Modern Indian History

UPSC Syllabus for Modern India

Modern Indian History from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.
Modern Indian History from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.


1) Why did the armies of the British East India Company – mostly comprising of Indian soldiers – win consistently against the more numerous and better equipped armies of the then Indian rulers? Give reasons. (150 words)
British East India Company in its initial days in India had European soldiers but with subsequent political expansion, the majority of company’s army was made up of Indian soldiers. For example, the army of British India in 1857 numbered 311,400 men, with 265,900 of them being Indians.
Reasons for the success of British army over more numerous and better equipped armies of the then Indian rulers
  • EIC was better organized and disciplined - had rigorous training and superior tactics. Robert Clive commanded a small army to victory in Battle of Plassey 1757
  • EIC had the advantage of modern weaponry - leveraging the economic and technological advantages that came with being a colonial power
  • EIC was able to exploit the political divisions and conflicts among the Indian rulers, often playing one ruler against the other to their advantage.
    E.g.: Carnatic wars
  • Indian feudal setup made rulers depended on the shifting loyalties of feudal chiefs and lords. The better paid EIC soldiers remained loyal.
  • EIC had significant financial resources, which allowed them to hire and equip large armies and to bribe local rulers and leaders.
These multiple factors combined allowed the British East India Company to establish control over much of India and maintain it for several centuries.
2) Why was there a sudden spurt in famines in colonial India since the mid-eighteenth century? Give reasons. (150 words)
From 1760s, the British India was hit by terrible famines on a regular basis and more than 85 million Indians died in these famines which occurred in present day states of Bihar, Bengal, Jharkhand etc. Examples: Great Bengal Famine (1770), The Chalisa Famine (1783-84) and Bengal Famine (1943).
Reason for sudden spurt in famines in colonial India since the mid-eighteenth century
  • The Company's taxation policies, which were designed to extract as much revenue as possible from India, left many peasants destitute. Eg. Permanent settlement.
  • The British colonial government's focus on the export of agricultural products to the West, including food grains, led to a shortage of food in India during times of famine.
  • The introduction of cash crops, such as indigo and opium, which were more profitable than food crops, further exacerbated the problem of food scarcity in India.
  • The growth of the population in India put increased pressure on the land, leading to overcultivation and soil depletion, which made the land less productive and contributed to the frequency and severity of famines.
  • The British colonial government's failure to invest in irrigation and other agricultural infrastructure also contributed to the worsening of famine conditions in India.
Sudden spurt in famines in colonial India since the mid-eighteenth century was caused by a combination of factors, including exploitative colonial policies, export-oriented agriculture, the introduction of cash crops, overpopulation, and neglect of agricultural infrastructure. All of these factors combined to create a perfect storm of conditions that led to the increase in famines in colonial India in the mid-eighteenth century.


3) To what extent did the role of the moderates prepare a base for the wider freedom movement? Comment. (250 words) 
Moderates were the early leaders (1885-1905) of Indian national movement associated with the Indian National Congress. They used methods of petitions, questioning and debate to vocalise India’s grievances. E.g.: Dadabhai Naoroji, Pherozshah Mehta, DE Wacha, WC Banerjee, etc
Role of moderates in preparing a base for the wider freedom movement
  • Moderatesprovided ideological basefor growth of freedom movement. They brought to the forefront the idea of Swaraj or self-rule and Drain of Wealth (Dadabhai Naoroji).
  • Moderated advocated for constitutional and peaceful methods of political action using platforms such as the INC. Indians later used the council representations to bring in reforms.
  • Moderates advocated for the spread of education among Indians and encouraged the establishment of institutions for women's education. They also worked towards the abolition of practices such as child marriage, sati, and untouchability. They also sought to unite different communities within India and emphasized the idea of Indian nationalism.
  • Gopal Krishna Gokhalewas thepolitical guru of Mahatma Gandhiand inspired him to mass struggles later.
  • The lack of successof moderates methods therise of extremist faction, which aroused masses against the British such as during Swadeshi movement.
However, moderates’ achievement in mobilizing masses was limited.
Limitations of moderates
  • Moderates came fromhomogenous backgroundof professionals like lawyers.
  • They neither provided substantive nor descriptive representationof masses.
  • Many of the moderates were convinced about the fundamentally good nature of British rule, unaware of its stark repercussions for the common poor.
  • The cause of mass politics was harmed due to moderates’ intransigence which led toSurat splitin congress and years of inactivity in national politics.
The role of the moderates was significant in laying the foundation of the freedom movement in India. Their efforts and ideas, though limited in success, paved the way for the later nationalist movements and leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.
4) Bring out the constructive programmes of Mahatma Gandhi during Non-Cooperation Movement and Civil Disobedience Movement. (250 words)
Constructive programmes were the social work initiatives of Mahatma Gandhi launched during inactive phase of freedom struggle.
Benefits of constructive programmes
  • Kept up the spirit of the people in wake of disappointment due to suspension of movement.
  • It provided the cadre for freedom struggle
  • empowering the Indian masses and preparing them for self-rule
Constructive programmes of Mahatma Gandhi
During Non-Cooperation Movement
  • Gandhi launched the Swadeshi movement, which encouraged the boycott of foreign goods and the use of indigenous products.
  • He also launched the Khadi movement, to promote rural self-employment and reduce the country's dependence on foreign textiles.
  • Boycott of government: The Boycott of government schools and colleges and establish national education institutions. Boycott of legislative councils and renunciation of government honours and titles.
  • Inclusion of khilafat issue: ensure alliance with Muslim community which fostered Hindu Muslim unity.
  • First national mass movement organised by Gandhiji
During Civil Disobedience Movement
  • Gandhi started the Salt Satyagraha, which was a symbolic act of defiance against the British salt tax.
  • The movement also saw the promotion of Swaraj and the establishment of village-level Congress Committees, which aimed to mobilize the masses and build their capacity for self-rule.
  • The Constructive Programmes included the promotion of education, health, sanitation, and rural upliftment. E.g.: Establishment of basic education schools or Nai Talim, which aimed at imparting practical and relevant education.
  • He set up the Harijan Sevak Sangh (1932) for the removal of untouchability.
  • Gandhi emphasized the importance of communal harmony, and worked towards building bridges between different religious communities. He promoted the idea of Sarvodaya, which means the welfare of all, upliftment of women and envisaged a society that was based on the principles of non-violence, equality, and justice.
Gandhi's constructive programmes were based on the principle of self-sufficiency, and involved the promotion of indigenous industries, education, health, sanitation, and village upliftment. The constructive program of Gandhi has proved a success in attaining Indian independence as a people's struggle.


