially arrested the attention of the selecting Nobel Prize critics. The full text of Gitanjali, including the introduction by W. B. Yeats (Sept. 1913), is available from Univ. of Virginia Library Electronic Text Center. Visit the 1997 Nobel Exhibition: Posters & Text on Alfred Nobel and the Nobel Prize in Literature, featuring Tagore in the exhibit World War I - Literary Neutralism.

India Timeline 1:  Early India (to CE 8th c.)
 India Timeline 2: Muslim & Mughal Empires (9th - early 18th c.)
India Timeline 3
TOP of this page The British Raj (late 17th - early 20th c.)
URL of this webpage:
India Timeline 4:
Independence of India & Pakistan (20th c.) & India Timelines Sources

Asian Timelines: India China Japan
  were first prepared by Cora Agatucci, in 1998. 
They are slowly being updated in Winter 2001.  Please bear with me.

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If you're interested in other world literatures and cultures, visit these course websites:
Hum 211 - Culture and Literature of Africa 
Eng 109 - Western World Literatures (late 18th-late 20th centuries)