Legacy of British Rule – UPSC GS1

Despite having negative influence on all aspects of India’s national life, the British also left behind few positive developments for India to consolidate and build a new nation state upon these developments. Critically examine the positive legacy of the British and their impact on post – Independent India. (200 Words)

British came as traders and became colonial masters. Their strategy to exploit India put many negative effects on us like draining of wealth, end of indigenous industries, communalization and ultimately partition. But as is the case in any interaction between two civilizations, the British had contributed positively to India in some ways and it cannot be said with certainty whether all of them were aimed towards development of India.
  1. They introduced the system of judiciary, supreme court and Criminal Procedure Code and Indian Penal code. Our modern judiciary is dependent on these statutes and the framework. In fact many nationalists of independence era used to be lawyers.
  2. Introduced bureaucracy and competitive exams for entrance with age limits. By 1947, many Indians had entered the covenanted Indian Civil Services and the structure was retained. Even today it is the steel frame of administration. The system of file, noting, drafting and Official Secrets Act are existing today. They however focused on revenue collection and maintenance of law and order but not welfare.
  3. Introduced modern Western education since Woods despatch. It introduced sciences and arts as subjects of study in a nation where religious texts held primacy. Engineering colleges and medical institutes were established. This was however done so as to have a class of Indians who were Indians in colour and blood but Englishmen in their tastes, ideals and morals so that they can man lower level posts in British administration.
  4. Many social ills were taken and reformed although much contribution was by Indian reformists. Examples are Sati, widow remarriage, etc.
  5. Introduced railways, telegraph and postal system. This was mainly to undersell Indian goods in india and enable better reach of British goods.
  6. We borrowed the idea of parliamentary democracy, legislative sovereignty and other features from their Westminster model. But during British, Indian participation was limited in legislatures due to limited franchise.
  7. Introduction of modern financial institutions of banking and life insurance, were largely based on foreign capital, though gradually Indian capital also made its way.
  8. Census, training and maintenance of a well-disciplined army, income tax, etc. are some other contributions.
Thus the development that occurred in India was to a very major extent result of political struggle against colonialism, rather than colonialism itself.


What were the most important economic consequences and enduring legacies of European rule in India? Critically examine. (200 Words)
Britishers ruled India for 200 years and made deep impact on almost every aspect of Indian life including political, economic, social and cultural dimensions. One of the most important and conspicuous impact was on the economic front on India.
Even though there were some important positive contributions like construction of railways, telegraph, and development of modern industry which happened only in second half of 19 century and rise of Indian Capitalist Class, most of the impacts had deep adverse and negative impact.
Some of the important among them include:
  • Deliberate Deindustrialization—Ruin of Artisans and Handicraftsmen
  • Impoverishment of Peasantry, Pauperization of Industrial Labourers
  • Emergence of repressive New Land Relations, Commercialisation of Indian Agriculture
  • Stagnation and Deterioration of Agriculture
  • Economic Drain. Famine and Poverty
Some of the enduring legacies include:
  • Administrative and Judicial System, primary among them is Indian Civil Services
  • Infrastructure — Primary among which includes Railways
  • Institutionalization of Law and Order which includes important acts like Indian Police Act and Indian Penal Code
  • Westernised System of Education
Even though some of the legacies like Infrastructure, System of Education have aided in Indian development, most of them were undertaken with an attempt to serve British interests. As B.G. Tilak famously quoted with respect to Railways that ‘It’s was like decorating some one’s else’s wife’.
However, the most important enduring legacy of Britishers is ‘Colonial Mentality’ which has continued to impede India’s development and identity.



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