5) Evaluate the policies of Lord Curzon and their long-term implications on the national movements. (150 words) 

Lord Curzon, India's Viceroy between 1899 and 1905, Known for the strong centralised government and powerful bureaucracy
Policies of Lord Curzon and their long-term implications on the national movements.
  • Partition of Bengal (1905) - intended to weaken the growing nationalist movement - this policy instead sparked widespread protests and boycotts, which ultimately helped to galvanize the Indian independence movement.
  • Indian Universities Act, 1904 - sought to impose greater control over Indian universities - led to greater demands for Indian self-governance and autonomy from intellectuals.
  • The 1899 Calcutta Corporation Act - reduced the number of elected representatives This, however, strengthened the Congress demand for further representations in imperial legislature.
  • Imperialism: Curzon believed in the civilising mission of Europeans and was contemptuous of Indians and the Congress. This made the nationalists to revive their culture and use it as a theme for national movement.
Overall, Lord Curzon's policies were characterized by a desire to maintain British control over India and suppress Indian nationalism. However, these policies ultimately had the opposite effect and helped to fuel the growth of the Indian independence movement
6) Since the decade of the 1920s, the national movement acquired various ideological strands and thereby expanded its social base. Discuss. (250 words) 
The 1920s onwards phase is referred to as the watershed in the freedom struggle which witnessed the emergence of various ideological strands, broadened its social base and contributed to its growth and impact. These ideological strands represented different approaches and perspectives, leading to a more inclusive and diverse movement.
New Ideological strands acquired by the national movement since the decade of the 1920s which resulted in the expansion of its social base
  • Gandhian-ism: 1920s was the Gandhian phase with ideas of ahimsa, Satyagraha, and Swaraj - It resonated with a wide range of social and political groups in India, including peasants, workers, women, and marginalized communities.
  • Socialism and Communism: Many Indian nationalists sought to link the struggle for independence with the broader struggle for social and economic justice. E.g.: Congress Socialist Party (1934) emphasised the need for land reform, workers' rights, and democratic governance. Communist Party of India (1925) extended the reach of communism throughout India among workers and peasants.
  • Feminist and anti-caste ideologies. Women's participation in the national movement expanded as women's organizations and feminist thinkers advocated for greater gender equality and women's rights. Similarly, anti-caste ideologies gained prominence, as leaders like B.R. Ambedkar emphasized the need to address the systemic discrimination and inequality faced by marginalized communities.
  • Revolutionary activism: The failure of peaceful mediums had frustrated the youth. They began to mobilise with secret organisations like Hindustan Republic Association (1923). This also lead sever British repression of leaders.
  • Hindu nationalism and Muslim separatism: The Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League, advocated for the interests of their respective religious communities bringing them to the mainstream. This, also created religious divisions and finally partition.
  These new ideological strands helped to shape the political agenda of the national movement and laid the groundwork for the diverse, inclusive and pluralistic democracy that India is today.


