In the last session we have seen about arrival of Europeans to India in brief, and this session is a continuation to the earlier one.
Here we are going to see about the permanent settlement and how the remaining powers in India has been defeated by the English East India Company.
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The permanent settlement.
Cornwallis’s greatest achievement in India was the reorganization of the land taxation, known as the Permanent Settlement of 1793. Agricultural land in Bengal was cultivated by a large number of small farmers, who paid rent to a group of zamindars (landowners). Under the Mughals, the government had collected taxes from the zamindars. The East India Company, however, had tried to set aside the zamindars, and collect land taxes either directly through company officials, or through revenue-farmers, who collected the rent from peasants and paid a lump sum to the government. The new system led to widespread corruption, and the peasants suffered severely. Cornwallis decided to go back to the old Mughal system.
He granted legal ownership of their land to the zamindars. In return, they had to pay the government 90 per cent of the rent which they collected from the farmers. These arrangements were to last for ever, hence it is known as “permanent settlement.”
The immediate effects of the permanent settlement were not good. In 1769 Bengal was devastated by a terrible scarcity. A large number of rural people died from starvation or fled away from the countryside. As a result, zamindars found it difficult to collect rent from such ruined farmers. Many of them were unable to pay their fixed taxes, and sold their estates. It was not until the beginning of the 1800’s, when the population began to increase once again and land which had gone out of cultivation was brought back under the plough, that the great Bengal zamindars again became prosperous.
The permanent settlement, however, was not extended to the territories later conquered by the East India Company. In Madras Presidency, under the guidance of Thomas Munroe (who later became the governor of Madras), revenue was collected directly from the ryots (peasants) and the system was known as ryotwari. The North Western Provinces (part of present-day Uttar Pradesh) adopted mahalwari settlement, in which the headman of the village collected revenue from individual landholders and remitted the collection to the state. In all the taxation systems, the peasants had to give up a major part of their produce, which led to a series of revolts during the rule of the East India Company.
British territorial expansion. After the conquest of Bengal in 1757, British political influence and territorial control expanded rapidly. The two major Indian powers who challenged the British expansionist plans were Tipu Sultan, the nawab of Mysore, and the Marathas. Tipu Sultan was conscious of European advances in science and technology. He sent a mission to France seeking political alliance and scientific collaboration. He also modernized his state and raised an efficient army. The British regarded him a dangerous enemy, particularly because he was striving to form a confederacy of all major Indian powers against the British. Tipu did not succeed in his efforts. He was killed in the battle of Srirangapatnam (1799).
The Marathas were still a formidable power, with their territorial and political influence extending over western and northern India. Several small Indian principalities accepted their overlordship. Even the Mughal emperor, who by the end of the 1700’s had lost all authority, had sought their protection. Lord Wellesley, governor general from 1798 to 1805, waged two wars against them, in 1798-1800 and 1803-1805, and annexed a major part of their territory. The Marathas were finally defeated in 1818 by Lord Hastings.
Thereafter there was no major military power in India, except the Sikhs in Punjab, who were also brought under British rule in 1848. By the middle of the 1800’s, the whole of India had come under British rule. However, the entire territory was not directly administered by the British. A large area was ruled by Indian princes like the nizam of Hyderabad and the rajas of Travancore, Baroda, and Rajputana.
With this we have come to the end of the session.
We have seen the brief overlook of Europeans arrival, how they expanded their presence and how they played wise politics between Indian rulers to get the whole of India under their rule.