Learn about modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present. Read to know more about the significant events, personalities and issues in modern India.
Modern Indian history refers to the period of Indian history beginning in the middle of the 18th century, following the collapse of the mighty Mughal Empire, and continuing through to the present day.
This period is characterized by the rise of nationalist movements, the struggle for independence from British colonial rule, and the formation of the modern nation-state of India.
Key figures in modern Indian history include Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Sardar Patel.
The period has also seen significant economic and social changes and the rise of India as a major player in the global economy.
Also read: Delegated Legislation
Modern Indian History: From the Mughal Empire to Independence and Beyond
Modern Indian history covers a wide range of events and developments, from the decline of the Mughal Empire and the rise of British colonial rule to the Indian independence movement and the challenges faced by the newly independent nation.
The decline of the Mughal Empire
The middle of the 18th century marked the beginning of the decline of the Mughal Empire (Early Mughals) in India, which had been a dominant political and cultural force for centuries.
This period saw the rise of regional powers, such as the Marathas who began to challenge the Mughal rule. The British East India Company too tried to gain control of large parts of India through a series of military conquests and economic manipulation.
The emergence of the British as the central controlling authority
During the 19th century, the British established a firm hold on India. The British started implementing their policies in India. The British used India as a colonial market which resulted in a significant ‘Drain of Wealth’ from India to the United Kingdom. The British policy of ‘Divide and Rule’ created tension among communities in India and affected its unity and integration. However, some of the British measures like the creation of a centralized bureaucracy, the introduction of Western-style education, and the expansion of infrastructure, such as railways and telegraph lines gave India a modern outlook.
Wish to know more? Read: The British Expansion in India – East India Company, Presidencies, Governor-generals, and Battles
Dissatisfaction against the Foreign rule
Unlike the Mughals, the British never integrated completely with the Indians. Many Indians were not happy under foreign rule and white supremacy. The Indian nationalist movement began to take shape in the late 19th century. Leaders such as Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal called for greater Indian self-rule.
Wish to know more? Read:
- The Changes introduced by the British in India
- Popular Uprisings and Revolts against the British
- Socio-Religious Movements in India
Nationalist Movements and Independence
However, it was Mahatma Gandhi who truly galvanized the Indian people and led the country on the path of non-violent resistance against British colonial rule. With the support of millions of Indians, Gandhi’s campaigns of civil disobedience and non-cooperation forced the British government to negotiate with Indian leaders and eventually grant independence in 1947.
Wish to know more? Read: India’s struggle for independence: The Indian Freedom Movement
Building of a new nation under Nehru
The period following independence saw the country under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister. Nehru implemented policies of planned economic development and industrialization, which led to rapid economic growth and social change in India. However, Nehru’s focus on socialism and state control also led to inefficiencies and slow growth in certain sectors.
Wars with Pakistan and China
India’s relations with Pakistan, which was formed as a separate country for Muslims, have been marked by conflict and tension, including multiple wars and ongoing disputes over the region of Kashmir. India has also faced political instability, with frequent changes in government and a rise in regional, religious, and caste-based politics.
Economic Liberlisation and Globalisation
In the 1990s, under Prime Minister P.V Narasimha Rao and his finance minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, India adopted economic liberalization policies, leading to a significant increase in economic growth and foreign investment. This also led to a rapid expansion of the middle class and significant improvements in living standards for many Indians.
Significant progress in spite of challenges
India has continued to grow economically and politically in the 21st century, with a rising global profile and increasing influence in international affairs. The country has also made significant progress in areas such as technology, space exploration, and renewable energy. However, India still faces many challenges, including poverty, inequality, and communal tensions.
Significant events in the Modern Indian History
There have been many significant events in modern Indian history from 1750 to 1947. One of the most important events during this period was the British colonization of India, which began in the 18th century and lasted until the middle of the 20th century.
The Indian Rebellion of 1857, also known as the Indian Mutiny, was a major event that marked the beginning of the end of British East India Company rule in India and led to the British Crown taking direct control of the country.
The Non-Cooperation Movement led by Mahatma Gandhi in the 1920s, the Salt Satyagraha in 1930 and the Quit India Movement in 1942 were some of the key events in the Indian independence movement. These events led to a growing sense of nationalism among Indians and ultimately led to the country gaining independence from British rule in 1947. This was a significant event not only for India but also for the entire subcontinent, as it led to the creation of Pakistan as well.
Another important event in Indian history was the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. Gandhi was a key leader in the independence movement and his death had a profound impact on the country.
The Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 and 1971, the economic liberalization of 1991, the Pokhran nuclear test of 1998, the Kargil War of 1999 and the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack of 2008 are some of the other notable events in modern Indian history.
Indian Rebellion of 1857
Also known as the Indian Mutiny or the First War of Independence, this was a major rebellion against British colonial rule in India.
Birth of the Indian National Congress (INC) in 1885
The Indian National Congress, a political party which became the primary voice of the Indian independence movement, was founded in 1885.
The partition of Bengal in 1905
The partition of Bengal in 1905 by the British government was an attempt to weaken the growing nationalist movement through the ‘Divide and Rule’ policy. Many Indians opposed this.
The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre of 1919
The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre of 1919, where British troops killed hundreds of unarmed Indian civilians, was a turning point in Indian history and increased the resentment towards British rule.
Non-Cooperation Movement in 1920
Led by Mahatma Gandhi, this movement was a major campaign of civil disobedience and non-violent resistance against British colonial rule.
The Civil Disobedience Movement in 1930
The Salt Satyagraha in 1930 led by Mahatma Gandhi, was a peaceful protest against the British salt monopoly and became a symbol of resistance to British rule.
The Government of India Act 1935
The Government of India Act 1935 was passed, which aimed to give Indians more representation in government but was widely criticized for falling short of true self-government.
World War II
The forced involvement of India in World War II put a heavy burden on the economy and increased resentment towards British rule.
The Quit India Movement in 1942
The Quit India Movement in 1942, was a mass civil disobedience movement called by Mahatma Gandhi for immediate independence of India, it was one of the most aggressive movements against British colonial rule.
The Indian Independence Act of 1947
This act passed by the British parliament granted independence to India and Pakistan on 15th August 1947.
Partition of India in 1947
In 1947, British India was partitioned into the independent nations of India and Pakistan, with a large-scale population exchange of Hindus and Muslims.
India-China War 1962
The war fought between India and China in 1962 over the disputed border region resulted in a Chinese victory.
The Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s
The period of increase in agricultural production in India in the 1960s and 1970s was due to the introduction of high-yielding varieties of seeds, fertilizers, and irrigation facilities.
Indian Nuclear Program in 1974
In 1974 India successfully detonated a nuclear device, becoming the 6th nuclear weapons state in the world.
The Emergency in 1975
In 1975, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency in India, suspending civil liberties and democratic institutions.
The assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1884
Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India was assassinated by her own bodyguards in 1984.
Economic Liberalization in 1991
In 1991, under Prime Minister P.V Narasimha Rao and his finance minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, India adopted economic liberalization policies.
The Mumbai Bombings in 1993
A series of bombings in Mumbai in 1993, orchestrated by organized crime groups, resulted in the deaths of over 250 people.
Rise of Right-wing Politics from the late 1990s
From the late 1990s, India saw the rise of right-wing, Hindu nationalist politics, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The Kargil War of 1999
A conflict between India and Pakistan in 1999, fought in the Kargil district of Kashmir, resulted in an Indian victory.
The Gujarat Riots of 2002
In 2002, Hindu-Muslim riots broke out in the state of Gujarat, resulting in the deaths of over 1000 people, mostly Muslims.
The 26/11 Mumbai Terror Attacks in 2008
A series of terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008, carried out by a Pakistan-based militant group, resulted in the deaths of over 160 people.
The Anna Hazare Movement in 2011
The movement led by Anna Hazare in 2011, demanded the implementation of the Jan Lokpal Bill, a proposed anti-corruption law.
The 2014 General Election
The BJP led by Narendra Modi emerged as the single largest party in the general elections, leading to Modi becoming the Prime Minister.
Demonetization in 2016
In 2016, the Indian government demonetized the 500 and 1000 rupee notes, effectively rendering 86% of the cash in circulation invalid.
The abrogation of Article 370 in 2019
In 2019, the Indian government revoked the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, sparking widespread protests and criticism from various political parties and human rights organizations
The COVID-19 Pandemic
India was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, with a lot of cases and deaths.
Significant Personalities in Modern Indian History
There have been many significant personalities in modern Indian history who have played a crucial role in shaping the country.
Considered the “Father of the Nation,” Mahatma Gandhi led the Indian independence movement through non-violent civil disobedience and is considered one of the most influential figures in Indian history.
India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru played a key role in shaping the country’s foreign and domestic policies following independence.
Known as the “Iron Man of India,” Sardar Patel played a key role in the integration of the princely states into the Indian Union following independence.