7) The 1857 Uprising was the culmination of the recurrent big and small local rebellions that had occurred in the preceding hundred years of British rule. Elucidate. (10 Marks)
The 1857 Uprising, also known as the first war of independence was the one of the paths breaking event in History of Indian freedom struggle. The seeds of mutiny were sown early through various revolts.
The recurrent Big and Small Rebellions that have culminated into 1857 Uprising:
  • Agrarian rebellions - British policy of land revenue resulted in the dispossession of peasants and growth of wealthy landlords - led to agrarian uprisings, such as the Faraizi Movement in Bengal (1830’s)
  • Cultural and religious rebellions - British policy of promoting Christianity and suppressing local customs and traditions created a sense of cultural alienation. E.g.: Sanyasi rebellion of 1770’s
  • Sepoy mutinies - opposition to British rule from the sepoys was quite evident through the mutinies such as Vellore mutiny (1806).
  • Political rebellions - the lack of political rights for Indians and annexation of Indian states and disregard for the rights of rulers further fuelled anti-British sentiment. E.g.: Poligar revolt (1795)
Thus, the 1857 Uprising was not a sudden event but the culmination of various grievances that had been simmering for decades that led to the struggle for independence that continued for many decades to come.
8) Examine the linkages between the nineteenth century’s ‘Indian Renaissance’ and the emergence of national identity. (150 words)
The 19th century Indian Renaissance was a period of social, cultural, and intellectual revival. It had multidimensional impact in Indian history such as social renaissance, political changes, etc
Linkages between the nineteenth century’s ‘Indian Renaissance’ and the emergence of national identity
  • The revival of Indian traditions and history led to a renewed sense of pride in shared Indian culture and heritage, and a rejection of Western cultural imperialism. E.g.: Theosophical movement, teachings of Swami Vivekananda.
  • The interest in Western concepts of democracy, liberty, and nationalism led to a questioning of the British colonial rule and led to Indian nationalism, which sought to establish an independent, unified India.
  • Emergence of a new class of educated, urban elite like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Rabindranath Tagore - played a key role in the intellectual and cultural development of modern India.
  • Economic realisation of “drain of wealth” created a sense of political unity in the form of national organisations like Indian National Congress – bringing a sense of political National Identity
Thus, Indian Renaissance fostered a sense of pride in Indian culture and heritage, questioning British colonial rule, and providing a framework for the nationalist movement.
9) Many voices had strengthened and enriched the nationalist movement during the Gandhian phase. Elaborate. (250 words)
The third and final phase of the Nationalist Movement [1917-1947] is known as the Gandhian era. During this period Mahatma Gandhi became the undisputed leader of the National Movement. This time period witnessed so many new voices.
Voices that had strengthened and enriched the nationalist movement during the Gandhian phase
  • Gandhi himself gave voice to the masses with his ahimsa and satyagraha and emphasized the importance of moral and spiritual values – it was enriched by followers like Vallabhai Patel in his Bardoli Satyagraha (1928), C. Rajagopalachari in Vedaranyam March (1930).
  • Indian National Congress became a platform for different voices – leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru who committed to socialist principles, Subhash Chandra Bose who advocated for a more radical approach that included armed struggle. Maulana Azad was a prominent Muslim leader who emphasized the importance of Hindu-Muslim unity.
  • Women participation with Sarojini Naidu, Annie Besant, and Kamala Nehru leading the way was a crucial step towards gender equality and paved the way for women's rights in independent India.
  • Participation of Dalits and other marginalized communities, who had been historically excluded from mainstream politics. Leaders such as B.R. Ambedkar and Ramasamy Periyar challenged the caste-based hierarchy of Indian society.
  • Revolutionaries gave the ultimate sacrifices for the nation and was the voice of Indians wanting to fight the British brutality in the same coin. E.g.: Bhagat Singh, Chandrasekhar Azad etc. This inspired the Naval mutiny (1946) to become the final nail in the coffin of British colonialism of India.
  • Students, Peasants, Industrial workers, Business community unitedly participated in the struggles strengthening the movement. E.g.: Bombay Textile Strike (1928)
In conclusion, the nationalist movement during the Gandhian phase witnessed the participation of many voices coming from different sections of society making it a truly inclusive and diverse movement that laid the foundation for an independent and democratic India.
10) Assess the role of British imperial power in complicating the process of transfer of power during the 1940s. (250 words)
The transfer of power from the British to the Indian subcontinent was a difficult process and it was done through various process evolved due to the independence struggle.
The role played by British imperial powers in complicating the process:
  • Reversals in the World War 2 forced British to seek a half-hearted approach to getting Indian support. E.g.: August Offer 1940 did not allow full transfer of power to Indians, Cripps’s Mission (1942) offering just Dominion status exposed the delaying tactics of British.
  • British imperial power created divisions among the Indian political leadership - weakened their ability to negotiate effectively with the British government. E.g.: In Shimla Conference (1945), British gave a veto power to Muslim league regarding Indian Muslims.
  • The British government's policy of divide and rule created communal tensions between Hindus and Muslims, which led to the demand for a separate Muslim state - widespread violence and displacement. E.g.: Mountbatten Plan (1947) declaring provinces as independent successor states.
  • The British repression, arresting thousands of activists and leaders during Quit India movement sometimes created a leadership vacuum for Indian nationalism.
  • British sent Cabinet mission plan (1946) allowed princely states to opt out of either Unions – this complicated the consolidation process of India.
  • The economic dependence of British imperial power and drain of Indian resources had reduced India to a poor nation unable to stand itself independently.
A lot of current day problems like issue of border, the migration issue, Kashmir issue have their roots in the complications created by the British imperial power during the 1940s.


