The British Empire's Role At The Beginning Of Globalization

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According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, also known as the OECD, globalization is the geographic dispersion of industrial and service activities, for example, research and development, sourcing of inputs, production and distribution, and the cross-border networking of companies, for example through joint ventures and the sharing of assets. Again, according to Peterson Institute for International Economics, globalization is the word that is used to describe the growing interdependence of the world’s economies, cultures, and populations, which is brought about by not only cross-border trade in goods and services, technology but also flows of investment, people and information. Over the centuries, countries have built economic partnerships to facilitate these movements. Now coming back to the starting of the British Empire; Britain had been trading in India since about 1600. However, it did not begin to seize large sections of the land until 1757, that is, after the Battle of Plassey. The East India Company, which was established by the British Empire in India, was primarily interested in trading cotton, silk, tea, and opium. However, after the Battle of Plassey, it functioned as the military authority in growing sections of India as well. The British were expanding their economic power, for which they were getting more colonies, that, as a result helped to make the flow of goods easier. They could monopolize the market with spice and tea. They tried with primary industries. Then moved onto military hardware. Globalization, as it seen is nothing new. Previously in the 17th century the British Empire also played their hand in Globalization. It basically started conquering lands and colonizing other people’s resources to boost their own economic power. And boosting the economic power they could create well-crafted, safer trade routes and ensuring that there is a constant flow of goods and services throughout the world. The British tended to globalize the market system by bringing all of the lands under their control so that they could trade with other parts of the land easier and also with other countries as well. Moreover, it was not just the British who were vying for India, there was the French and the Portuguese. But the British basically started at the heart of the empire, starting from East Bengal where they had ended up controlling the spice market. And from the spice market little by little they actually marched on to other frontiers of India and later on they would capture other industries such as cotton, wool, porcelain. The entire Asian subcontinent was divided amongst colonial powers. India was conquered by the British, parts of Malaysia, Indonesia were divided between the Dutch and the British, because each country wanted to globalize the market, they wanted to get their hands on the resources and they wanted to colonize people. And by colonizing people they could make sure that they alone could reap the benefits out of these goods. This created a rift with the colonial people which continues to this day.

When we look back at its background, the East India Company was created in 1600 for trading purposes with India, which at the time accounted for more than a quarter of all of the trade in the world. The company soon realized, however, that its ambitions would be better served with a permanent presence in the country. And from then on, the trade took off. As the company grew prosperous, the people began dreaming of expanding their territory and found little opposition. As I have already mentioned, Britain had been trading in India since about 1600, but it did not begin to seize large sections of land until 1757, after the Battle of Plassey. This battle took place with 3,000 soldiers on the side of the British East India Company against the 5,000-strong army of the young Nawab of Bengal, Siraj ud Daulah and his French East India Company allies. Fighting started on the morning of June 23rd, 1757. Heavy rain spoiled the Nawab’s cannon powder, whereas the British were ab le to cover theirs, leading to his defeat. The Nawab lost at least 500 troops, while Britain lost only 22 of theirs. Britain seized the modern equivalent of about $5 million from the Bengali treasury and used it to finance their further expansion. The East India Company was primarily interested in trading cotton, silk, tea, and opium, but following the Battle of Plassey, it functioned as the military authority in growing sections of India as well. By 1770, heavy Company taxation and other policies had left millions of Bengalis in a very poor state. While British soldiers and traders made fortunes, the Indians had starved. Between 1770 and 1773, about 10 million people, which is one-third of the population, died of famine in Bengal. At this time, Indians were also barred from holding high office in their own land. The British considered them inherently corrupt and untrustworthy. Moreover, the British desire to end their dependence on Chinese tea made them to set up tea plantations in India. After many failed attempts, they managed to find a local version that worked. For this, the British teared down vast forests, stripped the tribal, the ones who lived there, of their rights, and paid the Indian laborers poorly to cultivate those cleared areas. Once the tea was ready, it was immediately shipped off to Britain or sold internationally.

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While analyzing the first 10 years of the British Empire and the role it had played in the beginning of globalization, I came across two articles. One of them was by The Economic Times and the other one was by The Guardian, and both of the articles were about a book written by India Congress leader, Shashi Tharoor, named, Inglorious Empire. According to the article by The Guardian, a poll in 2014 in UK found that 59% of people thought that the British empire, the colonization, was something to be proud of and nearly half of them believed countries were better off for having been colonized. However, I agree with the author, Tharoor, on the fact that it was a gruesome crime to subjugate the Indian people and any positives that they believed were mere by-products of actions not intended to benefit Indians. By reading history, I got to know that pre-colonial India was not at all a backward society, but a wealthy, commercializing one with a highly developed banking system. Britain, the author argued, systematically looted his country for some 200 years. By the end of the 19th century India had become Britain’s biggest source of revenue. In the pre-colonial era, India’s share of the world economy at the start of the 18th century was 23%. When Britain left it was around 3%. Again, in The Economic Times, Tharoor also said that back then India was the world leader in at least three industries, that are, textiles, steel and shipbuilding. A country that had everything, but after 200 years of exploitation, expropriation and clean outright looting, and by the time the British had left, which was in 1947, the country was reduced to one of the poorest countries in the world. Moreover, detailing various aspects of British rule and its impacts in the country, Tharoor said that the Hindu-Muslim division and the growth of caste system were examples of one of the many unusual things that the British Empire left behind, whose consequences haunts the country even today. He added that, we all know the examples that the Hindu-Muslim divide was actively and deliberately sought to be propagated, promoted and even financed as a deliberate imperial policy of divide and rule by the British. However, some part of me do believe that the British Empire did leave with some sort of development to the Indian subcontinent, such as, introducing the subcontinent to the entire world, making well-crafted, safer trade routes, developing the trains, education system (which has been followed by the Indian subcontinent ever since), opening up to the world and so on.

To conclude, I believe, British colonialism, till this day has had it repels effects all over India and today India does not exist as a British . It has been split into 3 different parts and till this day its economy has been wretched because India has not had its an organic phase of growth and because British wretched all the industries, including cotton, wool, ceramics, porcelain, In fact, when the British left India, they left India and Pakistan being the poorest countries. And when Pakistan also caused the brink of Bangladesh. All these three countries, that is, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, remain one of the poorest countries in the world. Even though they are developing they are still poor compared to British standards.  


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