The Shifting of Imperial Power and its Effects on the Indian Rebellion of 1857
HST198: World History Since 1500
March 18th, 2014
The Shifting of Imperial Power and its effects on the Indian Rebellion of 1857 Before the British Empire even set a foot in India, there was a thriving civilization known as Hindustan that occupied the area. As mentioned in the lectures by Dr. Cayton, the Mughal people were powerful people of Islamic faith who swept into this region in the late 1400s and early 1500s and began to implement their ruling system over the people of Hindustan, and grew wealthy off of the labor and resources of the Natives.1 However, it is the specific ways the Mughal Empire exercised this power that made them so successful in governing this area. It is the observation and imitation of this power system that allows the British Empire to slowly assert and expand their rule over India later in the 1700s. Therefore, it is due to these power changes and shifts from the traditional power structure of the Mughal Empire to that of a strict, Imperialistic British Empire, that resentment of foreign occupation by the Native peoples of India grew strong enough to warrant a rebellion on their part against the British occupiers in the mid-1800s.
When the Mughal Empire conquered the Hindustan peoples in the late 1400s, a man by the name of Babur was at the head of the Mughal Empire.2 However, as Babur entered the scene he did not oppress the peoples of Hindustan or impose strict laws demanding the assimilation of their culture to that of the Mughal people, and neither did his successors. In addition, as noted in lecture, his later successors such as, Akbar, who worked to expand the territory of the domain, decided that the best form of power to ensure the cooperation of the conquered peoples was that which let them govern themselves for the most part.3
Although the Empire built up impressive displays of Islamic and Mughal might such as the various Mosques and architectural works of art such as the Taj Mahal, they did not force their religious beliefs on the Hindustan people, but allowed them to continue their practice of their Hindu religion and cultural customs.4 Furthermore, Mughal leadership put Native, non-Muslim officials, called Zamindars, in certain domains of power in order to increase the cooperation of the native peoples for the wealth of the Mughal Empire and its leaders.5 This system of power encouraged the cooperation of the natives, which helped expand the wealth of the Mughal Empire that began to attract the eyes of other wealthy empires such as the British Empire.
At first the British did not come as weapon-wielding conquers of the Mughals. It was only through the permission granted by the Nawahs and Maharajas, who were, as cited in lecture, Mughal and Indian Princes respectively, that the British were allowed to build trading posts and factories in the Empire.6 The rulers of the Mughal Empire saw this as a beneficial trading relationship in which both empires could work together to bring wealth to their countries. Overtime the British presence began to grow in India, and the development of the powerful East India Company helped give an even stronger economic foothold for the British in America.7 However, the relationships were not hostile between the British and the people of the Mughal Empire, nor with the natives of India. In fact, the image from the Lecture of Kelsey Snyder, is of a painting that depicts this specific time period in history in which there is a typical Mughal parade taking place and all of the natives are armed with British Muskets.8 The syncretism shows the harmony of the cultures, and the willingness of the British to arm these people depicts the imitation of the Mughal exertion of power, or rather the allowance of certain freedoms and tolerance of Native peoples to derive the cooperation of the natives.
However, as the British...
Bibliography: Cayton, Andrew. “Textile and Trade in South Asia.” Lecture, History 198: World History
Since 1500 from Miami University, Oxford, OH, February 27, 2014.
Cayton, Andrew. “The British Empire After the American Revolution.” Lecture, History
198: World History Since 1500 from Miami University, Oxford, OH, March 11, 2014.
Cayton, Andrew. “The Emergence of British Influence in South Asia.” Lecture, History
198: World History Since 1500 from Miami University, Oxford, OH, March 6, 2014.
Cayton, Andrew. “ ‘British India’ to the Rebellion of 1857.” Lecture, History 198: World
History Since 1500 from Miami University, Oxford, OH, March 6, 2014.
Cayton, Andrew. “The Mughal Empire.” Lecture, History 198: World History Since 1500
from Miami University, Oxford, OH, February 25, 2014.
Farrell, J. G. The Siege of Krishnapur. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974.
Snyder, Kelsey. “Early-British India.” Lecture, History 198: Section EA/FA World
History Since 1500 from Miami University, Oxford, OH, February 28, 2014.
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