Advent of Europeans in india

The European advent in India began with the arrival of the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama in the city of Calicut in 1498. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to establish a permanent settlement in India, and they were followed by the Dutch, French, and British.

The European powers established trading posts and colonies across India, which eventually led to the colonization of the country. The British East India Company, in particular, played a significant role in the colonization of India, as they gradually took control of Indian territories through alliances, conquests, and treaties.

As a result of European advent in India, Indian society underwent significant changes. Indian trade and commerce were transformed, and new forms of technology, institutions, and ideas were introduced. The British established a modern system of education, which contributed to the growth of a new middle class and the Indian independence struggle.
However, European advent in India was also marked by conflict, exploitation, and oppression. The British maintained a policy of “divide and Rule”.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to establish themselves in India. Vasco da Gama discovered the direct sea route to India from Europe around the Cape of Good Hope of Africa at the end of the fifteenth century. Subsequently, the Portuguese conquered Goa on the west coast in 1510. The other European nations who came to India nearly a century later, especially the Dutch and the English, modeled their activities on the Portuguese blueprint.

  • European advent in India, beginning with the Portuguese, was the first major external shock to the well-established and regulated system of trade.
  • The primary interest of the Europeans was in securing spices for Europe directly.
  • Earlier the spices were carried to the Persian Gulf ports and then overland to the Mediterranean. They soon learned that a simple bilateral exchange was not workable in the Asian markets.
  • This was mainly because there was no demand in the local economies for the products of Europe, other than gold or silver.
  • On the other hand, because of the universal demand in southeast Asian markets for Indian textiles, clothes from India served as a substitute medium of exchange.
  • The demand for the painted fabrics of the Coromandel Coast in the Indonesian islands, in particular, made the Dutch and the English set up their establishments on the east coast to procure the cloth that could be profitably exchanged for spices.

Factors Responsible for European advent in India:

  • Advancement of Europeans in the art of shipbuilding and navigation
  • Economic development of Europeans.
  • Demand for luxurious Indian commodities like spices, calicoes, silk, various precious stones, porcelain, etc.
  • The immense wealth of India.
  • Heavy demand for Indian commodities in Europe
  • Advancement in navigational technologies
  • Spirit of exploration after the Renaissance
  • The vast wealth of India
  • Quest for finding new markets
  • Weak and fragmented Indian polity

Portuguese (1498)—> English (1600)—> Dutch (1602)—> French (1664)

European colonies in india | European advent in India

Portuguese in India

Treaty of Tordesillas (1494)- between Portugal and Spain divided non – the Christian world by an imaginary line in the Atlantic east for Portugal and west for Spain.

Vasco-de-GamaVasco-de-Gama reached Calicut via the cape of good hope in 1498 and was warmly welcomed by Zamorin (Ruler of Calicut).
By 1502, Vasco’s second visit led to the establishment of trading stations at Calicut, Cochin, and Cannanore and the fortification of the same.
Portugal unlike other traders wanted to monopolize trade in India.
Pedro Alvarez CabralEstablished first factory at Calicut, in 1500
Embarked on the era of European rule on the Indian subcontinent.
Francis – De – Almeida (1505-1509)1st Portuguese governor in India initiated the “Bluewater policy” (cartaze system) – which was to be powerful at the sea instead of building fortresses on Indian land.
Cartaze system: Naval trade license or pass issued by Portugese in the Indian ocean.
Alfonso de Albuquerque (1509- 1515)Considered to be the founder of the Portuguese power in India: captured Goa from Bijapur; persecuted Muslims; captured Bhatkal from Sri Krishna Deva Rai (1510) of Vijayanagara;
Initiated the policy of marrying the natives of India.
Banned the practice of Sati in his area of influence.
Albuquerque died in 1515 leaving the Portuguese as the strongest Naval power in India.
Nino da Cunha (1529-38)Shifted the capital from Cochin to Goa in 1530. Goa became the capital of Portuguese settlements in India.
During his rule, Diu and Bassein came under Portuguese occupation by Gujarat King Bahadur Shah.
Bahadur Shah got killed in 1537 at Diu while negotiating with the Portuguese.
The pragmatic leader who expanded territory beyond the Western coastal region. Portuguese power expanded to the eastern coast during his time.

Religious Policy of the Portuguese: Initially, hostile only towards Muslims, but later towards Hindus also. In 1579 missionaries were sent to convert the emperor Akbar to Christianity.

