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Bring out the main features of the economic life in the 18th century. To what extent were they related to contemporary political developments?
Describe the main features of the social life in India in the 18th century. Bring out some of the differences between the lower and the higher classes and castes in this respect.
What steps were taken by the British Government to reform the evils of the Indian Society ?
How did the western education influence the political and social life of the Indians ? : What was the effect of the introduction of English education on Indian society?
Why did the modern social reforms find it necessary to attack the caste ? How did changes in economy, society and politics and reform movements undermine it?
Examine critically the impact of British politics on the Indian peasants.
Table of Contents
Q. 1. Bring out the main features of the economic life in the 18th century. To what extent were they related to contemporary political developments? Ans. Main Features of the Indian Economic life
in the 18th Century (1) India a Land of Contrasts. The society was divided into two groups. One group was that of the chiefs and their stooges who were fully enjoying and the other group was the oppressed group who were deprived of every amenity, irrespective of their hard labour. In between . the two there was a big gap which had engulfed the poor..
(2) Backward and Stagnant Agriculture. Agriculture was the main source for livelihood during the 18th century. But due to the old methods of cultivation and outdated implements the land had gone infertile. In this way the peasants who were dependent on rain could not earn their livelihood. Besides this they had to bear the expenses imposed on them by the officials, landlords, collectors etc. which rendered them poor.
(3) Self-sufficient Villages. The villages were self sufficient and most of the needs of the villages were fulfilled in the village itself. The villagers led a simple life. Most of the commodities they needed were produced in the villages. Thus these villages were self-dependent during the 18th century.
(4) Decline in the Internal Trade. The trade as hindered due to poor communication on the one hand and on the other hand, it got a set-back due to internal disturbances. There was hardly any security on the roads. The people were often robbed on the way. It was thus very difficult to send commodities from one place to another. The infighting and the foreign invasions also hit the trade hard. Every ruler, big or small, used to collect heavy custom duties when the things passed from one state to the other. Hence the internal trade received a great set-back.
(5) Activities of the Foreign Trading Companies. The foreign trading companies were hankering after the Indian trade. the British, the French, the Portuguese. The Dutch etc. all joined hands to undermine the economic conditions of India. At the end, the Britishers held the swan and got the upper hand after uprooting every other force.
(6) Destruction of Industry. The same reasons were there for the lecture of Industry too. The various cities were looted time and again due to bad situation of law and order. All this went a long way in ruining the industry. Due to the invasions of Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali and the upsurge of the Sikhs, the Marathas, the Jats etc. the main commercial cities like Lahore, Delhi, Agra, Surat etc. were destroyed and many industrialists were thrown on the road. Due to the deteriorating economic condition of the different nobles, the great impetus given to industry by their patronage was also lost. Even under these circumstances, some industries like cloth, sugar, jute, metal etc. were still flourishing.
Influence of Political Developments on the Economic State of Affairs. After the decline of the Mughals there remained none to rule over the country successfully. Due to their infighting, the Britishers made the Indian puppets in their hands. Soon they controlled the entire trade and politics of India. Both the industries and agriculture suffered at their hands. They treated India as a source for raw material and increased taxes and exercise duties, thus giving a great blow to the Indian trade. Thus, India got poorer day by day and the Indian people got burdened by the foreign rule.
Q. 2. Describe the main features of the social life in India in the 18th century. Bring out some of the differences between the lower and the higher classes and castes in this respect.
Ans. Main Features of the Social Life
in the 18th century
(1) Lack of Social Unity. The people were divided into many groups on the basis of religion, creed, area, language, and caste, etc. and hence they lacked in unity. There were many people who followed 15 crorent religious. They were Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Sikhs, Christians ore The Hindus were divided into four sub-groups – the Kshatriyas, the Brahmans the Vaishyas and the Sudras. The Muslims also had Shias
among them. There was a big gulf between different religious groups which did not allow people to unite themselves.
(2) The Easte System and Untouchability. This position was there from times
immemorial which caused much unrest on many occasion even during this period also. The struggle between the Hindus and the muslims, the high castes and the low castes, the Shias and Sunnis
Akalis and Nirankaris etc. are more or less the manifestation of the same thing. The root cause was the sectarian thinking among of different classes of the society.
