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Under One Flag
The Light Has Gone Out
India Wins Freedom
Apostle of Peace
The Last War of Independence
Quit India
Leave India to God… or to Anarchy
Gandhi and Ambedkar
A Pinch of Salt!
Saga of Indian Revolutionaries
Bardoli
Gandhiji Withdraws from Political Activities
The Himalayan Blunder
A People Reject Their Rulers
Jallianwala — The Aftermath
Massacre at Jallianwala Bagh
The Gentle Satyagrahi
Gandhi in Champaran
Carrot and Stick
Revolutionaries Outside India
Heroes and Martyrs
Gandhi in South Africa
From Swadeshi to Swaraj
Swadeshi Enterprise
The New Spirit of India
The Great Divide
Partition of Bengal
The Battle is Taken to the Legislature!
The Monk Who Shook The Nation
Father of Indian Unrest
An Old Man's Dream
Women : Crossing the Threshold
The Battle Lines are Drawn
The Battle For A Free Press
Pressing On !
Europeans Take To The Street!
The British Raj in Black and White
Mamool Raj
The One-Man Army
Hunger Deaths
The Delhi Durbar
Return to Swadeshi
Barbarous Britannia
‘Rani Ka Hookum’
Perishing in Peace
The Blue Mutiny
English Education
The Trial of the Last Emperor
Roll of Honour
The Empire Strikes Back
British Authority Collapses
Sepoys on the Move
Tribal Uprisings
The Empire Builders
For God and Country

The Empire Builders

SURAT which witnessed a mass agitation against the increase in the salt tax in 1844 was the oldest English settlement in India. It was at Surat port that Captain William Hawkins of the English East India Company had landed way back in 1608. When a group of London merchants formed the English East India Company in 1600, their sights were set not on India but on the East Indian spice islands of Java and Sumatra. When their efforts to gain a foothold in Sumatra were thwarted by the Dutch who were well-entrenched in the archipelago, the company decided to make Surat its base. Those were the days when the Mughals were at the helm with powerful regional rulers owing allegiance to them. For nearly 150 years, the merchants from England thought it wise to adhere to the rule set by Sir Thomas Roe. "Let this be received as a rule…" said Sir Thomas in 1618, "that if you profit, seek it at sea, and in quiet trade; for, it is an error to affect garrisons and land wars in India." In these 150 years the London merchants did not find the trade with India very profitable. English-made goods were not as much in demand in India as Indian goods were in England. As the worth of the goods exported exceeded the worth of the imports, the company had to pay for some Indian goods in silver bullion. All this changed in 1757 when the company ousted Siraj-ud-daula, the Nawab of Bengal and installed Mir Jafar on the throne. Later, the company was granted the diwani of Bengal by Shah Alam the hapless Mughal Emperor. The company officials used their newly-found power to curb local trade, exploit the artisans and to extract taxes. With the decline of the Mughals there was no longer a central authority. The Marathas, the Nizam of Hyderabad, the father and son duo, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan of Mysore emerged as key players in the power struggle that followed. With the French and the Portuguese being sidelined the English were the only outside power that entered the fray. In less than a 100 years the merchants became the conquerors and the whole of the Indian subcontinent came to be ruled by the Company Sircar. This they achieved largely with the Indian money either collected as taxes or extorted by unfair means and with the help of Indian sepoys whom they had employed in large numbers. While the British were undoubtedly superior to the Rajas and Nawabs in respect of artillery, discipline and military strategy, they did not hesitate to resort to deceit. 

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