1.The French Revolution and the idea of the Nation

The French Revolution (1789-1799) and the Idea of the Nation


  • first clear expression of nationalism
  • France in 1789: entire state under the rule of an absolute monarch.
    • The political changes during the French Revolution led to the transfer of power from the monarchy to a body of French citizens.
    • Proclamation: people would constitute the nation and shape its destiny
  • Steps taken by revolutionaries to create a sense of collective identity amongst the French people:
    • La patrie (the fatherland) and le citoyen (the citizen): idea explaining the notion of a united community enjoying equal rights under a constitution.
    •  A new French flag, the Tricolour, replaced the former Royal Standard.
    • Estates-General was to be elected by a body of active citizens & renamed the National Assembly.
    • New hymns composed, oaths taken and martyrs commemorated.
    • A centralised administrative system was to formulate uniform laws for all citizens.
    • Internal customs duties and dues abolished.
    • A uniform system of weights and measures was adopted.
    • Regional dialects were discouraged.
    • Since French was spoken and written in Paris, it became the common language of the nation.


  • Belief of revolutionaries: the mission and the destiny of the French was to ‘liberate the peoples of Europe to become nations’.
  • Movement travelled across Europe, students & members of educated middle class had set up Jacobin Clubs.
    • Their activities and campaigns welcomed the French armies which moved into Holland, Belgium, Switzerland and much of Italy in the 1790s.
    • These revolutionary wars meant French armies carrying the idea of nationalism abroad.


  • Napoleon took forward the reforms he had already introduced in France to new territories he conquered.
  • Return to monarchy: Napoleon destroyed democracy in France.
  • He inserted revolutionary principles in administration to make the entire system more rational and efficient.


  • In areas conquered, the reactions of the local populations to French rule were mixed.
  • Initially, French armies were welcomed as mascots of liberty in some places like Holland and Switzerland, and in cities like Brussels, Mainz, Milan and Warsaw.
  • It soon turned hostile, as the new administration did not bring political freedom. 

1.The French Revolution and the idea of the Nation


The rise of Nationalism in Europe

1. The French Revolution and the idea of the Nation

The Rise of Nationalism in Europe –

With the French Revolution in 1789, France was the first country to introduce the concept of nationalism. France was previously a territorial state. That is, it was ruled by an absolute monarchy. The term absolute refers to a rule in which all power is concentrated in the hands of a ruler or monarch. The French Revolution introduced the concept of nation and nationalism to the country. The main goal was to create a nation in which there would be a united community with equal rights under a constitution.

For this purpose, the French revolutionaries instituted a variety of measures and practises aimed at instilling a sense of collective identity among French citizens. The following are some of the revolutionary measures:

  • A new tricolour flag replaced the royal flag.
  • The Estates-General were renamed the National Assembly after being elected by a body of active citizens.
  • In the name of the nation, new hymns were written, oaths were taken, and martyrs were remembered.
  • A centralised administrative system was established.
  • It was decided to create uniform laws for all citizens.
  • Internal customs duties and dues have been eliminated.
  • A standardised system of weights and measures was established.
  • French was regarded as the nation's common language.

Not only that, but the French revolutionaries made it their mission to spread the concept of nationalism and assist Europeans in their liberation from dictatorship.

Setting up of Jacobin Clubs

As word of the French Revolution spread throughout Europe, students and other members of the educated middle classes began forming Jacobin clubs. Jacobins were revolutionaries who sought to establish a republic in their country by overthrowing the King. In the 1790s, the activities and campaigns of these clubs enabled French armies to move into Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, and much of Italy.

Rule of Napoleon (1804-1815)

Napoleon was a French statesman and military leader who came to fame during the French Revolution. During the French Revolutionary War, he led numerous successful campaigns and conquered vast areas of Europe.

He introduced various reforms in the areas under his control. Napoleon, after taking power, destroyed democracy in France, but in the administrative field, he incorporated revolutionary principles to make the entire system more logical and efficient. One of the most significant reforms he instituted was the Civil Code of 1804 or the Napoleonic code. This code had the following characteristics:

  • Equality before the law was established.
  • Feudal system was abolished.
  • The right to property was granted.
  • All birth-based privileges were abolished.
  • Serfdom and manorial dues were abolished.
  • Transport and communication systems were improved

This code was introduced in Dutch Republic, Switzerland, Italy, and Germany. The newfound freedom pleased peasants, artisans, workers, and new businessmen. Businessmen and small-scale goods producers welcomed uniform laws, standardised weights and measures, and a common national currency because they facilitated the movement and exchange of goods and capital from one region to another.

Everything appeared to be fine at first. Many places welcomed French armies, including Holland, Switzerland, Brussels, Mainz, Milan, and Warsaw, but they soon became hostile to them as the French armies oppressed them. There were several other reasons for their dislike of the French army, which are as follows:

  • Increased taxation and censorship
  • Enlistment of common people in the French army under extreme stress in order to achieve the goal of conquering the rest of Europe, etc.

2. The Making of Nationalism in Europe

The Making of Nationalism in Europe


  • Present day Germany, Italy & Switzerland: divided into kingdoms, duchies and cantons.
    • Rulers had their autonomous territories.
  • Eastern and Central Europe were under autocratic monarchies.
    • People of diversity, didn’t seeing themselves as sharing a common identity or culture; spoke different languages & belonged to different ethnic groups.
  • Demography of the Habsburg Empire, ruling over Austria-Hungary:
    • Alpine regions– Tyrol, Austria & Sudetenland, and Bohemia: aristocracy majorly German-speaking.
    • Italian-speaking provinces of Lombardy and Venetia.
    • In Hungary, half of the population spoke Magyar; the other half spoke a variety of dialects.
    • In Galicia, the aristocracy spoke Polish.
    • Peasant peoples had a big part in the population; Bohemians & Slovaks to the north, Slovenes in Carniola, Croats to the south, Roumans to the east in Transylvania.
  • These differences did not promote a sense of political unity.
  • The tie binding groups together: a common allegiance to the emperor.

  • In Western and parts of Central Europe,
        • growth of industrial production and trade
        • the growth of towns
        • the emergence of commercial classes based on production for the market.
  • Industrialization
        • in England: second half of the 18th century
        • in France and parts of the German states: occurred during the 19th century.
  • Given industrialization, new social groups came up: a working-class population, and middle classes made up of industrialists, businessmen, professionals.
  • In Central and Eastern Europe, these groups were smaller in number till late 19th century.
  • Among the educated-liberal middle classes that ideas of national unity gained popularity, after the abolition of aristocratic privileges.

Liberalism in the Economic Sphere

It meant freedom of markets and the abolition of state-imposed restrictions on the movement of goods and capital; a demand of the emerging middle-classes in 19th century.

Obstacles to Liberalism in the Economic Sphere

  • In the German-speaking region in early 19th century, Napoleon’s administration had created a confederation of 39 states.
    • Each had its own currency, and weights and measures.
    • Duties were often levied according to the weight or measurement of the goods.
  • As each region had its own weighing system, it involved time-consuming calculation.
    • These became obstacles to economic exchange and growth.
  • New commercial classes argued for the creation of a unified economic territory for smooth functioning.
  • In 1834, a customs union or zollverein was formed at the initiative of Prussia & joined by most of the German states.
    • It abolished tariff barriers
    • It reduced the number of currencies from over 3 to 2.
  • Railway network created: mobility became easier; harnessed economic interests of national unification.

A wave of economic nationalism strengthened the wider nationalist sentiments growing at the time.

NEW IDEOlOGY: A New Conservatism after 1815

The TReaty of vienna of 1815

  • Napoleon defeated in 1815, European governments then driven by conservatism.
  • In 1815, representatives of the European powers – Britain, Russia, Prussia and Austria – who collectively defeated Napoleon, met at Vienna to draw up a settlement for Europe.
  • Host of the Congress: Austrian Chancellor Duke Metternich. Delegates drew up the Treaty of Vienna of 1815.
    • Objective: undo most of the changes that had come about in Europe during the Napoleonic wars.
  • The Bourbon dynasty, (deposed during the French Revolution), was restored to power.
    • France lost the territories it had captured under Napoleon.
  • A series of states were set up on the boundaries of France to prevent French expansion in future.
    • The kingdom of the Netherlands, which included Belgium, set up in the north.
    • Genoa was added to Piedmont in the south.
  • Prussia given important new territories on its western frontiers; Austria given control of northern Italy.
  • The German confederation of 39 states that had been set up by Napoleon was left untouched.
  • In the east, Russia was given part of Poland while Prussia was given a portion of Saxony.
  • Main intention:
    • restore the monarchies that had been overthrown by Napoleon;
    • create a new conservative order in Europe.

The Revolutionaries

  • During the years following 1815, the fear of repression drove many liberal-nationalists underground.
  • Secret societies sprang up in many European states to train revolutionaries and spread their ideas.
  • To be revolutionary meant a commitment to oppose monarchical forms that had been established after the Vienna Congress, and to fight for liberty and freedom.
    • Most of these revolutionaries also saw the creation of nation-states as a necessary part of this struggle for freedom.

2. The Making of Nationalism in Europe

2. The Making of Nationalism in Europe

The Rise of Nationalism in Europe- So, let's take a look at the birth of nationalism in Europe. But first, we must understand the composition of Europe, which was divided into various kingdoms, with the Dutchies and Cantons ruled by rulers with autonomous territories. There were also people who spoke different languages.Eastern and Central Europe were ruled by autocratic monarchies that lived a diverse population. Kingdoms, duchies, and cantons were established in Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. They were ruled by various rulers. Eastern and Central Europe were ruled by autocratic kingdoms that lived a diverse population. These individuals had nothing in common. They lacked a collective identity or a shared culture. They all spoke different languages and belonged to different ethnic groups.

For example, the Habsburg Empire, which ruled over Austria-Hungary, was made up of various regions and people. Alpine regions such as Tyrol, Austria, Sudetenland, and Bohemia were included. The aristocrats in these areas spoke German, but it also included Lombardy and Venetia, where people spoke Italian. In Hungary, on the other hand, half of the population spoke Magyar, while the other half spoke a variety of dialects. The aristocracy in Galicia spoke Polish. Even the peasants who lived in these areas belonged to various ethnic groups. For example, in the north, there were Bohemians and Slovaks, in Carniola, Croats in the south, and in Transylvania, there were Roumans.

So we can see that there was nothing in common between these groups. The only thing they had in common was their devotion to the common emperor. So the question here is, how did the concept of nationalism emerge in these parts?

To do so, we must first understand how society in these areas was divided and what issues the common people faced.

The Aristocracy and the New middle class

  • The aristocracy was a wealthy class that dominated European society. This society's members shared a common way of life.
  • They owned estates in the villages as well as large houses. They spoke French and had matrimonial alliances the majority of the time.
  • This group, however, was small in size. Peasants make up the majority of the population.
  • The western part of the land was farmed by tenants and small owners, whereas the eastern and central European parts were farmed by serfs.

Western and Central Europe experienced industrial growth during this time period. Many towns grew, and a group of commercial classes appeared on the scene.

  • As a result, new social groups emerged during the nineteenth century.
  • They were a working-class and middle-class population made up of industrialists, businessmen, and professionals.
  • Among these educated, liberal middle-class groups, the idea of nationalism grew stronger.
  • We have previously discussed how people in various parts of Europe desired Liberal nationalism in their countries.

The question then becomes, what exactly do we mean by Liberal Nationalism?

What did Liberal Nationalism stand for?

Rise of Nationalism in Europe – During the early nineteenth century, Europeans were closely associated with the concepts of nationalism and liberalism. The term "liberalism" comes from the Latin word "liber," which means "freedom." In Europe, the new middle class saw liberalism as individual liberty and equality before the law.

  • They were all united in their support for the people's elected government.
  • Since the French Revolution, the term liberalism has taken on a new meaning, signalling the end of autocracy and clerical privileges.
  • It also referred to the creation of a constitution and the formation of a government through the use of parliament.
  • The right to property was also emphasised by nineteenth-century liberals.
  • Even though people were granted equality before the law, the right to vote or suffrage was not granted to all citizens equally.
  • Even in France, when the French Revolution occurred and people were granted the right to equality before the law, not everyone had the right to vote.
  • Only men with property were eligible to vote.
  • Men without property and women were barred from participating. Only for a short time under the Jacobins did all adult men, with or without property, have the right to vote.

Later, when Napoleon came to power and implemented the Napoleonic code in 1804, the right to suffrage was restricted to a few members of society. Women were considered minors under this code because they were subject to the authority of their fathers and husbands. As a result, they had no right to vote.

 As a result, various movements led by women and non-property men demanding equal political rights arose. Liberalism, from the point of view of business, meant market freedom and the elimination of various types of taxes on the movement of goods and capital.

  • The new middle classes made a strong demand for market freedom and the removal of state-imposed restrictions.
  • To understand this, consider German-speaking regions in the first half of the nineteenth century.
  • During the first half of the nineteenth century, this region was home to approximately 39 princely states.
  • Each state had its own currency, as well as its own weights and measures. In 1833, a trader travelling from Hamburg to Nuremberg to sell his goods had to pay a 5% customs duty at 11 customs barriers.
  • Duties were levied according to the weight or measurement of the goods. Because each region had different weights and measures, calculating the duty took a long time.

For example, the cloth was measured in Elle, which varied by region. The tax was lower in Frankfurt because the Elle was lower, whereas the tax was higher in Nuremberg because the Elle was higher compared to other regions. All of this prompted the various business classes to call for the establishment of a unified economic territory. So that goods, people, and capital can move freely from one region to another. As a result of this demand, a customs union, or zollverein, is formed. Prussia was the first to call for Zollverein.

Later, German states joined Prussia in making the same demand. Tariff barriers were eliminated, and the number of currencies was reduced from thirty to two.


  • Railways were built to link economic interests to national unification.
  • Economic nationalism also supported nationalist sentiments at the time.
  • While so many changes were taking place in Europe, something else occurred that compelled governments to work toward the conservatism philosophy.
  • Conservatism is a political philosophy that advocates for free enterprise, private ownership, and socially conservative ideas.
  • What was the incident that gave rise to the conservatism philosophy?

The Rise of Nationalism in Europe –

Napoleon Bonaparte, who had previously seized control of much of Europe, was defeated in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The battle was fought between Napoleon and the armies of the United Kingdom and Prussia. As a result of Napoleon's defeat, European governments decided to establish a more conservative form of government. Conservatives believed that long-established traditional institutions of state and society, such as the monarchy, the Church, social hierarchies, and so on, should be preserved.

The majority of conservatives believed that modernization could strengthen traditional institutions such as the monarchy. They believed that the following changes could strengthen Europe's autocratic monarchies:

  • Modern army
  • Efficient bureaucracy
  • Dynamic economy
  • Abolition of feudalism and serfdom

As a result, in 1815, representatives from European powers such as Britain, Russia, Prussia, and Austria met in Vienna. The event became known as the Congress of Vienna. These were the powers that had defeated Napoleon collectively, and they met in Vienna to create a solution for Europe.

The Austrian Chancellor, Duke Metternich, hosted the congress. The delegates drafted the Treaty of Vienna of 1815, which reversed the majority of the changes that occurred in Europe during the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815).

The Congress of Vienna made the following significant decisions:

  • The Bourbon dynasty was restored to power, and Louis XVIII was crowned King of France.
  • France lost the territories it had gained during Napoleon's reign.
  • To prevent future French expansion, a series of states were established along France's borders.

As a result of the new arrangement, some territorial changes occurred, such as the establishment of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which included Belgium, in the north, and the addition of Genoa to Piedmont in the south. Prussia was given significant new territories on its western borders, while Austria was given northern Italy. On the other hand, the German confederation of 39 states, established by Napoleon, was unaffected.

In the east, Russia received a portion of Poland, and Prussia received a portion of Saxony. The main goal of this arrangement was to restore the monarchies that Napoleon had taken over and to create a conservative form of rulership in Europe.

  • The conservative regime established in 1815 was oppressive. They were extremely intolerant of criticism and disagreement.
  • They began to put a stop to the anti-government activities.
  • Censorship laws were even imposed on newspapers, books, plays, and songs that supported the French Revolution's idea of liberty and freedom.
  • All of this, however, did not deter a number of liberal activists from criticising the new conservative rule and advocating for press freedom.

So, we now know that the conservatives restored monarchical rule in Europe, but did this stop revolutionaries from demanding liberty and nationalism? What actions did these revolutionaries take to secure their right to liberty? Let's check this.

The Rise of Nationalism in Europe – The Revolutionaries

Fear of repression from the ruling conservative class drove the liberal nationalists underground after 1815. They begin to form secret societies in various European countries.The primary goal of these societies was to spread the concept of liberty and nationalism.They were opposed to the monarchical form of government that resulted from the Vienna Congress. Many of them aimed to establish nation-states and saw it as an important part of their liberation struggle.

Giuseppe Mazzini was a member of one of these secret societies and a revolutionary. In 1807, he was born in Genoa.He became a member of the Carbonari, a secret society. In 1831, at the age of 24, he was exiled for attempting a revolution in Liguria.

Mazzini later established two more underground societies, Young Italy in Marseilles and Young Europe in Berne. This society's members were like-minded young men from Poland, France, Italy, and the German states. Mazzini did not want Italy to be a jumbled collection of small states and kingdoms.

  • As a result, he made it his goal to unite Italy. In order to accomplish this, he begins the formation of secret societies in Germany, France, Switzerland, and Poland.
  • Mazzini's non-stop opposition to monarchy and his vision of establishing democratic republics frightened many conservatives.
  • Metternich once called him the "most dangerous enemy of our social order."

As a result, we now know that revolutionaries began their own efforts to end conservative rule. But what happened after that?

Following that was the period of the Revolution, during which various revolutionaries fought for their rights and attempted to break free from the clutches of the conservatives.

3. The Age of Revolutions: 1830-1848

The Age of Revolutions: 1830-1848

  • Conservative regimes tried to consolidate their power.
  • Liberalism and nationalism were associated with revolution in many regions of Europe.
  • These revolutions were led by the liberal-nationalists belonging to the educated middle-class elite, among whom were professors, schoolteachers, clerks and members of the commercial middle classes.

The First Upheaval: France, July 1830

  • The Bourbon kings had been restored to power during the conservative reaction after 1815.
  • They were now overthrown by liberal revolutionaries who installed a constitutional monarchy with Louis Philippe at its head.
  • ‘When France sneezes,’ Klemens von Metternich once remarked, ‘the rest of Europe catches cold.’
  • The July Revolution caused an uprising in Brussels, it led to Belgium separate itself from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Mobilization of Nationalist Feelings Among the Educated Elite in Europe: the Greek War of Independence

  • Greece: part of the Ottoman Empire since the 15th century.
  • 1821: Growth of revolutionary nationalism in Europe led to a struggle for independence amongst the Greeks.
  • Nationalists in Greece got support from other Greeks living in exile and also from many West Europeans who had sympathies for ancient Greek culture.
  • Poets and artists lauded Greece as the cradle of European civilisation and mobilised public opinion to support its struggle against a Muslim empire.
  • The English poet Lord Byron organised funds and later went to fight in the war, where he died of fever in 1824.
  • The Treaty of Constantinople of 1832 recognised Greece as an independent nation.

The Romantic Imagination and National Feeling

  • Culture- important role in creating the idea of the nation: art and poetry, stories and music helped express and shape nationalist feelings.
  • Romanticism, a cultural movement focusing on emotions, intuition and mystical feelings.
  • Their effort was to create a sense of a shared collective heritage, a common cultural past, as the basis of a nation, it sought to develop a particular form of nationalist sentiment.
  • Romantic artists and poets generally criticised the glorification of reason and science.
  • Some Romantics claimed that true German culture was discovered among the common people – das volk.
    • It was through folk songs, folk poetry and folk dances that the true spirit of the nation (volksgeist) was popularised.
    • Collecting and recording these forms of folk culture was essential to the project of nation-building.
  • The emphasis on vernacular language & collection of local folklore:
    • to recover an ancient national spirit
    • to carry the modern nationalist message to large audiences who were mostly illiterate.
  • Even though Poland no longer existed as an independent territory, national feelings were kept alive through music and language.
    • Karol Kurpinski, for example, celebrated the national struggle through his operas and music, turning folk dances like the polonaise and mazurka into nationalist symbols.


  • It played an important role in developing nationalist sentiments.
  • After Russian occupation, the Polish language was forced out of schools & Russian was imposed everywhere.
  • 1831: Armed rebellion against Russian rule took place which was ultimately crushed.
  • Many members of the clergy in Poland began to use language as a weapon of national resistance.
  • Polish was used for Church gatherings and all religious instruction.
    • A large number of priests and bishops were put in jail or sent to Siberia by the Russian authorities as punishment for their refusal to preach in Russian.
  • The use of Polish came to be seen as a symbol of the struggle against Russian dominance.

Hunger, Hardship and Popular Revolt

  • The 1830s: years of great economic hardship in Europe.
  • The first half of 19th century: enormous rise in population all over Europe.
  • In most countries, there were more seekers of jobs than employment.
    • Population from rural areas migrated to the cities to live in overcrowded slums.
  • Small producers in towns often faced stiff competition from imports of cheap machine-made goods from England, where industrialization was more advanced.
    • Specially in textile production, which was carried out mainly in homes or small workshops and was only partly mechanized.

case of 1848

  • In the regions of Europe where the aristocracy still enjoyed power, peasants struggled under the burden of feudal dues and obligations.
  • The rise of food prices or a year of bad harvest led to widespread pauperism in town and country.
  • In 1848, Food shortages and widespread unemployment brought the population of Paris out on the roads. Barricades were erected and Louis Philippe was forced to flee.
  • National Assembly proclaimed a Republic, granted suffrage to all adult males above 21, guaranteed the right to work.
  • National workshops to provide employment were set up.
  • Earlier, in 1845, weavers in Silesia had led a revolt against contractors who supplied them raw material and gave them orders for finished textiles but drastically reduced their payments.

1848: The Revolution of the Liberals

  • A revolution led by the educated middle classes was underway.
  • France in February 1848:
    • abdication of the monarch
    • a republic based on universal male suffrage proclaimed
  • In other parts where independent nation-states did not exist (such as Germany, Italy, Poland, the Austro-Hungarian Empire), liberal middle class combined its demands for constitutionalism with national unification.
  • They took advantage of the growing popular unrest to push their demands for the creation of a nation-state on parliamentary principles– a constitution, freedom of the press and freedom of association.


3. The Age of Revolutions: 1830-1848

3. The Age of Revolutions: 1830-1848

Europe experienced great tension and unrest from 1830 to 1848. Conservatives were attempting to gain power on one side, while revolutionaries were working hard to bring liberalism and nationalism to Europe. Revolutionaries, primarily educated middle-class elites such as professors, school teachers, clerks, and members of the commercial middle classes, began revolutionary activities in many parts of Europe, including the Italian and German states, Ottoman Empire provinces, Ireland, and Poland.


In July 1830, the first such incident occurred in France. The Bourbon Kings were overthrew by liberal revolutionaries, and a constitutional monarchy with Louis Philippe as its head was established in their place. The July revolution sparked an uprising in Brussels, resulting in Belgium's separation from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands (Oct. 4 1830). The Greek war of independence was a major event that served to inculcate nationalist feelings among Europe's educated elite.

Since the 15th century, Greece has been ruled by the Ottoman Empire. Osman I, an Oghuz Turkish tribal leader, founded the Ottoman Empire at the end of the 13th century. Greece's independence struggle began in 1821. Other Greeks living in exile supported the nationalists in Greece. People from Western Europe who sympathised with Greek culture also came forward to lend their support. Various artists and writers also supported the Greeks in their fight against the Muslim empire.

Lord Byron, an English poet, not only organised funds for the Greek struggle, but also went to fight in the war, where he died of fever in 1824. Finally, in 1832, the Treaty of Constantinople was signed, recognising Greece as an independent nation.

As previously stated, various artists and poets participated in revolutionary activities to bring liberalism and nationalism to Europe, but what was their contribution and how is Romanticism related to it?

The Romantic Imagination and National Feeling

The concept of nationalism did not emerge solely as a result of wars and territorial expansion; culture also played an important role in raising awareness about the importance of nationalism.

  • Several artists and poets used their poems, stories, and music to express and shape nationalist feelings.
  • This cultural movement, led by poets, writers, and artists, became known as Romanticism.
  • Reason and Science were criticized by Romantic artists and poets.
  • They attempted to create a feeling of a shared collective heritage and common cultural past by focusing on emotions, intuitions, and mystical feelings.

Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803), a German Philosopher and Romantic, advocated for the discovery of true German culture among the common people. Folk songs, folk dances, and folk poetry, he claims, can popularise the true spirit of the nation. As a result, he emphasised the importance of collecting these forms of folk culture as essential for nation-building.

The emphasis on vernacular language and the collection of various folktales, folk poems, and so on served two functions. One goal was to resurrect an ancient national spirit, while another was to raise awareness of nationalism among illiterate citizens. In the case of Poland, this proved to be appropriate. Russia, Prussia, and Austria partitioned Poland at the end of the eighteenth century. Despite the fact that it did not remain an independent territory, artists such as Karol Kurpinski were able to keep national feelings alive in the hearts of ordinary people through their artwork.

  • Through his operas and music, Karol used to celebrate the national struggle.
  • As a result, folk dances such as polonaise and mazurka become nationalist symbols.
  • One such attempt at collecting folk tales was made by the Grimm brothers, who travelled to various places and collected various folk tales.
  • The Grimm brothers, who were active participants in the press freedom movement, saw French dominance as a threat to German culture.
  • They believed that the folktales they collected could help to shape German national identity.

Not only did poems and stories play an important role in developing national sentiments in the people, but language also played an important role. When Russia occupied Poland, the Russian language was forcibly imposed in schools and churches. The use of the Polish language was prohibited. So, in 1831, there was an armed rebellion against Russian rule, which was crushed by Russian rule. Following this, many people, including the Polish clergy, began to use the Polish language as a weapon of resistance against the Russians. Polish became the language of all Church gatherings. As a result, a large number of priests and bishops were imprisoned. Russian authorities deported some of them to Siberia for failing to preach in Russian.

As a result, the use of the Polish language was viewed as an integral part of the revolutionary struggle against Russian dominance. Though the 1830s are remembered as a year of revolutionary attempts in Europe, they are also remembered for the hardships and hunger that struck the Europe. Let's take a closer look at this. Hunger, adversity, and popular revolt During the 1830s, Europe experienced severe economic hardship. Europe's population gradually increased during the first half of the nineteenth century. Unemployment has become a widespread issue in Europe.

People from rural areas began to migrate to cities in search of work. This also leads to the establishment of various slum areas in these cities. Different segments of society were experiencing difficulties; for example, small business owners, such as textile manufacturers, were subjected to intense market competition as a result of cheap goods imported from England. This was due to the fact that textile production was done at home or in small workshops that were not fully mechanised. England, on the other hand, was far more advanced in the use of machinery.

Peasants had to bear the burden of feudal dues in areas where aristocrats were still powerful. Not only that, but the rise in food prices worsened the situation. Food shortages and the growing problem of unemployment prompted peasant demonstrations in Paris in 1848. It resulted in the construction of barricades throughout the city, forcing Louis Philippe to flee.

A national assembly announced the Republic. It granted all males over the age of 21 the right to vote (suffrage) as well as the right to work. National workshops were established for this purpose in order to provide employment to the general public. Another uprising occurred in Silesia in 1845. Silesia's weavers revolted against the contractors. Contractors were the people who supplied raw materials to weavers so that they could be transformed into finished goods. These contractors' payments to the weavers were reduced to a very small amount. This decrease in pay was one of the causes of the revolt.

So, on June 4th, a large crowd of weavers marched to the contractor's house to demand a wage increase. The contractor treated them unfairly. As a result, the weavers forced their way into the contractor's home, where they destroyed and damaged almost everything. The contractor fled with his family to a nearby village, where he received no assistance. After a 24-hour break, he returned with an army, and eleven weavers were killed in the ensuing battle. We have previously read about the revolution carried out by peasants, weavers, and poets or artists. However, in addition to these groups, other groups had also begun a revolution in their own way. The educated middle classes of European countries were one such revolution.

As we all know, the French February revolution of 1848 resulted in the deposition of the monarch and the establishment of a republic with universal male suffrage. There were still many parts of Europe that had not yet been declared independent nation-states. Germany, Italy, Poland, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and so on were among them.

The liberal middle classes, which included both men and women, began to demand a constitution that included national unification. They demanded a parliamentary nation-state with a constitution, freedom of the press, and freedom of association. The educated middle classes of European countries were one such revolution. As we all know, the French February revolution of 1848 resulted in the deposition of the monarch and the establishment of a republic with universal male suffrage. There were still many parts of Europe that had not yet been declared independent nation-states. Germany, Italy, Poland, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and so on were among them. The liberal middle classes, which included both men and women, began to demand a constitution that included national unification. They demanded a parliamentary nation-state with a constitution, freedom of the press, and freedom of association.

In the German region, a group of political associations comprised of middle-class professionals, businessmen, and wealthy artisans met in Frankfurt and decided to vote for an all-German National Assembly. On May 18, 1848, 831 elected representatives gathered at St. Paul's Church to take their seats in the Frankfurt parliament. They had drafted a constitution for the German nation, which would be led by a monarch, according to the parliament. When the deputies offered the crown, subject to certain conditions, to Friedrich Wilhelm IV, King of Prussia, he not only rejected it, but also joined other monarchs in opposing the elected assembly. The parliament never paid attention to peasant demands, so it never received their support. Finally, with the assistance of troops, the assembly was forced to disband.

Even though everyone was fighting for liberalism and the right to vote, the issue of granting women political rights remained controversial. Women had actively participated in various revolutionary struggles. They had also formed political organisations, started newspapers, and taken part in political meetings and demonstrations. They were not, however, granted suffrage rights during the assembly's election. Even When the Frankfurt parliament met in the St. Paul church, women were only permitted to sit in the visitor's gallery as observers. Though conservative forces were able to suppress liberal movements in 1848, they realised that such revolutions could only be dealt with by making some concessions to the liberal-nationalist revolutionaries.


As a result, after 1848, the monarchs attempted to implement some measures that had already been implemented in Western Europe prior to 1815. This was the end of serfdom and bonded labour in the Habsburg dominions and Russia. In 1867, the Habsburg rulers also granted the Hungarians the right to self-government. All of these political changes were taking place in Europe at the same time. More events occurred that laid the foundation for the formation of Germany and Italy.

4. The Making of Germany and Italy

liberal Movements: the Making of Germany and Italy

Germany: Can the Army be the Architect of a Nation?

  • After 1848, nationalism in Europe moved away from its association with democracy and revolution.
  • Nationalist sentiments were often mobilized by conservatives for promoting state power and achieving political domination over Europe, like in the case where Germany and Italy unified as nation-states.
  • Nationalist feelings were widespread among middle-class Germans, who in 1848 tried to unite the different regions of the German confederation into a nation-state, governed by an elected parliament.
  • This liberal initiative to nation-building was, however, repressed by the combined forces of the monarchy and the military, supported by the large landowners (called Junkers) of Prussia.
  • Then, Prussia took on the leadership of the movement for national unification. Its chief minister, Otto von Bismarck, was the architect of this process, carried out with the help of the Prussian army and bureaucracy.
  • Three wars over seven years – with Austria, Denmark and France – ended in Prussian victory and completed the process of unification.
  • In January 1871, Prussian king William I, was proclaimed German Emperor in a ceremony held at Versailles.
  • In the morning of 18 January 1871, an assembly of the princes of German states, representatives of army, important Prussian ministers including chief minister Otto von Bismarck gathered in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles to proclaim the new German Empire, headed by Kaiser William I of Prussia.
  • The nation-building process in Germany had demonstrated the dominance of Prussian state power.
  • The new state placed a strong emphasis on modernising currency, banking, legal & judicial systems in Germany.
  • Prussian measures and practices often became a model for the rest of Germany.
Art: Otto von Bismarck, German Reichstag
Art: Otto von Bismarck, German Reichstag
Unification of Germany  (1866-71) 

Italy Unified

  • Italy had a long history of political fragmentation. Italians were scattered over several dynastic states as well as the multi-national Habsburg Empire.
  • During the middle of the 19th century, Italy was divided into seven states, of which only one, Sardinia-Piedmont, was ruled by an Italian princely house.
  • The north was under Austrian Habsburgs, the centre was ruled by the Pope and the southern regions were under the domination of the Bourbon kings of Spain.
  • Even the Italian language had not acquired one common form and still had many regional and local variations.

The Efforts of Giuseppe Mazzini

The Case of Scotland

  • The Act of Union (1707) between England and Scotland that resulted in the formation of the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain’ meant, in effect, that England was able to impose its influence on Scotland.
  • The British parliament was henceforth dominated by its English members. The growth of a British identity meant that Scotland’s distinctive culture and political institutions were systematically suppressed.
  • The Catholic clans that inhabited the Scottish Highlands suffered terrible repression whenever they attempted to assert their independence.
  • The Scottish Highlanders were forbidden to speak their Gaelic language or wear their national dress, and large numbers were forcibly driven out of their homeland.

The Case of Ireland

  • Ireland was a country deeply divided between Catholics and Protestants.
  • The English helped the Protestants of Ireland to establish their dominance over a largely Catholic country.
  • Catholic revolts against British dominance were suppressed. After a failed revolt led by Wolfe Tone and his United Irishmen (1798), Ireland was forcibly incorporated into the United Kingdom in 1801.
  • A new ‘British nation’ was forged through the propagation of a dominant English culture.
  • The symbols of the new Britain – the British flag (Union Jack), the national anthem (God Save Our Noble King), the English language – were actively promoted and the older nations survived only as subordinate partners in this union.