Factors Responsible for the Decline of Portuguese in India

  • The emergence of powerful dynasties in Egypt, Persia, and north India and the appearance of the Marathas as neighbors;
  • Political fears aroused by the activities of Jesuit missionaries, and hatred of persecution (such as the inquisition) caused a reaction against Portuguese spiritual pressure;
  • Rise of the English and Dutch commercial ambitions challenging the Portuguese supremacy;
  • Rampant corruption, greed, and selfishness along with piracy and clandestine trade practices of the Portuguese administration in India;
  • Diversion of Portuguese colonizing ambitions towards the West due to the discovery of Brazil.

Significance of the Portuguese

  • Portuguese not only initiated what might be called the European era, but it also marked the emergence of naval power.
  • Introduction of cannon on the ship
  • The Portuguese were masters of improved techniques at sea. Their multi-decked ships were heavily constructed.
  • Missionaries and the Church were also teachers and patrons in India of the arts of the painter, carver, and sculptor.
  • The Portuguese skill at organization—as in the creation of royal arsenals and dockyards and the maintenance of a regular system of pilots and mapping and pitting state forces against private merchant shipping—was even more noteworthy.
  • Introduced European art of warfare
  • The art of the silversmith and goldsmith flourished at Goa.

Note: The Portuguese were the first to come to India and the last ones to leave India.

Why a Sea Route to India?

  • Spirit of the renaissance in 15th-century Europe.
  • European economy grew rapidly, leading to prosperity and demand for luxury goods; an increase in the supply of meat requiring spices for preservation.
  • The capture of Constantinople in 1453, and Syria and Egypt later by the Ottoman Turks called for a new route to reach India without dealing with Arabs and Turks.
  • Venice and Genoa were too small to stand up to the Turks.
  • Spain and Portugal were aided with money and men by the North Europeans and by ships and technical knowledge by the Genoese.
  • The Portuguese the pioneers followed by the Dutch, English, Danes, and French respectively to reach India.

Dutch in India (Netherlands)

  • Cornelis de Houtman was the first Dutchman to reach Sumatra and Bantam in 1596.
  • United East India Company of the Netherlands, formed in March 1605 by the Charter of the Dutch Parliament, had the powers to wage wars, make treaties, and build forts.
  • Founded their first factory in Masaulipatam in Andhra in 1605.
  • Subsequently, they won over the Portuguese & emerged as the most dominant European trade power.
  • Pulicat was their main center in India, later replaced by Nagapattinam.
  • Dutch carried indigo manufactured in the Yamuna valley and Central India, textiles and silk from Bengal, Gujarat, and the Coromandel, saltpeter from Bihar, and opium and rice from the Ganga valley.
  • In 1623, a treaty between the British and Dutch → Dutch withdrew their claim from India, and the British from Indonesia
  • 1650 (17th century), the English began to emerge as the big colonial power in India.
  • Anglo-Dutch rivalry lasted for 70 years, during which Dutch lost their settlements to the British one by one.
  • The Dutch were not much interested in empire-building in India; their concerns were trade. In any case, their main commercial interest lay in the Spice Islands of Indonesia from where they earned a huge profit through business.
  • The decline in India- The defeat of the Dutch in the Anglo-Dutch rivalry and the shifting of Dutch attention towards the Malay Archipelago. In the Battle of Bedara (1759), the English defeated the Dutch.
  • After prolonged warfare, both parties compromised and the British agreed to withdraw all their claims on Indonesia, and the Dutch retired from India.

Dutch established factories in Masulipatnam (1605), Pulicat (1610), Surat (1616), Bimlipatnam (1641), Karikal (1645), Chinsurah (1653), Cassimbazar (Kasimbazar), Baranagore, Patna, Balasore, Nagapatnam (1658) and Cochin (1663). (It covered both the Eastern and western Coasts).

British in India

  • On December 31, 1600, the charter was issued by Queen Elizabeth I of England which gives trade monopoly for 15 years. English east India Company was established in 1600.
  • Captain Hawkins of England arrived at the royal court of Jahangir in 1609 seeking permission to establish England trade center at Surat but was refused by Jahangir due to Portuguese pressure
  • With captain Thomas Best’s victory over Portuguese est. the first factory in Surat.
  • Later in 1613, Jahangir issued a Farman (permission letter) to the English (Sir Thomas Roe) to establish their trade center in Agra Ahmedabad and Baruch, hence British established their 1st trading factory at Surat in 1613.
  • In 1615, Sir Thomas Roe came to India as the ambassador of James 1 (King of England) & obtained permission from Jahangir to settle English trading factories in different parts of India
  • Bombay’s Control → Charles II received a dowry from the Portuguese.
  • Madras → Fort St. George replaced Masulipatnam.
  • Bombay, Madras & Calcutta became 3 presidency towns of English settlements in India by 1700 with the capital Calcutta.

