The British ruled over India for nearly 190 years (1757-1947). It had a far-reaching impact on Indian society.
An important effect of the British rule was the emergence of new social classes in India, such as the new landlords class, the middle class, the working class, the industrialists, the professional people and the landless peasants.
In the early period, some British administrators, through social legislations tried to reform the Indian society of its ills like the Sati, the low status of women and the child infanticide.
The western or modern educational system was introduced in India. Though this step was undertaken to train the Indian for clerical and other low jobs, it brought the people in close contact with the modern ideas of nationalism and democracy.
Political Impact of the British Rule:
The British established their rule in India during the 18th and 19th centuries. The British rule had the following impact on the political system of the country-
Political Unity- India was lacking political unity. Before the British, India was divided into a number of small and big states fighting against one another. The British gave her political unity and made her a single political and administrative unit.
Organized Indian Civil Service- Though the British organized the Indian Civil Service yet they deprived the Indian people of seeking higher jobs.
Equality before Law- According to the legal British system, the same law applied to all Indian persons regardless of caste, creed or religion. There were separate laws and courts for the Europeans.
Policy of Divide and Rule- To prolong their rule, the British adopted the policy of divide and rule. This brought conflicts among the princes and the people; provinces against provinces; caste against caste and Hindus against the Muslims. It created social disunity.
Economic Impact of the British Rule:
The British rulers did not introduce a uniform system throughout the country. For example- the permanent Settlement of Land Revenue was introduced in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Mahalwari System was prevalent in Northern India and Punjab, while the Ryotwari System was introduced in South-Western India. It was done only with the aim that the British wanted to collect more and more revenue and send most of it to their native country i.e. England. This policy had a very bad effect on the condition of peasants. This effect can be stated as under-
To meet the increasing demand for raw-material mostly the cash crops like tobacco, tea, coffee, jute and indigo, began to be grown in India. It destroyed the self-sufficiency of the village farmers.
The right of land ownership created a big class of rich landlords. These new landlords greatly exploited the farmers. As a result, the condition of the farmers became very miserable.
The rates of the land-revenue were too high to be paid by the farmers. The result was that the farmers became very poor and they fell prey to the money-lenders.
Due to non-payment of the land revenue in time, the poor farmers found to mortgage their land. Thus, the land passed into the hands of big Zamindars and the farmers became landless.
As a result of the economic policies of the British Government, the small-scale and cottage industries of India were completely destroyed. The result was that the farmers who earned a part of their income from these industries now became dependent only on agriculture.