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A Brief History of Modern India Summary

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A Brief History of Modern India PDF SummaryThe problem with Indian history is the scope which stretches way back from the earliest form of civilization and first settlements.

The culture is so diversified and unique that almost all individuals who seek a higher meaning to life want to go in-depth in terms of India’s mindset.

Don’t take our word for it, and just take a glimpse into their cultural arc.

Who Should Read “A Brief History of Modern India”? And Why?

Usually, we would say that this book is best suited for Indians eager to dig up their history, but that’s not the case. This book is enriched with facts that almost any person regardless of its origins and background will find it highly amusing.

In other words, “A Brief History of Modern India” is an extensive book that can quench the thirst of all knowledge seekers regarding India’s transformation.

Check it out.

“A Brief History of Modern India PDF Summary”

European Power Struggle for India

Upon discovering the sea route to India in 1498, the world started to change at an alarming speed. 50 years earlier, when Constantinople fell under the weight of the Ottoman sword, the Europeans were compelled to fulfill the imperialistic ideas elsewhere.

As the economy began to recover, the demand for luxurious goods grew dramatically. The Spanish and Portuguese led by Vasco da Gama planned a joint venture to establish trading posts in India and did just that in 1502.

Over time, the Portuguese and Spanish influence in India was fading away, as they turned over to other lucrative opportunities like Latin America. The author outlines several reasons that fueled the collapse of the Portuguese Supremacy in India:

  • Corruption, greed and destructive policies
  • British and Dutch influence in the region
  • The rise of many Indian empires

In the 17th century, the Dutch couldn’t withstand the pressure from the British for much longer and shifted its attention toward the Malay Archipelago.

The French history in India is linked to war and struggle for influence. Due to exercising their dominance and expansion of commercial interest in the South of India, Europe was plunged into bloodshed.

The three Carnatic Wars (1740 – 48) (1749 – 54) (1758 – 63), weakened the French influence in India and a Treaty was signed between France and England. They were allowed to use Indian Settlements for trading to safeguard their commercial interests, but nothing more.

Queen Elizabeth I, formed the East British Company in 1600 and gave it a full monopoly over the trade in India. After the victory against the Portuguese, the British established their first factory in 1613 at Surat. The company managed to maintain its status up until 1858 when it was dissolved.

The Expansion of British Influence and Collapse

At the height of its power, The British Empire controlled or had interests in many parts of the world. The Europeans wanted to split India into areas of influence, which they would manage, but that wasn’t the only factor for India’s demise. The ineptitude displayed through ineffective succession plan led to many wars and further decentralization of India.

According to the author, the leading cause of the collapse of the Mughal Empire was the disintegration caused by a wide array of factors.

Indeed, India’s large territory and the fact that the power was vested in the monarch induced chaos and ineptitude on a colossal scale. Law-enforcement and governing were nearly impossible, a situation that only encouraged Durrani and Irani kingdoms to attack its borders.

The predicament stimulated by continues conflicts, agricultural stagnation, economic malaise was a recipe for destruction. The royal treasury ran out of resources to vitalize the economy, and thus the state policies were a fizzle.

The peasants were forced to work for a bare minimum while helping the Imperialist Powerhouse by producing sugar, wheat, rice, cotton, pepper, opium, spices, dried fruits, coffee, porcelain, pearls, tea, silk, etc. Although many industries flourished under the guidance of the British Empire, the profits went straight back to Britain.

In the absence of education, basic schooling in technology, science, philosophy and other branches, the Indian plight was only extended. Hindus and Muslims were divided based on their status, influence, and tribe with regards to the British’s outlook of the region.

In order to get an aerial perspective of what was going on in India at the time, you have to understand the overall British strength displayed through:

  • National Pride
  • Military Superiority in Both Weaponry and Discipline  
  • Civil and Trade Discipline
  • Harsh but Exceptional Leadership  
  • Financial Support

This is not another scrutinization, but a real perspective on what gave them the edge to conduct the embezzlement. The battle of Plassey in 1757 laid the foundation for British dominance in India. Robert Clive (Major-General) presided over a greater and stronger military organization and defeated Siraj-ud-daula, including the armies of Nawab of Bengal, Nawab of Awadh and the Mughal at Buxar in 1764.

After finishing off the Mysore and Marathas by 1819, it was already safe to say that India was a part of the mighty British Empire. Although other wars and conflicts followed such as the Anglo-Sikh War, the real threat to their sovereignty emerged with Gandhism and other figures of the national movement.

The backlash against Britain rule hastened in the 19th century. The considerable income disparity permeated every aspect of the struggle an ordinary Indian faced in its lifetime.

Peasant and Tribal movements rose to the surface, demanding better rights, lesser cruelty and sometimes bigger autonomy. Nonetheless, the 1857 revolt which put an end to British East India Company marked the beginning of the liberation stage.

The riot was caused as a consequence of the policies imposed by the Company. Taxation of the low class became an unbearable burden followed by higher tariffs for Indian products, summary evictions, and other discriminatory policies.

The British added insult to an injury by destroying India’s most valuable industries that the peasants, artisans, craftsmen, and small zamindars relied upon. It was evident that British politics gravitated toward socio-religious interference, among other things.  

Sepoys (Indian soldiers serving under the British) also voiced their discontent due to the industrial, socio, and economic slump that hit the nation.

It resulted in a total abolition of the East India Company and returning the authority to the Queen in 1858. While the administration underwent massive modifications and the army was under a wave of reorganization, ethical tensions were on the rise.

The economic and sociological predicament galvanized the Indians into action. Rejuvenating the Indian society after so many wars wasn’t straightforward, but it was a process of utmost importance that had to be done.

The Movement of Reforms and Modernization

On the ground that Indians could no longer cope with obscurantism, polytheism, superstition, idolatry, degraded status for both men and women, the need for changes cropped up. Their position rendered the demands impossible, therefore, only an organized protest could salvage the situation.

No country up to that point could have easily escaped the British hegemony and slipped from its grasp. What caused this outrageous call for changes, was the lack of education and opportunities for the average Indian.

The impact of Western culture infiltrated their society and endangered the national pride. As a result, the idea of democracy and nationalism came into play during the late 19th century.

The Positive Aspects of the Movements

  • Liberating the oppressed and tackling the fearful mindset.
  • Worship became a personal affair.
  • Restoring the cultural pride to the middle class, earning self-respect and abandoning the feeling of humiliation.
  • Introducing the secular agenda
  • Fostering modernization by exploiting the social environment
  • Putting an end to India’s cultural, economic, and intellectual isolation.

The Negative Aspects of the Movements

  • Limited social reach
  • Instigating mysticism
  • Accentuating religious and philosophical while neglecting moral and secular ones.
  • Hindus lavish praises upon the ancient Indian culture, while Muslims bestow blessings upon the medieval period, thus creating two separate disintegrated nations.

Gandhism and Independence

Gandhi’s activism and influence spread far beyond the scope of Indian history. His methods and non-violence protests became a worldwide sensation and attracted wide publicity.

During his stay in South Africa, Gandhi presided over the Natal Indian Congress, and founded “Indian Opinion.” He publicly opposed the restrictions imposed on Indian migration, and many other policies that induced racial hatred.

In the meantime, he established his rhetoric and became hailed as a great leader and political figure. Also, Gandhi managed to polish up his techniques of opposition by gathering influential people and leading the civil-rights movement.

Gandhi’s early activism in India didn’t get off on the right foot, but it laid the groundwork for the creation of a united and independent state. He was involved in the following protests:

  • Champaran Satyagraha (1917)—First Civil Disobedience.
  • Ahmedabad Mill Strike (1918)—First Hunger Strike.
  • Kheda Satyagraha (1918)—First Non-Cooperation.
  • Rowlatt Satyagraha (1918)—First mass-strike.
  • Jallianwala Bagh Massacre and the Inquiry Committee

The aftermath of WW2 was intertwined with the Anti-Imperialist movement raging throughout Asia and Africa. The last two years of British Rule in India were followed by a series of demands and by 1946 it seemed inevitable that Britain is losing its power in India.

The demoralization among bureaucracy and the loyalist only hastened the downfall. On February 20th, 1947, the British House of Commons declared that Britain would be leaving India. Prior to the announcement, the Congress rejected the possibility of Partition or the creation of a self-governing Muslim state (modern day Pakistan).

During the tensions, it’s been reported that many Muslims moved to West Pakistan for fear of violence and many Hindus and Sikhs fled their homes for the same reason. Jinnah was transformed into the voice of all Indian Muslims, and his demands ultimately changed the Cabinet Mission plan.

With the Partition, Pakistan was recognized as a sovereign state on 14th of August, 1947, while India declared its independence a day later. Although many believed that the Partition would allay the fears and alleviate the tensions, the dispute continues between these neighboring nations.

The Indian National Congress won the first general elections in 1952 and remained the leading political force in India up until 1977 when the Janata coalition seized control.

Key Lessons from “A Brief History of Modern India”

1.      Understand your enemy
2.      Never end the fight
3.      Strive for broadness

Understand your enemy

For centuries India has been a battleground for material-thirsty conquerors who plundered the people. By reading the mind of the enemy, you’ll be able to stand your ground and preserve your status.

Not many can discern positives from this strategy, but it’s the same that drawn Sun Tzu into battle.

Never end the fight

It’s been a long time since India gained its independence, but the sequence of reforms must go on. The fight for sovereignty represents the foundation that should be used for further economic and social improvements.

Play wisely and move with eagerness to alleviate the plight of those who struggle to make a living.

Strive for broadness

If there’s one thing we learned from India’s cultural diversity is the freedom permeating the air.

The very embodiment of freedom is expressed through tolerance and broadness; something that India espouses wholeheartedly.

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“A Brief History of Modern India Quotes”

Although limited in its objectives, the Landholders’ Society marked the beginning of an organized political activity and use of methods of constitutional agitation for the redressal of grievances. Click To Tweet The Indian National Congress represented the urge of the politically conscious Indians to set up a national body to express the political and economic demands of the Indians. If the Indians had convened such a body on their own. Click To Tweet The offer of Cripps really gave us nothing. If we accepted his offer, we might have cause to rue it in future. In case the British went back on their word, we should not even have the justification for launching a fresh struggle. War had… Click To Tweet Our time in India is limited and our power to control events almost gone. We have only prestige and the previous momentum to trade on, and these will not last long. – Lord Wavell (October 1946) Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

For centuries various nations and cultures have been keen to conquer India due to its resource-rich status and geography.

Gaining independence was just a phase one because the struggle unfolds to this very day. India is in full swing in terms of technology and progress; let’s see what will happen in years to come.

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