India was the source of many valuable riches, not least of which was its range of spices. Merchants from all over the world travelled vast distances to purchase these goods for their local trade. This meant that explorers and businessmen from all over the globe, and particularly Europe, were coming in and out of India on a regular basis. However, there was also a need to get into India that arose from the religious organisations of Europe, who wanted to evangelise and spread Catholicism.

Vasco Da Game was a Portuguese sailor, and was the first person from Europe to have arrived in India in 1498. He got permission to trade with the locals from Samutiri Manavikraman Rajah. In 1500, Pedro Alvares Cabral was commissioned to act as the Portuguese ambassador in India. Just two years later, Portugal established their first European trading centre in Kerala, situated in South India.

From 1505 to 1509, Dom Fransisco de Almeida was elected the first vice-Roy of the country. He was succeeded by Dom Afonso de Albuquerque. Albuquerque conquered the Muslim city of Goa the following year (1510) and established a trading presence there. He was also responsible for enabling the marriages between Portuguese sailors and Indian girls.

Because of rivalry amongst the various European countries, the Dutch, French and English soon began to arrive in India in search of power and domination. This began in the early 1600’s. Some six decades later, Portugal and Spain began to war against one another. Portugal needed British support, a need that resulted in the marriage of the Portuguese Princess Catherine and the British royal, Charles II. The dowry paid included the Indian city of Bombay. This was the beginning of British rule in India. Slowly, England began to rule the entire Indian subcontinent, whether directly, or through ‘puppet’ rulers. This pervasive influence was made particularly evident to the British during the mid 18th Century, when Mir Jafar and fellow Indian army leaders secretly approached Britain to ask for help in overthrowing Nawab. In return, India would
Image of the Historic Victoria Memorial In Calcutta (Kolkata), India
The Historic Victoria Memorial In Calcutta (Kolkata), India
give England trade grants. This had a tremendous effect on the morale of the British forces, since they knew that their numbers were far less than those of the Indian army. Therefore, they were being approached in recognition of their power and influence. This gave them the confidence to begin their systematic conquering of other areas in India for their own gain.

By the 19th Century, Britain controlled (whether directly or indirectly), the entire subcontinent. However, Britain proved to be discriminatory against the local Indian folk, instituting many laws and regulations that did not allow them the freedom and rights that they felt they needed. This led to the Rebellion of 1857, which was actually sparked by a far smaller rebellion by a local army. This gave the people of the country the opportunity to voice their disapproval with the laws and an opportunity to express their needs and desires. This may have been prompted by an increased exposure to European rule and the workings of other countries and societies.

This rebellion resulted in the British East India Company being done away with and India being made a formal Crown Colony. Gradually, India began its own move towards independence from English rule. Various revolutionaries arose from the people in an effort to give a face to the Indian people that had long been disregarded. Mahatma Ghandi is one of the world’s best known political activists, perhaps most respected for his peaceful approach to political equality. These men, and the population that supported them, were successful. India became an independent country on 15 August 1947.

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