(3) Patriarchal Families. Father was usually taken to be the head of the family. His will was supreme in the household affairs. His word was final in matters of matrimony. He had the right to make or mar any relationship, Only in Kerala there were matriarchal families where mother was the head of the family. Elsewhere, only the males had the right to property. Excepting in Kerala, women were fully governed by men.
(4) Condition of Women. Although women were respected in the society yet no attention was paid to their education. The women belonging to high society lived in the purdah while the poorer had to work in the fields as well as in their houses. In the 18th century some women (both from the Hindu and the Muslim families) like Ahalia Bai, Zeenat Mahal, Rani of Jhansi etc. took active part in politics, but their number was too small.
(5) Defective Matrimonial System. The marriages were settled by the heads of the families without consulting the boy or the girl. The male could marry any number of women. The widow marriage was not allowed and the women had to perform the Sati. The girls sometimes got widowed in their childhood due to child marriage. The dowry system was also in vogue. The women were taken to be a source of entertainment for men.
(6)The Social Standards. The people had formed their habits according to their social status. If the rich people lived in luxury the poor people had to struggle for their food. The people belonging to the upper classes paid more attention to enjoyment. The liked privacy and purdah. Energetic and good food way popular among all. The rich people used to wear different clothes according to the changing seasons. They were fond of cotton, woollen and silken clothes, but the poor people could not afford such a variety.
Q. 3. What steps were taken by the British Government to reform the evils of the Indian Society ?
Write a short note on “The Abolition of the Practice of Sati.”
Ans. By the time, the British arrived in India, several evils had crept into the Indian society and religion. Such evils as the practice of
Sati, infanticide, human sacrifice, the sad plight of widows and slavery had eaten up the very basis of the Indian social system. It was with the help of such social reformers as Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar that the British Government passed many laws against these evils from time to time.
(1) Abolition of the Practice of Sati. A practice had started during the Muslim rule that the Hindu wives would immolate themselves in the funeral pyres of their deceased husbands. In the beginning it was done willingly by the widowed wife but subsequently the spirit of sacrifice was shadowed by the greed of the living relations who would coerce the widow to burn herself in the pyre. It is estimated that between the years 1828 to 1835 A.D. about 800 widows burnt themselves in the funeral pyres of their dead husbands. At last the British Government was constrained to move against this evil in 1829 A.D., Lord William Bentinck (1828-35) declared as illegal the cruel practice of Sati. A law was passed against this practice and it was declared that anyone who instigated, inspired or forced a woman to immolate herself as Sati would be punished by death. In this noble cause the Governor-General was assisted by Raja Ram Mohan Roy who saved thousands of women from being burnt to death. The Indian society will ever remain grateful to both Bentinck and Raja Ram Mohan Roy for this noble reform.
(2) Suppression of the Female Infanticide. There was an evil practice in some parts of the country that people would kill their daughters as soon as they were born because suitable grooms for them were scarce and if found a big dowry was to be paid to them. Therefore a daughter became an unbearable burden on the different members of the family which they could relieve themselves of by putting them to death. Lord William Bentinck declared this practice as illegal and made it punishable by death. In this manner this evil was also suppressed.
(3) Suppression of Human Sacrifice. Another evil practice which prevailed in some parts of the country was to sacrifice little children to appease gods and goddesses. They were sometimes drowned in a river, Efforts were made in 1795, 1802 and 1804 A.D. and then during the governorship of Lord William Bentinck to suppress this evil. But took sometime more when it was finally suppressed.
(4) Widow Remarriage. With the suppression of Sati a new problem concerning the widows faced the society as the number of widows had
been rapidly growing. The child marriage, polygamy and unequal marriages also added to this problem. Such widows had no right to remarry. So their lives had become all the more sad and painful. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar began a strong movement in support of the widow-remarriage. He proved the validity of such marriages from the Hindu scriptures. At last the government passed a law in 1856 A.D. which allowed the widows to remarky. In this field the efforts of Ranade and Bhandarkar were also praise-worthy.