Why The English Succeeded Against Other European

  • Structure and Nature of the Trading Companies: English East India Company, formed through the amalgamation of several rival companies at home, was controlled by a board of directors whose members were elected annually.
  • Naval Superiority: Royal Navy of Britain was not only the largest; it was the most advanced of its times.
  • Industrial Revolution: The industrial revolution reached other European nations late and this helped England to maintain its hegemony. The Industrial Revolution started in England in the early 18th century.
  • Military Skill and Discipline: The British soldiers were a disciplined lot and well-trained. The British commanders were strategists who tried new tactics in warfare.
  • Stable Government: Britain witnessed a stable government with efficient monarchs.
  • Lesser Zeal for Religion: Britain was less zealous about religion and less interested in spreading Christianity, as compared to Spain, Portugal, or the Dutch.
  • Use of Debt Market: Britain used the debt markets to fund its wars.

French in India

  • French east India Company was formed in 1664 establishing their 1st factory at Surat → by Francis Caron
  • Francis Martin founded Pondicherry in 1673 & became 1st governor of Pondicherry. Henceforth Pondicherry became the headquarters of French possessions in India.
  • At beginning of the 18th century, the English & French were competing for supremacy in India, Mainly in Carnatic & Bengal regions.
  • After 3 Carnatic wars, finally, the French were crushed & limited to Pondicherry
    • First Carnatic war (1740-48) → extension of rivalry, ended in 1748 by the treaty of Aix-La Chapelle
    • Second Carnatic War (1749-54) → inconclusive, undermined the French and English power in south India
    • Third Carnatic War (1758-63) → decisive war, treaty of Paris (1763)

Dane in India (Denmark Settlements)

  • The Danish East India Company was established in 1616 and, in 1620, they founded a factory at Tranquebar near Tanjore, on the eastern coast of India.
  • Their principal settlement was at Serampore near Calcutta. The Danish factories, which were not important at any time, were sold to the British government in 1845.
  • The Danes are better known for their missionary activities than for commerce.

Challenges Before the Mughals

  • The end of the Mughals began with the reign of Aurangzeb (1658-1707) with a formal ending on November 1, 1858, i.e., the declaration of Queen Victoria.
  • Aurangzeb’s misguided policies weakened the stability of the state and the decline gained momentum after his death due to wars of succession and weak rulers.
  • Muhammad Shah ruled for 29 years (1719-48) but could not revive the imperial fortunes.
  • New states of Hyderabad, Bengal, Awadh, and Punjab were established and the Marathas began to make their bid to inherit the imperial mantle.
INTERNAL: Weak Rulers after Aurangzeb:Bahadur Shah (Shah-i-Bekhabar) [1709- March 1712]
Eldest son of Aurangzeb, Emperor at 63.
Pacifist policy towards Marathas (released Shahu), Jats, and Rajputs.
Attack of Sikh leader Shah Bahadur.
Jahandar Shah [Feb 1712-Feb 1713]
Introduced IzaraAbolished Jizya
Farruk siyar [1713-1719]
Killed Jahandar Shah with the help of the Sayyid Brothers, The King Makers (Abdullah Khan and Hussain Ali).
Religious tolerance: abolished Jizya and Pilgrimage tax.
The first emperor to be killed by Nobles.
Issues three Farmans in 1717 to English (Magna Carta of the Company).
Rafi-ud-Darajat [Feb 28-June 4, 1717]:
Ruled for the shortest period.
Rafi-ud-Daula (Shah Jahan II) [June 6- Sept 17, 1719]:
Opium addict
Muhammad Shah (Rangeela) [1719-48]:
Killed Sayyid Brothers with the help of Nizam-ul-Mulk.
1724: Independent state of Hyderabad by Nizam-ul-Mulk.
1737: Invasion of Baji Rao I in Delhi.
1739: Battle of Karnal: Nadir Shah defeated the Mughals.
Ahmad Shah (1748-54):
Incompetent, they left the throne at the hands of Udham Bai (Queen Mother/ Qibla-i-Alam).
Alamgir II (1754-58): Battle of Plassey (1757).
Shah Jahan II (1738-1759)
Shah Alam II (1759-1806):
Third Battle of Panipat (1761).
Battle of Buxar (1765): Treaty of Allahabad.
Issues farms to Companies granting them Diwani of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa.
Akbar II (1806-37):
Gave the title of “Raja” to Raja Ram Mohan Rai.
Bahadur Shah II/ Zafar:
Last Mughal Emperor Revolt of 1857.
EXTERNAL: Lack of Internal Strength and Unity against Invasions from the North-West.Nadir Shah (Persian) Invasion [1738-1739]
Battle of Karnal (1739): Defeated Mughals.
Captured Lahore and Emperor Mohammad Shah.
Annexed areas west of Indus.
Looted Peacock throne, Kohinoor.  
Ahmad Shah Abdali invasion (1748-1764)
The successor of Nadir Shah.
Third Battle of Panipat (1761): defeated Marathas.