11) Throw light on the significance of the thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi in the present times. (150 words)
Mahatma Gandhi, father of the nation was an apostle of peace and non-violence played significant role in Indian freedom struggle and also in struggles in Africa. His major thoughts were nonviolence, satyagraha, sarvodaya etc
Significance of the thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi in the present times
  • Gandhi's message of non-violence (ahimsa) offers an alternative to the use of force and aggression in resolving conflicts (e.g. Ukraine conflict). UN has declared October 2 as International Day of Non-violence
  • Gandhi's emphasis on truth and honesty offers a powerful antidote to the prevalent culture of fake news and propaganda – it reminds us of the importance of integrity and transparency in public life.
  • Gandhi's message of simple and sustainable lifestyle and trusteeship offers a valuable lesson in a world that is marked by consumerism and pollution. E.g.: Sustainable Development Goal 12 – responsible consumption.
  • Gandhiji’s message of tolerance and acceptance in the age of religious persecutions and refugee crisis is even more relevant.
  • Sarvodaya (“upliftment of all”) and Daridranarayan (“god of the poor”) are his messages which is relevant to today’s political leaders - asks them to shun their ego and work for all and reduce income disparities.
12) Why indentured labour was taken by the British from India to their colonies? have they been able to preserve their cultural identity over there? (250 words)
Indentured labourers were the contract labourers taken by the British from various parts India to their colonies between 1834 and 1922.
Reasons for taking indentured labour by the British from India to their colonies
  • Abolition of slavery in Britain in 1833 (British Abolition of Slavery Act)
  • Meet the labour shortages in their colonies – primarily employed in plantation agriculture, mining, and other forms of manual labour. Industrial revolution also created labour demand
  • Cheaper labour than taking European labourers and reluctance of Africans.
  • Readiness of Indians – Indian agriculture was in ruins - Indians were promised decent wages, working conditions, and opportunities for upward mobility in foreign lands.
Evidence of preserving their cultural identity in their new homes.
  • They brought with them their cultural traditions and established communities that reflected their cultural heritage. E.g.: Indians in Fiji established Indian schools, temples etc.
  • They also passed these traditions down to future generations. E.g.: Indian names to west Indies cricket players
  • The establishment of Indian neighbourhoods and cultural institutions to protect their cultural and political rights. E.g.: In South Africa they established Indian cultural associations
  • They mixed their traditional culture with the local cultures to create new cultures.g.: Chutney Music of Caribbean was a mix of Bhojpuri and local calypso music
Even though Indian indentured laborers faced many challenges in their new homes, they were able to preserve their cultural identity. Today, their descendants continue to celebrate their cultural heritage and contribute to the diverse cultural tapestry of their countries of origin.


13) Clarify how mid-eighteenth-century India was beset with the spectre of a fragmented polity. (150 words)
Mid-eighteenth-century India was indeed plagued by the spectre of a fragmented polity, characterized by political disintegration and the absence of a centralized authority.
Reason for the fragmented polity of mid-eighteenth-century in India
  • Decline of the Mughal Empire – Aurangzeb’s death and weak successors led to emergence of its successor states E.g.: Bengal, Oudh, and Hyderabad.
  • Rebel states like Jat state, Sikh State, Afghan states and Maratha states also emerged. The Marathas were trying to have a pan-India presence but were checked by infighting and loss in third battle of Panipat.
  • Successor states: States outside the ambit of Mughal Empire emerged E.g.: Travancore and Mysore.
  • North-East India represented a tribal polity that was different from the polity of rest of India
  • Arrival of European Powers: British had started to establish factories and territorial control in various parts E.g.: Portuguese in Goa, British in Bengal. This led to conflicts with local rulers and other European powers – E.g.: Carnatic Wars.
  • Economic crisis: due to failure of jagirdari system.
The fragmentation created a power vacuum, leading to political instability, conflicts, and a lack of centralized governance across the subcontinent. It became a prime reason for colonisation of India
14) Why did the ‘moderates’ fail to carry conviction with the nation about their proclaimed ideology and political goals by the end of the nineteenth century? (150 words)
The 'moderates,' who were a prominent faction within the Indian National Congress during the late nineteenth century, advocated for a gradual and constitutional approach towards achieving political goals. E.g.: Dadabhai Naoroji, Pheroz shah Mehta etc Moderates political goal, ideology and approach
  • Constitutional reforms, protection of rights
  • Greater Indian participation within British colonial system
  • Through prayer, petition, and protests.
  • Faith in British rule
Reasons for the failure of moderates to carry conviction with the nation about their proclaimed ideology and political goals by the end of the nineteenth century
  • Limited demands: Moderates' demands were seen as too limited and insufficient by many nationalists, who wanted to see more radical changes
  • Their willingness to collaborate with the British authorities was viewed by some as a compromise of nationalist principles. E.g.: collaborated with British during World Wars.
  • Failure to achieve tangible gains despite years of advocacy and agitation led to frustration and disillusionment among many nationalists.
  • Emergence of more radical nationalist leaders such as the Extremists and revolutionaries. E.g.: Lal-Bal-Pal trio of extremists.
  • Non-connect with the masses – Moderates considered masses as uneducated and useless for struggle – Moderates were alleged to be representatives of the upper castes
Despite the failures, they played a significant role in providing an economic critique of British Imperialism, Indianisation of civil services, demanding that military expenditure should evenly be shared by the British, and defence of civil rights. Thus, moderates prepared a solid ground for mass oriented national movement of future freedom struggle.
15) Examine how the decline of traditional artisanal industry in colonial India crippled the rural economy. (250 words)

The traditional artisanal industries had been the backbone of rural economies for centuries in India. During colonial time they were gradually replaced by factory-produced goods, imported textiles, and other industrial products.

This led to a decline in local employment opportunities, income, and economic stability.

Reasons for decline of traditional artisanal industry in colonial India
  • Colonial policies - British encouraged the import of factory-produced goods and imposed tariffs and taxes on locally produced goods - made it difficult for traditional artisans to compete in the market.
  • Emergence of industrialization and mechanization – they offered higher wages and better working conditions than traditional artisanal industries - shift in labour from rural areas to urban centres.
  • Loss of patrons - like rulers, zamindars etc. after the coming of colonial rule.
Ripple effect of decline of traditional artisanal industry on rural economy
  • Forced migration: With the loss of income and employment opportunities, rural communities became increasingly impoverished, and many were forced to migrate to urban centres in search of work.
  • Indebtedness among artisans: to compete with imported goods local artisans had to depend on moneylenders
  • Decline of barter system and self-sufficient village economy – the mutual-cooperation between artisans and farmers broke down.
  • Effect on agriculture: farmers lost artisans who were a key market for their goods. Loss of patrons led to more artisans moving to agriculture making rural India an agrarian economy.
The impact of this decline of traditional industries was felt for generations, contributing to the economic and social challenges faced by rural areas in India to this day.
16) Highlight the importance of the new objectives that got added to the vision of Indian Independence since the twenties of the last century. (250 words)
The vision of Indian independence evolved over time, and the 1920s marked a watershed in history due to various political, socio economic reasons such as starting of Gandhian phase, khilafat issue etc.
New objectives that got added to the vision of Indian Independence since the twenties of the last century
  • Social justice: The 1920s saw the emergence of social justice which guarantees equal rights and opportunities to all citizens as a central objective of the Indian freedom struggle. Leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and BR Ambedkar emphasized the need to address issues of caste discrimination, untouchability, and inequality.
  • Gender Justice: Rise of women leaders – like Annie Besant, Sarojini Naidu led to women issues gaining centre stage - it was an inspiration towards universal adult suffrage in Independent India.
  • Worker Rights: The success of Bolshevik revolution led to emergence of worker parties and respect for worker rights becoming important.
  • Economic self-reliance: Congress, under Gandhi, began advocating for economic self-reliance indigenous production in the 1920s. The emphasis on economic self-reliance continued after independence and was reflected in India's policy of planned development.
  • Secularism: The idea of a secular state, where religion and politics are kept separate, gained prominence. Leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Azad advocated for a secular India. This was enshrined in the Indian Constitution, which guarantees religious freedom to all citizens.
  • Swaraj: Nationalist movement shifted from demanding limited self-rule within the British Empire to a steadfast call for complete independence.
Importance of these objectives added
  • Arrival of masses: increased participation of women, lower class, and students against British
  • Independence of India: shift towards complete independence made idea of future nation and constitution
  • Focus on social reform and inclusivity created a more just and egalitarian society
  • The objective to build gender equality ensured the active involvement of women in the nation-building process.
  • International solidarity: The objective built a just and peaceful world order based on principles of equality and mutual respect
In conclusion, the new objectives that were added to the vision of Indian independence in the 1920s continue to be relevant today, as India strives to build a just, equitable, and prosperous society as enshrined part 4 of constitution i.e. DPSP.
17) The women’s questions arose in modern India as a part of the 19th century social reform movement. What were the major issues and debates concerning women in that period? (250 words)
The 19th century social reform movements by Raja Rammohan Roy, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, etc. gave rise to the women's questions on women's rights and gender equality.
Major issues and debates concerning women during this period
  • Education: Women were excluded from formal education – reformers like Jyotibha Phule advocated for women's education, which was seen to improve their social and economic status.
  • Widow Remarriage: Traditional Indian society often ostracized widows. The reformers like Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar sought to abolish this practice and advocated for widow remarriage.
  • Women's Suffrage: The women's movement also demanded political rights and suffrage for women. However, this demand was not fully realized until much later, with the Indian Constitution granting voting rights to women in 1950.
  • Marriage and Property Rights: Patriarchal society denied women right to own and inherit property. The reformers like B.M. Malabari advocated the protection of the rights of women.
  • Social Reform: The movement also aimed at reforming social practices that were harmful to women, such as child marriage, dowry, and sati. Eg. Efforts of Brahmo samaj against sati abolition (1829)
The 19th-century social reform movement in India brought to the forefront several issues and debates concerning women's rights and gender equality. The women's question became an integral part of the larger discourse on social reform and shaped the course of Indian history.


