by Roderick MatthewsBRITISH INDIA AND THE COMING OF THE RAILWAYS
eBook published by IDEAINDIA.COM
© Roderick Matthews 2008
The introduction of railways to India in the 1850s produced far-reaching change. In many ways it was meant to. New markets for goods were opened up, raw materials were made accessible, tunnels were dug and bridges built, soldiers were moved further and faster. Above all, capital was invested and returns secured. As a secondary effect internal regional trade was redirected and the labour market altered so that over the next century agricultural production was reshaped in tandem with a mass migration to the cities. For the British rulers, administrative and military efficiency were enhanced, as foreseen, but at the same time opposition to the Raj was more easily mobilised. Worse, the new expensive technical infrastructure of colonial rule proved to be alarmingly vulnerable to popular disruption in a country of such extended scale. Physical change appeared around major cities with the expansion of suburban sprawl, and in rural areas too, with deforestation and the creation of new malarial swamps by the enormous earthworks flung across the land. The line between pilgrimage and tourism became ever more blurred. Physical as well as spiritual health was compromised as epidemic diseases could now pass as rapidly among the population as political ideas….
There is also the complex irony that although many nationalist figures resented and opposed the railways from a variety of angles, it is also arguable that the making of India as a political nation was vastly abetted and accelerated by the coming of those same railways. The rapid physical transportation of people made the early conferences of Congress Party possible in a way that bullock carts could not have, while it also facilitated the dissemination of the printed material essential to the formation of a national opposition. The creation of the modern Indian nation economically, politically and figuratively is inextricably bound up with steam engines. They provided the accelerated movement of men and goods that generated both economic grievances and the means to discuss and protest against them. They demonstrated the political manipulation of the country in a physical way and at the same time provided physical freedom to assemble in opposition. As with education the British were directly responsible for fashioning the tools that guaranteed their own expulsion. And as in the field of wider politics, the two world wars of the twentieth century were crucially defining moments for India’s railways.
Roderick Matthews, Historian, Obtained a First from Balliol College, Oxford in Modern History. Studied Medieval History under Maurice Keen. Studied Tudor and Stuart History under Christopher Hill, Master of Balliol College. Studied European History under Colin Lucas, later Master of Balliol College and Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University. Studied Imperial History under Professor Paul Longford, Rector of Lincoln College.
|Title||British India And The Coming Of The Railways|
|eBook format||Kindle Edition, (torrent)|
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