4. The Making of Germany and Italy

4. The Making of Germany and Italy

Nationalism, which had risen prior to 1848, quickly moved away from its associations with democracy and revolution. Conservatives began to utilize nationalist sentiments in order to promote state power and achieve political dominance over Europe. As previously stated, there was widespread nationalist sentiment among middle-class Germans in 1848. They also attempted to establish Germany as a nation-state governed by an elected parliament. Despite the fact that their attempt was quashed by the combined forces of monarchy, a military supported by Prussian landowners known as 'Junkers,' Prussia rose to prominence as a powerful leader who unified Germany. Otto von Bismarck, the process's architect, unified Germany with the help of the military. So the question now is:

Germany- Can the Army be the Architect of a Nation?

We should talk about Otto von Bismarck to get a better understanding of this. Otto von Bismarck was the Prussian Prime Minister. His ultimate goal was to unite the German states into a powerful German Empire, with Prussia at its core. He was never a supporter of liberalism or democracy. He chose to unify Germany through military force. Bismarck, considered the architect of this process, enlisted the assistance of the Prussian army and bureaucracy. Three wars were fought over a seven-year period with Austria, Denmark, and France. These wars resulted in Prussia's victory and the unification of Germany. In a ceremony held at Versailles in January 1871, William I, the Prussian king, was proclaimed as the German Emperor.

So, on January 18, 1871, an assembly of German state princes, army representatives, and important Prussian ministers, including chief minister Otto von Bismarck, gathered in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles and proclaimed Kaiser William I to be the German Empire. So, in the end, Germany's nation-building process demonstrated the dominance of Prussian state power. The new state placed a premium on the following:

  • Currency modernization
  • Banking
  • Legal and Judicial systems in Germany

Prussian policies and practises were later adopted as a model by the rest of Germany.

The Map Showing Unification of Germany

So, we now know that Germany was unified as a result of a military expedition led by the powerful Prussia region. But how did Italy become one? Let's see how this goes.

The rise of Nationalism in europe – Italy Unified

When it comes to Italy, it is divided into several regions. Italians were scattered across several dynastic states and the multi-national Habsburg Empire. During the middle of the nineteenth century, Italy was divided into seven states. The northern regions were ruled by the Austrian Habsburgs, the centre by the Pope, and the southern regions by the Spanish Bourbon Kings. Only one, Sardinia-Piedmont, was administered by an Italian princely house. Furthermore, the Italian language was not standardised and had many regional and local variations.

As previously stated, Giuseppe Mazzini, one of Italy's great revolutionaries, attempted to unite the country during the 1830s. In order to achieve his objectives, he had also formed a secret society called Young Italy. However, the failure of the revolutionary uprisings in 1831 and 1848 placed the responsibility for Italy's unification on the shoulders of King Victor Emmanuel II, the ruler of Sardinia-Piedmont. This was to be accomplished through war. The region's elites favoured Italy's unification because it would provide them with economic prosperity as well as political dominance.

A chief minister, like in Germany, played an important role in Italy's unification. Here we are discussing Cavour, the Piedmont chief minister who led the movement to unite Italy's regions.

  • He was neither a revolutionary nor a democrat. He was a wealthy and well-educated Elite who spoke French far better than Italian.
  • Cavour's diplomacy skills were instrumental in allowing Sardinia-Piedmont and France to defeat Austrian forces in 1859.
  • Aside from the regular troops, a large number of people volunteered to join Giuseppe Garibaldi's army.
  • Giuseppe Garibaldi was an Italian general and nationalist who lived from 1807 to 1882. He was one of Italy's most celebrated freedom fighters.

He was also a member of Mazzini's Young Italy movement and took part in a Piedmont republican uprising in 1834. In 1860, Garibaldi led his volunteer forces into South Italy and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, where he was successful in gaining the support of the local peasants in order to dethrone the Spanish rulers (Bourbon). Victor Emmanuel II was proclaimed King of unified Italy in 1861. The illiterate Italian population, on the other hand, was unaware of the Liberal-nationalist ideology.

Italy before unification
Italy after unification

Though national unification occurred in various parts of Europe, the concept of the nation or the nation-state, as some scholars suggested, originated in Great Britain. Because the formation of Britain was not the result of a sudden revolution, the unification of Britain appears to be very strange.

The Strange Case of Britain

Britain's formation was the result of a lengthy process. Before the eighteenth century, Britain did not exist as a nation. It was an island populated by ethnic groups such as English, Welsh, Scots, and Irish. These groups each had their own culture and political traditions. As the English became more prosperous and powerful, they began to exert greater influence over the other nations on the island. After a conflict, the English parliament took power from the monarchy in 1688. Finally, a nation-state with England at its centre was formed. The act of union between England and Scotland was signed in 1707. As a result, the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain' was formed. England quickly asserted its dominance over Scotland. English members dominated the British parliament as well.

Later, as British power grew, the culture and political institutions of Scotland were suppressed. For example, the Scottish were forced not to speak Gaelic or wear their national dress, and a large number of highlanders were forced to leave their homeland. A similar storey can be found in Ireland. Catholics and Protestants were at odds in this country. England aided the Protestants in Ireland, resulting in Protestant dominance over Catholics. The British dominance suppressed the revolts led by Catholics. Wolf Tone was a leading Irish revolutionary who founded the 'United Irishmen.' He revolted against the English Supremacy, but the English suppressed the revolt in 1798.

Finally, Ireland was forcibly incorporated into the United Kingdom in 1801. A new British nation was formed, which was heavily influenced by English culture. The symbols of the new Britain were promoted, such as the British flag (union jack), the national anthem (God Save our Noble King), and the English language, while the older nations were left to survive as subordinates.

We have learned about the rise of nationalism in European countries, various attempts by revolutionaries to assert their right to liberty, the establishment of power by conservatives, and the unification of countries as a result of various wars. However, once a country achieved the status of a nation-state, the next thing that became important was how the country should be visualised. So, let's take a look at what was done in this case.

5. Visualising the Nation, Nationalism and Imperialism

Visualizing the Nation


In 19th century France, she was christened Marianne, a popular Christian name, which underlined the idea of a people’s nation.

  • Characteristics were drawn from those of Liberty and the Republic– the red cap, the tricolour, the cockade.
  • Statues of Marianne were erected in public squares to remind the public of the national symbol of unity and to persuade them to identify with it.
  • Postage stamps of 1850; Marianne representing the Republic of France.

  • Marianne images were marked on coins and stamps.


Germania became the allegory of the German nation.

  • In visual representations, Germania wears a crown of oak leaves, as the German oak stands for heroism.

Germania, Philip Veit, 1848.

The artist prepared this painting of Germania on a cotton banner, as it was meant to hang from the ceiling of the Church of St Paul where the Frankfurt parliament was convened in March 1848


The fallen Germania, Julius Hübner, 1850

Nationalism and Imperialism

  • By the last quarter of the 19th century, nationalism no longer retained its idealistic liberal-democratic sentiment of the first half of the century, but became a narrow creed with limited ends.
  • During this period nationalist groups became increasingly intolerant of each other and ever ready to go to war.
  • The major European powers manipulated the nationalist aspirations of the subject peoples in Europe to further their own imperialist aims.
  • The most serious source of nationalist tension in Europe after 1871 was the area called the Balkans.
  • The Balkans was a region of geographical and ethnic variation comprising modern-day Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece, Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, Serbia and Montenegro whose inhabitants were broadly known as the Slavs.
  • A large part of the Balkans was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. The spread of the ideas of romantic nationalism in the Balkans with the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire made this region very explosive.

  • As the different Slavic nationalities struggled to define their identity and independence, the Balkan area became an area of intense conflict.
  • The Balkan states were fiercely jealous of each other and each hoped to gain more territory at the expense of the others.
  • Matters were further complicated because the Balkans also became the scene of big power rivalry.
  • During this period, there was intense rivalry among the European powers over trade and colonies as well as naval and military might.
  • These rivalries were very evident in the way the Balkan problem unfolded.
  • Each power – Russia, Germany, England, Austro-Hungary – was keen on countering the hold of other powers over the Balkans, and extending its own control over the area.
  • This led to a series of wars in the region and finally the First World War.

The Consequences

  • Nationalism, aligned with imperialism, led Europe to disaster in 1914.
  • But meanwhile, many countries in the world which had been colonised by the European powers in the nineteenth century began to oppose imperial domination.
  • The anti-imperial movements that developed everywhere were nationalist, in the sense that they all struggled to form independent nation-states, and were inspired by a sense of collective national unity, forged in confrontation with imperialism.
  • European ideas of nationalism were nowhere replicated, for people everywhere developed their own specific variety of nationalism.
  • But the idea that societies should be organized into ‘nation-states’ came to be accepted as natural and universal.

5. Visualising the Nation, Nationalism and Imperialism

5. Visualising the Nation

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, artists attempted to give the nation a face. As a result, they began to portray it as a person, particularly a female figure. The female form chosen to personify the nation did not represent any specific woman in real life; rather, it was done to provide a rough idea of the nation in concrete form. Various artists' depictions of the female figure as a nation became an allegory (expressing an abstract idea in the form of a person or thing) of the nation.

All of this began during the French Revolution, when artists used female allegory to represent concepts such as Liberty, Justice, and the Republic. The artists used symbols or specific objects to represent these ideas. For example, the symbols used for the Liberty Bell include a red cap and a broken chain.

Justice is typically portrayed as a blindfolded woman carrying a pair of weighing scales.

As a result, artists in the nineteenth century created a variety of female allegories to represent the nation.

Marianne was the name given to the female figure used to describe the nation in France. She was designed with the characteristics of Liberty and the republic in mind, such as the red cap, tricolour, and cockade.

Postage stamp of 1850 with marianne

Marianne statues have been erected in a variety of public places. This was done to remind the public of the national unity symbol. Marianne images can be found on coins and stamps. Similarly, in Germany, the female figure used to represent Germany as a nation was known Germania. Germania is typically depicted wearing an oak-leaf crown, as the German oak represents heroism.

So we now know how countries became unified and became nation states, as well as how these states were personified through female figures. But the question here is whether they remained a liberal-democratic nation after becoming a nation state or changed into something else. Yes, after becoming nation states, countries began to expand their borders in order to increase their power and influence over other parts of the world. As a result, imperialism was born. So, what exactly is imperialism? This is what we will look into next.

6. Nationalism and Imperialism

A new political change was noticed in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Nationalism had lost its idealistic liberal-democratic sentiments of the first half of the twentieth century. During this time, nationalist groups became increasingly intolerant of one another and were constantly at odds. The major European powers attempted to exploit this in order to achieve their imperial goals. Imperialism is the policy of increasing a country's power and influence through the use of military forces or other means.

The Balkans emerged as the most desired area by Europeans to fulfil their imperialist goals. The Balkans were a geographical and ethnically diverse region that included modern-day Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece, Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Serbia, and Montenegro, and whose inhabitants were known as Slavs. The region controlled by the Ottoman Empire was known as the Balkans. The Ottoman Empire was the Empire from which Greece gained independence. The spread of the concept of romantic nationalism, combined with the fall of the Ottoman Empire, created a climate of high tension in the Balkan region.

  • Despite its best efforts during the nineteenth century, the Ottoman Empire was unable to strengthen itself through modernization and internal reforms.
  • The regions under its control that had European subjects began to separate away and form independent states.
  • The Balkan people stressed independence on the grounds that they were once independent nationalities that had been taken over by foreign powers.
  • As a result, rebellions begin to struggle for independence.

As various Slavic nationalities fought for independence, a conflict arose because the Balkan states were now interested in expanding their territorial limits. During this time, the situation became more tense as Balkan rivalries erupted on one side and Europeans entered the picture on the other. The European powers competed with one another to establish their trade and colonies in the Balkan region. Powers such as Russia, Germany, England, and Austro-Hungary were eager to assert their dominance over the Balkans. This resulted in a series of wars, culminating in the outbreak of the First World War.

The concept of nationalism, supported by imperialism, contributed to Europe's disaster in 1914. Throughout the nineteenth century, many colonised countries began to oppose imperialist rule. The anti-imperial movements grew up all over the world were nationalist in nature. It is because they were all struggling to establish independent nation-states and felt a sense of collective national unity. They had no intention of adhering to the concept of imperialism. People everywhere had their own concept of nationalism, so European ideas of nationalism were not seen being repeated anywhere. However, all of these events and processes resulted in the concept of organising societies into 'nation-states,' which was accepted as natural and universal.

1. The First World War, Khilafat and Non- Cooperation

  • In colonies, the spread of modern nationalism is directly related to the anti-colonial movement.
    • Unity found through freedom struggles.
    • Oppression: a common tie
  • Each class and group felt the effects of colonialism differently, they had different experiences, and their notions of freedom were sometimes different.
  • The Congress, under Mahatma Gandhi tried to merge these groups together within one movement. But the unity did not emerge without conflict.


After 1919, the national movement for independence spread to new areas, incorporated new social groups, and developed new modes of struggle.

the first world war

  • A new economic and political situation.
  • Huge increase in defense expenditure
    • financed by war loans and increasing taxes-
      • customs duties raised
      • income tax introduced
  • Prices increased (doubling between 1913 and 1918)– extreme hardship for the common people.
  • Villages told to supply soldiers.
    • forced recruitment: widespread anger
  • In 1918-19 and 1920-21:
    • crops failed in many parts of India, resulting in acute shortages of food.
    • influenza epidemic hit the country.
      • As per the census of 1921: 12 to 13 million people died due to famines and the epidemic.

Mahatma Gandhi comes back

  • Returned from South Africa to India in January 1915.
  • He successfully organised satyagraha movements in various places.

The Rowlatt Act, 1919

  • Gandhiji decided to launch a nationwide satyagraha against the proposed Rowlatt Act (1919).
  • Rowlatt Act:
    • Excessive powers to government to repress political activities.
    • Allowed detention of political prisoners without trial for two years.
  • It was speedily passed by the Imperial Legislative Council despite united opposition by the Indian members.
  • Gandhiji wanted non-violent civil disobedience against such unjust laws, starting with a hartal on 6 April.
  • Rallies organised in various cities, workers went on strike in railway workshops, and shops closed down.
  • Alarmed by the upsurge, and scared that communication methods like railways and telegraph would be disrupted, the colonial administration decided to get hold of the nationalists.
    • Local leaders were picked up from Amritsar.
    • Mahatma Gandhi was barred from entering Delhi.
  • 10 April: police in Amritsar fired upon a peaceful procession.
    • This provoked widespread attacks on banks, post offices and railway stations.
      • Martial law was imposed;
      • General Dyer took command.

Jallianwalla Bagh massacre

  • April 13: a large crowd gathered in the enclosed ground of Jallianwalla Bagh.
    • Some came to protest against the government’s new repressive measures.
    • Others had come to attend the annual Baisakhi fair.
  • Being from outside the city, many villagers unaware of the martial law that had been imposed.
  • Dyer entered the area, blocked the exit points, and opened fire on the crowd, killing hundreds.
    • His object, as he declared later, was to ‘produce a moral effect’, to create in the minds of satyagrahis a feeling of terror and awe.
  • News of Jallianwalla Bagh spread, crowds took to the streets in many north Indian towns.
    • Strikes & clashes with the police and attacks on government buildings.
    • The government responded with brutal repression, sought to humiliate and terrorise people:
      • satyagrahis forced to rub their noses on the ground, crawl on the streets, and do salaam (salute) to all sahibs
      • people were flogged and villages (around Gujranwala in Punjab, now in Pakistan) were bombed.
  • Seeing violence spread, Mahatma Gandhi called off the movement.

Khilafat movement

  • While the Rowlatt satyagraha had been a widespread movement, it was limited mostly to cities and towns.
  • Mahatma Gandhi now felt the need to launch a more broad-based movement in India.
    • But bringing the Hindus and Muslims closer together was a necessity for that.
  • One method: take up the Khilafat issue.
  • World War I had ended with the defeat of Ottoman Turkey.
    • Rumours: a harsh peace treaty was going to be imposed on the Ottoman emperor – the spiritual head of the Islamic world (the Khalifa).
  • March 1919, Bombay: Khilafat Committee formed to defend the Khalifa’s temporal powers.
    • Young generation of Muslim leaders like the brothers Muhammad Ali and Shaukat Ali, began discussing with Mahatma Gandhi about the possibility of a united mass action on the issue.
  • Gandhiji saw this as an opportunity to include Muslims in a unified national movement.
  • September 1920, Calcutta session of the Congress in: he convinced other leaders of the need to start a non-cooperation movement in support of Khilafat as well as for swaraj.


  • 1917: Mahatma Gandhi had come from South Africa, after successfully fighting the racist regime with a novel method of mass agitation, called satyagraha.
  • Persuade people (including the oppressors) to see the truth without violence.
    • By this struggle, truth was bound to ultimately triumph.
    • He believed that this dharma of non-violence could unite all Indians.
  • In 1917:
    • Champaran, Bihar: he inspired the peasants to struggle against the oppressive plantation system.
    • He organized a satyagraha to support the peasants of the Kheda district of Gujarat.
      • affected by crop failure and a plague epidemic,
      • the peasants of Kheda could not pay the revenue,
      • they were demanding that revenue collection be relaxed.
  • In Ahmedabad, 1918, Mahatma Gandhi organised a satyagraha movement amongst cotton mill workers.

Why Non-cooperation?

  • Book: Hind Swaraj (1909), Mahatma Gandhi-
    • declared that British rule was established in India with the cooperation of Indians, and had survived only because of this cooperation.
    • If Indians refused to cooperate, British rule in India would collapse within a year, and swaraj would come.

Non-cooperation to become a movement: 

  • Gandhiji proposed that the movement should unfold in stages:
    1. Surrender of titles that the government awarded.
    2. Boycott of civil services, army, police, courts and legislative councils, schools, and foreign goods.
    3. If the government used repression, a full civil disobedience campaign would be launched.
  • Summer of 1920, Mahatma Gandhi & Shaukat Ali toured extensively to gain support for the movement.


1. The First World War, Khilafat and Non- Cooperation


Nationalism in India

1.The First World War, Khilafat and Non- Cooperation

The national movement spread to new areas in the years following 1919. It began by involving new social groups and the development of new modes of struggle. So, what were these changes, and what effect did they have?

Let's talk about it.

During the First World War, defence spending had surged. To fund World War I, the British government imposed massive taxes and duties on Indians. During the war years (1913-1918), the prices of goods more than doubled, resulting in extreme hardship for the common people. Another source of the commoners' rage was the army's forceful recruitment of the villagers.

The situation worsened in 1918-1919 and 1920-21 as a result of crop failure in many parts of the country, leading to an increase in food prices. Later on, people were confronted with an influenza epidemic. According to the 1921 census, 12 to 13 million people died as a result of famines and epidemics. The people of India believed that once the war ended, their hardships would also end. That, however, never occurred. At this point, Mahatma Gandhi emerged as a new leader, proposing a new strategy for resisting British rule. His plan was to engage in Satyagraha. So, what exactly is Satyagraha? Let us talk about it.

The idea of Satyagraha

In January 1915, Mahatma Gandhi returned to India. He previously lived in South Africa, where he was successful in fighting the injustice of racial discrimination. He chose a new method of mass agitation, but in a peaceful manner, for this. This became known as Satyagraha. Satyagraha was based on a belief in the power of truth and the need to seek it. The main philosophy underlying the Satyagraha concept was that if the cause was just and the struggle was against injustice, there was no need to use physical force to fight the oppressor. The battle could be won through nonviolence by appealing to the oppressor's conscience. Even the oppressor was persuaded to see and accept the truth. Mahatma Gandhi believed that this nonviolent dharma could unite all Indians.

Following his arrival in India in 1915, Mahatma Gandhi successfully carried out satyagraha movements in various places. In 1917, he founded the Satyagraha movement in Champaran (Bihar) to fight for the rights of peasants who were being oppressed by indigo planters. Then, in 1918, he organised Satyagraha to aid the peasants of Gujarat's Kheda district. In Kheda, the government confiscated landowners' lands for nonpayment of taxes. The landowners, on the other hand, had already expressed their inability to pay due to crop failure caused by the famine. In 1918, he also launched a Satyagraha campaign against cotton mill workers.

Gandhiji, encouraged by his previous success, decided to launch a nationwide Satyagraha against the proposed Rowlatt Act of 1919. The question arose as to what Rowlatt's act was. The Rowlatt Act of 1919, on the other hand, allowed the British government to detain any political prisoner for a period of two years without trial. The Imperial Legislative Council rushed this act through despite opposition from Indian members. This act granted the British government vast powers to suppress political activity.

In response to such unjust laws, Mahatma Gandhi decided to launch a nonviolent civil disobedience movement. On April 6, he decided to start with a hartal. Rallies were held in various cities, and railway workshop workers went on strike. To suppress the upsurge, the British government decided to crack down on nationalists. The government began to pick up local leaders from Amritsar, and Mahatma Gandhi was denied entry into Delhi. The police opened fire on a peaceful procession in Amritsar on April 10th. This incited people to attack banks, post offices, and railway stations. The government declared martial law, which means that normal civilian functions would be under direct military control. The command was given to General Dyer.

On April 13, 1919, a large crowd gathered in the Jallianwala Bagh enclosed ground. Some had come to protest the government's new laws and policies, while others had come to attend the Baisakhi fair. Some of those who came to the fair were strangers who were unaware of the martial law that had been imposed in the area. Dyer barricaded the exit and opened fire on the people in the crowd. Hundreds of men and women, including children, were killed. Dyer later stated that his goal in carrying out the massacre was to inculcate fear in the minds of satyagrahis.

The news about Jallianwala Bagh quickly spread. In many North Indian towns, large crowds took to the streets. Strikes, protests, and clashes with police occurred. Even government buildings were targeted. The British government reacted in a ruthless manner to this. People were tortured both physically and mentally. Nationalists were humiliated by being forced to rub their noses on the ground, crawl through the streets, and salute all sahibs. Not only that, but people were flogged (beaten) and villages were bombed (in the vicinity of Gujranwala in Punjab, now in Pakistan). When he saw the violence spreading, Mahatma Gandhi called a halt to the movement.

Despite the fact that the Satyagraha was a widespread movement, it was limited to cities and towns. As a result, Mahatma Gandhi decided to launch a more widespread movement in India. At the same time, he considered bringing Hindus and Muslims together to make this movement more certain and realistic. In order to make it work, he decided to bring up the Khilafat issue. So, what exactly was the Khilafat movement?

The Ottoman emperor of Turkey was defeated by the British during World War I. He was referred to as the Khalifa, or spiritual leader of the Muslim world. The British forced Khalifa to sign a harsh peace treaty, according to reports. The Indian Muslims were enraged by this. In order to defend the Khalifa's temporal powers, Muhammad Ali and Shaukat Ali formed the Khilafat committee in Bombay in March 1919. Both brothers discussed the possibility of a united mass action on the issue with Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhiji saw it as an opportunity to unite Hindus and Muslims in a unified national movement. So, in the September 1920 session of Congress in Calcutta, he convinced other leaders to join him, and a non-cooperation movement was launched in support of Khilafat as well as Swaraj.

We have learned about Satyagraha up to this point. We learned how it was organised, as well as the concept of a non-cooperation movement in support of Khilafat and Swaraj (self government). But the question here is why Gandhiji chose non-cooperation. What was the goal of starting this movement? So, how about we check this?

Why Non-cooperation?

According to Mahatma Gandhi's famous book Hind Swaraj (1909), British rule came about as a result of Indian cooperation. He believed that if Indians refused to cooperate, British rule in India would end in a year and Swaraj would take its place. Gandhiji decided to work on the movement in stages in order to make it a reality. As a result, it was done as follows:

  • Initially, the titles awarded by the British government were to be surrendered by the people.
  • Civil services, the army, the police, the courts and legislative councils, schools, and foreign goods are all being boycotted.
  • If the government used repression, a full-fledged civil disobedience campaign was to be launched.

Throughout the summer of 1920, Mahatma Gandhi and Shaukat Ali toured extensively to gain support for the movement.

On the other hand, some members of Congress were unwilling to support this movement. They were opposed to boycotting the council election scheduled for November 1920. The majority of them were afraid of any act of violence. As a result, there was a tussle among members of Congress between September and December. However, at the Nagpur session of Congress in December 1920, a compromise was reached, leading to the adoption of the non-cooperation movement. Though this movement began on a national level, those involved in it each had their own point of view.

2. Differing Strands within the Movement


  • January 1921: The Non-Cooperation-Khilafat Movement begins.
    • Social groups participated in the movement with their own specific aspirations.

The Movement in the Towns

middle class in government institutuions

  • Thousands of students left government-controlled schools and colleges, headmasters and teachers resigned, and lawyers gave up their legal practices.
  • The council elections boycotted in most provinces.
    • Except Madras, where the Justice Party, the party of the non-Brahmans, felt that entering the council was one way of gaining some power – something that usually only Brahmans had access to.

middle class and the economic front

  • Foreign goods were boycotted, liquor shops picketed, and foreign cloth burnt in huge bonfires.
  • 1921-1922: Import of foreign cloth halved;
    • value dropped from Rs 102 crore to Rs 57 crore.
  • In many places, merchants and traders refused to trade in foreign goods or finance foreign trade.
  • Movement spreads:
    • people began discarding imported clothes
    • wearing only Indian manufactured items
    • production of Indian textile mills and handlooms went up.

slowdown in cities

  • Khadi cloth often more expensive than mass-produced mill cloth; poor people could not afford to buy it.
  • For the movement to be successful, alternative Indian institutions were needed in place of the British ones.
    • These were slow to come up.
    • Students and teachers resumed going to government schools
    • Lawyers joined back work in government courts.

Rebellion in the Countryside

Non-Cooperation drew into its fold the struggles of peasants and tribals which were developing in different parts in the years after the war.

  • In Awadh, peasants led by Baba Ramchandra– a sanyasi who had been to Fiji as an indentured labourer.
  • The movement: against talukdars & landlords demanding exorbitantly high rents and a variety of other cesses from peasants.
  • Peasants had to do begar and work at landlords’ farms without any payment.
  • Tenants: no security of tenure;
    • regularly evicted so they could acquire no right over the leased land.
  • The peasant movement demanded:
    • reduction of revenue,
    • abolition of begar,
    • social boycott of oppressive landlords.
  • Nai–dhobi bandhs organized by panchayats: deprived landlords of the services of barbers and washermen.
  • June 1920: Jawaharlal Nehru went to villages in Awadh, talked to villagers to understand their grievances.
  • October 1920: Oudh Kisan Sabha set up, headed by Jawaharlal Nehru, Baba Ramchandra and a few others.
    • Within a month, over 300 branches set up in the villages around the region.
    • When the Non-Cooperation Movement began the next year, the effort of the Congress was to integrate the Awadh peasant struggle into the wider struggle.
    • The peasant movement developed; yet Congress leadership discontented.
      • 1921: movement spreads; houses of talukdars & merchants attacked, bazaars looted, grain hoards taken over.
      • In many places, local leaders told peasants that Gandhiji had declared that no taxes were to be paid and land was to be redistributed among the poor.
      • The name of the Mahatma was being invoked to sanction all action and aspirations.

The tribal story

  • Early 1920s, Gudem Hills, Andhra Pradesh: militant guerrilla movement spread in the– not a form of struggle that the Congress could approve.
  • Hill people enraged: colonial government closed large forest areas, preventing people from entering the forests to graze their cattle, or collect fuelwood and fruits.
    • Their livelihoods affected.
    • They felt their traditional rights were being denied.
  • Government forced them to contribute begar for road building, then the hill people revolted.
  • Their leader: Alluri Sitaram Raju
    •  claimed he had a variety of special powers, he could:
      • make correct astrological predictions.
      • heal people.
      • survive bullet shots.
    • Rebels proclaimed Raju was an incarnation of God.
  • Raju talked of the greatness of Mahatma Gandhi, said he was inspired by the Non-Cooperation Movement.
    • persuaded people to wear khadi and give up drinking.
    • yet he asserted that India could be liberated only by the use of force.
  • The Gudem rebels attacked police stations, attempted to kill British officials and carried on guerrilla warfare for achieving swaraj.
  • Raju was captured and executed in 1924, and over time became a folk hero.

Swaraj in the Plantations

  • Freedom for plantation workers in Assam: the right to move freely in and out of the confined space in which they were enclosed, and retaining a link with their native village.
  • Inland Emigration Act of 1859: plantation workers not permitted to leave the tea gardens without permission; rarely granted such permission.
  • Non-Cooperation Movement:
    • thousands of workers defied the authorities;
    • left the plantations and headed home.
  • Belief: Gandhi Raj was coming and everyone would be given land in their own villages.
  • They were stranded on the way by a railway and steamer strike;
    • caught by the police and brutally beaten up.
  • The visions of these movements: not defined by the Congress.
    • People interpreted the term swaraj in their own ways;
    • imagined it to be a time when all suffering and all troubles would be over.
  • When the tribals chanted Gandhiji’s name and raised slogans demanding ‘Swatantra Bharat’, they were emotionally relating to an all-India agitation.

When they acted in the name of Mahatma Gandhi, or linked their movement to that of the Congress, they were identifying with a movement which went beyond the limits of their immediate locality.

  • February 1922: Mahatma Gandhi decided to withdraw the Non-Cooperation Movement.
  • Movement turning violent in many places, satyagrahis needed to be properly trained before they would be ready for mass struggles.

2. Differing Strands within the Movement

2. Differing Strands within the Movement

In January 1921, the non-cooperation-Khilafat movement began. Different social groups participated in this movement, but each had their own goals. Despite the fact that they all responded to Swaraj's call, their perspectives on Swaraj differed. So, we'll see how it differed now.

The Movement in the Towns

In towns, the movement began with the participation of the middle class. A large number of students dropped out of government-run schools and colleges. Teachers and principals resigned, and lawyers left their firms. Except for Madras, most provinces boycotted the council elections. The Madras Justice Party was a non-Brahmin party that participated in council elections as a means of gaining power that was generally reserved for Brahmins.

Soon after, a boycott of foreign goods was enacted, with liquor stores being picketed and foreign clothing being burned in bonfires. This had a negative economic impact on the British government. Between 1921 and 1922, the import of foreign cloth was cut in half. The company's value was reduced from Rs 102 crore to Rs 57 crore. Furthermore, merchants and traders refused to trade in foreign goods or finance foreign trade. With the spread of this movement, Indians began to wear clothing manufactured in India. This resulted in an increase in output from Indian textile mills and handlooms.However, this movement could not last for long due to a variety of factors, including:

  • Khadi was an expensive cloth that was out of reach for the majority of households.
  • Students who boycotted British institutes were unable to find a suitable substitute and thus returned to them.
  • Likewise, teachers and lawyers returned to their jobs.

So much for the non-cooperation movement in cities, but what about in villages and the countryside? Let's look into this.

Rebellion in the Countryside

The anti-cooperation movement spread to villages as well. The peasants and tribes joined the fight as well. One such struggle was the Awadh peasant uprising led by Baba Ramchandra, a sanyasi. In Fiji, Baba Ramchandra worked as an indentured (bonded) labourer. He began a movement against talukdars and landlords who demanded high rents and various forms of cesses from peasants. Peasants were forced to work on landlord's farms for no pay, a practise known as 'begar.' The peasants had no claim to the leased land and were frequently evicted, so they had no security of tenure.

Ramchandra's peasant movement demanded a reduction in revenue and the abolition of begar. Panchayats organised nai- dhobi bandhs in some areas. It was a kind of strike by barbers and washermen to deprive landlords of basic services. Jawaharlal Nehru visited various villages in Awadh in 1920 to try to understand the problems of the peasants. He founded the Oudh Kisan Sabha in October 1920. Jawaharlal Nehru, Baba Ramchandra, and a few others headed over the Oudh Kisan Sabha. Soon, 300 branches were established in villages throughout the region. When Congress launched the non-cooperation movement in 1921, it also included the peasant struggle in the wider struggle. However, this movement later diverted off in a different direction, which the Congress found unacceptable. Peasants attacked the homes of talukdars and merchants as the movement spread. They looted the bazaars and stole the grains. It was soon discovered that in many places, local leaders had told peasants that Gandhiji had instructed them that no taxes would be paid and that land would be redistributed among the poor. In this case, Gandhi's name was falsely accused.

Gudem Hills in Andhra Pradesh was another case where Mahatma Gandhi's message and the concept of Swaraj were misunderstood. In the early 1920s, a militant Guerrilla movement spread here, which, once again, was not a form of struggle recognised by the Congress. The cause of this conflict was the colonial government's prevention law, which prohibited tribals from entering villages to collect fuel wood, fruits, or graze their cattle. Furthermore, the government forced them to work as beggars in order to build a road. Alluri Sitaram Raju, the leader of this tribal movement, declared himself to be a man endowed with superpowers capable of withstanding bullet shots. The tribals who were deeply moved by him and declared him to be God's incarnation.

Raju was greatly inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, so he persuaded the tribals to wear khadi and abstain from alcohol. On the other hand, he did not subscribe to the philosophy of peaceful protests. He believed that force, rather than nonviolence, could be used to liberate Indians. To achieve swaraj, the Guden rebels under him attacked police stations, attempted to kill Britishers, and used guerilla warfare techniques. Later, Raju was arrested by police and sentenced to death in 1924. He is still regarded as a folk hero.

As we have seen, everyone has their own interpretation of swaraj, and the Assam plantation workers had their own interpretation of swaraj and non-cooperation. So, what exactly was it? Let's see what happens.

Swaraj in the Plantations

The tea plantation workers had their own interpretation of Swaraj. For them, freedom meant being able to move freely in and out of their confined spaces. These workers were not permitted to leave the tea gardens without permission. This was due to the inland Emigration Act of 1859, which required them to follow this restriction rule. They believed that the non-cooperation movement was a sign of the Gandhi Raj, allowing them to be free and own land in their own villages. As a result, they left the tea gardens and returned to their homes. They were unable to do so, however, due to a railway and steamer strike. They were eventually arrested and beaten up by the police.