(5) Suppression of Child Marriage. Several reforms associated with the Brahmo Samaj and the Arya Samaj raised their voice against the evil practice of child marriage. According the Age of Consent Laws of 1891 A.D. the marriageable age in respect of boys and girls was fixed at 12 and 10 years respectively. In 1910 A.D. the Government of Baroda passed the Suppression of Child Marriage Act and fixed the age of consent in case of boys and girls at 16 and 12 years. The Sharda Act was passed in 1930 A.D. as a result of the efforts of Har Bilas Sharda. It fixed the age of consent for the boys at 18 and for the girls at 14 years. Later on this limit was further raised.
(6) Suppression of Slavery. Forced by utter poverty some people would even sell their own children. Such children had to live a life of slavery all through their lives. Like animals they were, round with their masters for whom they had to work for life. Soon the strong voice was raised against this inhuman practice. The Charter Act of 1833 advised the Indian Government to pass laws against his evil. Consequently, a law was passed in 1849 A.D. which prohibited slavery in any form in India.
Q. 4. How did the western education influence the political and social life of the Indians ? : What was the effect of the introduction of English education on Indian society?
Ans. The western education played an important part in influencing the social and political life of the Indian people. However the chief aim of the English education in India was to procure cheap Indian clerks for the administration and to infuse in the educated Indians loyalty towards the British crown and to wean them away from their old culture and traditions. Macaulay was the chief advocate of this belief but the adoption of English turned tables on the British themselves.
With the English as the medium of instruction the Indian youths came in contact with the youths in other countries and studied their institutions. The ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity prevalent among those people and especially their free institutions had a great impact on them. Their own plight as a slave nation completely revolutionized them and they exerted hard to achieve freedom for their country.
The western education not only promoted a unity of thought but also helped in the propagation of nationalism. In English they got the medium to communicate with other people who lived in different provinces and as a result the sentiments of unity and the spirit of nationalism grew among the people. Thus the English education and the English language proved one of the important causes of the downfall of the British rule in India.
In this way we see that the western education and ideology played a vital role in bringing about an awakening among the people of India. In Europe the 19th century was a century of freedom and nationalism. It was from the West that the Indian imbibed the democratic ideas and the new political ideology. From the History of England they got a lesson that the people have got the right to punish and dethrone a tyrannical ruler, as they did with Charles I. From the American War of Independence and the French Revolution they learnt the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity. The unification of Italy and Germany filled them with a new awakening. The writings of the European scholars like Burke, Mill, Milton, Macaulay, Rousseau, Voltaire etc. developed among the Indian people the nationalist sentiments. It was the western ideology that broadened their outlook and ended their narrow-mindedness. In this respect Lord Ronaldseay says, “The wine of the westem education went deep into the Indian head and they dived into the sea of nationalism and unity. It brought about revolution in their outlook.”
Alike the political field the western education had deep influence in the social field as well. It filled the Indians with a zeal to reform their social and religious institutions. Very soon such movements as the Brahmo Samaj, Arya Samaj, the Ramakrishna Mission, the Theosophical Society etc. took birth and brought about reforms in the society and tried to remove the prevailing practices such as the child marriage idol-worship, the Sati system, the purdah system etc. Their effort
succeeded in introducing several reforms in both the Hindu religion
Q. 5. Why did the modern social reforms find it necessary to attack the caste ? How did changes in economy, society and politics and reform movements undermine it?
Ans. Campaigns against the Caste System by the Society Reformers. (1) The Rigvedic society was chiefly divided into four varnas’ or classes, which were later on split into several other castes and subcastes. Human value were thrown to the wind and some castes claimed superior status making others feel inferior. They even practised untouchability towards them. Birth not occupation, became and basis of the caste system among the Hindus. A person had to follow the family profession to which he was born. In this way his capabilities were ignored and his occupation became prominent. Sometimes even those who possessed low morals and thoughts still belonged to the high castes by virtue of their birth while the chamars and weavers were hated and considered impure even if they were men of high moral and possessed great wisdom.