B. R. Ambedkar
An Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer, Ambedkar was the main architect of the Indian Constitution and champion for the rights of Dalits (formerly known as “untouchables”) and other marginalized communities.
Subhas Chandra Bose
A prominent Indian nationalist leader, Subhas Chandra Bose was a key figure in the Indian independence movement and advocated for a more aggressive approach to achieving freedom from British rule.
India’s first President, Rajendra Prasad played a key role in the drafting of the Indian Constitution and in the early years of the Indian Republic.
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
A prominent Muslim leader, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was a key figure in the Indian independence movement and served as India’s first Education Minister following independence.
A freedom fighter and one of the first leaders of the Indian National Congress, Rajagopalachari served as the last Governor-General of India and later as the Chief Minister of Madras state.
Bhagat Singh was an Indian revolutionary socialist who was influential in the Indian independence movement, he is considered to be one of the most influential revolutionaries of the Indian independence movement, and is often referred to as Shaheed Bhagat Singh, the word “Shaheed” meaning “martyr” in Arabic.
India’s first female Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi was a powerful political figure who implemented policies of economic development and industrialization, but also faced criticism for authoritarianism and human rights abuses.
The son of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi served as Prime Minister of India and was responsible for introducing several economic and technological advancements in the country.
V. P. Singh
The 7th Prime Minister of India, Singh was a leader of the Janata Dal party and is remembered for his efforts to address issues of caste discrimination and corruption.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee
A former Prime Minister of India, Vajpayee was a leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and played a key role in shaping India’s foreign policy.
India’s first Sikh Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh served two terms as Prime Minister and is credited with implementing economic liberalization policies that led to significant growth in the Indian economy.
The current Prime Minister of India, Modi is a leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and has implemented a range of economic and social policies during his time in office.
Major Issues in the Modern Indian History
Modern India witnessed many problems and issues. The major issues in the history of modern India include poverty, inequality, caste discrimination, communal tensions etc. Most of these issues are still prevalent in India.
(1) Colonialism and the Drain of Wealth
The impact of British colonialism on India, including the exploitation of resources and the suppression of Indian culture and identity, was a major issue in modern Indian history.
(2) Communal Tensions and Religious Violence
India has a diverse population made up of many different religious and ethnic groups. Communal tensions and religious violence, particularly between Hindus and Muslims, have been recurring issues in modern Indian history.
(3) Caste Discrimination
India’s caste system, which has traditionally determined a person’s social status and occupation based on birth, has been a major issue in modern Indian history. Discrimination and violence against lower castes, particularly Dalits (formerly known as “untouchables”), have been widespread.
Despite significant economic growth in recent decades, poverty remains a major issue in India. Millions of Indians still live in extreme poverty.
There is a wide gap between the rich and the poor.
(6) Political Instability and Corruption
India has seen frequent changes in government and political instability, with a rise in regional and caste-based politics. Corruption has also been a major issue, with many politicians and bureaucrats being accused of corrupt practices.
(7) Separatist movements
India is a diverse country. Many regions have their own distinct cultural and linguistic identities. Separatist movements in many states/regions in India have been a major issue in modern Indian history.
(8) Human rights violations
The suppression of civil liberties and democratic institutions, violence against marginalized communities, and extrajudicial killings are reported in India.
(9) Environmental degradation
India’s rapid economic growth has led to a significant increase in pollution and environmental degradation, with issues such as deforestation, water pollution, and air pollution becoming increasingly severe.
(10) Political Instability
The 1990s and 2000s saw a rise in regional and caste-based politics. This resulted in coalition politics and political instability. Even though not without criticism, the popularity of right-wing politics resulted in a stable majority government in India after 2014.
(11) India-Pakistan Conflicts
The relationship between India and Pakistan, which have a long-standing dispute over the region of Kashmir, has been a major issue in modern Indian history. The two countries have fought several wars, and tensions between them remain high.
(12) India-China Conflicts
India and China engaged in war in 1962 over territorial disputes and conflicts, which resulted in a Chinese victory. There are ongoing border disputes in the Himalayan region.
(13) Internal Security Issues
Internal security issues in India include a range of challenges that affect the country’s stability and safety. Some of the major internal security issues in India include Insurgency, Terrorism, Naxalism, Cybercrimes etc.
In conclusion, modern Indian history is a multifaceted story of political struggles, economic development, and social change.
From the decline of the Mughal Empire to the rise of the nationalist movement, from the struggle for independence to the challenges of building a modern nation-state, the history of India is a story of a people’s determination to shape their own destiny.
Also read: Modern Indian History Books and Authors