(Sample Material) UPSC Mains General Studies: Paper 1 - "History Of World (Part-2)"

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Subject: General Studies (Paper 1 - Indian Heritage and Culture, History & Geography of the World & Society)

Topic: History Of World (Part-2)


Impact of Colonial Rule in South Asia

British colonial rule developed racial characteristics. Lord Macaulay gave importance to the British system of education in preference to the native system by arguing “that English is better worth knowing thanSanskrit or Arabic”. His racist comments included: “a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia”. During the First War of Indian Independence (1857), the British despised Indian traditions and customs, displayed racial superiority in dealing with native soldiers, and did not give any credit to the Indian intellectuals. They believed in the dieory of “white man’s burden”. Lord Curzon extolled the virtues of British administration in India claiming that it was a divine blessing upon the natives.

Through western system of education, Indian students were exposed to the values and facets of western civilization, including their progress in science and technology. In course of time India witnessed the rise of the middle class which was well-versed in western literature. It imbibed western ideas of democracy and liberalism. Western education constituted “a major force in the acculturating South Asians to the values of the West” (Myron Weiner, Politics of South Asia).

The British administration created a new class of big landlords known as Zamindars. The Zamindars enjoyed some privileges in the rural parts of India, and they collected rent from poor farmers. In course of time the Zamindars became greedy, and made the lives of peasants miserable. The Zamindars demanded huge rents from poor farmers, but paid less to their British masters. They became staunch supporters of British rule in India. As a result of the revenue policy of the British, many marginal farmers became landless labourers after becoming indebted to the money lenders. They were employed by peasant proprietors to work in lands that earlier belonged to them. It is said that indebtedness of the farmers amounted to Rs. 900 crores according to the Central Banking Committee report. The nineteenth century India witnessed a number of famines in rural India. It took a heavy toll of lives, and the British were not adept at handling the crises. The worst famine in the history of India took place in Bengal (1943), killing approximately 7 million people due to starvation. Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen says that the famine was caused by inflation, and not due to food shortage. This situation exposed the ineptitude and inefficiency of the British Government in India. In the Pre-British era, village life happened to peaceful, and communities lived in harmony. The villages were self-sufficient and autonomous. This peaceful village life was disturbed and ruined with the advent of the British rule.

Prior to the British rule, India was reasonably prosperous, thanks to the enlightened native rulers. However, the British policies resulted in the destruction of village industries, resulting in large scale unemployment. All this was due to the introduction of free trade policy pursued by the British. The British administration took away all the raw materials from the villagers in order to cater to the needs of the British mill owners. Sometimes food grains were exported to feed the British while Indians were left starving. Due to the free trade policy, the British-manufactured goods were dumped into India. Indian manufacturers could not get enough protection for their products from foreign competition. Thus the free trade policy worked in favour of the British manufacturers and led to destruction of the village handicrafts. The British rulers were afraid of starting major industries in India in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for fear of competition.

This lack of industrialisation in India coupled with the destruction of the village handicraft caused widespread poverty. Dadabhai Naoroji was the first to point out the causes of widespread poverty in his book, Poverty and Un-British Rule in India (1901). The British rulers realized their serious mistake after the outbreak of the First World War. India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) provided huge markets for British products. India also exported tea, cotton and jute while Ceylon sent coconuts, tea, coffee and rubber. Due to economic exploitation of India for more than 170 years, Britain grew into a prosperous country.

Growth of Communalism

Prior to the British rule, there existed relative communal harmony both in India and Ceylon. With the advent of British rule, the policy of Divide and Rule gained momentum. It was not only confined to political aspects, but also cause communal disharmony in a pluralistic society. Inter-caste and inter-religious conflicts increased. For example, the British began to identify people by their religion, caste and language, and mentioned all these in their gazetteers. They created separate electorates for the Muslims to appease them. Their policy of appeasement encouraged the Muslims to demand a separate state. On a positive note though, one could say that the British rule brought about the unification of the country through a large railway network, maintained law and order by means of efficient civil service (“steel-frame”), and imparted English education.

Burma (Myanmar)

Introduction (Geographical Setting)

The term, Southeast Asia, refers to countries, south of China bound by two oceans, the Indian and the Pacific. In other words, it includes two geographical regions, namely the mainland nations such as Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia (Kampuchea) and Vietnam, and the insular nations such as Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. The factors that are common to most of these nations are the tropical monsoons (south­west and north-east) and rice production through irrigation agriculture. The rivers which flow in the mainland are the Irrawaddy, the Chindwin and the Salween in Burma; Chao Phraya in Thailand, the Red River (Song Koi) and Black River (Song Bo) in Vietnam. The Mekong River passes through Laos, Thailand, Kampuchea and South Vietnam. These rivers bring alluvial soil and form deltas. These deltas in Lower Burma, Central Thailand, Kampuchea and Central Vietnam attracted immigrants in search of food and shelter from the northern parts since centuries ago. A long time ago, people migrated from southern China and eastern Tibet to these regions, and these migrations had been continuous. For example, the Malays ^ame from the southern part of China during the earliest phase of history. Racially the mainland countries belong to the Mongoloid groups. The Southeast Asian countries had come under Sino-Indian influence since a long time. Their national cultures became more apparent from the sixteenth century AD with the advent of Islam and the Europeans.

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