These groups' movements were not included in the Congress programme. They made up their own interpretations and imagined it to be the end of all their trials and tribulations. Even so, when tribals raised the Swatantra Bharat slogan and chanted Gandhiji's name, one could see a unified Indian agitation in them. When they identified with Gandhi's Congress movement, they were actually identifying with a movement that extended far beyond their own communities.

We now understand the non-cooperation movement and how it was perceived by various groups. Let's talk about the Civil Disobedience movement and how it got started.

3. Towards Civil Disobedience


  • Varied views within the Congress, some leaders tired of mass struggles.
    • C. R. Das and Motilal Nehru formed the Swaraj Party within the Congress to argue for a return to council politics.
      • wanted to participate in the provincial council elections, set up by the Government of India Act of 1919.
      • felt that it was important to oppose British policies within the councils, argue for reform and demonstrate that these councils were not truly democratic.
    • Younger leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose supported more radical mass agitation and for full independence.
  • Late 1920s:
    • The effect of the worldwide economic depression.
    • Agricultural prices began to fall from 1926 and collapsed after 1930.
      • demand for agricultural goods fell & exports declined,
      • peasants unable to sell their harvests and pay their revenue.
    • By 1930, the countryside was in turmoil.
  • At the same time, the new Tory government in Britain constituted a Statutory Commission under Sir John Simon, in response to the nationalist movement.
  • The commission: to look into the functioning of the constitutional system in India and suggest changes.
    • The problem: did not have a single Indian member. They were all British.

Simon Commission

  • 1928: Simon Commission arrived in India.
    • greeted with the slogan ‘Go back Simon’.
    • All parties, including the Congress and the Muslim League, participated in the demonstrations.
  • October 1929: The viceroy Lord Irwin gave compensation.
    • announced a vague offer of ‘dominion status’ for India in an unspecified future;
    • a Round Table Conference to discuss a future constitution.
      • Congress leaders weren’t satisfied.

  • December 1929: Presidency of Jawaharlal Nehru- the Lahore Congress formalised the demand of ‘Purna Swaraj’ or full independence for India.
    • 26 January 1930 would be celebrated as the Independence Day, people were to take a pledge to struggle for complete independence.
      • the celebrations attracted very little attention.

The Salt March and the Civil Disobedience Movement

  • 31 January 1930: he sent a letter to Viceroy Irwin stating eleven demands.
    • Some demands of general interest; others specific demands of different classes.
  • The idea: make the demands wide-ranging-
    • all classes identify with them;
    • everyone could be brought together in a united campaign.
  • The biggest demand: to abolish the salt tax.
  • Salt: consumed by the rich and the poor alike, one of the most essential items of food. A powerful symbol.
  • Gandhi’s declaration: The tax on salt and the government monopoly over its production, revealed the most oppressive face of British rule.
  • Mahatma Gandhi’s letter: an ultimatum.
    • demands not fulfilled by 11 March: the Congress would launch a civil disobedience campaign.
  • Irwin was unwilling to negotiate.
  • Mahatma Gandhi started his famous salt march accompanied by 78 of his trusted volunteers.
    • The march over 240 miles, from Gandhiji’s ashram in Sabarmati to Dandi, a Gujarati coastal town.
    • The volunteers walked for 24 days, about 10 miles a day.
  • Thousands came to hear Mahatma Gandhi wherever he stopped,
    • told them what he meant by swaraj;
    • urged them to peacefully defy the British.
  • 6 April: he reached Dandi.
    • ceremonially violated the law by manufacturing salt by boiling sea water.
    • This marked the beginning of the Civil Disobedience Movement.

  • People to break colonial laws, not only to refuse cooperation with the British, as they did in 1921-22.
  • Thousands in different parts of the country broke the salt law, manufactured salt and demonstrated in front of government salt factories.
  • The movement spread:
    • foreign cloth was boycotted,
    • liquor shops were picketed,
    • Peasants refused to pay revenue and chaukidari taxes,
    • village officials resigned,
    • in many places forest people violated forest laws
      • going into Reserved Forests to collect wood and graze cattle.
  • The colonial government began arresting the Congress leaders one by one.
    • This led to violent clashes in many palaces.
  • April 1930: Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a devout disciple of Mahatma Gandhi, arrested.
    • Crowds demonstrated in Peshawar, facing armored cars & police firing. Many were killed.
  • May 1930: Mahatma Gandhi himself arrested.
    • Industrial workers in Sholapur attacked police posts, municipal buildings, lawcourts and railway stations all structures that symbolized British rule.
  • A frightened government responded with a policy of brutal repression.
    • Peaceful satyagrahis attacked,
    • Women & children were beaten,
    • about 100,000 people were arrested.

  • Mahatma Gandhi once again decided to call off the movement.
    • Entered into a pact with Irwin on 5 March 1931.
  • Gandhi-Irwin Pact:
    • Gandhi consented to participate in a Round Table Conference in London (the Congress had boycotted the first Round Table Conference);
    • the government agreed to release the political prisoners.
  • December 1931: Gandhiji went to London for the conference,
    • the negotiations broke down
    • he returned disappointed.
  • Back in India, the government had begun a new cycle of repression.
    • Ghaffar Khan and Jawaharlal Nehru were both in jail;
    • The Congress had been declared illegal;
    •  A series of measures had been imposed to prevent meetings, demonstrations and boycotts.
  • Mahatma Gandhi relaunched the Civil Disobedience Movement.
    • For over a year, the movement continued, but by 1934 it lost its momentum.

How Participants saw the Movement

Rich peasant communities of the Countryside

  • Communities like the Patidars of Gujarat and the Jats of Uttar Pradesh.
  • Active in the movement.
  • commercial crop producers: they were hard hit by the trade depression and falling prices.
  • They found it impossible to pay the government’s revenue demand.
    • refusal of government to reduce the demand led to widespread resentment.
  • They became enthusiastic supporters of the Civil Disobedience Movement:
    • organised their communities,
    • at times forced reluctant members to participate in the boycott programmes.
  • For them, swaraj was a struggle against high revenues.
  • 1931: disappointed when the movement was called off without the revenue rates being revised.
  • When the movement was restarted in 1932, many of them refused to participate.

The poorer peasantry

  • A major interest: the lowering of the revenue demand.
  • Another interest: the unpaid rent to the landlord to be remitted.
    • Many of them were small tenants cultivating land they had rented from landlords.
    • As the Depression continued & cash incomes dwindled, they found it difficult to pay their rent.
  • They joined a variety of radical movements, often led by Socialists and Communists.
  • Apprehensive of raising issues that might upset the rich peasants and landlords, the Congress was unwilling to support ‘no rent’ campaigns in most places.
  • The relationship between the poor peasants and the Congress remained uncertain.

 Merchants and Businessmen

  • World War I: Indian merchants and industrialists made huge profits and become powerful.
    • For business expansion: against colonial policies that restricted business activities.
    • Wanted protection against:
      • imports of foreign goods,
      • a rupee-sterling foreign exchange ratio to discourage imports.
  • To promote business interests, formed organisations:
    • 1920: Indian Industrial and Commercial Congress
    • 1927: Federation of the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FICCI)
  • Leaders of movements: prominent industrialists like Purshottamdas Thakurdas and G.D. Birla
    • they attacked colonial control over the Indian economy,
    • supported the Civil Disobedience Movement when it was first launched.
  • They gave financial assistance and refused to buy or sell imported goods.
  • Swaraj to most businessmen: when colonial restrictions on business would no longer exist and trade and industry would flourish without constraints.
  • After the failure of the Round Table Conference, business groups not uniformly interested.
    • apprehensive of the spread of militant activities,
    • worried about prolonged disruption of business,
    • concerned about growing influence of socialism amongst the younger members of the Congress.

The industrial working classes

  • did not participate in the Civil Disobedience Movement in large numbers, except in the Nagpur region.
  • As the industrialists came closer to the Congress, workers stayed aloof.
  • Some workers did participate in the Civil Disobedience Movement:
    • selectively adopted some of the ideas of the Gandhian programme;
    • boycott against low wages and poor working conditions.
  • There were strikes by railway workers in 1930 and dockworkers in 1932.
  • 1930:
    • workers in Chotanagpur tin mines wore Gandhi caps
    • participated in protest rallies and boycott campaigns.
  • The Congress was reluctant to include workers’ demands as part of its program of struggle.
  • This would alienate industrialists and divide the anti-imperial forces.

Women in civil disobedience movement

  • Large-scale participation by women.
  • During salt march, thousands of women came to listen to him.
    • They participated in protest marches
    • manufactured salt,
    • picketed foreign cloth and liquor shops.
    • Many went to jail.


  • urban areas: women from high-caste families;
  • rural areas: women from rich peasant households.
  • Moved by Gandhiji’s call, they began to see service to the nation as a sacred duty of women.
  • Increased public role did not imply any radical change in the position of women in society.
  • Gandhiji’s belief: the duty of women to look after home and hearth, be good mothers and good wives.
  • For a long time, the Congress was reluctant to allow women to hold any position of authority within the organisation. It was keen only on their symbolic presence.

The sidelined groups and the Civil Disobedience


  • Around the 1930s: begun to call themselves ‘dalit’ or oppressed.
  • Ignorance of the Congress: fear of offending the sanatanis, the conservative high-caste Hindus.
  • Gandhi’s declaration: swaraj would not come if untouchability was not eliminated.
    • He called the ‘untouchables’ harijan, or the children of God
    • organised satyagraha to secure them:
      • entry into temples;
      • access to public wells, tanks, roads and schools.
    • Himself cleaned toilets to dignify the work of the bhangi (the sweepers)
    • persuaded upper castes to change their heart and give up ‘the sin of untouchability’.
  • Many dalit leaders keen on a different political solution to the problems.
    • They began organising themselves and demanded:
      • reserved seats in educational institutions,
      • a separate electorate that would choose dalit members for legislative councils.
    • Their belief: Political empowerment would resolve the problems of their social disabilities.
  • Dalit participation in the Civil Disobedience Movement was limited, particularly in the Maharashtra and Nagpur region where their organisation was quite strong.

Depressed Classes Association, 1930

  • Dr B.R. Ambedkar: organised the dalits into the Depressed Classes Association in 1930.
    • He clashed with Gandhi at the 2nd Round Table Conference by demanding separate electorates for dalits.
  • British government accepted Ambedkar’s demand.
    • Gandhiji began a fast unto death.
      • Belief: separate electorates for dalits would slow down their integration into society.
  • Ambedkar ultimately accepted Gandhiji’s position.
    • Its result: the Poona Pact of September 1932.
      • It gave the Depressed Classes (later to be known as the Schedule Castes) reserved seats in provincial and central legislative councils, but they were to be voted in by the general electorate.
  • The dalit movement, however, continued to be apprehensive of the Congress led national movement.

Muslims and Muslim political organizations

  • Decline of the Non-Cooperation-Khilafat movement: Muslims largely felt alienated from the Congress.
  • Mid-1920s: Congress more visibly associated with openly Hindu religious nationalist groups like the Hindu Mahasabha.
  • Relations of Hindus and Muslims worsening: each community organised religious processions with militancy, provoking Hindu-Muslim communal clashes and riots in various cities.
  • Every riot deepened the distance between the two communities.
  • The Congress and the Muslim League made efforts to renegotiate an alliance;
    • 1927: seemed that such a unity could be forged.

  • Important differences: over the question of representation in the future assemblies to be elected.
  • Muhammad Ali Jinnah, one of the leaders of the Muslim League, was willing to give up the demand for separate electorates, if:
    • Muslims were assured reserved seats in the Central Assembly;
    • Representation in proportion to population in Muslim-dominated provinces (Bengal and Punjab).
  • All Parties Conference, 1928: Hope of resolving the issue lost when M.R. Jayakar of the Hindu Mahasabha strongly opposed efforts at compromise.
  • Civil Disobedience Movement started: an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust between communities.
  • Alienated from the Congress, large sections of Muslims could not respond to united struggle.
  • Many Muslim leaders & intellectuals expressed their concern about the status of Muslims as a minority within India.
    • They feared that the culture and identity of minorities would be submerged under the domination of a Hindu majority.

3. Towards Civil Disobedience

3. Towards Civil Disobedience

As the non-cooperation movement became violent in many places, Gandhiji decided to withdraw the movement in February 1922. Before any kind of mass struggle, he felt there was a need for proper training of satyagrahis. On the other side of the Congress, there were some leaders who were opposed to any kind of mass struggle. They decided to take part in the provincial elections mandated by the Government of India Act of 1919. They believed that by opposing British policies within the councils, they could bring about reform while also demonstrating that these councils lacked true democracy.

C.R Das and Motilal Nehru were both in favour of resuming council politics. As a result, they established the Swaraj Party. However, young leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose emphasised more mass struggles that demonstrated Indians' agitation against the Britishers' oppressive policies and demanded full independence.

While there was internal debate and disagreement, there were only a few factors that led to a change in Indian politics in the late 1920s. Let us go over what it was.

The world was in the grip of an economic depression in the late 1920s. The price of agricultural goods fell, resulting in a drop in exports. Prices began to fall in 1926 and eventually collapsed after 1930. It was a difficult time for the peasants because they were not getting a fair price for their produce and thus could not pay their taxes. As a result, by 1930, rural areas were in a state of social unrest.

On the other hand, the new Tory (Conservative party) government in the United Kingdom established a commission headed by Sir John Simon. The commission was made up entirely of British members; there was no Indian representation. The commission's primary function was to investigate India's constitutional system and recommend reforms. The Indians were opposed because there were no Indians involved.

When the Simon Commission arrived in India, it was met with opposition from local population who greeted them with the slogan 'Simon Go Back.' Every political party, including Congress and the Muslim League, protested the Simon commission. Soon after, Britishers attempted to control the situation by attempting to re-establish Indian loyalty. So, in October 1929, Lord Irwin made the unreal promise of granting India "dominion status" in the distant future. He also proposed a round table conference to discuss a possible future constitution.

Soon, the moderates who proposed a constitutional system within the framework of British dominion lost ground, while radicals like Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose made gains. Purna Swaraj's demand was heard at a Congress session in Lahore in December 1929, led by Jawaharlal Nehru. They decided to mark the 26th of January, 1930, as India's Independence Day. They also planned for the people to make a pledge to fight for complete independence. However, this celebration did not draw a large crowd. Mahatma Gandhi came to the conclusion that he needed to find a way to connect the concept of independence with important daily issues confronting ordinary people.

When Mahatma Gandhi decided to seek a new path, the civil disobedience movement was born. So, what was the civil disobedience movement, and why was Gandhiji's famous salt march carried out? Let's check this.

The Salt March and the Civil Disobedience Movement

Gandhiji's first thought was to bring people together. This could only be done if the problems of all social classes were taken into account. As a result, on January 31, 1930, Gandhiji sent a letter to Viceroy Irwin outlining the eleven demands. Some were of general interest, while others were specific demands of various classes ranging from industrialists to peasants. The main reason for including these groups' demands was to bring everyone together in a united campaign. The abolition of the salt tax was the most important demand of all. Gandhiji believed that salt, as an essential food item, is consumed by everyone, rich or poor. As a result, the salt tax and the government's monopoly on its production seemed unjust to him. This law, according to Mahatma Gandhi, was the most oppressive aspect of British rule.

In his letter, Mahatma Gandhi issued an ultimatum, stating that if the demands were not met by March 11th, the Congress would launch a civil disobedience movement. Lord Irwin did not consider it, and this resulted in the beginning of the non-cooperation movement, which began with Mahatma Gandhi's famous Salt March. As a result, on March 12th, Gandhiji began his famous salt march, accompanied by 78 of his trusted volunteers. From his ashram in Sabarmati to the Gujarati coastal town of Dandi, Gandhiji travelled 240 miles in 24 days. Thousands of people arrived to hear Gandhiji wherever he went. He explained his concept of swaraj to them and urged them to carry on the movement peacefully in order to defy the British. On April 6, Gandhiji arrived in Dandi and violated the salt law by boiling sea water.

The Dandi March was widely regarded as the start of the civil disobedience movement. However, the question of how it differed from the non-cooperation movement arises. The Civil Disobedience Movement differed in that people were not only asked to refuse to cooperate with the British government, but they were also asked to break British laws. As a result, the following actions were taken by various groups in India:

  • Thousands of people violated the Salt Law in a variety of coastal areas. They made salt and staged a protest in front of government factories.
  • Foreign clothing was completely boycotted.
  • Picket lines formed outside liquor stores.
  • Peasants begin to evade taxes. They stop to pay revenue and chaukidari taxes.
  • Officials from the village resigned.
  • By entering reserved areas to collect wood and graze cattle, forest laws were broken.

The developments that occurred as a result of the non-cooperation movement terrified the British government. To regulate in such activities, the government began arresting Congress leaders one by one. As a result, ferocious clashes erupted between the public and the police. In April 1930, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a devout disciple of Mahatma Gandhi, was arrested by the police, resulting in a protest by angry crowds in Peshawar. The police opened fire on the demonstrators, killing many of them. After Mahatma Gandhi was arrested, industrial workers in Sholapur staged a violent protest. They targeted police stations, municipal buildings, courthouses, and train stations. In this case, we can say that they attempted to attack every symbol of British rule. As the government became alarmed by such incidents, it became brutal with the peaceful satyagrahis. Around 1 lakh people were arrested after the government began attacking even women and children.

As the situation worsened, Gandhiji decided to call a halt to the movement. On March 5, 1931, he made a pact with Irwin that became known as the Gandhi-Irwin Pact. Gandhiji agreed to participate in the round table conference as a result of this pact. The Congress boycotted the first round table conference in London, and the government agreed to release the political prisoners. Gandhiji travelled to London in December 1931 to attend a round table conference, but the conference was a failure, and Gandhiji returned home disappointed. When he arrived in India, he discovered that the government had implemented a new form of repression. Ghaffar Khan and Jawaharlal Nehru were both imprisoned. Congress was declared illegal, and the government imposed lots of new restrictions to prevent meetings, demonstrations, and boycotts.

Gandhiji launched the civil disobedience movement once more. It lasted about a year, but it quickly lost its strength. What were the reasons for the movement's downfall, and what were the participants' perceptions of the civil disobedience movement? Let's talk about it.

How Participants saw the Movement

To understand what motivated people to join the movement, we must first understand the various social groups that took part.

Let us look at the case of wealthy peasant communities in rural areas. Gujarat's Patidars and Uttar Pradesh's Jats were active participants in the movement. They were cash crop producers, so the drop in agricultural product prices had little impact on them. As their cash income dropped significantly, they found it difficult to pay their taxes to the government. As a result, their participation in the civil disobedience movement contributed to a reduction in government revenue. They began organising their communities in preparation for the civil disobedience movement. Even those who were hesitant were pressured into taking part. They were extremely disappointed, however, when the movement was called off in 1931 with no reduction in revenue. As a result, when the movement was revived in 1932, they refused to take part.

The poor peasants, on the other hand, who had small land holdings and were generally tenants, were severely impacted by the drop in food grain prices. They demanded that the revenue or rent they were required to pay be cancelled. They organised various radical movements under the banner of socialists or communists for this purpose. The Congress never supported these peasants because the party was unwilling to support 'no rent' campaigns for fear of upsetting the rich peasants and landlords. If we are to discuss the business classes and their relationship with the civil disobedience movement, we must first understand the condition of the business houses at the time.

During World War I, Indian businessmen and industrialists made huge profits and grew in power. This will be covered in greater detail later in Chapter 5. As they sought to expand their business, they began to retaliate against British policies that restricted growth. They had their own issues, such as business protection from outside competition, for which they demanded protection from imported goods. They also demanded a rupee-sterling foreign exchange ratio to discourage imports.

In order to demand their rights, industrialists formed the Indian Industrial and Commercial Congress in 1920 and the Federation of the Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FICCI) in 1927. Indian industrialists, led by Purshottamdas Thakurdas and G.D Birla, challenged British control of the Indian economy and supported the Civil Disobedience movement when it was launched for the first time. They not only took part in it by refusing to buy or sell imported goods, but they also financed it. For the majority of them, Swaraj meant a time when British business restrictions would be lifted and Indian trade and industry would flourish. When it was revealed that the round table conference had failed, business groups lost interest in the civil disobedience movement. They were concerned about the spread of any militant activities that could disrupt business, and they were also opposed to the growing socialism among the young members of Congress.

So far, we've learned about industrialists' participation and how they took a step back to join the movement, but what about industry workers?

The industrial workers, on the other hand, did not take part in this movement. Only in Nagpur did workers show any sign of dissatisfaction. They adopted Gandhi's programme of boycotting foreign goods as part of their own campaigns against low wages and an inadequate working environment. As a result, their struggle was for adequate wages and a pleasant working environment. As a result, railway workers went on strike in 1930, and dockworkers went on strike in 1932. Thousands of Chotanagpur tin mine workers dressed in Gandhi caps marched in rallies in 1930. However, in this case, Congress was uninterested in including worker demand. It did so in order to keep industrialists on their side so that the resistance to British rule did not drop.

Last but not least, women participated in the civil disobedience movement. Women had taken part in large numbers. Thousands of women attended Gandhiji's salt march to hear him speak. They marched in protest, made salt, and picketed liquor stores and foreign clothing stores. Many of them were even imprisoned. These women came from either high caste families in cities or wealthy peasant families in rural areas. All the women, inspired by Gandhiji, saw it as their sacred duty to participate in the national movement. Despite the fact that their social status did not improve as a result of their participation. Even the Congress was hesitant to incorporate women into their organisation.

So, we now know about the various groups' participation in the civil disobedience movement, as well as the reasons for their reluctance to continue with it. So, let us now check the limits of civil disobedience.

The Limits of Civil Disobedience

Despite the fact that various social groups had joined Congress in the Civil Disobedience movement, many people were unmoved by the abstract concept of swaraj. The untouchables were one such group. They began referring to themselves as Dalits, or oppressed, in the 1930s. Initially, Congress did not bring up Dalit issues. They did so because they did not want to offend the sanatanis, or high caste conservative Hindus. Mahatma Gandhi was the one who declared that in order to achieve independence, the untouchables must be included in the movement. He once stated that if untouchability was not abolished, the swaraj would not arrive for another hundred years. He referred to the 'untouchables' as harijans, or God's children.

Gandhiji led the Satyagraha in support of harijans in order to gain access to temples. He also fought for the harijans' basic rights, such as access to public wells, tanks, roads, and schools. Not only that, but he persuaded the upper castes to change their minds and abandon the evil of untouchability.

While all of these struggles for dalits were taking place. Some leaders from the dalit community began organising to address various issues that their communities were facing. They began by requesting reserved seats in educational institutions as well as a separate electorate to select dalit members for the legislative council. Political dalit leaders believed that if they were given political power, they would be able to solve their community's various problems. As a result, dalit participation in the civil disobedience movement was limited, especially in Maharashtra and Nagpur, where their organisations were quite strong.

There were times when dalit demands clashed with Swaraj's ideology. Dr. B.R Ambedkar's demand for separate electorates for dalits clashed with Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy at the second round table conference held in (7 Sep 1931-1 Dec 1931). When the British government agreed to Ambedkar's demand, Gandhiji began a death-defying fast. Separate electorates for dalits, according to Gandhiji, would affect the process of their integration into society. Finally, Ambedkar agreed to Gandhiji's position, resulting in the Poona Pact of September 1932. The Poona pact provided reserved seats for dalits or scheduled castes in provincial and central legislative councils, but only if they were voted in by the general electorate. Aside from dalits, Muslims later felt alienated from the Congress. They each had their own reasons for doing so.

Some Muslim political organisations in India were hesitant to participate in the civil disobedience movement. This was due to the non-cooperation-Khilafat movement's decline in the past. The majority of Muslims felt alienated from Congress. It was because, beginning in the mid-1920s, the Congress became more closely associated with Hindu religious nationalist organisations such as the Hindu Mahasabha. Hindu-Muslim relations were worsening on a daily basis. Each community began organising religious procession with zeal. All of this resulted in communal riots between Hindus and Muslims in various cities. Each riot widened the chasm between the two communities. While the disagreement between the communities widened, the Congress and the Muslim League attempted to form an alliance. During 1927, it appeared that such unity was possible, but the main reason for the disagreements was over representation in the future assemblies that were to be elected. Initially, one of the Muslim League's leaders, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was willing to abandon the demand for separate Muslim electorates. He stated that Muslims be given reserved seats in the Central Assembly and representation in proportion to population in Muslim-majority provinces such as Bengal and Punjab. The Muslim League had hoped that this issue would be resolved at the 1928 All Parties Conference. However, due to the strong opposition of M.R. Jayakar of the Hindu Mahasabha, this issue was not resolved.

As a result, when the civil disobedience movement began in 1930, there was an atmosphere of distrust in the communities. Because the Muslims' demand was not accepted, large numbers of Muslims did not join movements in a united struggle. Many Muslim leaders and intellectuals were also concerned about Muslims' status as a minority within India. They were concerned that the Hindu majority would annihilate their culture and identity.

So we now know that various struggles were started by different groups with different mindsets. Later, all of these groups began to split apart for various reasons, but how did the concept of unity and nationalism emerge in such a situation? Let's talk about it.

4. The Sense of Collective Belonging

Limitations of the Movement

  • Spread of nationalism:
    • when people begin to believe that they are all part of the same nation
    • when they discover some unity that binds them together.
  • Sense of collective belonging:
    • partly through the experience of united struggles.
    • Nationalism captured people’s imagination: History and fiction, folklore and songs, popular prints and symbols, all played a part in the making of nationalism.

The nation symbolized

  • Creation of an image that people can identify the nation with.
  • 20th century: with the growth of nationalism, identity of India visually related to the image of Bharat Mata.
    • The first image was created by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay.
  • 1870s: Chattopadhyay wrote ‘Vande Mataram’ as a hymn to the motherland.
    • Later, it was included in his novel Anandamath & widely sung during Swadeshi movement in Bengal.
  • Moved by the Swadeshi movement, Abanindranath Tagore painted his famous image of Bharat Mata.
    • Mata is portrayed as an ascetic figure; she is calm, composed, divine and spiritual.
  • In subsequent years, the image of Bharat Mata acquired many different forms.
    • Devotion to this mother figure came to be seen as evidence of one’s nationalism.
  • Ideas of nationalism also developed via a movement to revive Indian folklore.
  • Late-19th-century:
    • nationalists recorded folk tales sung by bards;
    • they toured villages to gather folk songs & legends.
    • Their belief: the tales gave a true picture of traditional culture that had been damaged by external forces.
  • Essential: preserve folk tradition to discover one’s national identity and restore a sense of pride in one’s past.
  • Bengal: Rabindranath Tagore began collecting ballads, nursery rhymes and myths, and led the movement for folk revival.
  • Madras: Natesa Sastri published a 4-volume collection of Tamil folk tales, The Folklore of Southern India.
    • He believed that folklore was national literature; it was ‘the most trustworthy manifestation of people’s real thoughts and characteristics’.

  • As the national movement developed, nationalist leaders became aware of symbols in unifying people.
  • Swadeshi movement in Bengal: a tricolour flag (red, green and yellow) was designed. It had:
    • 8 lotuses for 8 provinces of British India,
    • a crescent moon, representing Hindus and Muslims.
  • By 1921, Gandhiji had designed the Swaraj flag.
    • It was a tricolour (red, green and white)
    • had a spinning wheel in the centre, representing the Gandhian ideal of self-help.
    • Carrying the flag, holding it aloft, during marches became a symbol of defiance.
  • Another means of creating nationalism: reinterpretation of history.
  • End of the 19th century: many Indians feeling that to instill a sense of pride in the nation, Indian history had to be thought about differently.
  • The British saw Indians as backward and primitive, incapable of governing themselves. In response, Indians began looking into the past to discover India’s great achievements.
  • They wrote about the glorious developments in ancient times when art and architecture, science and mathematics, religion and culture, law and philosophy, crafts and trade had flourished.
    • This glorious time, in their view, was followed by a history of decline, when India was colonised.
  • These nationalist histories urged the readers to take pride in India’s great achievements in the past and struggle to change the miserable conditions of life under British rule.

These efforts to unify people were not without problems. When the past being glorified was Hindu, when the images celebrated were drawn from Hindu iconography, then people of other communities felt left out.


  • A growing anger brought together various groups of Indians into a common struggle for freedom in the first half of the 20th century.
  • The Congress, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, tried to channel people’s grievances into organised movements for independence.
    • The nationalists tried to forge a national unity.
    • Diverse groups & classes participated in these movements with varied aspirations & expectations.
    • Wide-ranging grievances; freedom from colonial rule meant different things to different people.
  • The Congress continuously attempted to resolve differences, and ensure that the demands of one group did not alienate another.
    • Led to unity within the movement often breaking down.
  • The high points of Congress activity and nationalist unity were followed by phases of disunity and inner conflict between groups.
  • In other words, what was emerging was a nation with many voices wanting freedom from colonial rule.

4. The Sense of Collective Belonging

4. The Sense of Collective Belonging

Nationalism, as we know, spreads when people feel a sense of commonality with one another. This occurs when they believe they are from the same nation. However, the question of how people from different communities with different beliefs, languages, and cultures will come together to make the concept of nation a reality arises.

This sense of collective belonging arose for a variety of reasons, including their experience of united struggle or the variety of cultural processes through which nationalism captured people's imagination. History and fiction, folklore and folkdance, popular prints and symbols all play an important role in the formation of nationalism.

A nation's identity is typically represented by a figure or image. This aids in the creation of an image to which people can relate. As nationalism grew in our country in the twentieth century, the identity of Indians came to be visualised as Bharat Mata. To begin with, the image was created by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay in his poem 'Vande Matram.' In 1870, he wrote this poem as a hymn for his motherland. This poem was later included in his novel Anandmath and was widely sung during Bengal's Swadeshi movement. Abanindranath Tagore later painted an image of Bharat Mata. He portrayed her as an ascetic. She appears calm, divine, and spiritual.

The idea of nationalism developed not only through female depictions of India, but also through Indian folklore. Many nationalists began collecting various folk songs, folktales, and legends that were sung in villages across India in the late nineteenth century. They did this to preserve their folk tradition, which was the original culture of India that had been harmed by outsiders. Several prominent figures saw it as an urgent need to preserve folklore in order to restore pride in one's past. Rabindranath Tagore began collecting ballads, nursery rhymes, and myths in Bengal, and Natesa Sastri published the Folklore of Southern India, a massive four-volume collection of Tamil folk tales, in Madras. Both agreed that folklore is a true representation of the people's true thoughts and characteristics.

As the national movement progressed, various nationalist leaders chose symbols or icons to inculcate a sense of nationalism and unity among Indians. During the Swadeshi movement in Bengal, for example, a tricolour flag (red, green, and yellow) was designed. The flag featured eight lotuses, one for each of British India's eight provinces. It also featured a crescent moon to represent Hindus and Muslims. Gandhiji, too, designed a swaraj flag. His flag was also tricolour, with red, green, and white stripes and a spinning wheel in the centre. The spinning wheel symbolised Gandhi's ideal of self-help. Carrying a flag during a protest or march during those days symbolised resistance to British rule.

Another idea used to inculcate a sense of nationalism was our own past, or history. Many Indians began to believe that in order to instil a sense of pride in the nation, Indian history needed to be viewed differently. Because Britishers saw Indians as backward and incompetent to govern themselves, various writers began writing about the glorious Indian past. They wrote about historical developments in various fields such as architecture, science and mathematics, religion and culture, law and philosophy, crafts and trade, and so on. They described how our glorious past degraded with the arrival of colonial rule in our country.

The various efforts to bring people together were also linked to the controversies. This was due to the fact that when the past was glorified, it was associated with Hinduism, and the images were also drawn from Hindu iconography. As a result, people from other communities felt excluded.


So, in the end, we can say that growing resentment of the colonial government's oppressive rule was the primary motivator that brought all of India together to launch a common struggle for freedom in the first half of the twentieth century. The Congress, led by Mahatma Gandhi, attempted to channel people's problems into organised movements for independence. He attempted to forge national unity among Indians with the help of these movements, but as we have seen in the chapter, various groups joined the struggle with their own perceptions and aspirations, resulting in a situation of differences between these groups.Congress made several attempts to keep these groups together, but there were times when the differences became so terrific that Congress found it difficult to keep these groups together. So, in this case, we can say that it was a time when a new nation was emerging, with many people demanding independence from colonial rule.

1. The Pre-modern World

The Pre-modern World

  • Ancient times: travelers, traders, priests and pilgrims traveled for knowledge, opportunity and spiritual fulfillment, or to escape persecution.
    • carried goods, money, values, skills, ideas, inventions, and even germs and diseases.
  • 3000 BCE: an active coastal trade linked the Indus valley civilizations with present-day West Asia.
  • Cowries (seashells, then used as a form of currency) from the Maldives found in China and East Africa.
  • The long-distance spread of disease-carrying germs can be traced since the 7th century.
    • Y the 13th century it had become an unmistakable link.

Silk Routes Link the World​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

  • Before all this, Buddhism emerged from eastern India and spread in several directions through intersecting points on the silk routes.

Food Travels: Spaghetti and Potato

  • Food: a contributor of long-distance cultural exchanges.
  • Traders and travellers introduced new crops to the lands they travelled.
  • Prepared foodstuff in distant parts of the world could share common origins.
  • Spaghetti and noodles. Theories:
    • Noodles travelled west from China to become spaghetti.
    • Or Arab traders took pasta to fifth-century Sicily, an island now in Italy.
  • Similar foods were also known in India and Japan.
  • The truth about their origins may never be known.
  • Many of the common foods were not known until about 5 centuries ago, such as:
    • potatoes,
    • soya,
    • groundnuts,
    • maize,
    • tomatoes,
    • chilies,
    • sweet potatoes, etc.
  • These foods were introduced in Europe and Asia after Christopher Columbus accidentally discovered the vast continent later known as the Americas.
    • ‘America’ refers to North America, South America and the Caribbean.
  • Many of our common foods came from America’s original inhabitants – the American Indians.
  • Sometimes the new were lifegiving.
    • Europe: poor began to eat better and live longer with the introduction of the potato.
    • Ireland: poorest peasants became so dependent on potatoes that when disease destroyed the potato crop in the mid-1840s, hundreds of thousands died of starvation.

1. The Pre-modern World


The Making of a Global World‌

1. The Pre-modern World

Travelers, merchants, priests, and pilgrims used to travel long distances in search of knowledge, opportunity, and spiritual fulfilment. These people used to transport goods, money, values, skills, ideas, inventions, and, sometimes diseases. Not only that, but they brought different foods and cultural habits with them to different places, resulting in cultural diversity.

The movement of goods and people can be traced back to 3000 B.C., when the Indus Valley civilization established coastal trade links with modern-day West Asia. Cowries or seashells were the currency used to conduct trade activities at the time. Trade links exist between the Maldives and China, as well as between the Maldives and East Africa. Disease spread can even be traced back to the seventh century. So we now know that people, their skills, diseases, and many other things were moved from one location to another for various reasons, resulting in the establishment of various trade links. Now we'll talk about the silk routes that connected the world.

Silk Routes Link the World

The silk routes are an excellent example of pre-modern trade and cultural connections between different parts of the world. Historians have discovered numerous silk routes both on land and at sea. These routes connected vast regions of Asia, Europe, and Northern Africa. These routes are thought to have existed before the Christian era and flourished until the fifteenth century. Not only silk, but also Chinese pottery, followed the same route. Similarly, textiles and spices from India and Southeast Asia were distributed to various parts of the world. In exchange, valuable metals such as gold and silver shifted from Europe to Asia.

Cultural exchange occurred in the same way that trade did. Various Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist preachers travelled to various parts of Asia and spread their message. As trade and culture moved from one place to another, so did food.

Food Travels: Spaghetti and Potato

Food is another good example of cultural exchange. New crops were introduced to various places by traders and travellers. The origins of various food items from around the world can sometimes be traced back to a common ancestor. As an example, consider spaghetti and noodles. The noodles, according to popular belief, travelled from China to the west and became spaghetti. Some even claim that the Arabs brought pasta to Sicily (an Italian island).

Not only specific foods, but also common foods such as potatoes, soya, groundnuts, maize, tomatoes, chilies, and sweet potatoes were introduced in Europe and Asia after Christopher Columbus' discovery. These foods were only introduced to Europe and Asia after Christopher Columbus accidentally discovered the vast continent that would later be known as the Americas. As a result, we can say that the majority of our common foods originated with America's original inhabitants, the American Indians.

Because potatoes are inexpensive, they have become a staple food for Europe's poor. Ireland's poorest peasants became so reliant on them that when the crop failed in the mid-1840s, the majority of them died. Diseases were also spread as a result of the crisscrossing of various cultures and people. As a result, we can say that the premodern world witnessed the transfer of various elements of human society, which also resulted in conquests and the flourishing of trades.

Conquest, Disease and Trades

During the sixteenth century, European sailors discovered a sea route to Asia and later crossed the western ocean to reach America. Prior to this, the Indian Ocean was a well-known trading centre for many centuries. The Indian subcontinent was a hub for the exchange of goods, people, knowledge, customs, and so on. Later, the arrival of Europeans resulted in a flow of all of these things towards Europe. For millions of years, America was unknown to the rest of the world. Its discovery in the sixteenth century triggered the start of trade in its minerals and crops.

Valuable metals, particularly silver from mines in modern-day Peru and Mexico, increased Europe's wealth, allowing it to finance its trade with Asia. Rumors and imaginations spread as these expeditions gained popularity in order to explore more trade and wealth centres. As a result, many expeditions set out in the seventeenth century in search of El Dorado, the fabled city of gold.

Soon after, various powers, such as the Portuguese and the Spanish, began colonising America in order to expand their trade and wealth. However, conquering was not always accomplished through the use of arms and ammunition, but also through the spread of disease. Yes, in the context of Spanish conquerors who brought smallpox germs with them to America. The indigenous peoples were not immune to deadly diseases. This resulted in the deaths of a large number of Native Americans and the establishment of Spanish control over the area.

Poverty and hunger were common problems in Europe until the nineteenth century. Not only that, but cities became overcrowded, and deadly diseases spread. Religious conflicts arose, and people were persecuted. Several people emigrated from Europe to America. During the eighteenth century, African slaves were captured and sold into European markets to work on sugar and cotton plantations.

When it comes to China and India in the eighteenth century, both were the richest countries in the world. They were the leading countries in Asian trade, but it is also said that during the fifteenth century, China restricted its overseas trade, causing its importance in the trade world to decline. America gradually gained a significant position in the trade market, causing the centre of global trade to shift westward. Europe quickly rose to become the global trade hub. So, now that we've learned about the pre-modern era when trades began across continents, let's look at what new changes occurred in the nineteenth century.

2. The Nineteenth Century (1815-1914)


  • 16th century: European sailors found a sea route to Asia & crossed the western ocean to America.
  • The Indian Ocean: route for bustling trade, with goods, people, knowledge, customs, etc.
    • The Indian subcontinent: central to these flows and a crucial point in their networks.
    • The entry of the Europeans: expanded some of these flows towards Europe.
  • America: previously isolated from regular contact with the rest of the world for millions of years.
    • from 16th century: its vast lands and crops and minerals began to transform trade and lives.
  • Precious metals, particularly silver, from mines located in present-day Peru and Mexico also enhanced Europe’s wealth and financed its trade with Asia.
  • Legends spread in 17th-century Europe about South America’s fabled wealth.
    • Expeditions set off in search of El Dorado, the fabled city of gold.
  • mid-16th century: The Portuguese and Spanish conquest and colonisation of America was under way.
  • European conquest of Spain:
  • advantage of superior firepower.
  • most powerful weapon of the conquerors: germs like smallpox that they carried on their person.
  • Because of their long isolation, America’s original inhabitants had no immunity against these diseases that came from Europe.
  • Smallpox: a deadly killer.
  • Once introduced, it spread deep into the continent, ahead even of any Europeans reaching there.
  • It killed and decimated whole communities, paving the way for conquest.
  • Diseases could not be turned against the conquerors, since they were mostly immune.
  • Until the 19th century: poverty and hunger common in Europe.
    • Cities were crowded and deadly diseases were widespread.
    • Religious conflicts common, religious dissenters persecuted.
  • Thousands therefore fled Europe for America.
  • By 18th century: plantations, worked by African slaves, were growing cotton & sugar for European markets.
  • 18th century: China and India were among the world’s richest countries.
    • also pre-eminent in Asian trade.
  • From the 15th century, China is said to have restricted overseas contacts and retreated into isolation.
  • China’s reduced role and rising importance of the Americas moved the centre of world trade westwards.
    • Europe emerged as the centre of world trade.
Slaves for sale, New Orleans,
Illustrated London News, 1851.

A prospective buyer carefully inspecting slaves lined up before the auction. You can see two children along with four women and seven men in top hats and suit waiting to be sold. To attract buyers, slaves were often dressed in their best clothes.

  • 19th century: Economic, political, social, cultural and technological factors interacted in complex ways to transform societies and reshape external relations.
  • Economists identify three types of movement or ‘flows’ within international economic exchanges:
    1. The flow of trade, which in the 19th century referred largely to trade in goods (eg, cloth or wheat).
    2. The flow of labour: the migration of people in search of employment.
    3. The movement of capital for short-term or long-term investments over long distances.
  • All three flows were closely interwoven and affected peoples’ lives deeply than ever before.
  • The interconnections could sometimes be broken.
    • for example, labour migration was often more restricted than goods or capital flows.


food and Economy

  • There were changes in pattern of food production and consumption in industrial Europe.
  • Previously, countries liked to be self-sufficient in food.
  • 19th-century Britain: self-sufficiency in food meant lower living standards and social conflict.
    • Population growth from the late 18th century: increased demand for food grains.
  • Urban centres expanded & industry grew: demand for agricultural goods rose, pushing up food grain prices.
  • Corn Laws : Under pressure from landed groups, the government restricted the import of corn.
    • Unhappy with high food prices, industrialists & urban dwellers forced abolition of the Corn Laws.
  • Corn Laws scrapped: food import into Britain cheaper than producing it within the country.
  • British agriculture was unable to compete with imports.
    • Vast areas of land were left uncultivated,
    • thousands of men and women were thrown out of work.
    • They flocked to the cities or migrated overseas.
  • As food prices fell, consumption in Britain rose.
  • From mid-19th century, faster industrial growth in Britain led to higher incomes, and so, more food imports.
    • Eastern Europe, Russia, America and Australia: lands cleared and food production expanded to meet the British demand.
  • Railways were needed to link the agricultural regions to the ports.
    • New harbours had to be built and old ones expanded to ship the new cargoes.
  • People had to settle on the lands to bring them under cultivation.
    • homes and settlements had to be built.
  • All these activities in turn required capital and labour.
    • Capital flowed from financial centres such as London.
  • More labour demand in places where labour was in short supply:
    • America and Australia led to more migration.
    • Nearly 50 million people emigrated from Europe to America and Australia.
  • All over the world: some 150 million estimated migrations in search of a better future.

  • 1890: a global agricultural economy had taken shape.
    • Accompanied by complex changes in:
      • labour movement patterns,
      • capital flows,
      • ecologies,
      • technology.
  • Food was transported by specially built railway and ships which were manned by low-paid workers from southern Europe, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.
  • West Punjab: British Indian government built a network of irrigation canals to transform semi-desert wastes into fertile agricultural lands that could grow wheat and cotton for export.
  • The Canal Colonies: areas irrigated by the new canals.
    • Established using peasants from other parts of Punjab.
  • The infrastructure applicable for cotton, rubber, etc too. Items of British requirement.
  • 1820-1914: rapid regional specialisation in the production of commodities developed.
    • world trade is estimated to have multiplied 25 to 40 times.
  • Nearly 60% of this trade comprised ‘primary products’ – that is, agricultural products such as wheat and cotton, and minerals such as coal.

Role of Technology

  • Technological advances: often the result of larger social, political and economic factors.
  • Colonisation: stimulated new investments and improvements in transport-
    • faster railways,
    • lighter wagons,
    • larger ships
      • helped move food more cheaply and quickly from faraway farms to final markets.

The trade in meat

  • Till 1870s: animals shipped live from America to Europe, slaughtered when they arrived there.
    • Live animals took up a lot of ship space.
    • Many also died in voyage, fell ill, lost weight, or became unfit to eat.
  • Meat: an expensive luxury beyond the reach of the European poor.
    • High prices kept demand and production down.
  • Development of a new technology: refrigerated ships.
    • enabled the transport of perishable foods over long distances.
  • Animals slaughtered at the starting point (America, Australia, New Zealand), then transported to Europe as frozen meat.
  • This reduced shipping costs and lowered meat prices.
  • Many could now add meat (and butter and eggs) to their diet, other than the potatoes and bread.
  • Better living conditions promoted social peace within the country and support for imperialism abroad.
The Smithfield Club Cattle Show, Illustrated London News, 1851

Cattle were traded at fairs, brought by farmers for sale. One of the oldest livestock markets in London was at Smithfield. In the mid-19th century a huge poultry and meat market was established near the railway line connecting Smithfield to all the meat-supplying centres of the country.

Late nineteenth-century Colonialism

  • Trade flourished and markets expanded in the late 19th century.
  •  Darker side to this process:
    • In parts of the world, closer relationship with world economy meant loss of freedom & livelihoods.
    • Late 19th-century European conquests produced many painful economic, social and ecological changes through which the colonised societies were brought into the world economy.

  • Map of Africa: some countries’ borders run straight, as if drawn using a ruler.
    • This was almost how rival European powers in Africa drew up the borders demarcating their respective territories.
    • In 1885, the big European powers met in Berlin to complete the carving up of Africa between them.
  • Britain and France made vast additions to their overseas territories.
    • Belgium and Germany became new colonial powers.
    • The US became a colonial power in late 1890s by taking over some colonies earlier held by Spain.


Rinderpest- a fast-spreading disease of cattle plague

Rinderpest, or the Cattle Plague

  • 1890s, Africa: rinderpest has a terrifying impact on people’s livelihoods and the local economy.
  • A case of widespread European imperial impact on colonised societies.
    • Even a cattle disease reshaped lives of thousands of people & their relations with rest of the world.
  • Historically, Africa: abundant land and a relatively small population.
    • For centuries, land and livestock sustained African livelihoods.
    • People rarely worked for a wage.
  • Late 19th-century Africa: few consumer goods that wages could buy.
  • Europeans were attracted to Africa due to its vast resources of land and minerals.
  • They came to Africa to establish plantations & mines to produce crops & minerals for export to Europe.
    • Unexpected problem: a shortage of labour willing to work for wages.
  • Employers used many methods to recruit and retain labour:
    • Heavy taxes imposed: could be paid only by working for wages on plantations and mines.
    • Inheritance laws changed: only one member of a family allowed to inherit land.
      • The result: peasants displaced from land, they were pushed into the labour market.
  • Mineworkers: confined in compounds and not allowed to move about freely.
  • Late 1880s, Africa: Rinderpest arrived.
  • It was carried by infected cattle imported from British Asia to feed Italian soldiers invading Eritrea, East Africa.
    • Entered Africa in the east.
    • It moved west ‘like forest fire’, reaching Africa’s Atlantic coast in 1892.
    • It reached the Cape (Africa’s southernmost tip) five years later.
    • Rinderpest killed 90% of the cattle.
  • The loss of cattle destroyed African livelihoods.
  • Planters, mine owners and colonial governments monopolised what scarce cattle resources remained, to strengthen their power and to force Africans into the labour market.
  • Control over the scarce resource of cattle enabled European colonisers to conquer and subdue Africa.

Similar stories can be told about the impact of Western conquest on other parts of the 19th-century world.

Transport to the Transvaal gold mines,
The Graphic, 1887.

Crossing the Wilge river was the quickest method of transport to the gold fields of Transvaal. After the discovery of gold in Witwatersrand, Europeans rushed to the region despite their fear of disease and death, and the difficulties of the journey. By the 1890s, South Africa contributed over 20% of the world gold production.

Indentured Labour Migration from India

  • Indentured labour migration from India: illustration of the two-sided nature of the 19th-century.
  • Hundreds of thousands of Indian and Chinese labourers went to work on plantations, in mines, and in road and railway construction projects around the world.
  • Most Indian indentured workers came from the present-day regions of eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, central India and the dry districts of Tamil Nadu.
  • Mid-19th century: these regions experienced many changes:
    • cottage industries declined,
    • land rents rose,
    • lands were cleared for mines and plantations.
A contract form of an indentured labourer
  • All this affected the lives of the poor: they failed to pay their rents, became deeply indebted and were forced to migrate in search of work.
  • The main destinations of Indian indentured migrants:
    • the Caribbean islands (mainly Trinidad, Guyana and Surinam),
    • Mauritius,
    • Fiji,
    • Closer home, Tamil migrants went to Ceylon and Malaya.
  • Indentured workers also recruited for tea plantations in Assam.
  • Recruitment: done by agents engaged by employers and paid a small commission.
  • Agreement of migrants: working in hope of escaping poverty or oppression in their home villages.
  • Agents also tempted the prospective migrants by providing false information about:
    • final destinations,
    • modes of travel,
    • the nature of the work,
    • living and working conditions.
Indentured laboureres photographed for identification.
For the employers, the numbers and not the names mattered.
  • Often migrants were not even told that they would go on a long sea travel.
    • Sometimes agents even forcibly abducted less willing migrants.
  • Indenture has been described as a ‘new system of slavery’.
  • On arrival at the plantations, living and working conditions were harsh, with few legal rights.
  • Workers discovered their own ways of surviving:
    • Many of them escaped into the wilds, though if caught they faced severe punishment.
    • Others developed new forms of self-expression, blending different cultural forms.
  • These forms of cultural fusion are part of the making of the global world, where things from different places get mixed, lose their original characteristics and become something entirely new.
  • End of the contract:
    • Most indentured workers stayed on,
    • Some returned to their new homes after a while in India.
  • Consequently, there are large communities of people of Indian descent in these countries.

  • 1900s: India’s nationalist leaders opposed the system of indentured labour migration as abusive and cruel.
    • It was abolished in 1921.
  • For a number of decades afterwards, descendants of Indian indentured workers, often thought of as ‘coolies’, remained an uneasy minority in the Caribbean islands.
    • Some of Naipaul’s early novels capture their sense of loss and alienation.

Indian Entrepreneurs Abroad

  • Growing food and other crops for the world market required capital.
    • Large plantations could borrow it from banks and markets.
  • Capital for small peasants: Indian banker.
  • Shikaripuri Shroffs and Nattukottai Chettiars were amongst the many groups of bankers and traders who financed export agriculture in Central and Southeast Asia.
    • They used either their own funds or those borrowed from European banks.
  • They had a sophisticated system to transfer money over large distances.
    • They developed indigenous forms of corporate organisation.
  • Indian traders and moneylenders followed European colonisers into Africa.
  • Hyderabadi Sindhi traders ventured beyond European colonies.
    • From the 1860s they established flourishing emporia at busy ports worldwide.
    • They sold local and imported curios to tourists whose numbers were beginning to swell.

Indian Trade, Colonialism and the Global System

  • Fine cottons produced in India were exported to Europe.
  • Industrialisation: British cotton manufacture began to expand.
    • Industrialists pressurised government to restrict cotton imports and protect local industries.
  • Tariffs were imposed on cloth imports into Britain.
    • The inflow of fine Indian cotton began to decline.
  • Early 19th century: British manufacturers also began to seek overseas markets for their cloth.

  • Indian textiles faced stiff competition in other international markets.
  • Exports from India: steady decline of the share of cotton textiles- from 30% around 1800 to 15% by 1815.
    • 1870s: it had dropped to below 3%.
  • While exports of manufactures declined rapidly, export of raw materials increased equally fast.
  • 1812 and 1871: share of raw cotton exports rose from 5% to 35%.
    • Indigo used for dyeing cloth: another important export for many decades.
  • 1820s: Opium shipments to China grew rapidly to become (for a while) India’s single largest export.
A distant view of Surat and its river.
Through the 17th & early 18th century, Surat remained centre of overseas trade in western Indian Ocean.
  • Britain grew opium in India and exported it to China and.
    • With the money earned from this sale, it financed its tea and other imports from China.
  • Over the 19th century, British manufactures flooded the Indian market.
    • Food grain & raw material exports from India to Britain and the rest of the world increased.
    • The value of British exports to India was much higher than the value of British imports from India.
  • Britain had a ‘trade surplus’ with India.
    • They used it to balance its trade deficits with other countries, i.e., with countries from which Britain was importing more than it was selling to.
  • Multilateral settlement system: a country’s deficit with another settled by its surplus with a third country.
  • By helping Britain balance its deficits, India played a crucial role in the late-19th-century world economy.
  • Britain’s trade surplus in India also helped pay the so-called ‘home charges’ that included:
    • private remittances home by British officials and traders,
    • interest payments on India’s external debt,
    • pensions of British officials in India.
17th century: Trade routes linking India to the world.


2. The Nineteenth Century (1815-1914)

2. The Nineteenth Century (1815-1914)

Various economic, political, social, and cultural factors influenced the evolution of societies and their external relations during the nineteenth century. Three types of flow between international economies were observed in the nineteenth century. They were as follows:

  • Goods trading
  • Labor migration, or the movement of people looking for work.
  • Capital migration, or the movement of capital for short and long-term investments over long distances.

These three flows were interconnected in a way that had a greater impact on people's lives than before. These interconnections were occasionally disrupted; for example, labour migration was generally limited in comparison to capital flows. These flows helped to shape the global economy. But how did this happen? Let's talk about it.

A World Economy Takes Shape

First and foremost, let's talk about food. Food grain demand increased in Britain during the eighteenth century. Because of Britain's large population, this was the case. As cities grew and the industrial sector expanded, the demand for food grains increased, as did the price of food grains. Due to pressure from various landed groups, the British government imposed import restrictions on goods. These laws became known as the Corn Laws. This resulted in an increase in food prices. Because of this, industrialists and city people forced the government to repeal the Corn Laws.

As a result, the Corn Laws were repealed by the British government. This resulted in the importation of cheap corn into the country, creating stiff competition for corn growers. Soon after, it was discovered that the lands had been left uncultivated because growing corn in Britain was no longer a profitable business. Laborers were laid off. As a result, these people were forced to relocate to cities or to different countries in search of work.

Later, food prices fell, and consumption increased in the United Kingdom. Rapid industrial growth increased Britain's income beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. As a result, Britain can now import more food.

Food was being grown all over the world, including in Eastern Europe, Russia, America, and Australia, with the goal of exporting it to the United Kingdom.

Not only were the lands cleared, but railway lines and new harbours were built to connect the agricultural regions. People soon had to settle on lands in order to cultivate them. As a result, the need for building houses and settlements arose. This necessitated a significant amount of funding and labour. This resulted in a flow of capital from London and an increase in labour supply in America and Austraila.

In the nineteenth century, such a situation resulted in the migration of approximately 50 million people from Europe to America and Australia. It is estimated that approximately 150 million people around the world have left their homes in search of a better future. As a result, by 1890, a global agricultural economy had emerged. It was accompanied by various patterns of labour movement, capital flows, ecologies, and technology. As a result, food no longer came from a nearby village or town, but from a great distance away. Agricultural workers began to work on the land, and all agricultural regions were linked by railways, ports, and so on. Ships transporting food grains were generally manned by low-wage workers from southern Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean.

All of these changes were also observed, but only on a smaller scale, in the west Punjab. The canal system was built by the British government to convert a semi-desert area into fertile land. It was done in order to grow cotton and wheat for export. Cotton and rubber were also grown for use by Britain, in addition to food. The production of these items grew rapidly. Between 1820 and 1914, global trade was estimated to have multiplied by a factor of 25 to 40. Around 60% of trade was made up of primary products, such as wheat and cotton, as well as minerals such as coal. We now understand the role of agricultural products in shaping the global economy. Let us discuss the role of technology in shaping the world economy that we see today.

Role of Technology

Technology is critical to the global economy's expansion. The invention of railways, steamships, and the telegraph played a significant role in transforming the world in the nineteenth century. Technology progressed as a result of various social, political, and economic factors. For example, the colonisation of various European powers increased the demand for improved transportation, such as faster railways, larger ships, and so on, as this would allow for the quick and inexpensive movement of agricultural products to distant places.

One of the best examples of this interconnected process is the meat trade. Previously, the animals were shipped from America to Europe alive. For the most part, this was not a profitable venture for the following reasons:

  • Previously, livestock took up more space.
  • The majority of them died, became ill, or were infected with diseases, rendering them unfit for consumption.
  • As a result, the price of meat has risen.

Meat consumption by the poor was nearly impossible during those times. With the introduction of ships equipped with refrigerators, this problem was quickly solved. It had the following advantages.

  • Because the meat could be shipped in large quantities, transportation costs could be reduced.
  • It was now possible to handle the perishable meat for a longer period of time.
  • The price of meat fell, allowing the poor to consume meat as part of their daily diet.

So, we can say that the nineteenth century saw the exchange of goods, capital, and labour, and that all of these exchanges were facilitated by technological advancements. However, as the world shrank as a result of improved transportation, imperialism grew during this period. Various European powers were establishing colonies in various countries to serve their businesses in their home countries. Let's see how this goes.

Late nineteenth–century Colonialism

Trade flourished and markets expanded during the nineteenth century. This period, however, is remembered not only for the expansion of trade and economic prosperity, but also for the darker side of this process. In many parts of the world, the growth and expansion of trade has resulted in some negative consequences, such as the loss of freedoms and livelihoods. This was due to the fact that during this century, Europeans gained control of various territories around the world and established colonies.

After gaining control of Africa, the European powers delineated their respective territories in 1885. They met in Berlin to complete the process of dividing Africa between them.In the late nineteenth century, Britain and France were the ones who had established control over vast overseas territories. As the new colonial powers, Belgium and Germany rose to prominence. Later, in 1890, the United States became a colonial power by gaining control of the territories held by Spain. The European powers' colonisation had a negative impact on the lives of the people who lived in these colonies. So, how did their lives change? Let's look into this.

Rinderpest or the Cattle Plague

As previously stated, colonial rule had an impact on the lives of the various people who lived in these colonies. But the question is, how does this happen, and what is this Rinderpest we're talking about? Rinderpest was a cattle disease that spread in Africa in the 1890s, having a significant impact on the lives and livelihoods of Africans. To understand this, we must first understand Africa prior to colonisation. Historically, Africa had vast swaths of land and a small population. For centuries, the African people were reliant on agriculture and livestock. None of them had ever worked for wages because their needs were met by the land and livestock. As a result, when Europeans arrived in Africa, they were unable to find labourers because no one was willing to work for wages.

So, in order to attract labourers, they began using coercive methods such as raising taxes that could only be paid if Africans worked for wages. Later, land ownership rights were restricted to only one member, forcing other members into the labour market. Mineworkers were not allowed to move freely and were kept confined in the compounds. While all of this was going on, the cattle plague, also known as the Rinderpest, arrived in Africa in the 1880s. It arrived with the infected cattle imported from British Asia to feed the Italian troops invading Eritrea in East Africa. In 1892, the Rinderpest disease quickly spread from east to west and then to the Atlantic coast. Five years later, it arrived at the Cape. Rinderpest is thought to have killed 90 percent of the cattle.

Because the loss of cattle destroyed Africans' livelihoods, there was an increase in the supply of wage labourers for planters, mine owners, and colonial governments, who could now monopolise the scarce cattle resource to strengthen their power. Similar incidents occurred in other parts of the world conquered by Western countries.

Indentured Labor Migration from India

The storey of indentured or bonded labour is also a good example of the two-sided nature of the nineteenth-century world. On the one hand, it depicts rapidly growing economies, while on the other, it depicts widespread misery. Some became wealthier, while others became poorer; there was technological advancement in some areas and new forms of coercion in others. During the nineteenth century, a large number of Indian and Chinese labourers travelled around the world to work on plantations, mines, rail and road construction projects, and so on. The Indian indentured labourers were hired under contracts that required them to return to India after five years on the employers' plantation.

The majority of these workers came from areas such as east Uttar Pradesh, Central India, Bihar, and Tamil Nadu's dry districts. People in these areas were forced to work as indentured slaves for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Cottage industries are on the decline.
  • Land rents are increasing.
  • The majority of the land was cleared for mines and plantations.

All of the aforementioned factors had such a negative impact on people's lives that they became deeply indebted and were forced to leave their homes in search of work. The Caribbean islands of Trinidad, Guyana, and Surinam, as well as Mauritius and Fiji, were popular destinations for Indian indentured migrants. Tamil migrants typically chose nearby destinations such as Ceylon and Malaya. They were also occasionally recruited for tea plantations in Assam.

Generally, the recruitment was handled by a variety of agents who were paid a commission for their efforts. These agents attempted to entice the workers by showing them fictitious dreams of good working conditions and high pay. As a result, the workers saw these jobs as a way out of poverty and misery. However, they were generally unaware of the harsh working conditions and low wages in these workplaces. In some cases, these agents abducted workers and forced them to work.

Because life in these places was harsh and difficult, the workers developed their own methods of survival. Some of them managed to flee these places. Those who were caught received harsh punishment. Others chose to become a part of the new culture that had emerged in these places. For example, in Trinidad, the annual Muharram procession began to attract people of all races and religions. Similarly, Rastafarianism, a protest religion, is said to reflect cultural ties with Indian migrants to the Caribbean. Not only that, but Trinidad and Guyana's popular chutney music is another creative contemporary expression of the post-indenture experience.

Because of this mingling of cultures, indentured workers stayed in these new places even after their contracts expired. Some of the other workers did return to India, but only for a short time before departing for their new homes. That is why we continue to find people of Indian origin living in these areas. Despite the fact that they had begun to associate with the new culture, they were still aware that their lives were fraught with difficulties. As a result, in order to protect the rights of such workers, Indian nationalist leaders began to criticise the indentured labour migration system as abusive and cruel.

So far, we know that colonisation resulted in the introduction of the concept of indentured labour, which forced workers to relocate to distant places in search of work. People moved not only because of indentured contracts, but also because they wanted to invest in the flourishing trade markets in order to make a fortune. So, who exactly were they? They were known as the Indian Entrepreneurs.

Indian Entrepreneurs Abroad

As previously stated, various countries were growing food and crops for export, but this required capital. Banks and markets could lend to large plantations, but what about the poor peasants?

These peasants previously borrowed money from Indian bankers. Shikaripuri Shroffs and Nattukottai Chettiars were important bankers or money lenders who provided funds for Central and Southeast Asian export agriculture. They provided funds that were either their own or borrowed from European banks. They developed indigenous forms of corporate organisation and had a sophisticated system for transferring money over long distances. Indian traders accompanied European colonisers into Africa. Hyderabadi Sindhi traders outpaced European colonies. With the development of safe and comfortable passenger vessels, Indian traders were able to set up shop in busy ports around the world, selling local and imported goods to tourists and others.

So we now know about colonialism, the flourishing of world trade under it, the hardships endured by the people, and how Indian traders and moneylenders began to benefit from it. Following that, we will discuss the Indian trade in relation to colonialism and global trade.

Indian Trade, Colonialism and the Global System

Historically, fine Indian cotton was in high demand in Europe, but as technology and industries advanced, British cotton production began to expand. Because British industrialists were facing stiff competition from Indian cotton, the government was forced to impose restrictions on cotton imports into the country. This resulted in a decrease in Indian cotton exports.

Beginning in the early nineteenth century, British traders began exporting their goods to various countries. As there were no taxes for British producers, this made it difficult for Indian textiles or cotton producers to compete. This resulted in a decrease in the Indian textile's trade share. For example, in 1800, Indian cotton had a 30 percent share of the trade market, but by 1815, it had dropped to 15 percent. By the 1870s, this proportion had fallen below 3%.

When India's export of finished goods was declining, it also saw an increase in raw material exports. As a result, the share of raw cotton exports increased from 5% to 35% between 1812 and 1871. Another such product that was exported for many decades was indigo, which was used to dye cloth. In 1820, opium exports to China increased dramatically. In order to earn money, Britain grows opium in India and exports it to China. This money was then used to buy tea and other Chinese goods.

The British were importing products from India at a low cost and exporting finished products at a high cost in the nineteenth century, which was a new observation. Thus, Britain had a trade surplus, which means that its income exceeded its expenses. As a result, Britain began to use this surplus to offset its trade deficit with other countries. Britain's trade surplus also aided in the repayment of other expenses such as remittances, debts, and pensions. So, we now understand how global trade evolved and took on a new form. It took on a new shape as a result of its association with forced labour and colonialization. However, this quickly led to a war between various economies, as everyone now wants to earn more and have a larger share of global trade. Such conflicts led to World War I. So, how does it affect the entire world? Let's check this.

3. The Inter war Economy

The Inter-war Economy: Production and Consumption

Wartime Transformations

  • World War I (1914-18): mainly fought in Europe. Impact felt around the world.
  • World experienced widespread economic and political instability.
  • World War I: fought between two power blocs:
    • Allies– Britain, France and Russia (later joined by the US);
    • Central Powers– Germany, Austria-Hungary and Ottoman Turkey.
  • War starts: August 1914.
    • Many governments thought it would be over by Christmas.
    • It lasted more than four years.
  • The fighting harnessed the powers of modern industry to inflict greatest destruction on their enemies.
    • This was thus the first modern industrial war.

Workers in a munition factory during the First World War.
Production of armaments increased rapidly to meet war demands.

  • Workers in a munition factory during the First World War.
    Production of armaments increased rapidly to meet war demands.

    It saw the use of:
    • machine guns,
    • tanks,
    • aircraft,
    • chemical weapons, etc. on a massive scale.
  • Millions of soldiers recruited from around the world and moved to the frontlines on large ships and trains.
  • Death: 9 million. Destruction: 20 million injured.
    • These numbers unthinkable without use of industrial arms.
  • Most of the killed and maimed were men of working age.
    • These reduced the able-bodied workforce in Europe.
  • With fewer numbers within the family, household incomes declined after the war.
  • During the war, industries were restructured to produce war-related goods.
    • Societies reorganised for war: men went to battle, women undertook jobs that previously men did.
  • The war led to the snapping of economic links between some of the world’s largest economic powers.
  • Britain borrowed large sums of money from US banks as well as the US public.
    • The war transformed the US from being an international debtor to an international creditor.
  • At the war’s end, the US and its citizens owned more overseas assets than foreign governments and citizens owned in the US.

Post-war Recovery


  • Post-war economic recovery: difficult.
  • Britain in the pre-war period: the world’s leading economy.
  • While Britain was preoccupied with war: industries developed in India and Japan.
  • Britain after the war, found it difficult to:
    • recapture its dominance in the Indian market,
    •  compete with Japan internationally.
  • To finance war expenditures Britain had borrowed from the US.
    • End of the war: Britain burdened with huge external debts.
  • The war had led to an economic boom: a large increase in demand, production and employment.
    • War boom ended: production contracted and unemployment increased.
  • Government reduced war expenditures.
    • Led to huge job losses: In 1921, 1 in every 5 British workers was out of work.

Agricultural economies: Wheat producers

  • Before the war, eastern Europe: major supplier of wheat in the world market.
  • Supply disrupted during the war: wheat production in Canada, America and Australia expanded.
  • War over: production in eastern Europe revived and led to spike in wheat output.
    • Grain prices fell,
    • rural incomes declined,
    • farmers fell deeper into debt.

Rise of Mass Production and Consumption

  • After a brief economic trouble post-war, the US economy resumed its strong growth in the early 1920s.
  • 1920s, Important feature of the US economy: mass production.
  • The move towards mass production: late 19th century.
    • 1920s: it became a characteristic feature of industrial production.

Car manufacturer Henry Ford: well-known pioneer of mass production

  • Result: Ford’s cars came off the assembly line at 3-minute intervals, a much faster speed.
    • The T-Model Ford was the world’s first mass-produced car.
  • Workers at Ford factory: unable to cope with stress of working on assembly lines where they couldn’t control the work pace.
    • They quit in large numbers.
    • Ford doubled the daily wage to $5 in January 1914.
    • He banned trade unions from operating in his plants.
  • Recovery of the high wage:
    • Repeatedly sped up the production line;
    • Forced workers to work ever harder.
  • He soon described his decision to double the wage as the ‘best cost-cutting decision’ he had ever made.
  • Fordist industrial practices soon spread in the US.
    • They were widely copied in Europe in the 1920s.
    • Mass production lowered costs & prices of engineered goods.
  • Higher wages: more workers could afford to purchase durable consumer goods such as cars.
  • Car production in the US: rose from 2 million in 1919 to more than 5 million in 1929.

There was a spurt in purchase of refrigerators, washing machines, radios, gramophones, through a system of ‘hire purchase’.

T-Model automobiles lined up outside the factory.

  • Most parts of the world experienced huge declines in production, employment, incomes and trade.
  • The exact timing and impact of the depression varied across countries.
    1. Agricultural regions and communities were the worst affected.
      1. fall in agricultural prices greater & more prolonged than the prices of industrial goods.
  • The cause of depression: a combination of several factors;
  • Agricultural overproduction
    1. Made worse by falling agricultural prices: prices slumped, agricultural incomes declined.
    2. Farmers tried to expand production & bring a larger volume to the market to maintain the overall income.
    3. This worsened the excess supply in the market, pushing down prices even further.
    4. Farm produce rotted for a lack of buyers.
Migrant agricultural worker’s family, homeless and hungry, during the Great Depression, 1936.
  • Mid-1920s: many countries financed their investments through loans from the US. ​​​​​​​
    1. often extremely easy to raise loans in the US when all was good,
    2. US overseas lenders panicked at the first sign of trouble.
    3. First half of 1928: US overseas loans valued over $1 billion.
      1. A year later it was one quarter of that amount. Countries that depended crucially on US loans now faced an acute crisis.
      2. Withdrawal of US loans affected much of the rest of the world, in different ways.
      3. Europe: led to the failure of some major banks & the collapse of currencies like British pound sterling.
      4. Latin America and elsewhere: intensified the slump in agricultural & raw material prices.

    1. The US attempt to protect its economy in the depression by doubling import duties dealt another severe blow to world trade.
    2. The US: the industrial country most severely affected by the depression.
      1. Fall in prices and the prospect of a depression: US banks also slashed domestic lending & called back loans.
      2. Farms could not sell their harvests, households were ruined, and businesses collapsed.
      3. Faced with falling incomes, many households in the US could not repay what they had borrowed, and were forced to give up their homes, cars and other consumer durables.
      4. The consumerist prosperity of the 1920s disappeared.
      5. Unemployment rose: people went long distances looking for any work they could find.
    3. The US banking system itself collapsed.
      1. Unable to recover investments, collect loans and repay depositors, thousands of banks went bankrupt and were forced to close.
      2. By 1933: over 4,000 banks closed.
      3. 1929-1932: about 110,000 companies had collapsed.
      4. By 1935: a modest economic recovery underway in most industrial countries.
  • The Great Depression’s wider effects on society, politics and international relations, and on peoples’ minds, proved more enduring.

India and the Great Depression

  • In the 19th century: colonial India became an exporter of agricultural goods and importer of manufactures.
  • The depression immediately affected Indian trade.
    • India’s exports and imports nearly halved during 1928-1934.
    • International prices crashed: prices in India fell.
      • 1928-1934: wheat prices in India fell by 50%.
  • Peasants and farmers suffered more than urban dwellers.
    • Agricultural prices fell sharply, but the colonial government refused to reduce revenue demands.
    • Peasants producing for the world market were the worst hit.

The Jute producers of Bengal

  • They grew raw jute, processed in factories for export in the form of gunny bags.
    • Gunny exports collapsed, the price of raw jute crashed more than 60%.
    • Peasants who borrowed hoping of higher incomes faced ever lower prices, & fell deeper into debt.
  • Across India, peasants’ indebtedness increased.
    • They used their savings, mortgaged lands & sold any jewellery they had to their meet expenses.
  • Depression years: India became an exporter of precious metals, notably gold.
  • The famous economist, John Maynard Keynes, felt Indian gold exports promoted global economic recovery.
    • They helped speed up Britain’s recovery, but did little for the Indian peasant.
    • Rural India was adjusting with unrest when Mahatma Gandhi launched the civil disobedience movement at the height of the depression in 1931.
  • The depression proved less grim for urban India.
    • Because of falling prices, those with fixed incomes found themselves better off.
    • Everything cost less.
    • Industrial investment grew as the government extended tariff protection to industries, under the pressure of nationalist opinion.

3. The Inter war Economy

3. The Inter war Economy

Europe was at the centre of the First World War (1914-18). However, it had a global impact. Global economic and political instability resulted from the war. To understand this, we must first understand the facts of the war, and then we will discuss its consequences.

Wartime Transformations

The First World War was fought between two powers, the Allies and the Central Powers. Britain, France, and Russia were allies. They were later joined by the United States. The central powers, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Ottoman Turkey, were on the other side. The war, which was supposed to last only a few months, lasted up to four years. This war was extremely destructive due to the widespread use of machine guns, tanks, aircraft, chemical weapons, and other weapons. All of this was the result of modern large-scale industry. Millions of soldiers were recruited from all over the world and transported to the actual place to fight the war. Around 9 million people were killed and 20 million were injured as a result of the war. Such a large number of casualties had never been seen in any previous war.

Those killed or injured were mostly men of working age. These deaths reduced Europe's workforce. Household incomes fell after the war because there were only a few members left in the families. The war caused a reorganisation of industries into those that produce war-related products, as well as a reorganisation of societies. Men went to battle, and women stepped out to work. Because the war had increased expenditure, the United Kingdom borrowed money from both US banks and the general public in the United States. This resulted in a shift in the US's position from debtor to creditor, as well as increased prosperity for US citizens.

The war had caused an economic crisis in many countries, resulting in massive losses of both men and money. So, the question is, how did these economies recover from it?

Post war Recovery

It was not an easy task to recover the economy after World War. Britain, which had been a prosperous economy prior to the war, was now in a state of crisis. This was due to the fact that Britain was involved in a war at the time. Japan's and India's industries grew. As a result, after the war, Britain struggled to reclaim control of the Indian market and was unable to compete with Japan in the international market. Furthermore, Britain had taken out massive loans from the United States at high interest rates, resulting in massive external debts on the economy.

During the war, the economy boomed due to an increase in demand, production, and employment. However, as the war ended, so did the boom period. As a result, there was a large unemployed population. To cover up its losses, the government reduced its public spending after the war. The situation was even worse after the war, as evidenced by the fact that one out of every five British workers was unemployed in 1921. 

Not only that, but various agricultural economies have also entered a state of crisis. When it comes to wheat production, Eastern Europe was the world's leading supplier. However, the supply was disrupted during the war. Countries such as Canada, America, and Australia increased their wheat production during this time period. As a result, when the war ended, there was a massive supply of wheat from all over the world, causing the price of wheat to fall dramatically and farmers to go into debt.

As some of the countries bore the brunt of the war and struggled to recover from the economic crisis. Some countries recovered quickly as a result of it. We're talking about the United States here. So, what was the reason that caused the United States to emerge from this situation so quickly, and how did the country move toward mass production, which resulted in economic growth? Let's talk about it.

Rise of Mass Production and Consumption

As a result, recovery in the United States was faster. As we know, the war aided in the growth of the US economy, so after a brief period of difficulty, the US economy resumed strong growth in the early 1920s. The concept of mass production in the 1920s was one of the driving forces behind the growth of the US economy. Henry Ford, a well-known automobile manufacturer, was the first to use it. He got the idea from a Chicago slaughterhouse assembly line, where butchers picked apart slaughtered animals as they came down a conveyor belt. As a result, he applied the assembly line concept to his new car plant in Detroit. In his opinion, the assembly line method will allow for a more efficient and cost-effective way of producing vehicles.

The assembly line concept would allow workers to work in a set amount of time, speeding up the production process and allowing workers to gain expertise in a specific task. Ford's cars came off the line three minutes apart, as expected as production increased. However, the issue arose when workers refused to work because it was impossible for them to keep up with the pace of the work. Ford doubled their daily wage to encourage them. Though it was a risky decision that could have resulted in losses, it proved to be a profitable venture for him. He made his employees work extremely hard. This resulted in high production, which reduced production costs and allowed Ford to earn huge profits.

In the 1920s, Ford's industrial practises served as an inspiration to other manufacturing companies in the United States and Europe. Finally, mass production resulted in lower production costs. Not only that, but higher wages improved workers' living conditions. They could even purchase automobiles now. As a result, car sales increased, and car production in the United States increased from 2 million in 1919 to more than 5 million in 1929. Similarly, the hire purchase system increased demand for refrigerators, washing machines, radios, and gramophone players. When you buy a product in weekly or monthly instalments, you are using a hire purchase system.

The increase in demand for housing and consumer goods fueled the economy and led to the United States' prosperity. Demand for housing and consumer goods increased employment and income opportunities. As a result, the United States captured the largest share of overseas lending in 1923. Although US exports fueled European recovery and global trade and income growth for the next few years, they could not last forever. By 1929, the world was in the grip of an economic depression, which had a far-reaching impact on people's lives. So, what exactly was the Great Depression? Let's talk about it.

The Great Depression

The Great Depression was an economic crisis that resulted from the stock market crash in October 1929. As a result, the Great Depression lasted until the mid-1930s. Various parts of the world experienced declines in production, employment, income, and trade during this time period. The exact timing and severity of the depression differed by country. However, agricultural regions and communities were the hardest hit. This was due to a long-term decline in food grain prices.

Several factors contributed to the depression. As we have seen, agricultural overproduction was a major factor in the fall in the price of food grains, so farmers began producing more to compensate for their losses in order to overcome the problem. However, this proved ineffective for them because it resulted in further price reductions for agricultural products. The second reason was the United States' lack of interest in lending loans. In the mid-1920s, the US was easily lending loans to overseas borrowers, but as the crisis began, US investors became more cautious in lending loans. This is explained by the fact that in the first half of 1928, US overseas loans totaled more than a billion dollars, but a year later, they were only a quarter of that amount. As a result, the withdrawal of US loans created a huge problem for those countries that relied on the US for loans. Many major banks failed in Europe, and currencies such as the pound and sterling collapsed. When the United States attempted to protect its economy by raising import duties, it put the world trade system in danger.

The United States, like other industrial countries, was severely impacted by the Great Depression. As the prices of all commodities fell and the likelihood of a depression increased, banks stopped lending even on domestic loans. They ceased to follow the policy of easy loans. All of this resulted in the following:

  • Farms were unable to sell their crops.
  • Households were destroyed.
  • Businesses had failed.

As it became more difficult for local residents to repay their debts, they began selling their homes, cars, and other valuables in order to pay off the loans. The days of prosperity were long gone, and all that remained was the depression and its aftereffects. People were forced to travel long distances in search of work. Because banks were unable to recover their loans, the US banking system eventually collapsed. Over 4000 banks had closed by 1933, and approximately 110,000 businesses had closed between 1929 and 1932. The Great Depression had not only affected European countries, but it had also had a negative impact on India. Let's take a look at it.

India and the Great Depression

When we consider the impact of the Great Depression on India, we can see how different countries' economies became integrated by the early twentieth century. As a result, if one part of the world was affected by depression, the other part was also confronted with the same type of challenge. India, as a British colony, was an exporter of agricultural goods and an importer of manufacturers during the nineteenth century. The market crashed as a result of the depression, which had a severe impact on India. From 1928 to 1934, India's exports and imports decreased dramatically. As the prices of products in the international market fall, so do the prices in India. Wheat prices fell by half between 1928 and 1934 as a result of the terrible situation.

Peasants, not city dwellers, bore the brunt of the consequences. It was so because the prices of agricultural products had dropped drastically, leaving the peasants with no income. The British government, on the other hand, had not reduced its revenue. As a result, paying taxes without any income was a difficult task. Consider the situation of jute farmers. These farmers used to cultivate jute, which was then processed in factories and exported as gunny bags. However, as exports of gunny bags fell, the price of jute fell by more than 60%. Some of the peasants had borrowed to increase jute output in order to earn more money. However, as prices fell, they were unable to earn any income and were soon trapped in a vicious cycle of debt.

The condition of peasants in India was poor. To meet their expenses, they had to rely on their savings or mortgage their land and sell their jewellery or precious metals. During the Great Depression, India emerged as a major exporter of precious metals, particularly gold. Famous economist John Maynard Keynes believed that Indian gold exports could aid the world's recovery from the Great Depression. Britain receives some assistance in this regard, but the plight of Indian peasants remains unchanged. Rural Indians were particularly hard hit by the depression. To assist them, Mahatma Gandhi launched the civil disobedience movement at this time.

As previously stated, the urban Indians fared better during the depression because they were Zamindars, salaried employees who received fixed income in the form of salaries or rents. They improved their position as the prices of each commodity fell. Industrial investments increased as the government provided tariff protection to industries in response to nationalist pressure. So, we now know how businesses grew in the global market and how the situation changed as a result of the Great Depression, but this did not last long. When the economies recovered, they attempted to rebuild themselves. So, what caused this to occur? Let's take a look.

4. Rebuilding a World Economy: The Post-war Era

The Post-war Era (1939-1945)

  • World War II was fought between:
    • the Axis: mainly Nazi Germany, Japan and Italy
    • the Allies: Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the US
  • It was a war waged on many fronts, over land, on sea, in the air.
  • Death and destruction was again enormous.
    • At least 60 million people, or about 3% of the world’s 1939 population, are believed to have been killed, directly or indirectly.
    • Millions more were injured.
  • Most of these deaths took place outside the battlefields.
    • Many more civilians than soldiers died from war-related causes.
    • Vast parts of Europe and Asia were devastated,
    • Several cities were destroyed by aerial bombardment or relentless artillery attacks.
German forces attack Russia, July 1941. Hitler’s attempt to invade Russia was a turning point in the war.
  • The war caused an immense amount of economic devastation and social disruption.
  • Two crucial influences shaped post-war reconstruction:
    • The US’s emergence as the dominant economic, political and military power in the Western world.
    • The dominance of the Soviet Union.
      • It had made huge sacrifices to defeat Nazi Germany,
      • It transformed itself from a backward agricultural country into a world power during the years when the capitalist world was trapped in the Great Depression.
Stalingrad in Soviet Russia devastated by the war.

Post-war Settlement and the Bretton Woods Institutions

  • Economists and politicians drew two key lessons from inter-war economic experiences:
    • An industrial society based on mass production cannot be sustained without mass consumption.
      • To ensure mass consumption, high and stable incomes needed.
      • Incomes could not be stable if employment was unstable.
      • So, stable incomes required steady, full employment.
      • But markets alone could not guarantee full employment, governments would have to step in to minimise fluctuations of price, output and employment.
      • Economic stability could be ensured only through the intervention of the government.
    • A country’s economic links with the outside world.
      • The goal of full employment could only be achieved if governments had power to control flows of goods, capital and labour.
  • Main aim of the post-war international economic system: To preserve economic stability and full employment in the industrial world.
    • Its framework was agreed upon at the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference held in July 1944 at Bretton Woods in New Hampshire, USA.
  • The Bretton Woods conference established the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to deal with external surpluses and deficits of its member nations.
  • The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (popularly known as the World Bank) was set up to finance post-war reconstruction.
  • The IMF and the World Bank are referred to as the Bretton Woods institutions or sometimes the Bretton Woods twins. The post-war international economic system is often described as the Bretton Woods system.
Mount Washington Hotel situated in Bretton Woods, US.
The place where the conference was held.
  • 1947: The IMF and the World Bank commence financial operations.
  • Decision-making in these institutions is controlled by the Western industrial powers.
  • The US has an effective right of veto over key IMF and World Bank decisions.
  • The international monetary system is the system linking national currencies and monetary system.
  • The Bretton Woods system was based on fixed exchange rates.
    • In this system, national currencies were pegged.
      • for example: the Indian rupee were pegged to the dollar at a fixed exchange rate. The dollar itself was anchored to gold at a fixed price of $35 per ounce of gold.

The Early Post-war Years

  • The Bretton Woods system began an era of paced growth of trade & incomes for the Western industrial nations and Japan.
  • World trade grew annually at over 8% between 1950 and 1970 and incomes at nearly 5%.
    • The growth was also mostly stable, without large fluctuations.
  • For much of this period the unemployment rate averaged less than 5% in most industrial countries.
  • These decades also saw the worldwide spread of technology and enterprise.
  • Developing countries were in a hurry to catch up with the advanced industrial countries.
    • They invested vast amounts of capital, importing industrial plant and equipment featuring modern technology.

Decolonisation and Independence

  • End of World War II: large parts of the world still under European colonial rule.
  • Next two decades: most colonies in Asia and Africa emerged as free, independent nations.
    • They were overburdened by poverty and a lack of resources
    • their economies and societies handicapped by long periods of colonial rule.
  • The IMF and the World Bank were designed to meet the financial needs of the industrial countries.
    • Not equipped to cope with the challenge of poverty & lack of development in the former colonies.
  • Europe and Japan rapidly rebuilt their economies: less dependent on the IMF and the World Bank.
  • From late 1950s: Bretton Woods institutions began to shift their attention towards developing countries.
  • As colonies, many of the less developed regions of the world had been part of Western empires.
  • As newly independent countries facing urgent pressures to lift their populations out of poverty, they came under the guidance of international agencies dominated by the former colonial powers.
  • Even after years of decolonisation, former colonial powers still controlled vital resources such as minerals and land in many of their former colonies.
  • Large corporations of other powerful countries also often managed to secure rights to exploit developing countries’ natural resources very cheaply.
  • Most developing countries did not benefit from fast growth Western economies in the 1950s and 1960s.
  • So, they organised themselves as a group: the Group of 77 (or G-77) to demand a new international economic order (NIEO).
    • NIEO: a system that would give them real control over their-
      • natural resources,
      • more development assistance,
      • fairer prices for raw materials,
      • better access for their manufactured goods in developed countries’ markets.

End of Bretton Woods era

  • From 1960s: rising costs of US’s overseas involvements weakened its finances and competitive strength.
    • The US dollar no longer commanded confidence as the world’s principal currency.
    • It could not maintain its value in relation to gold.
    • This eventually led to the collapse of the system of fixed exchange rates.
    • Floating exchange rates system introduced.
  • Mid-1970s: the international financial system changed in important ways:
    • Earlier: developing countries could turn to international institutions for loans & development assistance.
    • Now: they were forced to borrow from Western commercial banks & private lending institutions.
  • Result: periodic debt crises in developing world, and lower incomes & increased poverty, especially in Africa and Latin America.
  • Industrial world was hit by unemployment, rising from mid-1970s and remained high until the early 1990s.
    • From late 1970s: MNCs began to shift production operations to low-wage Asian countries.
  • China had been cut off from the post-war world economy since its revolution in 1949.
    • New economic policies in China and the collapse of the Soviet Union and Soviet-style communism in Eastern Europe brought many countries back into the world economy.
    • Wages were relatively low in countries like China.
      • They became viable options for investment by foreign MNCs competing to capture markets.
  • The relocation of industry to low-wage countries stimulated world trade and capital flows.
  • In the last two decades, the world’s economic geography has been transformed as countries such as India, China and Brazil have undergone rapid economic transformation.


4. Rebuilding a World Economy: The Post-war Era

4. Rebuilding a World Economy: The Post-war Era

As we all know, World War I was a disaster for the entire world. While the world was still trying to recover from the aftermath of WWI, the Second World War broke out after a two-decade pause. The Axis (primarily Nazi Germany, Japan, and Italy) and the Allies fought the Second World War (1939-1945). (Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the US). This lasted six years and took place on many fronts and in many places, on land, at sea, and in the air.

The world had once again been turned towards death and destruction. At this point, it is estimated that at least 60 million people, or roughly 3% of the world's 1939 population, were killed directly or indirectly as a result of the war. A large number of people were hurt. The difference this time was that the deaths were of civilians rather than fighters on the battlefields. Aerial bombardment or relentless artillery attacks annihilated huge areas of Europe and Asia. Many countries suffered the greatest economic setback as a result of the war.

Following the war, two countries rose to power. The United States emerged as the dominant economic, political, and military power in the Western world, with the Soviet Union coming in second. The Soviet Union had made enormous sacrifices to defeat Nazi Germany, transforming itself from an agricultural economy to a world power during the years when the capitalist world was engulfed in the Great Depression. So, when the world economies were once again engulfed in a depression, what steps did they take to get out of it? Let's talk about it.

Post-war Settlement and the Bretton woods institutions

After the war, economists and politicians came to two conclusions. The first was that mass consumption is just as important as mass production for the survival of the industrial society. However, the issue here was that appropriate and stable incomes were required for mass consumption. This necessitated the availability of stable employment. But, once again, markets alone could not guarantee full employment. As a result, governments would have to intervene to reduce price, output, and employment irregularities. Only the government could bring economic stability back.

The second concern was the country's economic ties with other countries. If the country wants to achieve full employment, the government must control the flow of goods, capital, and labour. In summary, the main goal of the postwar international economic system was to maintain economic stability and full employment in the industrial world. So, in July 1944, at Bretton Woods in New Hampshire, USA, a framework was designed for this at the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference.

The Bretton Woods conference produced the following outcomes:

  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is established to deal with its member countries' external surpluses and deficits.
  • The second was the establishment of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, or World Bank, to finance postwar reconstruction.

Both the IMF and the World Bank began their financial operations in 1947. Western industrial powers manage the decision-making process. The United States had the right to veto important IMF and World Bank decisions.

National currencies and monetary systems are linked by the international monetary system. Fixed exchange rates underpin the Bretton Woods system. National currencies are pegged to the dollar at a fixed rate in this system. The dollar is fixed at $35 per ounce of gold. So we now know that the IMF and World Bank were established in order to maintain economic stability and full employment. Now we'll see how economies performed after the war.

The Early Post-war Years

The Bretton Woods system ushered in an era of increased trade and income for the Western Industrial Countries and Japan. It was a period of unprecedented growth. So, between 1950 and 1970, global trade grew at a rate of more than 8% per year, while income grew at a rate of nearly 5%. During this time period, growth was mostly stable. In most industrial countries, for example, the unemployment rate averaged less than 5% during this time period.

During these decades, the world witnessed the development of numerous new technologies as well as the expansion of businesses. As developing countries sought to match the pace of advanced countries, they made large capital investments and began importing plants and equipment with cutting-edge technology. Though this period is remembered for the global expansion of business and technology, it is also remembered for the decolonization and independence of various nations. Let's take a look at it.

Decolonization and Independence

Despite the fact that the Second World War had ended, many countries remained under European colonial rule. As a result, most African and Asian colonies will be liberated from colonialism over the next two decades. However, these countries were dealing with issues such as poverty and a lack of resources. They had turned into underdeveloped economies as a result of the plunder they had borne as a result of colonial rule.

The IMF and World Bank were established to meet the financial needs of the industrialised countries. They were still ill-equipped to deal with issues such as poverty and lack of development in developing countries. During this time, Europe and Japan became self-sufficient, and they no longer required assistance from the IMF or World Bank. As a result, beginning in the late 1950s, the Bretton Woods institution shifted its focus to developing countries.

Despite the fact that various colonies had gained independence, they remained under the indirect control of various European powers. It was because they sought advice and assistance from the rich, dominant economies, in exchange for cheap access to their valuable natural resources. The United States is the best example of this, as it has been able to exploit the natural resources of developing countries at very low costs.

During the 1950s and 1960s, most developing economies were not growing at the same rate as Western economies. As a result, they formed the G-77 nations and demanded a new international economic order (NIEO). The main goal of NIEO was to have real control over their natural resources, fair prices for raw materials, and better access to markets in developed countries for their manufactured goods. So, we now know that the Western world was developing at a rapid pace, while underdeveloped countries were making various efforts to bring growth and development to their respective countries. Now we'll talk about globalisation and the end of the Bretton Woods system.

End of Bretton Woods and the Beginning of ‘Globalisation’

The postwar world had seen years of stable and rapid growth, but things were not as good as they appeared. Beginning in the 1960s, the United States began to face weakened finances and competition issues. It was due to an increase in the cost of its overseas involvements. The US dollar has been unable to maintain its value in relation to gold. This eventually resulted in the collapse of the fixed exchange rate system and the establishment of a floating exchange rate system.

Not only that, but the international financial system underwent a transformation in the mid-1970s. Previously, developing countries could borrow from international institutions; however, they are now forced to borrow from Western commercial banks and private lenders. All of this contributed to the emergence of debt crises in developing countries. Africa and Latin America, for example, were now confronted with issues such as low income and increased poverty.

From the 1970s to the 1990s, the industrial world was also troubled by unemployment. It was because multinational corporations began shifting their manufacturing operations to low-wage Asian countries. Though China had cut itself off from the global economy following its independence in 1949, new economic policies in China, as well as the collapse of the Soviet Union and Soviet-style communism in Eastern Europe, brought the countries back into the global economy. Because of the low wage rate in China, it became a popular destination for various foreign MNCs. In order to reduce costs, the companies began shifting their production lines in China. The relocation of industries to low-wage countries has resulted in increased global trade and capital flows. Countries such as India, China, and Brazil have experienced rapid economic transformations over the last two decades.

1. Before the Industrial Revolution, Hand Labour and Steam Power


Dawn of the Century, published by E.T. Paull Music Co., New York, England, 1900.

At the center is a goddess-like figure, the angel of progress, bearing the flag of the new century. She is perched on a wheel with wings, symbolizing time. Her flight is taking her into the future. Floating about are the signs of progress: railway, camera, machines, printing press and factory.

Two Magicians, published in Inland Printers, 26 January 1901.

The magician at the top is Aladdin from the Orient who built a beautiful palace with his magic lamp. The one at the bottom is the modern mechanic, who with his modern tools weaves a new magic: builds bridges, ships, towers and high-rise buildings. Aladdin is shown as representing the East and the past, the mechanic stands for the West and modernity.

  • The modern world is associated with rapid technological change and innovations, machines and factories, railways and steamships.
  • Even before factories were set up in England and Europe, there was large-scale industrial production for an international market.
    • This was not based on factories. Many historians now refer to this phase of industrialization as proto-industrialization.
  • 17th & 18th centuries: merchants from European towns began moving to the countryside.
    • They supplied money to peasants and artisans, persuading them to produce for an international market.
  • Expansion of world trade & the acquisition of colonies: demand for goods grew.
  • Merchants had to turn to the countryside since they could not expand production within towns, because:
    • Urban crafts and trade guilds were powerful. These were associations of producers that:
      • trained craftspeople,
      • maintained control over production,
      • regulated competition and prices,
      • restricted the entry of new people into the trade.
    • Rulers granted different guilds the monopoly right to produce and trade in specific products.

  • Countryside: poor peasants and artisans began working for merchants.
  • Cottagers and poor peasants earlier depended on common lands for their survival. They had to look for alternative sources of income:
    • Many had tiny plots of land which could not provide work for all members of the household.
    • Merchants came & offered advances to produce goods for them: peasant households agreed.
    • Now they could remain in the countryside and continue to cultivate their small plots.
    • Income from proto-industrial production supplemented their shrinking income from cultivation.

It also allowed them a fuller use of their family labor resources

Spinning in the 18th century. 
Each member of the family is involved in the yarn production. One wheel is moving only one spindle.
  • Within this system, a close relationship developed between the town and the countryside:
    • Merchants are based in towns, but the work is mostly done in the countryside.
    • A merchant clothier in England purchased wool from a wool stapler, carried it to the spinners; the yarn (thread) that was spun was taken in subsequent stages of production to weavers, fullers, and then to dyers.
    • The finishing was done in London before the export merchant sold the cloth in the international market. came to be known as a finishing center.
  • This proto-industrial system was part of a network of commercial exchanges.
    • It was controlled by merchants and the goods were produced by a vast number of producers working within their family farms, not in factories.
    • At each stage of production 20 to 25 workers were employed by each merchant.
    • So, each clothier was controlling hundreds of workers.

The Coming Up of the Factory

  • The earliest factories in England came up by the 1730s.
    • Late 18th century: the number of factories multiplied.
  • The first symbol of the new era: cotton.
    • Its production boomed in the late nineteenth century.
  • 1760: Britain imported 2.5 million pounds of raw cotton to feed its cotton industry.
    • 1787: import rose to 22 million pounds.
    • Increase linked to a number of changes within the process of production.
  • 18th century: A series of inventions increased the efficacy of each step of the production process (carding, twisting and spinning, and rolling).
    • They enhanced the output per worker,
    • Enabled each worker to produce more,
    • They made possible the production of stronger threads and yarn.
  • Richard Arkwright created the cotton mill.
    • Before: cloth production was spread all over countryside & carried out within village households.
    • After: costly new machines could be purchased, set up and maintained in the mill.
  • At the mill: all the processes brought together under one roof and management.
    • More careful supervision possible over the production process, a watch over quality, and the regulation of labor,
    • This had been difficult to do when production was in the countryside.
Lancashire cotton mill, painted by C.E. Turner, The Illustrated London News, 1925.
  • Early 19th century: factories increasingly became a part of the English landscape.
    • People concentrated their attention on the mills, almost forgetting the bylanes and the workshops where production still continued.
Industrial Manchester by M. Jackson, The Illustrated London News, 1857.
Chimneys billowing smoke came to characterize the industrial landscape.

Speed of Industrial Change in Britain

  1. Most dynamic industries: cotton and metals.
    1. Growing at a rapid pace, cotton was the leading sector in 1st phase of industrialization up to the 1840s.
    2. After that, the iron and steel industry led the way.
    3. Expansion of railways in England from 1840s & in the colonies from 1860s: demand for iron and steel increased rapidly.
    4. 1873: Britain was exporting iron & steel worth about £77 million, double the value of its cotton export.
  2. New industries could not easily displace traditional industries.
    1. End of 19th century: less than 20% of the total workforce employed in technologically advanced industrial sectors.
    2. Textiles: dynamic sector. A large portion of output was produced outside factories, within domestic units.
A fitting shop at a railway works in England, 1849. In fitting shop new locomotive engines were completed & old ones repaired.
  1. The pace of change in the ‘traditional’ industries was not set by steam-powered cotton or metal industries, but they did not remain entirely stagnant either.
    1. Seemingly ordinary & small innovations were the basis of growth in many non-mechanized sectors such as food processing, building, pottery, glasswork, tanning, furniture making, & production of implements.
  2. Technological changes occurred slowly.
    1. New technology was expensive and merchants and industrialists were cautious about using it.
    2. Machines often broke down & repair was costly.
    3. They were not as effective as their inventors and manufacturers claimed.
  • The case of the steam engine.
    • 1781: James Watt improved the steam engine produced by Newcomen & patented the new engine.
      • His industrialist friend Mathew Boulton manufactured the new model.
      • For years he could find no buyers.
    • At the beginning of the 19th century, there were no more than 321 steam engines all over England.
      • 80 were in cotton industries, 9 in wool industries, and the rest in mining, canal works & ironworks.
    • Steam engines were not used in any of the other industries till much later in the century.
    • So even the most powerful new technology that enhanced the productivity of labor manifold was slow to be accepted by industrialists.
A spinning factory in 1830. Giant wheels moved by steam power could set in motion hundreds of spindles to manufacture thread.
  • Historians now have come to increasingly recognize that the typical worker in the mid-nineteenth century was not a machine operator but the traditional craftsperson and laborer.


Hand Labour and Steam Power

  • Victorian Britain: no shortage of human labor.
    • Poor peasants and vagrants moved to the cities in large numbers in search of jobs.
    • Plenty of labor: wages are low.
  • Industrialists had no problem of labor shortage or high wage costs.
    • Unwilling to introduce machines that got rid of human labor & required large capital investment.
  • In many industries the demand for labor was seasonal.
      • Gasworks and breweries were busy through the cold months. They needed more workers to meet their peak demand.
      • For Christmas, high bookbinders & printers demand needed more labor before December.
      • At the waterfront, winter was the time that ships were repaired and spruced up.
    • In industries where production fluctuated with the season, industrialists usually preferred hand labor, employing workers for the season.
  • A range of products could be produced only with hand labor.
  • Machines were oriented to producing uniforms, standardized goods for a mass market.
    • demand in the market was often for goods with intricate designs and specific shapes.
      • In mid-19th-century Britain, 500 varieties of hammers were produced and 45 kinds of axes.
      • This required human skill, not mechanical technology.
  • Victorian Britain: the upper classes (the aristocrats & the bourgeoisie) preferred things produced by hand.
    • Handmade products came to symbolize refinement and class.
    • They were better finished, individually produced, and carefully designed
    •  Machine-made goods were for export to colonies.
  • In countries with labor shortages, industrialists were keen on using mechanical power so that the need for human labor can be minimized.
    • This was the case in 19th-century America.
People on the move in search of work, The Illustrated London News, 1879. Some people were always on the move, selling small goods and looking for temporary work.
Workers in an ironworks, north-east England, painting by William Bell Scott, 1861.
Many artists from the late 19th century began idealizing workers: they were shown suffering hardship and pain for the cause of the nation.

Life of the Workers

  • The abundance of labor in the market affected the lives of workers.
    • news of possible jobs: hundreds came to the cities.
  • The actual possibility of getting a job: dependent on existing networks of friendship and kin relations.
    • Not everyone had social connections.
  • Many job seekers had to wait weeks, spending nights under bridges or in night shelters.
    • Some stayed in Night Refuges that were set up by private individuals;
    • others went to the Casual Wards maintained by the Poor Law authorities.
Houseless and Hungry, painting by Samuel Luke Fildes, 1874.
This shows the homeless in London applying for tickets to stay overnight in a workhouse. These shelters were maintained under the supervision of the Poor Law Commissioners for the ‘destitute, wayfarers, wanderers & foundling’. Staying in these was a humiliating experience: everyone was subjected to a medical examination to see whether they were carrying disease, their bodies were cleansed, and their clothes purified. They had to also do hard labor.
  • Seasonality of work in many industries: prolonged periods without work.
  • After the busy season was over, the poor were on the streets again.
    • Some returned to the countryside after winter, when labor demand in the rural areas opened up.
    • Most looked for odd jobs, which till the mid-19th century were difficult to find.
  • Early 19th century: Wages increased somewhat
    • The average figures hide the variations between trades and the fluctuations from year to year.
    • Prices rose sharply during the prolonged Napoleonic War.
      • the real value of their earnings fell significantly since the same wages bought fewer things.
  • The income of workers was also critical was the period of employment:
    • the number of days of work determined the average daily income of the workers.
  • Till the mid-19th century, about 10% of the urban population were extremely poor.
    • Economic slumps: the proportion of unemployed went up to between 35 & 75% in different regions.
  • Fear of unemployment: workers hostile to the introduction of new technology.
  • Introduction of the Spinning Jenny in the woolen industry:
    • women who survived on hand spinning began attacking the new machines.
    • This conflict continued for a long time.
  • After the 1840s, building activity intensified in the cities, opening up greater opportunities of employment.
    • Roads widened, new railway stations came up, railway lines extended, tunnels dug, drainage & sewers laid, rivers embanked.
    • The number of workers employed in the transport industry doubled in the 1840s and doubled again in the subsequent 30 years.
A Spinning Jenny, a drawing by T.E. Nicholson, 1835.
The spindles could be operated with one wheel.

A shallow underground railway being constructed in central London, Illustrated Times, 1868.

From the 1850s railway stations began coming up all over London.
This meant a demand for large numbers of workers to dig tunnels, erect timber scaffolding, do the brick and ironworks.
Job-seekers moved from one construction site to another.

1. Before the Industrial Revolution, Hand Labour and Steam Power


The Age of Industrialization

We've all heard the term "Industrialisation" by now. This expression has entered our lexicon. In newspapers and magazines, we learn about various industries and industrialists. However, the question of how the industries came to be arises. How did the Industrial Revolution begin?

All of this will be covered in our chapter titled "The Age of Industrialisation." So let's get started with our chapter.

To begin, we will look at this image. This piece was essentially a cover page for a music book. This book was published in 1900 by E.T Paull, a well-known music publisher. We can see a goddess if we look closely at the image. She is depicted as an angel of progress carrying a new century's flag. She is standing on a wheel with wings, which will transport her to the future. Behind her are progress symbols such as railways, cameras, machines, and so on.

Not only that, but there were some more examples and depictions of people glorifying machines and technology. One such example was a photograph titled the two magicians that appeared in a trade magazine. On top is Aladdin from the Orient, who has built a beautiful palace with the help of his magical lamp, and below him is a picture of a mechanic, who has built bridges, ships, towers, and tall buildings with modern tools. Aladdin is depicted as a symbol of the East and the past. The mechanic, on the other hand, represents the West and its modernity.

This type of image provides us with a victorious account of the modern world. According to this account, the modern world is closely associated with technological change and various innovations. Machines, railways, and steamships are used to tell the storey of industrialization and development. These images have entered the public consciousness. The spread of industrialization to railways, as well as the construction of various buildings and bridges, is a symbol of society's progress. So the question is how we can relate to these images and ideas.

Is industrialization a rapid process?

Is it possible for us to continue this glorious journey?

All of these inquiries will be addressed in our chapter.

So, to begin, we will discuss Britain, which is regarded as the first industrial nation, and then we will discuss India, where industrial changes occurred as a result of colonial rule imposed on our country.

1. Before the Industrial Revolution, Hand Labour and Steam Power

Before the Industrial Revolution

We generally associate industrialization with the expansion of factories. When we talk about industrial production or industrial workers, we usually think of factories and factory workers. Industrialization histories should have started with the establishment of the first factory. However, there is a flaw in this notion as well. This is due to the fact that, even before factories began to operate in England and Europe, there was large-scale industrial production for an international market. As a result, many historians regard this period as the beginning of industrialization.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, merchants in Europe began to move to the countryside, where they used to supply money to persuade rural peasants and artisans to produce for the international market. As global trade expanded and colonisation of various parts of the globe began, the demand for goods increased. The merchants were unable to expand production in the towns, which created a problem. Because the urban crafts and trade guilds were more powerful, this was the case. These were the powerful producer groups or associations. They used to train craftspeople and maintain control over production, as well as regulate competition and prices and even restrict new businessmen's entry into the trade. Even the Kings granted monopolies to a few associations. Other than these organisations, no one else could manufacture or sell specific products. As a result, we can conclude that any new merchant faced stiff competition. As a result, the majority of them moved to the villages.

As a result, peasants in the countryside who were previously reliant on common fields for survival, where they gathered firewood, berries, vegetables, hay, and straw, began looking for alternative sources of income. Most of them had small plots that could not support all of the family members. As a result, they readily agreed to work for the merchants. The main advantage of working for the merchants was that it allowed them to stay in the countryside and tend to their fields while working for the prototype industries. Working in such industries not only provided them with a source of income, but also allowed them to fully utilise their family's labour resources.

Because of this system, a close relationship developed between villages and towns. Merchants were generally based in towns, whereas the majority of the work was done in the countryside. A merchant dealing in clothing would purchase wool from a wool stapler, then transport it to spinners, who would then transport the thread to weavers, fullers, and dyers in subsequent stages of production. Before exporting the cloth to the international market, the final finishing was completed in London. London quickly established itself as a finishing point.

As a result, this proto-industrial system was part of a commercial exchange network. It was dominated by merchants, and the goods were produced by a large number of producers who worked from home rather than in factories. Each merchant employed between 20 and 25 workers at each stage. So, in this case, we can say that each merchant had approximately 100 employees working for him.

The Coming Up of the Factory

Although factories were established in England by the 1730s, it was only the late eighteenth century that the number of factories increased. Cotton was the first sign of the new era. In the late nineteenth century, cotton production increased. In 1760, the United Kingdom imported 2.5 million pounds of raw cotton to use as a raw material in its cotton industry. So, the question here is what caused this increase in cotton production. Let's take a closer look at this.

The numerous inventions made during the eighteenth century increased the efficacy of each step of the manufacturing process. These inventions increased worker output and enabled them to produce more. Not only that, but they could now manufacture stronger threads and yarn. Richard Arkwright later invented the cotton mill. As a result, a new change in the manufacturing process has been observed. Previously, cloth production was dispersed throughout the countryside and carried out within village households, but merchants began purchasing machines and establishing mills. This simplified the entire process, which was now carried out under one roof.

As a result, the entire manufacturing process was more closely monitored. Now, one could handle a variety of tasks, such as:

  • Keeping an eye on the quantity.
  • Regulation of a labour.

When the work was done in the countryside, such things were not possible. Factories became an important part of the English landscape at the beginning of the nineteenth century. So, how rapid was the process of industrialization, and did it only imply the establishment of new factories? Let's take a look at it in stages.

The Pace of Industrial Change

First, cotton and metal industries grew in popularity in the United Kingdom. Cotton was the leading industry in Britain in the 1840s. The iron and steel industry followed. However, with the expansion of the rail network in England during the 1840s and in colonies during the 1860s, demand for iron and steel began to pick up. As a result, by 1873, Britain was exporting iron and steel worth 77 million pounds, which was more than double the value of its cotton exports.

Second, new industries were unable to completely replace traditional industries. It can also be seen at the end of the nineteenth century that less than 20% of the total workforce was employed in technologically advanced industries. Textiles, for example, was a dynamic industry, but many of its products were still manufactured in households rather than factories.

Third, while steam-powered cotton mills and metal industries did not determine the rate of change in traditional industries, we cannot say that these industries became motionless. Nonetheless, small innovations served as the foundation for growth in many non-mechanized fields such as food processing, pottery, building, furniture making, and so on.

Fourth, technological progress has been slow for a variety of reasons. Purchasing such machines, for example, was an expensive investment, and many industrialists were opposed to it. Furthermore, the repair of these machines was expensive, and they were not as good as the inventors or makers claimed.

In the context of the steam engine, this is easily understood. In 1781, James Watt improved Newcomen's steam engine and obtained patent rights to it. Watt's new engine was built by his industrialist friend Mathew Boulton. However, the issue arose when they were unable to find a buyer for several years. There were only 321 steam engines in England at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Eighty of these were used in the cotton industry, while nine were used in the wool industry. The left ones were used in mining, canals, and iron works.

As a result, we can conclude that the most advanced technology of the time, which increased labour productivity by a factor of ten, was not readily accepted by industrialists. According to historians, the mid-nineteenth-century worker was primarily a traditional craftsperson rather than a machine operator.

So, now that we know how the industrial revolution occurred and how industries were established, new inventions were occurring. Now we'll talk about the labourers and steam power. So, let's see what happens.

Hand Labour and Steam Power

During Queen Victoria's reign, there was a plentiful supply of labourers available in the United Kingdom. In search of work, a large number of poor peasants moved from one city to another. We are all aware that when there are a large number of workers available for work, the wages paid to these workers are generally low. As a result, the industrialists faced no shortage of labourers or high wages. They could easily find low-wage workers to work for them. This was one of the main reasons why these industrialists were unwilling to spend large sums of money on purchasing the machines.

There were several industries where labour demand was seasonal. During the cold months, for example, gas works and breweries were generally busy. As a result, the demand for workers was higher during this time period. Even bookbinders and printers, who cater to the holiday season, required extra help before December. Not only that, but the shipping industry was generally repaired and spruced up during the winter season. So, in this case, we can say that industries that dealt with seasonal business relied heavily on seasonal labourers.

Hand labour was used to make a variety of products. Machines were used in the production of uniform or standardised goods for the mass market back then. However, there was a high demand for goods with intricate designs or specific shapes. In mid-nineteenth-century Britain, for example, 500 different types of hammers and 45 different types of axes were manufactured. Because this type of production necessitated skilled labour, mechanical technology was not preferred. The upper classes in Britain, such as the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie, preferred handcrafted items. Handmade items were regarded as a sign of wealth and privilege. Handmade items were better finished and more carefully designed. Machine goods, on the other hand, were intended for export to the colonies.

When we talk about countries with less manpower. Machines were preferred by industrialists for production purposes. This was evident in the case of America, but Britain had no such problem because it had a large manpower or labour supply. So, we now know that in some countries, there were a large number of workers available, whereas in others, production was dependent on machines due to a lack of workforce availability. But the question now is, what kind of life did these workers lead? Let's see what happens.

Life of the Workers

The market's large supply of workers had a greater impact on the lives of these workers. If news of new job opportunities reaches the villages, a large number of people will migrate to cities in search of work. If you had any friends or relatives who worked in a factory, it was simple to find work. However, some job seekers had to wait for weeks before finding work. They were forced to spend the night under bridges or in night shelters. Other options for lodging included night shelters set up by individuals or casual wards managed by law enforcement.

On the other hand, many industries' work was seasonal, resulting in extended periods of unemployment. When the season ended, the workers were stranded on the streets, without work or money. Some of them used to return to the countryside, while others tried to find odd jobs to make ends meet.

Wage increases occurred in the early nineteenth century. However, whether they were sufficient for a worker's well-being is unknown. When the state was at war, the fluctuation in trade had an effect on the workers' wages. For example, during the Napoleonic war, the wages paid to workers were insufficient because the prices of goods had risen, making them unable to purchase the necessary items. Even the workers' wages were not solely determined by the wage rate. The period of employment played a significant role. The number of jobs was used as a starting point to calculate the workers' average daily earnings. As a result, by the mid-nineteenth century, approximately 10% of the urban population was extremely poor. However, during the depression, the situation worsened and unemployment rose to 75% from 35% in various regions.

The issue of unemployment created fear in the workers. Because of their apprehension, they were hostile to the new technology. As a result, when the spinning wheel was introduced into the woollen industry. Many of the women who used to work in these factories are now unemployed. As a result, the workers begin to attack these factories. This conflict lasted a long time. Building activity in cities increased after the 1840s. Various construction projects were undertaken, including road widening, bridge construction, tunnel digging, and river embankment construction. This resulted in the creation of new job opportunities. The number of workers employed in the transportation industry doubled in the 1840s and then doubled again in the following years. So, now we'll look at how industrialization began in colonies.

2. Industrialization in the Colonies


The Age of Indian Textiles

  • Before machine industries: silk and cotton goods from India dominated the international market.
  • Coarser cotton were produced in many countries, but finer varieties often came from India.
    • Armenian & Persian merchants took items from Punjab to:
      • Afghanistan,
      • Eastern Persia,
      • Central Asia.
    • Loads of fine textiles carried on camelback via the northwest frontier, through mountain passes and across deserts.
  • A sea trade operated through the main pre-colonial port:
    • Surat on the Gujarat coast connected India to the Gulf and Red Sea Ports;
    • Masulipatam on the Coromandel coast & Hoogly in Bengal had trade links with Southeast Asian ports.
  • Indian merchants and bankers were involved in this network of export trade:
    • financing production,
    • carrying goods,
    • supplying exporters.
The English factory at Surat, a seventeenth-century drawing.
  • Supply merchants linked the port towns to the inland regions.
    • They gave advances to weavers, procured the woven cloth from weaving villages, and carried the supply to the ports.
    • At the port, the big shippers & export merchants had brokers who negotiated the price and bought goods from the supply merchants operating inland.
  • 1750s: the network controlled by Indian merchants was breaking down.
  • The European companies gradually gained power:
    • They secured a variety of concessions from local courts, then the monopoly rights to trade.
    • This led to a decline of the old ports of Surat and Hoogly through which local merchants had operated.
    • Exports from these ports fell:
      • the credit that had financed the earlier trade began drying up,
      • the local bankers slowly went bankrupt.
    • Last years of 17th century: the gross value of trade passing through Surat had been Rs 16 million.
      • By the 1740s it had slumped to Rs 3 million.
  • Bombay and Calcutta grew.
    • Shift from the old ports to new ones: an indicator of the growth of colonial power.
  • New ports: Trade controlled by European companies, and carried in European ships.
  • Many of the old trading houses collapsed,
    • Those wanting to survive had to operate within a network shaped by European trading companies.

What Happened to Weavers?

  • After the 1760s: The consolidation of East India Company power.
    • British cotton industries: not yet expanded,
    • Indian fine textiles: in great demand in Europe.
    • The company was keen on expanding textile exports from India.
  • 1760s & 1770s: East India Company found it difficult to ensure a regular supply of goods for export.
    • They then set up political power in Bengal and Carnatic.
  • The French, Dutch, Portuguese, as well as local traders, competed in the market to secure the woven cloth.
    • Weaver and supply merchants could bargain and try selling the produce to the best buyer.
    • In letters back to London, Company officials complained of difficulties of supply and high prices.
  • East India Company established political power: it could assert a monopoly right to trade.
  • It proceeded to develop a system of management and control that would:
    • eliminate competition,
    • control costs,
    • ensure regular supplies of cotton and silk goods. This it did through a series of steps:
  1. It tried to eliminate existing traders & brokers connected with the cloth trade, and establish more direct control over the weaver.
    It appointed gomastha: a paid servant to supervise weavers, collect supplies, & examine the quality of cloth.
  2. It prevented Company weavers from dealing with other buyers.
    One way of doing this: the system of advances.
    An order placed: weavers given loans to purchase raw material for production.
    Those who took loans had to hand over the cloth they produced to the gomastha.
    They could not take it to any other trader.
A weaver at work, Gujarat.
  • Loans flowed in & the demand for fine textiles expanded: weavers took the advances, hoping to earn more.
    • Earlier: Many weavers had small plots of land which they cultivated alongside, the producers took care of their family needs.
    • Now: they leased out the land & devoted their time to weaving.
      Weaving required labor of whole family, children & women helped in various stages of processing.
  • In many weaving villages, there were reports of clashes between weavers and gomasthas.
    • Earlier: supply merchants often lived within the weaving villages, and had a close relationship with the weavers, looking after their needs & helping them in times of crisis.
    • Now: The gomasthas were outsiders, with no long-term social link with the village.
      • They acted arrogantly: marched into villages with sepoys & peons, & punished weavers for delays in supply– often beating & flogging them.
      • The weavers lost the space to bargain for prices & sell to different buyers: the price received from the Company was miserably low & the loans they had accepted tied them to the Company.
  • In many places in Carnatic and Bengal, weavers deserted villages and migrated, setting up looms in other villages where they had some family relations.
  • Weavers along with the village traders revolted, opposing the Company and its officials
    • Overtime: they began refusing loans, closing down their workshops & taking to agricultural labor.
  • By the turn of the 19th century, cotton weavers faced a new set of problems.

Manchester Comes to India

  • 1772: Henry Patullo, a Company official, said that the demand for Indian textiles could never reduce since no other nation produced goods of the same quality.
  • Beginning of 19th century: a long decline of textile exports from India.
    • 1811-12: piece-goods accounted for 33% of India’s exports;
    • 1850-51: it was no more than 3.

The reason & its implications:

  • Cotton industries developed in England: industrial groups worried about imports from other countries.
    • Pressurized government to impose import duties on cotton textiles so that Manchester goods could sell in Britain without facing any competition.
    • Industrialists persuaded the East India Company to sell British manufactures in Indian markets.
    • Exports of British cotton goods increased dramatically in the early 19th century.
  • End of 18th century: virtually no import of cotton piece goods into India.
    • By 1850: cotton piece-goods constituted over 31% of the value of Indian imports;
    • by the 1870s: it was over 50%.
  • Cotton weavers in India faced two problems:
    1. their export market collapsed,
    2. the local market shrank, being glutted with Manchester imports.
  • Produced by machines at lower costs, the imported cotton goods were so cheap that weavers could not easily compete with them.
  • By the 1850s: most weaving regions of India were of decline and desolation.
  • By the 1860s: weavers could not get a sufficient supply of raw cotton of good quality.
    • American Civil War broke out: cotton supplies from the US cut off, Britain turned to India.
  • Raw cotton exports from India increased, the price of raw cotton shot up.
    • Weavers in India were starved of supplies and forced to buy raw cotton at exorbitant prices.
    • In this situation, weaving could not pay.
  • By the end of the 19th century: weavers & other craftspeople faced yet another problem.
    • Factories in India began production, flooding the market with machine goods.
Bombay harbor, a late-18th-century drawing.
Bombay and Calcutta grew as trading ports from the 1780s.
This marked the decline of the old trading order and the growth of the colonial economy.


2. Industrialization in the Colonies

2. Industrialization in the Colonies

When we talk about colonies, we are referring to areas that were colonised by European powers. We will talk about India in this section. Britain had a colony in India. So now we'll see how a colony becomes industrialised.

The Age of Indian Textiles

Indian textiles, particularly silk and cotton goods, were well-known on the international market. As a result, prior to the development of various types of machines, Indian textiles dominated the international market. Cotton was produced in a variety of countries, but it was coarse. Cotton of the highest quality was produced in India. Armenian and Persian merchants transported the goods from Punjab to Afghanistan, from where they were transported to eastern Persia and central Asia. Camels were used to transport bales of fine textiles across the North West frontier, through mountain passes, and across deserts. On the other hand, it was exported via sea routes from Surat and Gujarat to Gulf and Red Sea ports, while Masulipatnam on the Coromandel Coast and Hooghly in Bengal had trade links with Southeast Asian ports.

Various Indian merchants were involved in the entire export trade process, such as financing production, transporting goods, and supplying exporters. Supply merchants connected the port towns to the inland regions. They used to give weavers advances and buy woven cloth from weaving villages. They would then transport the supplies to the ports. At the port, there were export merchants and large shippers who used brokers to make deals by negotiating prices so that they could buy goods from inland supply merchants. However, by 1750, the entire export network controlled by Indian merchants had begun to fail.

It was because European firms had now arrived on the scene. They began gaining power by obtaining a variety of concessions from local courts and then establishing a trade monopoly. All of this contributed to the decline of old ports such as Surat and Hooghly, which were used by local merchants. Exports began to fall, and the situation quickly deteriorated to the point where local bankers went bankrupt. Surat's trade fell to Rs 3 million from 16 million in the last year of the seventeenth century.

Though old ports like Surat and Hooghly were declining, the ports of Bombay and Calcutta began to grow. This shift was a clear indication of the colonial power's expansion. The European powers ruled over all trade activities. Any Indian trader who wanted to live had to work for them. There were some other changes that occurred in the lives of weavers and artisans while all of these changes were taking place. What caused this to happen? Let's see what happens.

What Happened to Weavers?

The East India Company was able to maintain a firm grip on India after 1760, but this had no effect on our country's weavers. Because the British cotton industry did not grow at first, demand for Indian textiles was high in the international market. As a result, Britishers initially concentrated solely on increasing textile exports from India.

The East India Company was able to gain political power over Bengal and Carnatic in the 1760s and 1770s, but prior to this, the company faced significant difficulties in ensuring an uninterrupted supply of goods for export. It was so because there were so many other European companies present at the time with similar intentions, such as the French, Dutch, Portuguese, and even local traders. As a result, we can conclude that there was strong competition among buyers. It was a golden period for weavers and supply merchants because they could get the best price for their product. During that time, company officials were required to send letters to London describing the difficulty of obtaining supplies and the high prices of the goods.

The company quickly established political control over the area. This resulted in the company exercising monopoly power over a specific trade. It devised a system to eliminate competition, control costs, and ensure a consistent supply of textiles. All of this happened in the course of a process. Let's take a look at the steps that were taken.

First and foremost, the Company removed the local leaders and brokers from the entire process. They got in touch with the weaver directly. Gumastha, a paid servant, was assigned to supervise, collect supplies, and inspect the quality of the cloth.

Second, the Company has mandated that the Company weavers not contact any other buyer. So, in order to make this a reality, they began making advances to them. Following the placement of the order, some loans were made available to the weavers for the purpose of weaving a cloth, which was later handed over to the gomastha. They were unable to deal with anyone else as a result of their actions. As weavers received loans and the demand for Indian textiles increased, weavers leased out their small holdings to carry on the weaving. Their families also assisted them because the job required a large number of people.

However, the entire scenario quickly changed. Conflicts between gomastha and weavers began to emerge from the weaving villages. Previously, the merchants were locals who had good relationships with the weavers. They used to come to their aid when they were in need. The gumastha, on the other hand, were the outsiders, harsh and arrogant. They used to use peons and sepoys to punish the weavers if they were late with their work. Furthermore, weavers began to face a variety of issues as a result of the Company's loans, which bound them to a single buyer. Their earnings were pitiful, and their lives were miserable.

Weavers in many places in Carnatic and Bengal left their villages and migrated to villages where relatives lived, or they revolted against the Company and its officials. Many of the weavers later refused to work as weavers and returned to their agricultural work. But this was not the end of their problems; by the nineteenth century, they were confronted with a new set of issues.

Manchester Comes to India

It is said that Henry Patullo, a Company official in 1772, declared that demand for Indian textiles would never decline, but it was later discovered that Indian exports had declined. In 1811-12, India had a 33 percent share of the trade, which had dropped to 3 percent in 1850-51. So the question is, what caused this to happen? What were the consequences?

With the expansion of cotton industries in England, industrialists began to be concerned about imports that could harm their trade. As a result, they lobbied the government to impose import duties on cotton textiles. This would allow them to easily sell Manchester goods without facing any competition. The industries, on the other hand, asked the East India Company to sell Manchester textile in India. This resulted in an increase in British exports. As a result of an increase in trade of British cotton in 1850, the Indian textile began to decline, which led to the decline of Indian weavers.

By 1860, the Indian weavers were facing a new challenge. The problem was a scarcity of raw cotton. When the civil war broke out in America, a major supplier of raw cotton. As a result, the British turned to India for raw cotton supplies. As a result, the price of raw cotton in India has risen. Purchasing cotton at a high price was not a profitable endeavour for them. Not only that, but factories presented them with a new problem. All of this made survival difficult for them. However, by 1850, cotton piece-goods accounted for more than 31% of the value of Indian imports, and by the 1870s, this figure had risen to more than 50%. Cotton weavers in India were thus confronted with two problems at the same time: their export market had collapsed, and the local market had shrunk due to a glut of Manchester imports.

3. Factories Come Up


  • 1854, Bombay: first cotton mill came up.
    • 1856: went into production.
  • 1862: four mills were at work with 94,000 spindles and 2,150 looms.
  • 1855, Bengal: first jute mill came up.
    • 1862: another jute mill set up.
  • The 1860s, Kanpur, North India: the Elgin Mill was started.
    • a year later: the first cotton mill of Ahmedabad was set up.
  • 1874: the first spinning & weaving mill of Madras began production.

The Early Entrepreneurs

The history of many business groups: trade with China

  • Late 18th century: the British in India began exporting opium to China & took tea from China to England.
    • Many Indians became junior players:
      • providing finance,
      • procuring supplies,
      • shipping consignments.
    • Some of these businessmen had visions of developing industrial enterprises in India.
  • Bengal: Dwarkanath Tagore made his fortune in the China trade.
    • Then he turned to industrial investment, setting up 6 joint-stock companies in the 1830s & 1840s.
    • Tagore’s enterprises sank along with those of others in the wider business crises of the 1840s,
    • 19th century: many of the China traders became successful industrialists.
  • Bombay: Parsis like Dinshaw Petit & Jamsetjee Nusserwanjee Tata built industrial empires in India, accumulated their initial wealth partly from exports to China, partly from raw cotton shipments to England.
    • 1917, Calcutta: Seth Hukumchand, Marwari businessman. Set up 1st jute mill, had traded in China.
    • The father as well as the grandfather of the famous industrialist G.D. Birla traded with China.
  • The capital was accumulated through other trade networks.
    • Some merchants from Madras traded with Burma,
    • Others had links with the Middle East & East Africa.
  • There were other commercial groups that were not directly involved in external trade.
    • Operated within India, carried goods to places, banked money, transferring funds between cities, & financed traders.
    • When opportunities for investment in industries opened up, many of them set up factories.
  • Colonial control over Indian trade tightened: the functioning of Indian merchants could become limited. They:
    • Were barred from trading with Europe in manufactured goods,
    • Had to export raw materials & food grains needed by British: raw cotton, opium, wheat & indigo.
    • They were gradually edged out of the shipping business.
  • Till World War I: European Managing Agencies controlled a large sector of Indian industries.
    • Three of the biggest ones:
      • Bird Heiglers & Co.,
      • Andrew Yule,
      • Jardine Skinner & Co.
    • The Agencies mobilized capital, set up joint-stock companies and managed them.
    • Indian financiers provided capital; European Agencies made all investment & business decisions.
  • European merchant-industrialists: had chambers of commerce. Indian businessmen weren’t allowed to join.
Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy.

He was the son of a Parsi weaver. He was involved in the China trade & shipping. He owned a large fleet of ships, but competition from English & American shippers forced him to sell his ships by the 1850s.

Dwarkanath Tagore.

He believed that India would develop through westernization and industrialization.
He invested in shipping, shipbuilding, mining, banking, plantations & insurance.

Partners in enterprise – J.N. Tata, R.D. Tata, Sir R.J. Tata, and Sir D.J. Tata.

1912: J.N. Tata set up the first iron and steel works in India at Jamshedpur.
Iron & steel industries in India started much later than textiles.
In colonial India industrial machinery, railways & locomotives were mostly imported.
So capital goods industries could not really develop in any significant way till Independence.

Where Did the Workers Come From?

  • With the expansion of factories, demand for workers increased.
  • 1901: 584,000 workers in Indian factories.
  • 1946: over 2,436,000 workers in Indian factories.
Young workers of a Bombay mill, early 20th century.
When workers went back to their village homes, they liked dressing up.
  • Most industrial regions: workers came from the districts around.
    • Peasants & artisans without work in the village went to the industrial centers for work.
  • 1911, Bombay: Over 50% of workers in cotton industries came from the neighbouring district of Ratnagiri.
  • The mills of Kanpur: most of their textile workers are from the villages within the district of Kanpur.
    • Millworkers moved between village & city, returning to village homes during harvests & festivals.
  • News of employment spread: workers traveled distances in the hope of working in the mills.
    • From United Provinces, they went to work in the textile mills of Bombay & in the jute mills of Calcutta.
A head jobber.
The posture and clothes emphasize the jobber’s position of authority.
  • Getting jobs: always difficult.
    • even when mills multiplied and the demand for workers increased.
    • The numbers seeking work were always more than the jobs available.
  • Entry into the mills: restricted.
    • Industrialists usually employed a jobber to get new recruits.
    • The jobber: an old and trusted worker.
      • He got people from his village, ensured them jobs, helped them settle in the city and provided them money in times of crisis.
      • The jobber: a person with some authority and power.
      • He began demanding money & gifts for his favor & controlling the lives of workers.
  • The number of factory workers increased over time.
Spinners at work in an Ahmedabad mill. Women worked mostly in the spinning departments.


3. Factories Come Up

3. Factories Come Up and Early  Entrepreneurs

Factories Come Up

The first cotton mill in Bombay was established in 1854. After two years, production in this factory began. By 1862, there were four mills producing approximately 94000 spindles and 2150 looms. During that time, factories were also being built in Bengal. The first factory in Bengal was established in 1855, followed by the second in 1862. In the 1860s, a mill was established in Kanpur, India. Elgin Mill was its name. Ahmedabad soon received its first mill. Madras got its first mill in 1874 as well.

As a result, we can see that a large number of factories or mills were established between 1854 and 1874. However, the question here is that. Who established the industries? Where did the money come from, and who worked in the mills? So, tell us about the people who built these mills. They were known as entrepreneurs.

The Early Entrepreneurs

History demonstrates the various business groups in India's trade connection with China. The British in India began trading opium and tea with China in the late eighteenth century. Many Indians, however, entered the trade as junior players. They used to provide financing, obtain supplies, and ship the shipments. They profited handsomely from this and considered establishing industrial enterprises in India. In Bengal, for example, Dwarkanath Tagore made his fortune in the China trade before transitioning to industrial investment, establishing six joint stock companies in the 1830s and 1840s. However, during the 1840s business crisis, Tagore's business took a hit. However, by the late nineteenth century, many of those dealing with China had become successful industrialists. Coming to Bombay, Parsi businessmen like Dinshaw Petit and Jamsetjee Nusserwanjee Tata were able to build their empires by earning money from exports to China and raw cotton exports to England. Not only that, but others, such as Seth Hukamchand, a Marwari businessman who established the first Indian jute mill in Calcutta in 1917, as well as the father and grandfather of the famous industrialist G.D Birla, traded with China.

China was not the only trade link that could earn money for businessmen; there were numerous other countries that had trade links with India, allowing Indians to earn more money. Some Madras merchants, for example, traded with Burma, while others had connections with the Middle East and east Africa. Not everyone was involved in international trade. There were some who worked solely within India. Their responsibilities included transporting goods, banking money, transferring funds between cities, and financing traders. When opportunities for investment in industries arose, many of them established factories.

However, when the British gained political power in India, they left only a small space for Indian merchants. As a result, Indian merchants were no longer permitted to trade in manufactured goods with Europeans. They were only able to trade in raw materials and food grains such as raw cotton, opium, wheat, and indigo. They were eventually pushed out of the shipping business as well. However, when the British gained political power in India, they left only a small space for Indian merchants. As a result, Indian merchants were no longer permitted to trade in manufactured goods with Europeans. They were only able to trade in raw materials and food grains such as raw cotton, opium, wheat, and indigo. They were eventually pushed out of the shipping business as well.

The fact that European managing agencies controlled Indian industries until the First World War demonstrated British control over the Indian business sector. Bird Heiglers & Co., Andrew Yule, and Jardine Skinner & Co. were three of the largest. These organisations raised capital, formed joint stock companies, and managed them. In the majority of cases, European agencies were in charge of all investments and business decisions. They had their own chambers of commerce where Indian businessmen were not permitted. So, now that we've learned about entrepreneurs and capital sources. Let us now discuss the employees who worked in these factories. What were they like, and where did they come from?


Where Did the Workers Come From?


As we all know, when factories are built, workers are required to carry out all of the factory's operations. This demand increased as factories expanded. There were 584000 workers in Indian factories in 1901. By 1946, the figure had risen to over 2436000. All of these workers were mostly locals who lived in the areas where the factories were located. So, in 1911, the majority of workers in Bombay cotton industries were supplied by Ratnagiri district, and workers in the Kanpur mill were from villages within Kanpur district. In general, villagers commuted between the village and the city, returning to their village homes for harvests and festivals.

As a result, whenever word of a job opening reached the workers, they would travel long distances in search of work in the mills. People from the United Provinces (Uttar Pradesh) would travel to Bombay or Calcutta to find work. Getting a job was not an easy task; while the number of mills was increasing, so was the number of job seekers. Aside from that, another issue was that it was difficult to find work in the mill. The mill owners used to delegate this task to jobbers. A jobber was a trusted worker who preferred well-known jobs. He recruited people from his village, placed them in jobs, assisted them in settling in the city, and provided them with financial assistance during times of crisis. As a result, the jobber gained some authority and power. They quickly gained authority and gained some status. They began accepting gifts and money from those who wanted to work in the mills.

We have learned so far about how factories were established in India. We will now discuss the expansion of industries in India.

The Peculiarities of Industrial Growth

When we discuss industrial growth in India during British rule, we can see an unusual sign of growth of some specific industries. It was because certain types of products attracted the interest of European management agencies. As a result, they established tea and coffee plantations, as well as investments in mining, indigo, and jute. These were the products that were most commonly exported to Europe.

When Indian businessmen began establishing industries in the late nineteenth century, they had no intention of competing with Manchester goods. As a result, these industries produced coarse yarn rather than fabric. This yarn was commonly used by handloom weavers in India or exported to China.

Various changes occurred during the first decade of the twentieth century, resulting in a shift in the pattern of industrialisation. With the rise of national movements such as the Swadeshi movement, which mobilised people to boycott foreign clothing, Industrial organisations formed to protect the interests of the business class. They began to put pressure on the government to lower tariffs and make other concessions. Also, beginning in 1906, Indian yarn exports to China decreased because the demand for yarn was now being met by Chinese and Japanese cotton mills. As a result, Indian industries shifted their focus from yarn to fabric or cotton pieces. This resulted in a doubling of goods production between 1900 and 1912.

Though Indian industries were growing, it was slow until the First World War. The war brought about a new situation. Imports from Manchester to India decreased as British mills were occupied with the production of war-related goods. This provided a fantastic opportunity for Indian industries to grow. As the war dragged on, Indian factories were called upon to supply war necessities such as jute bags, army uniforms, tents, and leather boots, among others. As a result, new factories were built, while old ones continued to operate in multiple shifts. A growing number of employees were hired. During the war years, production increased.

Manchester goods were unable to regain their position in the Indian market after the war. The British economy lagged behind because it was unable to compete with the modern economies of the United States, Germany, and Japan. Local industrialists grew stronger within the colonies and began producing substitutes for foreign goods. As a result, we can see how changes were occurring. Now we will talk about small-scale industries in India.

4. The Peculiarities of Industrial Growth and Market for Goods


  • European Managing Agencies dominated industrial production in India, interested in certain kinds of products.
    • They established tea and coffee plantations,
    • Acquired land at cheap rates from the colonial government;
    • they invested in mining, indigo and jute.
  • Most products: required primarily for export trade.
  • Late 19th century: Indian businessmen began setting up industries.
    • they avoided competing with Manchester goods in the Indian market.
    • Yarn: not an important part of British imports,
      • early cotton spinning mills produced coarse cotton yarn (thread) rather than fabric.
  • Yarn imports: only of the superior variety.
    • Indian yarn: used by handloom weavers in India or exported to China.
  • 1st decade of 20th century: swadeshi movement gathered momentum,
    • nationalists mobilized people to boycott foreign cloth.
  • Industrial groups: organized themselves to protect collective interests,
    • pressurized the government to increase tariff protection and grant other concessions.
  • 1906: export of Indian yarn to China declined.
    • Produce from Chinese and Japanese mills flooded the Chinese market.
  • Industrialists in India: shifted from yarn to cloth production.
    • 1900-1912: Cotton piece-goods production in India doubled.
  • Till World War I: industrial growth slow.
    • The war: British mills busy with war production. Manchester imports into India declined.
    • Indian mills: a vast home market to supply.
      • Prolonged war: Indian factories called to supply war needs:
        • jute bags,
        • cloth for army uniforms,
        • tents and leather boots,
        • horse and mule saddles, etc.
      • New factories were set up and old ones ran multiple shifts.
  • New workers employed. Everyone made to work longer hours.
    • War years: industrial production boomed.
  • After the war: Manchester never recaptured its old position in the Indian market.
    • British economy crumbled: unable to modernize & compete with the US, Germany & Japan.
      • Cotton production collapsed.
      • Exports of cotton cloth from Britain fell.
      • Within the colonies: local industrialists gradually consolidated their position, substituted foreign manufacturers & captured the home market.
The first office of the Madras Chamber of Commerce.

By the late 19th century merchants in different regions began meeting & forming Chambers of Commerce to regulate business & decide on issues of collective concern.

Small-scale Industries Predominate

  • After the war: Factory industries grew steadily, large industries formed a small segment of the economy.
    • 1911: about 67% are located in Bengal and Bombay.
    • Rest of the country: small-scale production continued to predominate.
  • A small proportion of the total industrial labor force worked in registered factories:
      • 5% in 1911 and 10% in 1931.
    • Rest worked in small workshops & household units, often located in alleys & by-lanes.
  • 20th century: handicrafts production expanded. Also the case of the handloom sector.
    • 19th century: Cheap machine-made thread wiped out the spinning industry.
      • Weavers survived, despite problems.
  • 20th century: handloom cloth production expanded steadily. 1900-1940: almost trebling.
    • Partly because of technological changes.
    • Handicrafts people adopt new technology if that helps them improve production without excessively pushing up costs.
    • The second decade of 20th century: weavers used looms with a fly shuttle.
      • increased productivity per worker speeded up production and reduced labor demand.
  • 1941: over 35% of handlooms in India are fitted with fly shuttles. In regions like:
    • Travancore,
    • Madras,
    • Mysore,
    • Cochin,
    • Bengal
      • the proportion was 70 to 80%.
      • Several other small innovations that helped weavers improve their productivity & compete with the mill sector.
A Hand-woven Cloth.
Intricate designs of hand-woven cloth could not be easily copied by the mills.
  • Certain groups of weavers were in a better position than others to survive the competition.
    • Some produced coarse cloth while others wove finer varieties.
    • Coarser cloth: bought by the poor & its demand fluctuated violently.
      • In times of bad harvests and famines, the rural poor could not buy cloth.
  • The demand for the finer varieties bought by the well-to-do was more stable.
    • The rich could buy these even when the poor starved.
    • Famines did not affect the sale of Banarasi or Baluchari saris.
  • Mills could not imitate specialized weaves.
    • Woven borders saris, famous lungis & handkerchiefs of Madras, couldn’t be displaced by mills.
  • 20th century: Weavers & craftspeople who continued to expand production did not necessarily prosper.
    • They lived hard lives and worked long hours.
    • Very often the entire household had to work at various stages of the production process.

Location of large-scale industries in India, 1931. The circles indicate the size of industries in the different regions.

Market for Goods

  • British manufacturers attempted to take over the Indian market.
  • New products produced: people to be persuaded to buy them. They have to feel like using the product.
Gripe Water calendar of 1928 by M.V. Dhurandhar.
The image of baby Krishna was most commonly used to popularise baby products.
  • Ways to create customers:
    • Advertisements: make products appear desirable and necessary.
      • They try to shape the minds of people and create new needs.
      • Manchester industrialists selling cloth in India: they put labels on the cloth bundles.
      • The label was needed to make the place of manufacture and the name of the company familiar to the buyer. The label was also to be a mark of quality.
      • ‘MADE IN MANCHESTER’ written on the label: buyers expected to feel confident buying it.
      • They also carried images and were very often beautifully illustrated.
      • Images of Indian gods and goddesses regularly appeared on these labels.
      • Association with gods gave some divine approval to the goods being sold.
        • Intention: make the foreign manufacturing appear somewhat familiar to Indians.
Manchester labels, early 20th century.

Images of numerous Indian gods and goddesses – Kartika, Lakshmi, Saraswati – are shown in imported cloth labels approving the quality of the product being marketed.

  • Late 19th century: manufacturers were printing calendars to popularise their products.
    • Calendars were used even by people who could not read.
    • They were hung in tea shops & poor people’s homes as much as in offices & middle-class houses.
    • Those who hung the calendars regularly saw the advertisements.
    • In these calendars, the figures of gods were used to sell new products.
    • Images of important personages, emperors and nawabs, also featured.
    • The message very often seemed to say:
      • if you respect the royal figure, then respect this product;
      • when the product was being used by kings, or produced under royal command, its quality could not be questioned.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh on a Manchester label.
Historic figures are used to create respect for the product.
  • When Indian manufacturers advertised the nationalist message was clear and loud.
    • If you care for the nation then buy products that Indians produce.
    • Advertisements became a vehicle of the nationalist message of swadeshi.
Sunlight soap calendar of 1934. God Vishnu is shown bringing sunlight from across the skies.
An Indian mill cloth label.
The goddess is shown offering cloth produced in an Ahmedabad mill, and asking people to use things made in India.
  • The age of industries meant major technological changes, the growth of factories, and the making of a new industrial labor force.
  • However, hand technology and small-scale production remained an important part of the industrial landscape.

4. The Peculiarities of Industrial Growth and Market for Goods

4. The Peculiarities of Industrial Growth and Market for Goods

Small Scale Industries Predominate

Though we can see how industries shifted their production patterns, which led to their growth, it is worth noting that large industries constituted only a small portion of the economy. As a result, approximately 67 percent of large industries were located in Bombay and Bengal in 1911. Small-scale production continued to predominate in the rest of the country. In registered factories, only a small number of industrial workers were employed. In 1911, it was 5%, and by 1931, it had risen to 10%. The remainder were employed in small workshops or in household units located in alleys and bylanes.

When it comes to the handloom and handicraft industries, they grew in the twentieth century. Despite the fact that cheap machine-made thread wiped out the spin industry, the handloom industry was able to survive, though with some difficulties for the weavers. The handloom industry expanded three times between 1900 and 1940, resulting in a nice growth in the twentieth century.

So, the question is, how did the handloom industry grow?

Half of the credit, of course, goes to the fact that handicraft artisans adopted new technologies. This enabled them to increase production without increasing production costs. Weavers began using looms with a fly shuttle by the twentieth century. Until 1941, fly shuttles were used on more than 35% of all handlooms. The ratio was 70-80 percent in Travancore, Madras, Mysore, Cochin, and Bengal. There were a few other innovations that aided weavers in increasing their output.

Some weavers were able to survive the competition with mill industries due to their superior position. Some of them produced coarse cloth. This type of cloth was commonly purchased by the poor, and its demand fluctuated. This was due to the fact that during famines or poor harvests, these people did not have enough money to purchase the cloth. Other weavers, on the other hand, used to produce fine cloth that was purchased by wealthy Indians. Famines had no effect on the demand for finer fabrics like Banarasi or Baluchari Saris. Furthermore, mills were unable to replicate the specialised weavers. Saris with woven borders, as well as the famous Madras lungis and handkerchiefs, dominated the market and were not replaced by mill production.

Weavers and other craftspeople who continued to expand their work were unable to prosper. These people had to deal with a variety of difficulties. In general, all family members were required to work. So far, we've learned about how industrialization began in Britain and then spread to India. We also read about the miserable lives of labourers, which began either as a result of the invention of machines or as a result of imperialism. However, things changed later on, and colonised countries saw an increase in local industries and production levels. The question now is where these products were sold and if there were any marketing strategies in place. Let's check this.

Market for Goods

We have already read about the British establishing control over the Indian market, as well as the resistance of Indian weavers, traders, and industrialists who demanded tariff protection and how they created market space for their product in their own way. We will now investigate how industrialists persuaded customers to purchase new products manufactured by them.

Advertising your product was one method of attracting customers. Advertisements, as we all know, make products appear necessary. The advertisements were aimed at preparing people's minds for their product and creating new demands. Nowadays, advertisements can be found almost anywhere: in newspapers, on television, on the streets, in magazines, and so on. However, in the past, when India's industrialisation was in its early stages, the use of advertisements played an important role in generating demand for the products.

Manchester industrialists initiated this practise by affixing labels to their cloth bundles. The primary goal of placing labels was to familiarise the customer with the company's name. As a result, a label with the words "Made in Manchester" was placed on the bundle, assuring the customer of the quality of the cloth and giving him confidence in purchasing the cloth. Labels used for advertising carried more than just words and texts. They also had images on them that revealed how calculative the manufacturers were.

Generally, images of Indian gods and goddesses were used to attract customer. Images of Krishna or Saraswati were used to make the foreign manufacturer appear familiar to Indians. Calendars were first used for advertising in the late nineteenth century. Manufacturers began to produce calendars that could be hung in homes, offices, and middle-class apartments. Indian god figures can also be found in these calendars.

Images of important people, such as kings or nawabs, were used in the same way that images of God were. These images conveyed the message that if you respect your king, you should also respect the product. Furthermore, it was a sign of quality assurance because the product was shown as the choice of Kings, indicating that it was of high quality. When Indian manufacturers advertised their products, the message was clear: if you are a true patriot, you should buy Indian products. Advertisements promoted the concept of nationalism or swadeshi.


As a result, we concluded that the age of industries meant technological advancement, industry growth, and the creation of a new industrial labour force. However, the handloom and small-scale industries remained an important part of the overall process

1. The First Printed Books, Print Comes to Europe


  • Understanding the development of print, from its beginnings in East Asia to its expansion in Europe and India.
Bookmaking before the age of print, from Akhlaq-i-Nasiri, 1595.

A royal workshop in the 16th century, much before printing began in India. The text is dictated, written, and illustrated. The art of writing and illustrating by hand was important in the age before print.

  • The earliest print technology: was developed in China, Japan and Korea.
    • This was a system of hand printing.
    • AD 594 onwards, China: books printed by rubbing paper (also invented there) against the inked surface of woodblocks.
    • Both sides of the thin, porous sheet could not be printed.
    • Traditional Chinese ‘accordion book’ was folded and stitched at the side.
    • Skilled craftsmen could duplicate, with remarkable accuracy, the beauty of calligraphy.
  • The imperial state in China: the major producer of printed material.
  • China had a huge bureaucratic system that recruited its personnel through civil service examinations.
    • Textbooks for this exam were printed under the sponsorship of the imperial state.
    • 16th century: number of candidates went up, increasing the volume of print.
  • 17th century: urban culture bloomed; uses of print diversified.
    • Merchants used print to collect trade information.
    • Reading: a leisure activity.
      • They preferred:
        • fictional narratives,
        • poetry,
        • autobiographies,
        • anthologies of literary masterpieces,
        • romantic plays.
      • Rich women began to read, and many women began publishing their poetry and plays.
      • Wives of scholar-officials published their works and courtesans wrote about their lives.
  • Late 19th century: Western printing techniques & mechanical presses imported.
    • Western powers established their outposts in China.
    • Shanghai: hub of the new print culture, catering to the Western-style schools.
    • From hand printing- gradual shift to mechanical printing.

Print in Japan

  • AD 768-770: Buddhist missionaries from China introduce hand-printing technology into Japan.
  • AD 868: The oldest Japanese book- the Buddhist Diamond Sutra.
    • Contains six sheets of text and woodcut illustrations.
  • Pictures were printed on textiles, playing cards and paper money.
  • Medieval Japan: poets and prose writers regularly published; books cheap and abundant.
  • Printing of visual material led to interesting publishing practices.
  • Late 18th century: in the urban circles at Edo (later known as Tokyo), illustrated collections of paintings depicted an elegant urban culture, involving artists, courtesans, and teahouse gatherings.
  • Libraries and bookstores were packed with hand-printed material of various types:
    • books on women,
    • musical instruments,
    • calculations,
    • tea ceremony,
    • flower arrangements,
    • proper etiquette,
    • cooking,
    • famous places.
A page from the Diamond Sutra.

A morning scene, ukiyo print by Shunman Kubo, late 18th century.
A man looks out of the window at the snowfall while women prepare tea and perform other domestic duties.

Print Comes to Europe

  • Silk and spices from China flowed into Europe through the silk route.
  • 11th century: Chinese paper reached Europe via silk route.
    • Paper: the production of manuscripts possible. Carefully written by scribes.
  • 1295: Marco Polo, a great explorer, returned to Italy after years of exploration in China.
    • Marco Polo brought woodblock printing technology back with him.
  • Italians: produced books with woodblocks.
    • Soon it spread to other parts of Europe.
    • Luxury editions: handwritten vellum still used for aristocratic circles and rich monastic libraries.

They considered printed books as cheap vulgarities.

  • Merchants and students in the university towns bought cheaper printed copies.
  • Increase in demand for books: booksellers all over Europe began exporting books to different countries.
  • Book fairs held at different places.
  • Production of handwritten manuscripts: organised in new ways to meet the expanded demand.
  • Scribes or skilled hand-writers: no longer solely employed by wealthy or influential patrons but increasingly by booksellers as well.
    • More than 50 scribes often worked for one bookseller.
  • Production of manuscripts: not enough to satisfy the ever-increasing demand for books.
    • Copying: expensive, laborious and time-consuming business.
    • Manuscripts were fragile, awkward to handle, and could not be carried around or read easily.
    • Their circulation remained limited.
  • Growing demand for books: woodblock printing gradually became more popular.
  • Early 15th century: woodblocks widely used in Europe to print-
    • textiles,
    • playing cards,
    • religious pictures with simple, brief texts.
  • Need: a quicker and cheaper reproduction of texts, i.e. new print technology.
    • 1430s, Strasbourg, Germany: Johann Gutenberg developed the first-known printing press.

Gutenberg and the Printing Press

Gutenberg’s background

  • Gutenberg: the son of a merchant who grew up on a large agricultural estate.
  • From his childhood he had seen wine and olive presses.
  • He learnt the art of polishing stones and became a master goldsmith.
  • He acquired the expertise to create lead moulds used for making trinkets.
  • Drawing on this knowledge, Gutenberg adapted existing technology to design his innovation.
  • The olive press provided the model for the printing press.


  • Moulds were used for casting the metal types for the letters of the alphabet.
    • 1448: Gutenberg perfected the system.
  • First book he printed: the Bible.
    • About 180 copies were printed in three years.
    • By the standards of that time, this was fast production.
  • The new technology did not entirely displace the existing art of producing books by hand.
  • Printed books: closely resembled the written manuscripts in appearance and layout.
    • The metal letters imitated the ornamental handwritten styles.
    • Borders were illuminated by hand with foliage and other patterns, and illustrations were painted.
    • In the books printed for the rich, space for decoration was kept blank on the printed page.
    • Purchaser could choose the design & decide on the painting school that would do the illustrations.
  • 1450-1550: printing presses set up in most countries of Europe.
  • Printers from Germany travelled to other countries, seeking work and helping start new presses.
  • Number of printing presses grew: book production boomed.
  • The second half of the 15th century: 20 million copies of printed books in the markets in Europe.
    • 16th century: about 200 million copies.
  • Print revolution: the shift from hand printing to mechanical printing.
Page of Gutenberg’s Bible, 1st printed book, Europe.
Of the 180 copies, no more than 50 have survived.

The text was printed in the Gutenberg press with metal type. Borders were designed& painted by artists. No two copies were the same. When two copies look similar, a comparison will reveal differences. Elites everywhere preferred this lack of uniformity: their possession could be claimed as unique.

The Gutenberg Printing Press

The long handle attached to the screw was used to turn the screw & press down the platen over the printing block that was placed on top of a sheet of damp paper.
He developed metal types for the 26 characters of the Roman alphabet & devised a way of moving them around to compose different words of the text, known as the moveable type printing machine.
It remained the basic print technology over the next 300 years. The press could print 250 sheets on one side per hour.

A Printer’s Workshop, 16th Century

In the foreground; Right: compositors at work. Left: galleys being prepared & ink is being applied on the metal types. In the background, the printers are turning the screws of the press; near them proofreaders are at work. In front is the final product – the double-page printed sheets, stacked in neat piles, waiting to be bound.


1. The First Printed Books, Print Comes to Europe


Print Culture and The Modern World

When we look around today, we are surrounded by printed matter. Books, journals, newspapers, magazines, prints of famous paintings, advertisements, and so on. All of this is printed material. As a result, we can say that it is difficult to imagine a world without printing these days. But do we know anything about the history of printing? Or do we have any idea how printing has helped to shape our world?

In this chapter, we will discuss the history of printing, its journey from East Asia to Europe and India, and the impact of print and the spread of its technology on our lives.

1.The First Printed Books, Print Comes to Europe



The First Printed Books

When we talk about the earliest type of printing technology, we think of China, Japan, and Korea, which were the birthplaces of printing technology.

The printing of books began in China in AD 594. The books were printed using the rubbing paper technique. Later, inked surface woodblocks were used. Because it was difficult to print on both sides of a sheet back then, the traditional Chinese 'accordion book' was folded and stitched on the side. The other method of writing books was to duplicate the matter with great accuracy, which calligraphers did. The beauty of calligraphy could be replicated with remarkable accuracy by highly skilled craftsmen.

For a long time, China was the leading producer of printed materials. It was true because China was an imperial state with a large number of bureaucrats. China used to hold a civil service examination to recruit these bureaucrats. As a result, a large number of books were printed under the sponsorship of the imperial state to serve aspirants who wanted to take the examination.

During the sixteenth century, the number of printed books increased. It was so because the number of candidates for such an examination had increased tremendously. The use of print began to diversify by the seventeenth century. It was no longer only used by students, but by a variety of other groups as well. For example, merchants began to use print to gather trade information, and readers began to use it as a leisure activity. New readers began to prefer books on fiction, poetry, autobiographies, and so on. Even wealthy women who enjoyed reading began writing and publishing poetry and plays. Courtesans wrote about their own lives, while wives of scholars' officials published their works.

All of this resulted in the importation of technology into China, specifically western printing techniques and mechanical presses. Shanghai quickly became the epicentre of the new print culture that catered to western-style schools. As a result, this time period in China shows a shift from hand printing to mechanical printing. So, we now know how printing began in China, but let's move on to Japan.

Print in Japan

Hand printing technology began in Japan around the years 768-770. Buddhist missionaries from China introduced this technique to Japan. The Buddhist Diamond Sutra, printed in AD 868, was Japan's first printed book. Six sheets of test and woodcut illustrations were included. Soon after, the printing technique was used to print images on textiles, playing cards, and paper money. Because of the printing of a large number of poems and prose, the use of printing technique is also evident in medieval Japan. Books were cheap and plentiful.

Later on, a new printing concept emerged. It was for the printing of visual materials. Edo, now known as Tokyo, became a flourishing centre of visual printing in the late eighteenth century. Artists, courtesans, teahouse gatherings, and other scenes are depicted in the paintings. Libraries were frequently brimming with hand-printed material of various types, such as books on women, musical instruments, calculations, tea ceremonies, cooking, and so on.

We have previously learned about the origins of printing in Asia, particularly in China and Japan. Now we'll see how it got to Europe.

Print Comes to Europe

Marco Polo

Europe was a major importer of Chinese silk and spices. All of these items used to enter Europe via the silk route. The silk route paved the way for Chinese paper to reach Europe. Manuscripts could only be produced because of paper. In 1295, the great explorer Marco Polo, who had spent years exploring China, brought the woodblock printing technique from China to Europe. With this, woodblock printing began in Italy as well. This technology spread to the rest of Europe as well. Merchants and students in university towns began purchasing cheaper copy prints for their own use. However, some elites disliked printed material because they thought it was cheap and vulgar. Editions for them were still written on animal skin (Vellum), which was very expensive.

As the demand for books grew, booksellers began exporting books to various other parts of Europe. Book fairs were held in various locations. To meet the growing demand for books, booksellers began producing handwritten books in novel ways. Scribes, who were previously only employed by the wealthy, were now hired by booksellers to write editions for them. It is clear from the fact that the single bookseller hired around 50 scribes.

However, it was soon discovered that handwritten manuscripts could not keep up with the growing demand for books. Copying was not only time-consuming and labor-intensive, but also costly. As a result, there was a need for something that could assist in meeting demand while also being less expensive. As a result, woodblock printing became a popular printing technique in Europe. The technique was soon used in the printing of playing cards, textiles, and religious images with simple brief texts.

As demand increased on a daily basis, there was an urgent need for a new technique that was both faster and less expensive. This was only possible if some sort of invention in this field was made. Johann Gutenberg's invention of the printing press in Germany in the 1430s marked a turning point. So, we'll now learn about Johann Gutenberg and his printing press.

Gutenberg and the printing press

Gutenberg was a merchant's son who had grown up on a large agricultural estate. He had seen wine and olive presses since he was a child. He grew up to be a master goldsmith who could create lead moulds for making trinkets because he had learned the art of polishing stones. Gutenberg used his creative abilities to create a printing press out of an olive press, and he used moulds to cast the metal types for the letters of the alphabet. By 1448, Gutenberg had improved his invention's system. The Bible was the first book he printed. He was able to produce 180 copies of the Bible in three years  to his invention. During those times, this was a quick production method.

Even though the new technology was quick, it could not replace the old method of printing. In reality, printed books were nothing more than a facsimile of handwritten manuscripts. The metal letters were copied. Hand-illuminated borders and illustrations were created. There were a few editions reserved solely for wealthy readers. The unique feature of these books was the blank columns left for the readers to fill in with their own artwork. The readers could select the design and even the painting school for the illustrations.

Most European countries saw the establishment of various printing presses between 1450 and 1550. The Germans began to travel to other countries in search of work and to assist others in establishing new presses. The increase in the number of printing presses resulted in an increase in the production of books. The production of 20 million copies of printed books in the second half of the 15th century overtook the European market. In the 16th century, this figure was increased to 200 million copies. The print revolution began with the transition of printing from hand to mechanical.

2. The Print Revolution and Its Impact


A New Reading Public

  • With the printing press, a new reading public emerged.
    • Printing reduced the cost of books.
      • The time and labor required to produce each book came down,
      • Multiple copies could be produced with greater ease.
  • Books flooded the market, reaching out to an ever-growing readership.
  • Access to books created a new culture of reading while earlier, reading was restricted to the elites.
  • Common people transferred knowledge orally. They heard:
  • sacred texts readout,
    • ballads recited,
    • folk tales narrated.
      • People collectively heard a story or saw a performance.
  • Before the age of print: books were not only expensive but could not be produced in sufficient numbers.
  • If earlier there was a hearing public, now a reading public came into being.
  • Books: only by reading the literate; rates of literacy were very low in most European countries till the 20th century.
  • For the wider reach of the books: those who didn’t read could enjoy listening to these being readout.
    • Printers published popular ballads and folk tales,
      • such books would be profusely illustrated with pictures.
      • These were then sung and recited at gatherings in villages and in taverns in towns.
  • Oral culture thus entered print and printed material was orally transmitted.
  • The line that separated the oral and reading cultures became blurred.
    • The hearing public and reading public became intermingled.

Religious Debates and the Fear of Print

  • Print: possibility of the wide circulation of ideas, and introduced a new world of debate and discussion.
  • Even those who disagreed with established authorities could print and circulate their ideas.
    • Printed message: they could persuade people to think differently, and move them to action.
    • This had significance in different spheres of life.
  • Not everyone welcomed the printed book and those who did also had fears about it.
  • Many are apprehensive of the effects that easier access to the printed word and the wider circulation of books could have on people’s minds.
  • Fear: if no control over what was printed & read, then rebellious & irreligious thoughts might spread.
    • Authority of ‘valuable’ literature would be destroyed.
    • Expressed by religious authorities and monarchs, as well as many writers and artists.
    • Anxiety: the basis of widespread criticism of the new printed literature that had begun to circulate.

Implication on religion

  • 1517: the religious reformer Martin Luther wrote Ninety Five Theses criticizing many of the practices and rituals of the Roman Catholic Church.
  • Wittenberg: A printed copy of this was posted on a church door.
    • It challenged the Church to debate his ideas.
    • Luther’s writings were immediately reproduced in vast numbers and read widely.
    • This led to a division within the Church and to the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
  • Luther’s translation of the New Testament sold 5,000 copies within a few weeks.
    • A second edition appeared within three months.
  • Deeply grateful to print, Luther said, ‘Printing is the ultimate gift of God and the greatest one.’
  • Several scholars, in fact, think that print brought about a new intellectual atmosphere and helped spread the new ideas that led to the Reformation.

Print and Dissent

  • Print and popular religious literature stimulated many distinctive individual interpretations of faith even among little-educated working people.
  • 16th century: Menocchio, a miller in Italy, began to read books that were available in his locality.
  • He reinterpreted the message of the Bible and formulated a view of God and Creation that enraged the Roman Catholic Church.
  • When the Roman Church began its inquisition to repress heretical ideas, Menocchio was hauled up twice and ultimately executed.
  • The Roman Church, troubled by such effects of popular readings and questionings of faith, imposed severe controls over publishers and booksellers and began to maintain an Index of Prohibited Books from 1558.

This 16th-century print shows how the fear of printing was dramatised in visual representations of the time.
The coming of print is associated with the end of the world.
The interior of the printer’s workshop is the site of a dance of death.
Skeletal figures control the printer and his workers, define and dictate what is to be done and what is to be produced.


  • 17th and 18th centuries: literacy rates went up in most parts of Europe.
  • Churches of different denominations set up schools in villages, carrying literacy to peasants and artisans.
  • Literacy rates at the end of the 18th century: in some parts of Europe as high as 60-80%.
  • Literacy and schools spread in European countries: a virtual reading mania.
    • People wanted books to read;
    • Printers produced books in ever-increasing numbers.
  • New audiences: New forms of popular literature appeared in print.
    • Booksellers employed pedlars roamed around villages, carrying little books for sale. There were:
      • almanacs or ritual calendars,
      • ballads
      • folktales.
    • England: penny chapbooks carried by petty pedlars called Chapman, sold for a penny so that even the poor could buy them.
    • France: Bibliotheque Bleue- low-priced small books printed on poor quality paper, bound in cheap blue covers.
    • The romances: printed on 4 to 6 pages.
    • More substantial ‘histories’ were stories about the past.
  • Books were of various sizes, serving many different purposes and interests.
  • Early 18th century: periodical press developed, combining current affairs with entertainment.
    • Newspapers and journals carried information about wars and trade, as well as news of developments in other places.
  • The ideas of scientists and philosophers became more accessible to the common people.
    • Ancient and medieval scientific texts were compiled and published,
    • Maps and scientific diagrams were widely printed.
  • When scientists like Isaac Newton began to publish their discoveries, they could influence a much wider circle of scientifically-minded readers.
  • Writings of thinkers like Thomas Paine, Voltaire and Jean Jacques Rousseau were widely printed & read.
  • Their ideas about science, reason and rationality found their way into popular literature.

‘Tremble, therefore, tyrants of the world!’

  • Mid-18th century: a common conviction that books were a means of spreading progress and enlightenment.
  • Many believed books could change the world, liberate society from despotism and tyranny, and herald a time when reason and intellect would rule.
  • Louise-Sebastien Mercier, a novelist in 18th-century France, declared: ‘The printing press is the most powerful engine of progress and public opinion is the force that will sweep despotism away.’
  • In many of Mercier’s novels, the heroes are transformed by acts of reading. They devour books, are lost in the world books create, and become enlightened in the process.
  • Convinced of the power of print in bringing enlightenment and destroying the basis of despotism, Mercier proclaimed: ‘Tremble, therefore, tyrants of the world! Tremble before the virtual writer!’

Print Culture and the French Revolution

Historians have argued that print culture created the conditions within which French Revolution occurred. Three types of arguments have been put forward:

  1. Print popularised the ideas of the Enlightenment thinkers.
    1. Collectively, their writings provided a critical commentary on tradition, superstition and despotism.
    2. They argued for the rule of reason rather than custom; demanded that everything be judged through the application of reason and rationality.
    3. They attacked the authority of the Church and the despotic power of the state, thus eroding the legitimacy of a social order based on tradition.
    4. The writings of Voltaire and Rousseau were read widely; those who read these books saw the world through eyes that were questioning, critical and rational.

  1. Print created a new culture of dialogue and debate:
    1. All values, norms and institutions were re-evaluated and discussed by a public that had become aware of the power of reason, and recognized the need to question existing ideas and beliefs.
    2. Within this public culture, new ideas of social revolution came into being.
  2. 1780s: an outpouring of literature that mocked the royalty and criticized their morality.
    1. In the process, it raised questions about the existing social order.
    2. Cartoons and caricatures typically suggested that the monarchy remained absorbed only in sensual pleasures while the common people suffered immense hardships.
    3. This literature circulated underground and led to the growth of hostile sentiments against the monarchy.
  • Print helps the spread of ideas.
  • People did not read just one kind of literature. If they read the ideas of Voltaire and Rousseau, they were also exposed to monarchical and Church propaganda.
  • They were not influenced directly by everything they read or saw. They accepted some ideas and rejected others.
  • Print did not directly shape their minds, but it did open up the possibility of thinking differently.

The cartoon shows how the ordinary people – peasants, artisans and workers – had a hard time while the nobility enjoyed life and oppressed them.
The circulation of cartoons had an impact on the thinking of people before the revolution.

Print did not directly shape their minds, but it did open up the possibility of thinking differently.

2. The Print Revolution and Its Impact

2. The Print Revolution and Its Impact

When we speak of a print revolution, we are not referring to a new technique or an increase in book production. Here we discuss the impact of the print revolution on people's lives and how it changed and influenced people's perceptions. Let's take a look at this to get a better understanding of it.

A New Reading Public

The printing press introduced a new generation of readers. This was due to the fact that it reduced the cost of books. Creating a book used to be a time-consuming and expensive task. However, with the development of new techniques, the books could be produced in large quantities and at a lower cost. This resulted in a flood of books on the market, allowing a large number of readers to be reached.

The ease with which books could be obtained resulted in the development of a reading culture. It was once only for the most privileged people. Ordinary people lived in an oral culture world. When we talk about oral culture, we mean that they used to hear sacred texts read out, ballads recited, and folk tales told. So, essentially, knowledge was passed down orally to them. This was due to the fact that the books being produced were not only expensive, but also limited in quantity. But, as time passed, the situation changed, and books became widely available, transforming the public from a hearing to a reading public.

The transition was not easy. Because books could only be read by literates and a large portion of the population was illiterate, publishers devised a new method. They began publishing books containing popular folk tales, ballads, and so on. The illustrations in these books were fascinating. All of this was done to pique the interest of the book's readers. These books were read aloud at village gatherings or in town taverns. As a result, we can say that oral culture and print culture have intertwined here. Though the print technique enabled a large number of people to read material, it also enabled the idea of publishing one's own thoughts and ideas about something. People quickly began to print their feelings about the old philosophies and practises. Let's check this.

Religious Debates and the Fear of Print

Printing made it possible to spread ideas to a large number of people. All of this resulted in a new world of reality of debate and discussion. Those who held a different viewpoint than the established authorities could now print and circulate their ideas with the help of print. The printed material began to help them by convincing people to think differently. This was significant in a variety of sphere of life.

Print technology and printed books were not universally accepted. Some people were concerned about the printed books. They were concerned that because printed books had a wider circulation, it could be harmful if irreligious or rebellious material was printed for the readers. As a result, people from groups such as religious authorities, monarchs, writers, and artists were opposed to printed books. They believed that doing so would destroy our valuable literature and lead to an increase in rebellious and irreligious thoughts. To grasp this, consider the implications in one sphere of human life, namely religion.

Martin Luther, a religious reformer, wrote 95 theses in 1517 criticising some of the Roman Catholic Church's rituals. He pasted a printed copy of this to the Wittenberg church's door. He challenged the Church to a debate on the subject. His writings were quickly reproduced and circulated, and they were widely read. All of this caused divisiveness within the Church, which sparked the Protestant Reformation.

Luther's testament sold around 5000 copies in a few weeks, and a second edition was published three months later. Luther was grateful for the printing technique because it brought a new intellectual atmosphere. So, now we know how people got the chance to express their dissatisfaction with popular beliefs. Let us see how it progressed along the same lines.

Print and Dissent

The printing of popular religious literature has sometimes resulted in different interpretations of religion by various individuals. Consider Menocchio, an Italian miller who interpreted the Bible in his own way and formulated a view of God and Creation of the Roman Catholic Church that differed from the Church's point of view. He was then severely punished and executed for his ideas that were heretical. The term heretical refers to someone whose beliefs differ from those of the Catholic Church. Later, in 1558, the Roman Church took the step of maintaining an index of prohibited books in order to limit the publication of books that were contrary to Church beliefs.

Because print technology made it possible to publish a large number of books in a short period of time, the habit of reading was inculcated in the people. Let's take a look at this.

The Reading Mania

Literacy rates increased in most parts of Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This was due to the Churches' efforts to establish schools in villages, which aided in the education of peasants and artisans. This resulted in an increase in literacy rates in Europe, as evidenced by figures showing that during the eighteenth century, literacy rates ranged from 60 to 80 percent. As more and more people became educated, a new craze known as reading mania emerged among the population.

As people became more interested in reading, publishers began to print a variety of books in order to reach new audiences. Booksellers used to hire pedlars who would sell books in various villages. They also began to create ritual calendars, as well as ballads and folktales. The Chapmen in England sold penny chapbooks for a penny. Similarly, in France, Biliotheque Bleue, a small low-cost book printed on low-quality paper, began to be sold. There were a variety of books published in various sizes and for various purposes, such as romances and histories, to serve the reader's expectations. Soon after, the printing of newspapers and journals began, which carried news of wars, trade, and other developments.

Similarly, the ideas of scientists and philosophers could reach the general public through print. Various new and old scientific ideas, diagrams, and maps began to be published for the benefit of the readers. The ideas of famous scientists like Isaac Newton, or thinkers like Thomas Paine and Jean Jacques Rousseau, were now widely printed and read. As a result, we can say that ideas about science and logic made their way into popular literature. As a result, by the mid-eighteenth century, it had become widely accepted that books are the best medium for spreading progress and enlightenment. People begin to believe that books can affect positive change in the world.

According to Louise Sebastian Mercier, a French novelist, print is the most powerful engine of progress. So far, we've looked at how print has aided in the spread of scientific ideas and knowledge to various groups of people. Now we'll look at how it played a role in the French Revolution.

Print Culture and the French Revolution

Historians believe that print culture was the major factor for the French Revolution. They present three types of arguments in support of this. Let's take a closer look at this.

First, print popularised the ideas of Enlightenment thinkers, and collectively, their writings provided a critical commentary on tradition and superstition. People began to follow these writers as they argued for the rule of reason rather than custom. These writers questioned not only the authority of the Church, but also the social order based on tradition. Writers such as Voltaire and Rousseau influenced people's thinking, causing them to question and criticise prevailing practises and traditions.

The second argument is that print created a new culture of debate and dialogue. All of the values, norms, and practises that had been followed for years were now being called into question. People began to question social norms. The general public became aware of the power of logic and questioning. A social revolution can be said to have begun.

Third, by the 1780s, literature began to mock royalty and their morality. They began to question the royalty's morality and responsibility. Various cartoons and caricatures were created to criticise the royalty for living a luxurious life and not caring about the common people who were suffering.

So, in this case, we can say that print was unquestionably changing the way people thought. However, it should be noted that readers were not only reading Rousseau or Voltaire, but also what the church and monarchy had to say. As a result, it was up to the public to decide who they wanted to support or oppose. This means that while print had an impact on people's thinking, there were other ideas occupying their minds as well. So, now we'll discuss the nineteenth century and the rise in readership.

3. The Nineteenth Century, India and the World of Print


Children, Women and Workers

  • Late 19th century: primary education became compulsory- children became an important group of readers.
    • Production of school textbooks became critical for the publishing industry.
    • 1857, France: A children’s press, devoted to literature for children alone set up.
      • This press published new works as well as old fairy tales and folk tales.
    • Germany: The Grimm Brothers spent years compiling traditional folk tales gathered from peasants.
      • Their collection was edited before the stories were published in 1812.
  • Anything that was considered unsuitable for children or would appear vulgar to the elites, was not included in the published version.
    • Rural folk tales thus acquired a new form.
    • In this way, print recorded old tales but also changed them.
  • Women: important as readers as well as writers.
  • Penny magazines were specially meant for women, as were manuals teaching proper behavior and housekeeping.
  • 19th century: novels began to be written, women were seen as important readers.
  • Some of the best-known novelists were women: Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, George Eliot.
  • Their writings became important in defining a new type of woman: a person with a will, the strength of personality, determination and the power to think.
  • Lending libraries had been in existence from the 17th century onwards.
  • In the 19th century, lending libraries in England became instruments for educating white-collar workers, artisans and lower-middle-class people.
  • Sometimes, self-educated working-class people wrote for themselves.
  • After the working day was gradually shortened from the mid-19th century, workers had some time for self-improvement and self-expression.
    • They wrote political tracts and autobiographies in large numbers.
Penny Magazine was published between 1832 and 1835, in England by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

Further Innovations

  • Late 18th century: the press came to be made out of metal.
  • Through the 19th century: a series of further innovations in printing technology.
  • Mid-19th century, New York: Richard M. Hoe perfected the power-driven cylindrical press.
    • It was capable of printing 8,000 sheets per hour.
    • This press was particularly useful for printing newspapers.
  • Late 19th century: offset press was developed to print up to six colors at a time.
  • 20th century: electrically operated presses accelerated printing operations.
    • Methods of feeding paper improved,
    • the quality of plates became better,
    • automatic paper reels,
    • photoelectric controls of the colour register were introduced.
  • Accumulation of several individual mechanical improvements transformed the appearance of printed texts.
  • Printers and publishers continuously developed new strategies to sell their products.
  • 19th-century periodicals serialized important novels, which gave birth to a particular way of writing novels.
  • 1920s, England: popular works were sold in cheap series, called the Shilling Series.
  • The dust cover or the book jacket is also a 20th-century innovation.
  • With the onset of the Great Depression in the 1930s, publishers feared a decline in book purchases.
    • To sustain buying, they brought out cheap paperback editions.

Advertisements at a railway station in England, a lithograph by Alfred Concanen, 1874. Printed advertisements and notices were plastered on street walls, railway platforms and public buildings.

India and World Print

Manuscripts Before the Age of Print

  • India had a very rich and old tradition of handwritten manuscripts in:
    • Sanskrit,
    • Arabic,
    • Persian,
    • various vernacular languages.
  • Manuscripts: copied on palm leaves or on handmade paper.
    • Pages were sometimes beautifully illustrated.
    • Either pressed between wooden covers or sewn together to ensure preservation.
  • Late 19th century: Manuscripts continued to be produced till after the introduction of print.
  • Manuscripts: highly expensive and fragile.
    • had to be handled carefully;
    • could not be read easily as the script was written in different styles.
  • Manuscripts: not widely used in everyday life.
  • Pre-colonial Bengal: developed an extensive network of village primary schools.
      • students very often did not read texts.
      • They only learned to write.
Pages from the Gita Govinda of Jayadeva, 18th century.
A palm-leaf handwritten manuscript in accordion format.
Handwritten manuscripts continued to be produced in India till much after the coming of print.
This manuscript was produced in the 18th century in the Malayalam script.
Hafiz was a 14th-century poet whose collected works are known as Diwan.
The beautiful calligraphy and the elaborate illustration and design.
Manuscripts like this continued to be produced for the rich even after the coming of the letterpress.

Print Comes to India

  • Mid-16th century, Goa: The printing press first came with Portuguese missionaries.
    • Jesuit priests learned Konkani and printed several tracts.
    • 1674: about 50 books had been printed in the Konkani and in Kanara languages.
  • 1579, Cochin: Catholic priests printed the first Tamil book.
    • 1713: first Malayalam book printed by them.
  • 1710: Dutch Protestant missionaries printed 32 Tamil texts, many of them translations of older works.
  • The English language press did not grow in India till quite late despite the English East India Company importing presses from the late 17th century.
  • 1780: James Augustus Hickey began to edit the Bengal Gazette;
    • A weekly magazine describing itself as a commercial paper open to all, but influenced by none.
  • Private English enterprise began English printing in India.
    • proud of its independence from colonial influence.
  • Hickey published a lot of advertisements, including those related to the import and sale of slaves.
    • He also published a lot of gossip about the Company’s senior officials in India.
  • Enraged by this, Governor-General Warren Hastings persecuted Hickey.
    • He encouraged the publication of officially sanctioned newspapers;
      • Prevent the flow of information that damaged the image of the colonial government.
  • End of 18th century: a number of newspapers and journals appeared in print.
  • Indians also began to publish Indian newspapers.
  • The first: weekly Bengal Gazette,
    • brought out by Gangadhar Bhattacharya, who was close to Rammohun Roy.

3. The Nineteenth Century, India and the World of Print

3. The Nineteenth Century, India and the World of Print

As Europe's literacy rate increased in the nineteenth century, so did the number of readers among children, women, and workers.

Children, Women and Workers

Primary education became mandatory in the nineteenth century. Children, a new group of readers, have emerged as an important demographic. Children's presses were established in France in 1857, after publishing industries began printing textbooks for them. This publishing house specialised in fairy and folk tale books for children. In Germany, the Grimm Brothers collected various folk tales from peasants and compiled them into a book. During those days, it was necessary to remove any objectionable content from the book that was not appropriate for children or the elite. As a result, we can say that print began to record old stories while also beginning to change them slightly.

Women later became important readers as well. Penny Books were created specifically for them. Soon after, manuals on proper behaviour and housekeeping were printed for them. When novels first became popular in the nineteenth century, women were among the most avid readers. Later, many women writers, such as Jane Austen, the Bronte Sisters, and George Eliot, became famous for their writings, which defined women as strong individuals with determination and the ability to think.

During this time period, lending libraries were also seen as an important place for educating white collar workers, artisans, and middle-class people. They could come to the libraries after work to devote some time to self-improvement by writing political tracts and autobiographies. Later in the nineteenth century, some more innovations were seen.

Further innovations

Various innovations and advancements in printing technology occurred during the nineteenth century. Richard M. Hoe of New York improved the power driven cylindrical press by the mid-nineteenth century. This machine was capable of printing 8000 sheets per hour. This type of printing capability was critical for the production of newspapers. Later, the offset press was developed, which could print up to six colours at once. Electrically powered presses first appeared in the twentieth century. More advancements were made, which resulted in improvements to the feeding paper, plates, paper reels, and so on. Various developments transformed the appearance of printed texts.

Publishers experimented with new ways to sell their books, such as the Shilling Series, which were essentially low-cost books published in England during the 1920s. Other innovations included the dust cover and the book jacket. To help sustain the Great Depression of the 1930s, publishers produced low-cost paperback editions. We now understand how print began and progressed in various parts of Europe. We will now learn about the origins of print in India.

India and the World of Print

So, now we will see how print began in India, but first we must understand what life was like before the age of print in India.

Manuscripts before the age of Print

Prior to the invention of the printing press, India had a long and rich tradition of writing manuscripts in Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, and a variety of other vernacular languages. These manuscripts were either written on palm leaves or on handmade paper. To preserve them, they were placed between wooden covers or sewn together.

Manuscripts were generally expensive, and it was difficult to keep them for an extended period of time. They were barely legible because the scripts were written in a variety of styles. As a result, manuscripts were rarely used. Prior to India's colonisation, a vast network of primary schools was established in Bengal, but the students in these schools never read any text. They had only recently learned to write. The system used in these schools was for teachers to dictate portions of books or texts, and students to write them down. As a result, they became literate without ever reading a text.

So we now know how books were written before print technology arrived in India. Let's take a look at how print arrived in India.

Print comes to India

When we discuss the beginnings of printing in India. The printing press first arrived in Goa with the Portuguese missionaries in the mid-sixteenth century. Jesuit priests began to print in Konkani after learning the language. By 1674, approximately 50 books in Konkani and Kanara had been printed. In 1579, Catholic priests in Cochin began printing Tamil books, and in 1713, the first Malayalam book was printed in India. Protestant missionaries in the Netherlands printed 32 Tamil texts.

In 1780, James Augustus Hickey began editing the Bengali Gazette. It was a weekly publication. This magazine described itself as a commercial paper that was open to everyone but influenced by no one. Hickey's magazine was free of colonial influence. He used to run advertisements for the import and sale of slaves. However, he also spread a lot of rumours about the Company's senior executives in India. To control this, Governor-General Warren Hastings began sanctioning newspapers and controlling the flow of information that could harm the colonial government's image. Later, various Indian newspapers began to be printed by Indians. The first to appear was Bengal Gazette, a weekly newspaper published by Gangadhar Bhattacharya, a close friend of Rammohun Roy.

As printing became more common and people were able to publish their thoughts and ideas, public debates began. Let's take a look at what happened.

4. Religious Reform and Public Debates, New Forms of Publication


  • Early 19th century: intense debates around religious issues.
    • Different groups confronted the changes happening within colonial society in different ways and offered a variety of new interpretations of the beliefs of different religions.
    • Some criticized existing practices and campaigned for reform, while others countered the arguments of reformers.
  • Debates were carried out in public and in print.
    • Printed tracts & newspapers shaped the nature of the debate.
    • A wider public could participate in these public discussions and express their views.
    • New ideas emerged through these clashes of opinions.
  • Intense controversies between social & religious reformers & the Hindu orthodoxy over matters like:
    • widow immolation,
    • monotheism,
    • Brahmanical priesthood,
    • idolatry.
  • Bengal: tracts and newspapers rapidly increased, circulating a variety of arguments.
    • Wider reach: ideas printed in the everyday, spoken language of ordinary people.
    • 1821: Rammohun Roy published the Sambad Kaumudi.
      • Hindu orthodoxy commissioned the Samachar Chandrika to oppose his opinions.
  • 1822: two Persian newspapers published-
      • Jam-i-Jahan Nama
      • Shamsul Akhbar.
  • 1822: a Gujarati newspaper, the Bombay Samachar, made an appearance.
  • North India: the ulama were deeply anxious about the collapse of Muslim dynasties.
    • They feared that the colonial ruler would encourage conversion, change the Muslim personal laws.
    • Counter: they used cheap lithographic presses, published Persian and Urdu translations of holy scriptures, and printed religious newspapers and tracts.
  • 1867: The Deoband Seminary published thousands upon thousands of fatwas telling Muslim readers how to conduct themselves in their everyday lives, and explaining the meanings of Islamic doctrines.
  • 19th century: number of Muslim sects & seminaries appeared, each with a different interpretation of faith,
    • Each is keen on enlarging its following and countering the influence of its opponents.
    • Urdu print helped them conduct these battles in public.
  • 1810: Among Hindus, print encouraged the reading of religious texts, especially in the vernacular languages.
  • The first printed edition of the Ramcharitmanas of Tulsidas, a 16th-century text, came out from Calcutta.
  • Mid-19th century: cheap lithographic editions flooded north Indian markets.
  • 1880s: the Naval Kishore Press at Lucknow and the Shri Venkateshwar Press in Bombay published numerous religious texts in vernaculars.
    • In their printed and portable form, these could be read easily by the faithful at any place and time.
    • They could be read out to large groups of illiterate men and women.
  • Religious texts reached a very wide circle of people, encouraging discussions, debates & controversies within & among different religions.
  • Print connected communities and people in different parts of India.
  • Newspapers conveyed news from one place to another, creating pan-Indian identities.


  • Printing created an appetite for new kinds of writing.
  • They wanted to see their own lives, experiences, emotions and relationships reflected in what they read.
  • The novel, a literary firm that had developed in Europe, ideally catered to this need. It acquired distinctively Indian forms & styles.
  • For readers, it gave a vivid sense of the diversity of human lives.
  • Other new literary forms entered the world of reading about social and political matters:
    • lyrics,
    • short stories,
    • essays.
  • In different ways, they reinforced the new emphasis on human lives and intimate feelings, about the political and social rules that shaped such things.
  • End of the 19th century: a new visual culture taking shape.
  • Increasing number of printing presses: visual images could be reproduced in multiple copies.
    • Painters like Raja Ravi Varma produced images for mass circulation.
  • Poor wood engravers made woodblocks; set up shop near letterpresses, & were employed by print shops.
  • Cheap prints and calendars, easily available in the bazaar, could be bought even by the poor to decorate the walls of their homes or places of work.
  • Prints began shaping popular ideas about modernity & tradition, religion & politics, & society and culture.
  • 1870s: caricatures & cartoons being published in journals & newspapers, commenting on social & political issues.
  • Some caricatures ridiculed the educated Indians’ fascination with Western tastes and clothes, while others expressed the fear of social change.
  •  ​​​​​There were imperial caricatures lampooning nationalists, as well as nationalist cartoons criticising imperial rule.

Raja Ritudhwaj rescuing Princess Madalsa from the captivity of demons, print by Ravi Varma.
Raja Ravi Varma produced innumerable mythological paintings that were printed at the Ravi Varma Press.

Women and Print

  • Lives & feelings of women: written in particularly vivid and intense ways.
    • Women’s reading: increased enormously in middle-class homes.
  • After the mid-19th century: Liberal husbands & fathers began educating their womenfolk at home,
    • sent them to schools when women’s schools were set up in the cities & towns.
  • Many journals began carrying writings by women and explained why women should be educated.
    • They carried a syllabus & attached suitable reading matter to be used for home-based schooling.
  • Not all families were liberal.
    • Conservative Hindus: a literate girl would be widowed.
    • Muslims: feared that educated women would be corrupted by reading Urdu romances.
  • Sometimes, rebel women defied such prohibitions.
  • East Bengal, Early 19th century: Rashsundari Debi, a young married girl in a very orthodox household, learned to read in the secrecy of her kitchen.
    • She wrote her autobiography Amar Jiban, published in 1876.
      • a first full-length autobiography published in the Bengali language.
  • 1860s: a few Bengali women like Kailashbashini Debi wrote books highlighting the experiences of women:
    • how women were imprisoned at home,
    • kept in ignorance,
    • forced to do hard domestic labor,
    • treated unjustly by the very people they served.
  • 1880s, present-day Maharashtra: Tarabai Shinde & Pandita Ramabai:
    • wrote with anger about the miserable lives of upper-caste Hindu women, especially widows.
  • A woman in a Tamil novel expressed what reading meant to women confined by social regulations:

‘For various reasons, my world is small … More than half my life’s happiness has come from books …’

  • Urdu, Tamil, Bengali and Marathi print culture had developed early.
    • 1870s: Hindi printing began seriously.
  • A large segment of it was devoted to the education of women.
  • Early 20th century: journals, written for & sometimes edited by women, became extremely popular.
    • They discussed issues like:
      • women’s education,
      • widowhood,
      • widow remarriage,
      • the national movement.
    • Some of them offered household & fashion lessons & brought entertainment through short stories & serialized novels.
  • Early 20th century, Punjab: similar folk literature was widely printed.
    • Ram Chaddha published the fast-selling Istri Dharm Vichar to teach women how to be obedient wives.
    • The Khalsa Tract Society published cheap booklets with a similar message.
    • Many of these were in the form of dialogues about the qualities of a good woman.
  • Bengal: an entire area in central Calcutta – the Battala – was devoted to the printing of popular books.
    • Cheap editions of religious tracts and scriptures, as well as literature that was considered obscene and scandalous, could be bought.
    • Late 19th century: a lot of these books were being illustrated with woodcuts and coloured lithographs.
      • Pedlars took the Battala publications to homes, enabling women to read them in their leisure time.
Ghor Kali (The End of the World), colored woodcut, late 19th century.

The artist’s vision of the destruction of proper family relations. The husband is totally dominated by his wife who is perched on his shoulder. He is cruel towards his mother, dragging her like an animal, by the noose.

A European couple sitting on chairs, 19th-century woodcut.

The picture suggests traditional family roles. The Sahib holds a liquor bottle in his hand while the Memsahib plays the violin.

An Indian couple, black and white woodcut.

The image shows the artist’s fear that the cultural impact of the West has turned the family upside down. The man is playing the veena while the woman is smoking a hookah. Move towards women’s education in the late 19th century created anxiety about the breakdown of traditional family roles.

Print and the Poor People

  • 19th-century, Madras towns: Very cheap small books were brought to markets sold at crossroads, allowing poor people traveling to markets to buy them.
  • Early 20th century: Public libraries were set up, expanding access to books.
    • these were located mostly in cities and towns, and at times in prosperous villages.
    • Rich local patrons: setting up a library was a way of acquiring prestige.
  • Late 19th century: issues of caste discrimination began to be written in many printed tracts and essays.
    • Gulamgiri (1871) by Jyotiba Phule: the Maratha pioneer of ‘low caste’ protest movements, wrote about the injustices of the caste system.
  • 20th century: B.R. Ambedkar in Maharashtra and E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker in Madras, better known as Periyar, wrote powerfully on caste and their writings were read by people all over India.
  • Local protest movements and sects also created a lot of popular journals and tracts criticizing ancient scriptures and envisioning a new and just future.
  • Workers in factories were overworked and lacked the education to write much about their experiences.
    • 1938: Kashibaba, a Kanpur millworker, wrote and published Chhote Aur Bade Ka Sawal to show the links between caste and class exploitation.
    • The poems of another Kanpur millworker, who wrote under the name of Sudarshan Chakr between 1935 and 1955, were brought together and published in a collection called Sacchi Kavitayan.
  • 1930s: Bangalore cotton mill workers also set up libraries to educate themselves, following the example of Bombay workers.
    • These were sponsored by social reformers who tried to restrict excessive drinking among them, to bring literacy and, sometimes, to propagate the message of nationalism.


  • Before 1798: the colonial state was not too concerned with censorship.
    • Its early measures: to control printed matter directed against Englishmen in India who were critical of Company misrule & hated the actions of particular Company officers.
    • Such criticisms could be used by its critics in England to attack its trade monopoly in India.
  • 1820s: Calcutta Supreme Court passed certain regulations to control press freedom.
    • The company began encouraging the publication of newspapers that would celebrate British rule.
  • 1835: urgent petitions by editors of English & vernacular newspapers, Governor-General Bentinck agreed to revise press laws.
    • Thomas Macaulay, a liberal colonial official, formulated new rules restoring the earlier freedoms.
  • Revolt of 1857: attitude to freedom of the press changed.
    • Enraged Englishmen demanded a clampdown on the ‘native’ press.
    • Vernacular newspapers became strongly nationalist: colonial government began debating measures of stringent control.
  • 1878: Vernacular Press Act was passed, modeled on the Irish Press Laws.
    • Provided the government with extensive rights to censor reports & editorials in the vernacular press.
    • The government kept track of the vernacular newspapers published in different provinces.
  • The report judged as seditious: the newspaper was warned, and if the warning was ignored, the press was liable to be seized and the printing machinery confiscated.
  • Despite repressive measures, nationalist newspapers grew in numbers in all parts of India.
    • They reported on colonial misrule and encouraged nationalist activities.
  • Attempts to throttle nationalist criticism provoked militant protest.
    • This in turn led to a renewed cycle of persecution and protests.
    • 1907: Punjab revolutionaries were deported, Bal Gangadhar Tilak wrote with great sympathy about them in his Kesari.
    • This led to his imprisonment in 1908, provoking in turn widespread protests all over India.

4. Religious Reform and Public Debates, New Forms of Publication

4. Religious Reform and Public Debates, New Forms of Publication

Religious Reform and Public Debates

The early nineteenth century is regarded as the beginning of various debates and religious issues. Various groups began to disagree about the changes that were occurring in society during the colonial period. People began to criticise and campaign against the existing practises. There were those who were opposed to the reformers. Print assisted them in communicating their thoughts and ideas to the general public. Through print technology, a larger public could now participate in these public discussions and express their opinions.

This was a time of intense controversies. People began to question Hindu orthodoxy concerning widow immolation, monotheism, Brahmanical priesthood, and idolatry. Various newspapers in Bengal began to circulate various types of arguments. Reformers' thoughts and ideas were printed in everyday language to reach a wider audience. Rammohan Roy began publishing the Sambad kaumudi in 1821, while Hindu orthodoxy published Samachar Chandrika to counter his views. Later, two Persian newspapers, Jam-I Jahan Nama and Shamsul Akhbar, were published. In the same year, a Gujarati newspaper, the Bombay Samachar, debuted.

Ulama in north India were concerned about the collapse of Muslim dynasties. They feared that colonial rule would attempt to change Muslim personal laws. They could also have attempted to convert the Muslims. Such events resulted in the printing of Holy Scriptures on low-cost Lithographic presses. In India, religious newspapers and tracts in Urdu were soon printed. The Deoband Seminary, established in 1867, began publishing Fatwas to advise Muslim readers on how to conduct themselves in daily life and to explain various Islamic doctrines. As a result, during the nineteenth century, a number of Muslim sects published works on faith interpretation in order to increase their following and counter their opponents.

Print technology, on the other hand, encouraged Hindus to read religious texts in vernacular languages. Tulsidas' Ramcharitmanas was published in Calcutta for the first time in 1810. In the mid-nineteenth century, there was a flood of inexpensive lithographic books in north Indian markets. Naval Kishore Press in Lucknow and Shri Venkateshwar Press in Bombay began publishing a large number of religious texts in vernaculars in the 1880s. Because these books could be purchased in a variety of places. They could also be read out in front of large groups of illiterate men and women. As a result, religious texts reached a wider audience. Print not only stimulated the printed conflicted opinions among various communities, but it also helped bring the communities together.

We have read that printing was used as a tool to produce work that could allow you to share your ideas on social issues and social evils, but this does not mean that its usage was limited only to publishing matters related to social issues; it soon changed a bit depending on the readers' preferences.

New Forms of Publication

Printing laid the groundwork for new forms of writing. As the number of readers grew, they began to expect something that would reflect their daily lives, experiences, emotions, and so on. The novel, a literary firm in Europe, facilitated this need. It quickly adopted the Indian form and style. This introduced Indian readers to a world of human experiences and diversity. Soon after, new forms of literature, such as lyrics, short stories, and essays on social and political issues, entered the world of reading. All of this literary content focused on people's lives.

By the end of the nineteenth century, a new change had occurred: image production. With the establishment of a large number of printing presses in India, producing multiple copies of visual images became simple. Raja Ravi Varma, a well-known Indian painter, began producing images for mass distribution. Poor wood engravers, too, began to set up shop near the letterpresses. They were then hired by print shops. The low-cost prints and calendars were even purchased by the poor to decorate their homes' walls. Later, these prints began to shape popular ideas about modernity and tradition.

By the 1870s, journals were using cartoons and caricatures to comment on social issues. Even these cartoons were used to oppose educated Indians who prefer western tastes and clothing, while others were used to depict fear of social change. Similarly, there were some cartoons that were used to express criticism to imperial rule. As printing had an impact on the lives of various social groups and people, it also had an impact on the lives of women in India. Let's take a look at what happened.

Women and Print

As women's feelings began to be published in various writings, this arouse women's interest, and they began to read. Some liberal husbands and fathers began educating their wives at home, and some even allowed them to attend school. All of this occurred as a result of the authorities' establishment of many city schools for girls. Many journals began to publish women's writings. They emphasised the importance of women's education. Reading material and a syllabus were occasionally attached to assist those who were studying from home.

There were some conservative Hindus who believed that educated girls became widows, while Muslims were concerned that educated women would be corrupted if they read Urdu romances. However, there were some rebellious women who defied such restrictions. In one case, a Muslim girl from North India secretly learned to read and write Urdu. Her family wanted her to read only the Arabic Quran, which she found difficult to understand, so she focused on learning her native language. Rashsundari Debi, a young married girl from an orthodox family in East Bengal, on the other hand, began learning in her kitchen. Rashsundari later published his autobiography, Amar Jiban, in 1876.

Social reforms and novels had already sparked an interest in the lives and emotions of women. This arouse people's interest in what they wanted to say about their lives. A few Bengali women, such as Kailashbashini debi, wrote books about how women faced hardships by being confined in their homes, performing all domestic chores, and being mistreated by other family members. Tarabai Shinde and Pandita Ramabai of Maharashtra wrote books in the 1880s about the miserable lives of upper caste Hindu women, particularly widows. Even a woman in a Tamil novel expressed how reading books brought her happiness.

Among various languages such as Urdu, Tamil, Bengali, Marathi, and Hindi, it was Hindi printing that began seriously in the 1870s, before the development of the other languages except Hindi. The majority of the time, it was observed that large segments were generally devoted to women's education. A new trend began in the early twentieth century: the publication of journals written for and sometimes edited by women. These publications used to contain articles about women's education, widowhood, widow remarriage, and the national movement. Short stories and novels were sometimes included in topics related to fashion and entertainment.

A similar type of literature could also be found in Punjab. Publishers began printing books in this area that taught women how to be obedient wives. Ram Chaddha, who published Istri Dharam Vichar, was one such publisher, as was the Khalsa Tract Society. These books were inexpensive and were written in the form of dialogues. Battala, a central area in Calcutta, was well-known for printing popular books in Bengal. They used to print low-cost editions of religious pamphlets and scriptures. By the late nineteenth century, books could be found with woodcuts and coloured lithographs as illustrations. Pedlars began selling these books in Bengali households, allowing women to read them in their spare time.

Until now, we've seen a link between print and women. Now we'll talk about the relationship between print and the poor.

Print and the Poor People 

In Madras, small books with low prices began to be sold in markets, making it easier for the poor to obtain them. Public libraries were also established in towns, cities, and villages. Everyone, including the poor, was able to read the books as a result of this.

Various authors began to write about social and caste discrimination in their books beginning in the late nineteenth century. Jyotiba Phule, a Maratha pioneer of the 'low caste' protest movement, wrote about the bearings of the low caste in his famous book 'ghulamgiri' (1871). More writers, such as B.R Ambedkar in Maharashtra and E.V Ramaswamy Naicker in Madras, began to write powerfully on caste in the twentieth century. A large number of people in India read all of this content.

Later, many mill and factory workers who were fed up with their lives' adversities began to write. Some of them, who were literate, began writing about the difficulties they faced. Kashibaba of Kanpur, for example, published Chhote Aur Bade Ka Sawal in 1938 and later a collection of poems in a book called Sachi Kavitayan. Sudarshan Chakr, a mill worker's pen name, wrote a collection of poems under that name. By the 1930s, cotton mill workers in Bangalore had established libraries to educate themselves, following in the footsteps of mill workers in Bombay.

As print became a popular means of opposing the colonial government, the British exercised control over it by enacting censorship laws. What caused this to happen? Let's see what happens.

Print and Censorship

Prior to 1798, the East India Company was not concerned with print censorship. The company controlled the printed matter of those Englishmen in India who opposed the Company's misrule in its early attempts at censorship. The company was more concerned about losing its monopoly on trade in India.

In the 1820s, the Calcutta Supreme Court issued regulations directing the Company to control press freedom. Only those newspapers that favoured British rule were supported by the Company. However, due to petitions filed by various English and Vernacular newspapers, Governor General William Bentinck was forced to revise press laws in 1835. Thomas Maculay also established new rules in order to reorder the previous press freedom.

The revolt of 1857 changed the entire scenario. The colonial government began to exert control over the entire vernacular press. The Vernacular Press Act was passed in 1878 in order to control all of the content published by these presses. From this point forward, the government began to keep a close eye on what was being published. If a press was found to be guilty, it was warned, and if it did not comply, the press was seized and the machinery was confiscated.

Despite the use of repressive measures, the growing number of nationalist newspapers in India did not stop. These newspapers were anti-colonial and promoted nationalist activities in India. All of this resulted in a new type of militant protest. Balgangadhar reported on the deportation of Punjab revolutionaries in his newspaper Kesari in 1907. In 1908, the British government arrested him for writing such articles. This sparked widespread outrage across India.