Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese explorer, landed on the shores of India in 1498 at the port of Calicut. He was searching for spices to bring back to the European continent. The Dutch and English began trading in India over 100 years later. The English defeated the Dutch and Portuguese in the next two hundred years. By about 1850, The British East India Company controlled a great deal of India. English was made the official language in schools in 1835.
Throughout the 1700's and 1800's, continual rebellion occurred as the Indian people tried to drive the British out. The British government took control of the East India Company after a large rebellion in 1857. Conditions for the sepoys, Indian soldiers in the British army, caused unrest among them. They had lower pay than the Indians of the upper caste and saw discrimination in matters of privilege and promotion by the British officers.
The situation which finally pushed the soldiers to rebel was that tallow from cows and lard from pigs were put into the gun cartridges. The soldiers had to bite off the tallow or wax before putting them into their rifles. This offended both Muslims and Hindus for religious reasons. Mangal Pandy was a 29-year-old sepoy. He urged the other sepoys to revolt against the British. Most of these rebels were defeated by spring, 1859.
However, the revolt brought about great changes in relations between India and Britain. A cabinet minister was set up for India. Queen Victoria of England declared religious tolerance, said the British would stop taking lands and vowed to respect the rights of the princes. She was given the title of Empress of India.
The Indian National Congress was formed in Bombay in 1885. It had some power to make pass lesser legislation, but it failed to attract Muslims to the ranks of its members. In 1907, the Congress became divided into two factions. The radicals favored severing ties with Great Britain. The moderates wanted to make reforms but remain under British rule.
In 1915, Mohandas Ghandi came to India from South Africa where his method of peaceful demonstration for reform had been successful. India supported Great Britain strongly during World War I by sending food, supplies and ammunition and supplying 1.3 million men as soldiers and laborers.
In 1920, Ghandi convinced other Indian leaders to participate in a boycott of law courts and educational institutions. However, he was put in prison for several years. The fever for Indian independence continued to grow. The civil disobedience movement brought the country together although there were several different political parties. The Indians were not supportive of World War II. The Indian National Congress then began the Quit India Movement. This movement wanted to force Britain to give in to India's demands for self-rule or there would be civil disobedience. Ghandi urged non-violence. However, he and other leaders of the congress were imprisoned, and the movement became violent. A mutiny of Indian sailors in the British navy spread throughout British India also.
On July 3, 1947, British India was partitioned into India and Pakistan. On August 15, 1947, India became a sovereign nation. India could choose to remain in or leave the British Commonwealth of Nations. The country chose to stay. Since that time friendly relations between Great Britain and India have continued. The two countries work on matters of mutual benefit. There are many cultural ties. About 1.6 million Indians live in the United Kingdom.
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