India on the eve of British Conquest


Socio-Economic Conditions

  • Eighteenth century India failed to make progress economically, socially or culturally
  • India became a land of contrasts because extreme poverty and extreme luxury existed side by side.




  • Though agriculture was technically backward, it was worked by the hard labour of peasants
  • They were forced to pay exorbitant amounts to the state, the zamindars, the jagirdars, and the revenue-farmers
  • But this worsened under British rule



Trade and Industry

  • On account of being self-sufficient in handicrafts and agricultural products, India did not import foreign goods on a large scale.




  • Persian Gulf Region – 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 woollen cloth
  • Africa – ivory and drugs
  • Europe – woollen cloth, copper, iron, lead and paper



  • Cotton textiles, raw silk and silk fabrics, hardware, indigo, saltpetre, opium, rice, wheat, sugar, pepper and other spices, precious stones, and drugs


Important Centres of Textile Industry

  • Dacca, Murshidabad, Patna, Surat, Ahmedabad
  • Kashmir was a centre of woollen manufactures.


Ship-building Industry

  • Maharashtra, Andhra region and Bengal were the leaders in ship building.
  • Indian shipping also flourished on the Kerala coast at Calicut and Quilon.
  • European companies bought many Indian-made ships for their use.



Status of Education

  • knowledge was confined to literature, law, religion, philosophy, and logic
  • It excluded the study of physical and natural sciences, technology and geography
  • Hindu and Muslim elementary schools were called pathshalas and maktabs respectively
  • Children from the lower caste sometimes attended the schools, but female presence was rare




Societal Set-up

  • Society of 18th century India was characterised by traditional outlook and stagnation
  • People were divided by caste, religion, region, tribe and language.
  • The family system was primarily patriarchal and caste was the central feature of the social life of the Hindus
  • The sharif Muslims consisting of nobles, scholars, priests and army affairs often looked down upon the ajlaf Muslims or the lower class Muslims.



Position of Women

  • upper class women remained at home, lower class women worked in fields and outside their homes supplementing the family income.
  • Ppurdah, sati, child marriage, polygamy did exist which hindered the progress of women.
  • Life of Hindu widow was usually miserable.
  • Evil of dowry was especially widespread in Bengal and Rajputana



Menace of Slavery

  • Higher classes of Rajputs, Khatris and Kayasthas kept women slave for domestic work.
  • Status of slaves in India was better than that in Europe.
  • Slaves, were usually treated as hereditary servants
  • European trading companies purchased slaves from the markets of Bengal, Assam and Bihar and took them to the European and American market


Development in Art, Architecture and Culture

  • At Lucknow, Asaf-ud-Daula built the bada Imambara in 1784.
  • Sawai Jai Singh built the pink city of Jaipur and five astronomical observatives at Delhi, Jaipur, Benares,
  • Mathura and Ujjain. He also prepared a set of time-tables called Jij Muhammad-shahi, to help the people in the study of astronomy.
  • In the south, in Kerala, the Padmanabhapuram Palace, famous for its architecture and mural paintings.
  • Kanchan Nambiar was a noted Malayalam poet.
  • The Tamil language was enriched by sittar poetry.
  • Tayumanavar (1706-44), one of the best exponents of  sittar poetry, protested against the abuses of temple-rule and the caste system.
  • Heer Ranjha, the romantic epic in Punjabi literature, was composed by Warris Shah.
  • In Sindhi literature, Shah Abdul Latif composed Risalo, a collection of poems.



en English

You cannot copy content of this page

Mock Tests