18) Explain how the Uprising of 1857 constitutes an important watershed in the evolution of British policies towards colonial India. (200 words)
The Uprising of 1857 or the first war of independence, marked a turning point in the British perception of India and its people. It was the most defining event in the history of Indian freedom struggle
Uprising of 1857 - watershed in the evolution of British policies towards colonial India.
  • Before the uprising, the British East India Company had been ruling India indirectly, relying on local rulers and allies. The uprising revealed the deep-seated anger of the Indian population towards British rule.
  • Following the uprising, the British government passed the Government of India Act of 1858, which abolished the East India Company's rule and established direct British Raj over India.
  • The British also instituted several policies to suppress future uprisings, like recruitment of soldiers from outside India and the implementation of more centralized bureaucracy.
  • British, to consolidate its empire used the railways and communication systems to reach every corner of India.
  • They ended the policy of annexation of princely states to use them as breakwaters to storm.
  • British deployed the divide and rule policy by playing Muslims against Hindus (e.g. separate electorates), introducing caste-based censuses, martial and non-martial races in the army etc.
  • The uprising led to increased efforts to “civilize” and “modernize” Indian society by the establishment of schools and colleges to promote British values and education.
  • British also displayed some sensitivity in policies to induct more Indians into political participation (e.g.: Indian Councils Act 1861).
  • British support of social reforms was major cause of 1857 uprising. Hence, British adopted itself out from playing any role in reform.
19) Discuss the role of women in the freedom struggle especially during the Gandhian phase. (200 words)
Women played a significant role in India's freedom struggle. Gandhian phase (1916 to 1947) gave large impetus to the women participation and which impacted the freedom movement
Role of women in freedom struggle during Gandhian phase
  • Women leaders like Rani Lakshmi Bhai, Begum Hasrat Mahal etc fought against the British. Women took active part in the Swadeshi and Boycott movements of 1905. However, women's involvement in political activities was largely restricted to elite circles.
  • The Gandhian movement changed this, as women from all social classes and regions began to participate actively in the freedom struggle.
  • Women played a critical role in the Salt Satyagraha, the Quit India Movement, and other mass movements led by Gandhi. E.g.: Anasuya Ben during the Ahmedabad Mill strike.
  • They donated their ornaments, organized protests and boycotts, and were often subject to violence and imprisonment by British authorities. E.g.: Usha Mehta set up underground “Congress Radio”.
  • Women also played a significant role in the Indian National Congress and other political organizations E.g.: Sarojini Naidu, Annie Besant, and Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay
  • They participated in conferences, delivered speeches, and held leadership positions. They worked tirelessly for women's rights and gender equality, advocating for women's education, suffrage, and economic independence.
  • Women revolutionaries helped to carry messages, weapons and provide safe passage to other revolutionaries. Pratilatha Wadedar, Shanti Ghosh etc led the violent struggle against British.
Women participation before Gandhian phase
  • Bhima Bai Holkar fought bravely against the British colonel Malcolm and defeated him in guerrilla warfare.
  • Maharani Velu Nachiyar (1730 – 1796) bravely fought with the British army decades before the 1857 Revolt. She probably remains the only queen to have defeated the British army successfully.
  • Gauri Parvati Bai who was queen of Travancore carried out reforms and emphasized on the need for education of girls thus in many ways helping women elevate from social and educational stigma.
  • The role of Rani of Ramgarh, Rani Lakshmi Bai, and Tapasvini Maharani in the War of Independence (the Great Revolt) of 1857 was commendable.
Integral role played by women in the whole freedom struggle challenged traditional gender orders and paved the way for greater women's participation in politics and social change in India.
20) Highlight the differences in the approach of Subhash Chandra Bose and Mahatma Gandhi in the struggle for freedom. (200 words)
Subhash Chandra Bose and Mahatma Gandhi were two of the most prominent leaders of the Indian freedom struggle yet had different approaches to achieving independence.
Differences in the approach of Subhash Chandra Bose and Mahatma Gandhi in the struggle for freedom
Subhash Chandra Bose Mahatma Gandhi
Bose believed in using militant means to fight against British colonial rule. He believed that non-violent resistance was insufficient, and that direct action was necessary to achieve independence. Gandhi's approach was based on non-violent resistance and civil disobedience. He believed that violence only begets violence and that non-violence was the only way to achieve lasting change.
Bose established the Indian National Army (INA). Bose believed that good ends will justify the violent means. Gandhi's approach involved peaceful protests, boycotts, and non-cooperation with British authorities. Gandhi believed that both means and ends are equally important and has to be non-violent.
Bose advocated a revolutionary action for complete independence. But Gandhi advocated a more evolutionary change with independence in phases.
Bose was more international in his outlook and approached Russia, Germany and Japan Gandhiji relied on indigenous forces like swadeshi and satyagraha.
Bose inspired a sense of nationalism and determination in his followers Gandhi provided a moral and ethical framework for non-violent resistance

In conclusion, while Bose and Gandhi had different approaches to the struggle for freedom, they both played important roles in India's fight for independence. Their legacy continues to inspire and inform political and social movements in India and beyond.


21) How difficult would have been the achievement of Indian independence without Mahatma Gandhi? Discuss. (200 words)
The period from 1919 to 1948 is known as the 'Gandhian era in Indian History'. Mahatma Gandhi gave a new direction to the freedom movement. Gandhian approaches in freedom struggle
  • Non-violence
  • Satyagraha
  • Inclusivity
Indian Independence without Mahatma Gandhi:
  • Without Mahatma Gandhi, it is likely that the Indian independence movement would have been less cohesive and less effective in mobilizing popular support. The communal and regional forces could have dominated the political scene of the country.
  • Gandhi was able to bring together people from diverse regions, religions, and socio-economic backgrounds and create a shared vision of a free and independent India. He used his leadership skills and ability to mobilize people to mount successful campaigns such as the Salt Satyagraha, Civil Disobedience, and the Quit India Movement.
  • The inclusion of peasants, students, women, industrialist (later after the 1930s) would have taken more time as Congress mass movement was limited in covering region and a certain class.
  • Gandhi's philosophy of non-violent resistance (Satyagraha), was a powerful force that inspired millions of Indians to join the movement for independence. A violent struggle may have led to protracted blood shedding.
  • Gandhi's international reputation as a moral leader and his ability to influence the British public and political establishment were instrumental in securing Indian independence – it helped to galvanize support for the movement both in India and abroad.
India would have achieved Independence without Gandhi but the role of Gandhi was very significant in achieving as well as preserving the Independence of India. The contribution of Gandhiji in the achievement of Indian independence needs to be cherished and remembered.
22) Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. B R Ambedkar, despite having divergent approaches and strategies, had a common goal of amelioration of the downtrodden. Elucidate. (200 words)
Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar were two of the most influential leaders in the Indian independence movement who played a significant role in the amelioration of the downtrodden.
Divergence in Gandhi’s and Ambedkar’s Approach
  • Gandhi's approach was based on non-violent resistance and the principle of ahimsa to achieve true freedom. He believed in a more evolutionary transformation of society. He believed in the utility of Varna system.
  • Ambedkar's approach was more focused on political and legal reforms - political power and social justice were essential for the emancipation of the oppressed. He believed in a revolutionary transformation in society. He advocated annihilation of caste itself.
Elements showing both had common goal for the amelioration of downtrodden
  • Gandhi was a vocal advocate of the upliftment of Dalits and fought against caste discrimination, while Ambedkar's efforts were directed towards legal reforms, such as the abolition of untouchability and the promotion of equal rights and opportunities for all.
  • Furthermore, both leaders recognized the importance of education in empowering the marginalized communities. Gandhi established schools for the underprivileged, while Ambedkar gave the slogan to educate, organise and agitate.
  • Both believed in the power of the masses – e.g.: Gandhiji led the Temple Entry movement (Vaikkom, 1924) while Ambedkar led the Mahad Satyagraha.
Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, despite having different approaches, played a crucial role in shaping modern India and continues to inspire and guide social reform movements to this day.


23) The third battle of Panipat was fought in 1761. Why were so many empire-shaking battles fought at Panipat? (200 words)
Panipat, a city located in present-day Haryana, witnessed three significant battles that had far-reaching consequences for the Indian subcontinent. They are
  • 1526 – Babur v/s Ibrahim Lodi – decline of Lodi dynasty and beginning of Mughal rule
  • 1556 – Akbar v/s Hemachandra (Sur Army) – Decline of Afghan rule and Mughals consolidates Delhi
  • 1761 – Marathas (Mughal Army) v/s Ahmad Shah Abdali – End of Maratha ambition to rule over India.
Reasons for Panipat being a battlefield of so many empire-shaking battles
  • Proximity to Delhi - Invaders came through North-west Khyber Pass reached via Panipat
  • Panipat was located at the crossroads of several important trade routes, connecting the northern plains of India with the northwest regions – Panipat was along the Grand Trunk Road. - control trade and commerce
  • Located on the frontier of several major empires and kingdoms, making it a prime target for territorial expansion.
  • The fertile and agriculturally rich region - valuable prize for any empire seeking to control the northern plains of India.
  • Terrain – flat ground suitable for movement of cavalry
  • Shorter Monsoon – easier to fight
Geographical, strategic, administrative and other war-related factors led to 3 major empire-shaking wars being fought at Panipat which had a significant impact on the history of India.
24) Examine critically the various facets of economic policies of the British in India from the mid-eighteenth century till independence. (200 words)
British economic policies in India can be understood from the time of gaining Diwani (Revenue) rights in the Battle of Buxar from 1764 till independence in 1947.
Facets of economic policies of the British in India from the mid-eighteenth century till independence
Negative aspects
  • Primary objective - extract maximum wealth from India and transfer it to Britain.
  • Exploitative revenue system – maximise collection from Indians E.g.: Permanent settlement done based on auction to highest bidder – devastated agriculture with no investment, farmer landlessness, absentee landlordism etc.
  • Promotion of raw material exports from India to Britain at the expense of the development of local industries – de-industrialisation of India, transform India to raw material producing economy.
  • Tariffs - British imposed high tariffs on Indian goods, making it difficult for Indian products to compete in the global market – Indian economy became dependent on Britain.
  • Commercialisation of agriculture – cash crops – led to famines
  • Drain of Wealth - after 1858 India was kept open for British capital investment - in railways, shipping industry, plantation industry etc. In return, the part of the loan and the interest on it had to be paid in the form of home charges from India.
Positive aspects
  • Development of infrastructure: schools, colleges, hospitals and railways like infrastructure created as a part of economic policy
  • New technologies and job opportunities have been created. Eg.: steamship, telegraph etc
British economic policies in India had a profound impact on the Indian economy and contributed to its underdevelopment, deindustrialisation and dependency on Britain.
25) In what ways did the naval mutiny prove to be the last nail in the coffin of British colonial aspirations in India? (200 words)
Indian Naval mutiny of 1946 was a revolt of Indian Naval servicemen against British higher officials. It marked the beginning of the end for British colonial aspirations in India.
Reasons behind Naval Mutiny
  • Low pay and poor working condition of Indian sailors
  • Racial discrimination by British
  • Rising nationalist vigour of sailors – capital punishment of Azad Hind Fauj officers
Naval mutiny- last nail in the coffin of British colonial aspirations in India
  • Marked a shift in the Indian freedom struggle from peaceful protests led by Mahatma Gandhi to more militant forms of resistance.
  • The mutiny showed that Indian soldiers and sailors, who were seen as the backbone of British rule in India, were no longer willing to support the British regime.
  • The naval mutiny exposed the weaknesses and the declining military power of the British in India particularly after the World War 2 - a small group of sailors was able to bring the British navy to a standstill - British were no longer invincible in India.
  • Inspired other groups and communities to revolt against British rule - spread from Bombay to Calcutta across 78 ships and shore establishments
  • Support across political lines – the flags of all parties were hoisted
RIN Mutiny is one of the most important events in India’s struggle for freedom, convincing the British government that it could no longer hold on to India.
26) What were the major political, economic, and social developments in the world which motivated the anti-colonial struggle in India? (200 words)
The anti-colonial struggle in India shaped the world and was also shaped by the world. Anti-colonial struggles of the World had some common reasons and features that made them work depending on each other.
Developments in the world which motivated the anti-colonial struggle in India
Political Developments
  • The rise of nationalism and anti-colonialism as a global movement – E.g.: Indian home rule movement of 1916 was inspired by Irish Home rule movement
  • Ideals of American (“no taxation without representation”) and French (“liberty, equality, fraternity”) and Russian (“Socialism and communism”) revolution inspired Indians
  • Japanese victory over Russia (1905), Ethiopian victory over Italy (1896)– destroyed the myth of European invincibility
  • Division of Caliph lands as per Treaty of Paris lead to Khilafat movement
Economic Developments
  • Global Free trade - Drain of wealth from India to fund industrialisation in Britain – high tariffs for Indian goods – de-industrialisation of Indian economy
  • Funding World War’s with Indian money
  • Great Depression (1929) and protectionist policies by colonial powers – price rise in India leading to riots and rebellions.
  • Success of Russian socialism – reduced inequality inspired Indian leaders
Social Developments
  • Apartheid and racial discrimination – e.g.: against Indians in South Africa led to rise of Gandhiji as a leader
  • Nazi persecution of Jews in Germany – inspired Indians to adopt a more inclusive nationalism
In conclusion, the anti-colonial struggle in India was motivated by above factors and it played a role in inspiring and sustaining the independence movement.