(2) The untouchables were denied entry in public places, like the temples public wells, schools etc. They were not allowed even to read scriptures which were the property of the high-caste people.
(3) It was only the high caste people, who comprised not more than 20% of the total population, dominated the whole society. they shunned even the shadow of the so-called untouchables lest they should be polluted. The low castes were not taken in the army etc. Their only duty was the service of the high caste people, scavenging, skinning the dead cattle, tanning hides and skins and making shoes of leather etc. which were considered low and mean occupations. Because of adopting such professions they were regarded as untouchables. The high caste persons took to such duties like defence, performing religious duties and doing teaching work at the school. All these practices were inhuman and they opposed them with their tooth and nail. For example Swami Ramanand declared, “God cares not to which caste you belong, he who worship Him belongs to Him.”
(4) Despised and oppressed as thee untouchables were, they felt relief only in deserting Hinduism and were converted to Islam or Christianity. It was a veritable step on the face of the Hindu society.
It was Swami Dayanand who ventured to call them back to the Hindu fold by launching the ‘shudhi’ movement and thus saved Hinduism from extinction. He branded the present caste system as a curse on the Hindu society.
Effects of Changes in Economy on the Caste System. The introduction of modern industries and the rapid urbanisation weakened the web of the caste system. The labourer belonging to different castes worked together in these factories which brought them closer as they had now to live in the immediate neighbourhood and use the same eating places for daily food and refreshment. He was now impossible to put them in separate localities or to make them eat in separate hotels. Thus all castes and classes came closes and all of them in this process became victims of the British oppression and exploitation. It also forced the members of the so-called high castes to enter such prosessions as tailoring, shoe-making, hair cutting and hotelling etc. Now the choice of profession was made from the view point of its, profitability and not on the basis of the castes as were fixed by the society. Any hard working man can risc high like the Batas or Tatas whether he belongs to a high or a low caste.
Social Changes and their Effects on the Society. Western civilization and education transformed the people’s views. Now they looked upon other castes from the human point of view and their relations were recast in new models. Then joint family system cracked down because of enlightment and growing individual interests. Inter-caste marriages also began to take place and secularism also became popular. Under such circumstances the reformers were encouraged to attack the caste system more vigorously and as such the shackles of the caste system began to loosen its hold.
Political Changes and their effects on the Caste System. Rise of nationalism also weakened the shackles of the caste system when people of all shades began to take part in the national movement with the same vigour and zeal. All people, irrespective of their castes, took in the national movement because they regarded the British imperialists as their common enemy. People belonging to all castes stood like an impregnable wall to exhibit their unity against the foreign rule. Vast masses of people raised their voices alongwith their national leaders
who brought about an unprecedented national leaders who brought
about an unprecedented national awakening through their speeches, public meetings and writings. One of these national leaders, B. R. Ambedkar, who himself was born of an untouchable family was the moving spirit behind the drafting of the Indian Constitution. Gandhiji also founded the All India Harijan Sangh in 1932 A.D. for the benefit of the Harijans.
The middle of the 19th century saw the emergence of several reformers and societies that endeavoured for the uplist of the backward castes. All efforts were made to educate them and to get them the right to enter all public places. Now the doors of all temples were thrown open to them and they could draw water from all public wells. A continuous struggle was waged against orthodox Brahman population of the South. Soon the doors of the temples as well as were got opened for the so-called untouchables.
The Indian Constitution and Untouchability. After independence the government also took steps to eradicate untouchability. The Indian Constitution clearly declares that untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form so forbidden. The endorsement of any disability arising out of untouchability shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law. No restriction can be placed on their entry to any public place. Besides, it has been laid in the Directive Principles of the State Policy that the State shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may, a social order in which justice, social, economic and political shall inform all the institutions of the national life.’ Even today the newspapers carry reports of atrocities on Harijans for which, it is not the government but the age old social practices that are to blame. Such practices as casteism and untouchability are like poison to the general stream of social life which may eat up the very roots of our Indian social system. It is therefore desirable for the society to mend itself and to fight against these evils till they are finally eradicated.
Q. 6. Examine critically the impact of British politics on the Indian peasants.
Ans. Impact of the British Policies on the Indian Peasants. The peasants were overburdened with the land revenue. It is evident from what Lord Cornwallis has said, ‘One-third of Bengal has been transformed Anato a jungle inhabited only by wild beasts.’ It shows how over-burdened
were the peasants who were forced to sell their lands or to mortgage them to the unscrupulous money-lenders never to be redeemed again. Under all system of settlement-i.e., Contract, Permanent, Ryotwari or Mahalwari – the peasants were exploited both by the government and the landlords and they lived in utter poverty after paying unbearable rents. If by chance he could escape from them he fell in the clutches of the money-lenders. He had to mortgage his home and hearth and take debt which reduced him to a pauper. From the government he received more trouble than facilities. he was forced to cultivate jute and cotton which were needed as raw materials by the factories in England. He had no choice to cultivate what was more paying to him. Consequently his conditions became gradually miserable and he sank
in debt. On the other hand, the subsidiary crafts and cottage industries · had also been adversely affected.
Effects of Different Revenue Systems on the Peasants
Effects of the Ijaredari or the Bird System. With a view to promote the interests of the Company Lord Warren Hastings had encouraged the bid system or Ijare dari. Under this system the particular area of land was given to the highest bidder. Such a bidder could never think of improving the lot of the peasants. His only concern was more and more income by extracting more and more revenue by resorting to all kinds of high-handedness. As a result about one-third of the Bengal peasants fled from their villages in search of alternative means of living while a few joined the bands of robbers and dacoits.
Effects of the Permanent Settlement. When Lord Cornwallis noticed that the Ijarcdari system had proved utter failure he replaced it by another system called the Permanent Settlement. This system was introduced in Bengal in 1793 A.D. Under this system the zamindars were supposed to pay a fixed amount as revenue to the Government. Thus the zamindars began oppressing the peasants as hard as they could. The peasants were obliged to render free service or ‘begar lo the zamindars although a fixed revenue was paid by them.
Peasants and the Ryotwari System. This system was introduced in Madras. Under this system there were no intermediaries nor were there any landlords. The peasants were the tenants of the government. The rent was to be fixed for a period of thirty years. But even this system failed to solve the problems of the peasants. Under this system there
were no private zamindars but the government itself became a bigger zamindar. But the government official and revenue collectors were in no any less oppressive than the zamindars. For the peasants both the government and the zamindars were the two sides of the same coin. Coercion was used to collect rent from them and no facilities were provided to them in return. Thus the condition of the peasantry deteriorated day by day. Drought and famine further impoverished him as the peasant was reduced to a virtual pauper. The three culprits in this regard were the landlord, the government and the money-lender. Like vultures they tore the very flesh of his body.
Indifferent Attitude of the British Government towards the Peasantry and Encouragement to Money-lenders, Zamindars and traders. There was a strong pressure on land due to the craze for the possession of a piece of land among the ryots. It also pushed up the rents. Big traders and money-lenders as well Indian traders who had lost the race against the British traders also acquired land and became zamindars in order to improve their status. In fact the. British Government was least concerned with the well-being of the ryots nor was she interested in introducing agricultural reforms. Consequently they fell in the clutches of the money-lenders. In order to save their lands they borrowed from money-lenders at exorbitant rates of interest. In return they had to mortgage their land and homes which they could seldom redeem.
In this way the zamindars system did immense harm not only to the peasants but also to the whole nation. The growth of the zamindari system also made a dent to the nationalistic movement as the zamindars never wanted the British, who were their real benefactors, to leave this country. They always helped the government in suppressing the nationalists. They also know that if a nationalist government came in power they would be accountable for their excesses and probably their very existence would be threatened. Thus in case of the British leaving the country their own future seemed dark. But at a later stage some of these zamindars understood the real nature of the nationalist movement and threw themselves with the revolutionaries. But such zamindars were only few in number and all of them were not inspired by these noble sentiments. They were blinded by their own selfishness
and it was quite hard for them to see the light of reason.