Cause of Decline of Mughals Empire

Empire RelatedDespotic Rule with weak rulers after Aurangzeb.
No definite law of succession.
Degeneration of the army.
Too vast to be ruled by a Central authority.
Aurangzeb’s Deccan and religious policy.
Invasion of Irani and Durrani Kingdoms.
Region RelatedRise in power and influence of the Zamindars (hereditary landowners).
Issue of Jagirdari (Lands assigned to the Nobles, yielding low income).
Economic and Administrative Issues (war expenses, reduced Khalisa land, luxurious lifestyles of rulers, lack of technological advancement).
Rise of regional aspirations and states.

Rise of Regional States

  • Regional and independent political systems; are constantly at war with each other.
  • Functioned with the support of the local zamindars, merchants, local nobles, and chieftains.
  • Maintained ties and acknowledged the supremacy of the Mughal Emperor.
  • Lacked advanced and sound military, financial, and administrative systems. Lacked scientific and technological advancement.

Classified into three categories:

Successor States:Mughal provinces that turned into states, established their own independent and autonomous polity.
Example: Awadh (Saadat Khan/Burhan-ul-Mulk); Hyderabad (Kilich Khan/Nizam-ul-Mulk); Bengal (Murshid Kuli Khan).
Independent Kingdoms:Formed due to the destabilization of the Mughal control over their provinces. Example: Rajput, Mysore, Kerala (founded by Martanda Verma).
The New States:Established by the rebels under the Mughal Rule.
Example: Jats (Churaman and Badan Singh founded the Jat state in Bharatpur); Sikhs; Marathas; Rohilakhand (founded by Ali Mohammad Khan; comprised Himalayan foothills between Kumaon and Ganga) and Farukhabad (Mohammad Khan Bangash, in the east of Delhi).

Socio-Economic Conditions

AgricultureTechnically backward.
Miserable conditions of peasants.
Trade and IndustryExports >> Imports
Exports: Cotton textiles, raw silk and silk fabrics, hardware, indigo, saltpetre, opium, rice, wheat, sugar, pepper and other spices, precious stones, and drugs.
Persian Gulf: Pearls, raw silk, wool, dates, dried fruits, and rose water.
Arabia: coffee, gold, drugs, and honey.
China: tea, sugar, porcelain, and silk.
Tibet: gold, musk, and woolen cloth.
Africa: ivory and drugs.Europe: woolen cloth, copper, iron, lead, and paper.
Textile centers: Dacca, Murshidabad, Patna, Surat, Ahmadabad, Broach, Chanderi, Burhanpur, Jaunpur, Varanasi, Lucknow, Agra, Multan, Lahore, Masulipatnam, Aurangabad, Chicacole, Vishakhapatnam, Bangalore, Coimbatore, Madurai.
Shipbuilding: Maharashtra, Andhra Region, Bengal, Calicut, and Quilon.
EducationTraditional with over-reliance on ancient learning.
Widespread elementary education among Hindus (Pathshalas) and Muslims (maktabs).
Rare female education.
Higher education: Chatuspathis (Bihar) or Tols (Bengal).
Sanskrit education in Kasi (Varanasi), Tirhut (Mithila), Nadia, and Utkal.
Madrasahs: institutions of higher learning in Persian and Arabic.
Famous center of Persian learning: Azimabad (Patna).
SocietyTraditional and stagnant.
Patriarchy and rigid caste system.
Muslims: Shia-Sunni; Sharif (nobles, scholars, etc.) and alif (lower class) divisions.
Women: Purdah, Sati, Child marriage, polygamy, dowry.
Slavery: treated as hereditary servants rather than as menials.
Art, Architecture, and CultureAsaf-ud-Daula: Bada Imambara (1784) in Lucknow.
Sawai Jai Singh: Pink city, Jaipur; five astronomical observatories (Delhi, Ujjain, Jaipur, Benares, Mathura); Jij Muhammad-shahi timetable for astronomical studies.
Padmanabhapuram Palace, Kerala famous for its architecture and mural paintings.
Rajputana and Kangra School developed.
Urdu: famous poets Mir, Sauda, Nazir, and Mirza Ghalib.
Tamil: Sittar poetry by Tayumanavar.
Malayalam: enriched by Kanchan Nambiar.
Punjabi: Heer Ranjha by Warris Shah.
Sindhi: Risalo (collection of poems) by Shah Abdul Latif.


Read More Articles on History or Art & Culture

Follow on Youtube Channel Score Better

Join Us on Telegram For More Update


%d bloggers like this: