Essay Biological: British Raj and East India Company

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A Timeline of India in the 1800s
The British Raj Defined India Throughout the 1800s

By Robert McNamara
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The British East India Company arrived in India in the early 1600s, struggling and nearly begging for the right to trade and do business. By the late 1700s the thriving firm of British merchants, backed by its own army, was essentially ruling India.
In the 1800s English power expanded in India, as it would until the mutinies of 1857-58. After those very violent spasms things would change, yet Britain was still in control. And India was very much an outpost of the mighty British Empire.

1600s: The British East India Company Arrived
After several attempts to open trade with a powerful ruler of India failed in the earliest years of the 1600s, King James I of England sent a personal envoy, Sir Thomas Roe, to the court of the Mogul emperor Jahangir in 1614.

The emperor was incredibly wealthy and lived in an opulent palace. And he was not interested in trade with Britain as he couldn't imagine the British had anything he wanted.

Roe, recognizing that other approaches had been too subservient, was deliberately difficult to deal with at first. He correctly sensed that earlier envoys, by being too accommodating, had not gained the emperor's respect. Roe's stratagem worked, and the East India Company was able to establish operations in India.

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1600s: The Mogul Empire at Its Peak
Taj Mahal Stereoview
Library of Congress
The Mogul Empire had been established in India in the early 1500s, when a chieftain named Babur invaded India from Afghanistan. The Moguls (or Mughals) conquered most of northern India, and by the time the British arrived the Mogul Empire was immensely powerful.

One of the most influential Mogul emperors was Jahangir's son Shah Jahan, who ruled from 1628 to 1658. He expanded the empire and accumulated enormous treasure, and made Islam the official religion. When his wife died he had the Taj Mahal built as a tomb for her.

The Moguls took great pride in being patrons of the arts, and painting, literature, and architecture flourished under their rule.

1700s: Britain Established Dominance
The Mogul Empire was in a state of collapse by the 1720s. Other European powers were competing for control in India, and sought alliances with the shaky states that inherited the Mogul territories.

The East India Company established its own army in India, which was composed of British troops as well as native soldiers called sepoys.

The British interests in India, under the leadership of Robert Clive, gained military victories from the 1740s onward, and with the Battle of Plassey in 1757 were able to establish dominance.

The East India Company gradually strengthened its hold, even instituting a court system. British citizens began building an "Anglo-Indian" society within India, and English customs were adapted to the climate of India.

1800s: "The Raj" Entered the Language
Elephant Fight
Pelham Richardson Publishers, circa 1850/now in public domain
The British rule in India became known as "The Raj," which was derived from the Sanskrit term raja meaning king. The term did not have official meaning until after 1858, but it was in popular usage many years before that.

Incidentally, a number of other terms came into English usage during The Raj: bangle, dungaree, khaki, pundit, seersucker, jodhpurs, cushy, pajamas, and many more.