The history of British expansion in India is a captivating tale of power, ambition, and resistance that has left an indelible mark on the Indian subcontinent. For UPSC Civil Services aspirants, delving into this historical narrative is not just a matter of academic interest but a crucial step in understanding the socio-political dynamics of modern India. To assist you in this intellectual journey, we have compiled a comprehensive collection of previous year questions related to British expansion in India from the UPSC Mains examinations held between 2013 and 2023. In this blog series, we will explore the evolution of British rule in India, the factors that facilitated their expansion, the responses from various Indian communities, and the lasting legacy of colonialism in the subcontinent.
By revisiting these questions from a decade’s worth of UPSC Mains papers, we aim to provide a valuable resource for history optional candidates preparing for the Civil Services examination. Whether you are a seasoned history scholar or a newcomer to the subject, this series will shed light on the key themes, events, and personalities that shaped India’s history during the British Raj. Join us as we embark on a journey through time, exploring the intricate tapestry of British expansion in India and its profound impact on the nation’s destiny.
British Expansion in India History – Previous Year Questions (UPSC CSE Mains History Optional)
Bengal – Mir Jafar and Mir Kasim; The Battle of Buxar; Mysore; The Marathas; The three Anglo-Maratha Wars; The Punjab.
1. “Thus ended the famous battle of Buxar, on which depended the fate of India and which was as gallantly disputed as was important in its results.” Comment in about 200 words. (1985)
2. ‘Upon the whole, then, I conclude that the treaty of Bassein was wise, just and a politic measure.’ Comment in about 200 words. (1986)
3. ‘The revolution of 1760 (Bengal) was really no revolution.’ Comment in about 200 words. (1987)
4. “… the hunt of the Pindaris became merged in the Third Maratha War.’ Comment in about 200 words. (1989)
5. ‘We have no right to seize Sind, yet we shall do so, and a very advantageous, useful and human piece of rascality it will be.’ Comment in about 200 words. (1990)
6. The British conquest of Sind was both a political and moral sequel to the first Afghan war. Comment. (1995)
7. “The verdict of Plassey was confirmed by the English victory at Buxar.” Comment. (1996)
8. ‘The treaty of Bassein, by its direct and indirect operations, gave the Company the Empire of India.’ Comment. (1993)
9. How did the British establish their control over Maharashtra in the first two decades of the 19th century? Why did the Maratha challenge ultimately collapse? (1994)
10. Explain the British policy of ‘Subordinate union’ of Indian States with British India from 1858 to 1905. How did the Government of India implement this policy during this period? (1995)
11. ‘This Anglo – Maratha War covering nearly nine years from the murder of Narayan Rao to the Treaty of Salbye emphatically discloses the vitality of the Maratha nation which had not been exhausted either by the disaster of Panipat or the death of their great Peshwa Madhavrao.’ Comment. (1995)
12. The British policy towards Indian States in 1818-1858 was one of “isolation and noninterference tempered by annexation.” Comment. (1996)
13. The British conquered India “in a fit of absent mindedness.” Comment. (1997)
14. The British “fought the First Maratha War in a period when their fortunes were at the lowest ebb”. Comment. (1998)
15. Sir Charles Napier said, “We have no right to seize Sind, yet we shall do so, and a very advantageous, useful, human piece of rascality it will be”. Comment. (2000)
16. ‘Dalhousie changed the map of India with speed and thoroughness no campaign could equal.’ Comment. (2001)
17. “The verdict at Plassey was confirmed by the English victory at Buxar.” Comment. (2002)
18. “The rise and expansion of British empire was an accident rather than the result of a deliberate policy and design.” Critically examine this statement. (2002)
19. ‘The Treaty of Salbai (1782) was neither honourable to the English nor advantageous to their interests.’ Comment. (2004)
20. ‘Upon the whole, then, I conclude that the treaty of Bassein was wise, just and a politic measure.’ Comment. (2005)
21. Examine the essential principles of the Subsidiary Alliance system. How far did it contribute in making the British Company the supreme sovereign authority in India? (2005)
22. Examine the circumstances which led to the Third Mysore War. Could Cornwallis have avoided it? (2006)
23. Why was Mysore – considered a threat by the British to their possessions and mercantile interests in the south. Do you think that Tipu Sultan’s posturing became his undoing? (2009)
24. How did the East Indian Company become the dejure power in India? (2009)
25. “Punjab’s fate after Ranjit Singh was foredoomed as the impulse of neo – Victorian Imperialism was bound to overwhelm it.” Elucidate. (2010)
26. ‘Annexation of Punjab was part of a broad north-west frontier policy set in motion after the exit of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.” Critically examine. (2015)
27. “The Maratha polity disintegrated through internal stress.” Critically comment in 150 words. (2017)
28.Underline the major considerations of the British imperial power that led to the annexation of Punjab. (2017)
29. “Tipu Sultan was trying to build in Mysore a strong centralised and militarised state, with ambitious territorial designs.” Critically examine. (2019)
30. Do you subscribe to the view that the Anglo-French tussle in Carnatic demonstrated the internal decay of the provincial chieftains of South India? (2019)
31. Critically examine (150 words): “Maharaja Ranjit Singh died in 1839. His death was the signal for an outburst of anarchy all over the Punjab.” (2020)
32. Critically examine the following statement in about 150 words: Tipu Sultan had little success in setting forth a course of change significantly different from the general experience of the 18th century crisis of Indian politics and society where public life tended over and over to become a system of plundering. (2021)
33. The East India Company had thought that they had found an ideal puppet in Mir Kasim. Mir Kasim, however, belied the expectation of the company. Examine critically. (2021)
34. While individually the Marathas were clever and brave, they lacked the corporate spirit so essential for national independence. Discuss with reasons. (2021)
FAQs on British Expansion in India
Q: What was the East India Company, and how did it play a role in British colonization of India?
A: The East India Company was a British trading company that played a significant role in India’s colonization. It established trade relations in the 17th century and eventually assumed territorial control over parts of India. Learn more about its transformation from a trading entity to a colonial power.
Q: What were the main reasons for the British Empire’s interest in India?
A: The British Empire’s interest in India was driven by economic, strategic, and geopolitical factors. Explore the motivations behind British imperialism in India, including the desire for raw materials, trade routes, and geopolitical dominance.
Q: How did the British Empire rule India, and what were the key policies and administrative systems during its colonial period?
A: The British Empire governed India through a system of direct and indirect rule. Learn about the administrative structures, policies, and systems they implemented, including the role of the Indian Civil Service, the Doctrine of Lapse, and the impact of British institutions on Indian society.
Q: What were the major consequences of British colonization in India, both positive and negative?
A: British rule had far-reaching consequences on India, ranging from modernization and infrastructure development to the exploitation of resources and social disruption. Understand the complex legacy of British colonization in India, which continues to shape the nation’s identity today.
Q: How did India gain independence from the British Empire, and what role did key figures like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru play in the struggle for freedom?
A: India’s journey to independence involved a long and arduous struggle led by prominent leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Explore the pivotal moments, movements, and figures that led to India’s eventual independence from British colonial rule.
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