27) Defying the barriers of age, gender and religion, the Indian women became the torchbearer during the struggle for freedom in India. Discuss. (200 words)
Women, regardless of their age, gender, and religion, played a significant role in the Indian independence movement.
Women Torchbearers of Freedom Struggle
  • Suniti Choudhary (youngest female revolutionary) aged 14 shot dead a British magistrate.
  • Matangini Hazra (also called Gandhi Buri or old lady Gandhi) was shot at age of 72 by British for marching with tri-colour.
  • Queens and princesses like Rani Chennamma of Kittur, Rani Begam Hazrat Mahal of Avadh, Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi fought against British.
  • Annie Besant – started Home Rule League in India (1916) and first Woman president of Indian National Congress.
  • Sarojini Naidu, Ammu Swaminathan etc led various salt marches.
  • Women donated jewellery to fund the struggle. Women helped provide shelter, carry messages and weapons for revolutionary struggle.
  • Captain Laxmi Sehgal helped build the first all-women regiment of Netaji's Indian National Army.
  • Abadi Bano Begum, despite coming from a conservative Muslim family, gave speeches to inspire Muslims in Muslim League sessions.
  • Rehana Tyabjee became the first Muslim woman to sing Vande Mataram. Nanibala Devi, a revolutionary, came from a conservative Brahmin family and became Calcutta jail’s first woman prisoner.
  • Rani Gaidinliu was a Naga Tribal, who organized rebellion to overthrow British from Manipur.
Women defied traditional societal norms and emerged as leaders, organizers, and participants in the struggle. They challenged the gender and societal barriers and played a significant role in shaping the modern Indian nation and motivating others in the new age too.
28) Several foreigners made India their homeland and participated in various movements. Analyse their role in the Indian struggle for freedom. (200 words)
Many foreigners who lived in India during the independence movement saw the struggle for freedom as their own and actively participated in various capacities.
Role of Foreigners India’s Struggle for Freedom
Political leadership
  • Annie Besant
      • established the Home Rule League (1916) that sought self-rule
      • became the first female president of Indian National Congress (1917) – helped unite moderates and extremists
  • Samuel Evans Stokes or Satyananda Stokes
      • was part of Congress’s Non-cooperation movement and Congress working committee
      • was arrested for sedition against British.
Ideological Support
  • Philip Spratt
      • founding member of Communist Party of India
      • was imprisoned in Meerut conspiracy case (1929) – worked for worker’s right
Journalism and press
  • Horniman
      • As editor of the Bombay Chronicle (1913), he became a mouthpiece of the freedom movement.
      • He fought for press freedom and gave evidence of Jallianwala Bagh Massacre.
Humanitarian support
  • Charles Freer “Dinbandhu” Andrews
      • championed the rights of labourers, railway workers and cotton weavers
      • actively worked with BR Ambedkar for Harijan demands, campaigned against untouchability
  • Madeleine Slade (Mirabehn) and Catherine Mary Heilemann (Sarla Ben)
      • Gandhians associated took part in Salt march and Quit India Movement
      • promoted Khadi and Satyagraha
These foreigners helped to draw international attention to the Indian independence movement. They also brought diverse ideas and experiences to the movement. Their legacy continues to inspire people around the world to support causes of freedom and justice.
29) “In many ways, Lord Dalhousie was the founder of modern India.” Elaborate. (200 words)
Lord Dalhousie, whose tenure as the Governor-General of India spanned from 1848 to 1856, indeed played a significant role in shaping modern India. His policies and reforms laid the foundation for the modernization and transformation of various aspects of Indian society Contributions of Lord Dalhousie which made him the founder of modern India
Modern Infrastructure
  • Creation of Department of Public Works – construction of roads, bridges, canals (Ganga canal)
  • Introduced Railway system (1853) - greatly improved the economy and allowed for faster and more efficient transportation of goods and people
Communication reforms
  • Introduced Electric Telegraph system (1852)
  • Passed Postal Act (1854) - Foundation of a postal department – greatly improved communication and brought the country closer together.
Educational Reforms
  • Implementation of Woods Despatch (1854) laid foundations of the modern education
  • Anglo Vernacular Schools throughout the districts, Government Colleges in important towns and a university in each of the three Presidencies in India.
Administrative Reforms: Consolidation of British rule through centralization of powers and annexations (Doctrine of Lapse). More powers to District Magistrates.
Legal reforms: progressive laws like Caste and Religious Disabilities (Removal) Act (1850), Hindu Widows' Remarriage Act 1856 etc.
Modern India stands on the pillars of state-district administration, Rail-Post-Telecom infrastructure and three tier education system. Dalhousie directly involved in all of them, hence aptly called the founder of Modern India.