Timeline Description: The British presence in India began in the early seventeenth century, when the British East India Company began trading on the outskirts of the Mughal empire. The company's influence grew steadily until it seized political control of parts of India, and British leaders continued to spread British control throughout the subcontinent. Though control transferred to the British crown in the nineteenth century, Indians launched a powerful nationalist movement that led to their independence from Britain in 1947.
|1617||The British East India Company wins trading rights in the Mughal empire.
Hoping to make money trading with India, the British East India Company wins trading rights on the fringe of the Mughal empire in 1617. As the Mughal empire declines, the East India Company's influence in India grows steadily.
|June 23, 1757||The East India Company takes political control in India.
On June 23, 1757, Robert Clive leads a British military force to victory at Plassey against the Nawab of Bengal. As a result, the East India Company takes political control over a large swath of India, despite its background as a trading company.
|1773||Governor-General Warren Hastings consolidates control in India.
Warren Hastings becomes the first Governor-General of India in 1773, a position he holds until 1784. Hastings works quickly to consolidate the East India Company's control in India, removing power from the Nawab of Bengal and crippling the Mughal Empire. Hastings wages war and forms alliances to increase Britain's control. While he hopes to introduce Britain to Indian history and culture, his successors launch decades of "reforms" meant to westernize the subcontinent.
|1822||Ram Mohun Roy sparks Indian nationalism.
The scholar Ram Mohun Roy, educated in both Western and Eastern classics, believes that India can learn from the West, but that there is room for a revitalization of Indian culture. In 1822 he sets up educational societies that help revive pride in Indian culture, and his influence on later leaders places him as the founder of Indian nationalism.
|May 10, 1857||The Sepoy Rebellion breaks out in India.
The East India Company requires sepoys, or Indian soldiers serving the company, to bite off cartridges greased with animal fat to load their rifles. The animal fat is from cows, which are sacred to Hindus, or from pigs, which are forbidden to Muslims, and angry sepoys rise up in rebellion against their British officers. After brutal massacres on both sides, the British quell the rebellion, but an atmosphere of hatred and distrust remains.
|August 2, 1858||Parliament puts India directly under control of the British crown.
After the Sepoy Rebellion, Parliament ends the rule of the East India Company and places India directly under control of the British crown. India is now governed by colonial rule, with British officials ruling in the name of the queen and holding top positions. Britain slows the reforms that so angered Hindus and Muslims, but continues to develop India for its own economic benefit.
|November 17, 1869||The Suez Canal opens and greatly improves British trade.
On November 17, 1869, the Suez Canal opens, and British trade with India greatly increases. The system favors the British, who flood India with inexpensive, machine-made textiles. This destroys India's once-prosperous hand-weaving industry.
|December 28, 1885||The Indian National Congress is organized.
Nationalist leaders organize the Indian National Congress in 1885, calling for greater democracy to empower professional Indians like themselves. Known as the Congress party, the group hopes to use peaceful protest to achieve its goals. Members support modernization on a western model, but their ultimate dream is to achieve Indian self-rule.
|December 30, 1906||The Muslim League is organized.
Resenting Hindu domination of the Congress party, Muslims form the Muslim League in 1906 to pursue their goals of independence and democracy. They fear that a Hindu-run government would oppress Muslims, and they begin to form plans for a separate Muslim state.
|April 13, 1919||The Amritsar massacre spurs the call for independence.
After World War I, Indians are growing increasingly frustrated that they fought for Britain but still have no freedom in their own land. On April 13, 1919, British General Reginald Dyer fires on a peaceful public meeting in Amritsar, in northern India. The resulting massacre convinces many Indians that they need independence from Britain.
|1920||Mahatma Gandhi launches a campaign of noncooperation(Summer 1920).
Following the Amritsar massacre, Indian lawyer Mahatma Gandhi launches a two-year campaign of noncooperation. He encourages Indians to leave British institutions, return British honors, and practice self-reliance. While Gandhi is forced to stop the campaign upon his arrest and imprisonment in 1922, he goes on to become the most recognized leader of the Indian nationalist movement.
|March 12, 1930||Gandhi begins the Salt March.
Aiming to raise mass support for Indian nationalism, Gandhi decides to end the British monopoly on salt. Indians are forbidden to touch any salt not sold by the British government, so Gandhi organizes a march to the sea. Gandhi and his followers begin their Salt March on March 12, 1930, and after they successfully reach the sea on April 6, the salt campaign grows exponentially.
|September 3, 1939||World War II postpones further action on independence.
When World War II breaks out in 1939, Britain postpones further action on independence and brings India into the war without consulting them. This outrages Indian leaders, who begin a campaign of noncooperation. While the nationalist leaders are arrested, millions of Indians support Britain during the war.
|June 1947||Britain agrees to grant India independence.
After World War II, Britain finally agrees to grant India independence. However, the Muslim League, led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, insists that the Muslim minority have its own separate state, Pakistan. Britain decides to partition the subcontinent into two states: Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India.
|August 14,1947||The partition of India causes mass migration(August 14 - 15, 1947).
While Britain agrees to partition the subcontinent into two states, Hindus and Muslims live side-by-side, making migration inevitable. When Pakistan and India are formally created in 1947, millions of Hindus and Muslims cross the borders in both directions. Centuries of mistrust between religious groups cause violence to explode in northern India. Nevertheless, India has finally gained independence from Britain.