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"The role of the Indian Army at the end of the Eighteenth" Topic


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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP14 Jan 2020 8:40 p.m. PST

…Century

"While the East India Company are permitted to hold the revenue of India, they must furnish money for the payment of military expenses upon the spot; but beyond that I cannot see any good reason why the British Empire in India is to be protected by any other troops than those employed for the protection of the rest of the Empire. HENRY DUNDAS

To the evangelicals and utilitarians early in the nineteenth century, anglicizing India was to atone for the sin of its conquest. Given an opportunity, Indians would be delighted to adopt English attitudes and customs. Christianity in particular would consolidate British rule by introducing their subjects to ‘loyalty, submission, obedience, quietness, peace, patience and cheerfulness'.(2) Christianity had other merits than truth: the panacea for all social ills, it would reduce the danger of rebellion. In the late eighteenth century Englishmen were not so ashamed of their conquest, nor so confident that, even if they wished, they might atone for it. The possibility of conciliating Indians appeared doubtful, the danger of rebellion permanent. The danger was increased after 1798 by the equally permanent fear of European invasion. There was no alternative to ruling India by force: the question was how to do so most efficiently at the least cost. This provoked an argument both in India and in London about the proper role of the Indian Army.

The East India Company was a trading company whose principal export was men. These young men, uneducated and untrained had one outstanding merit; they did not run away in battle. The British conquered much of India, partly because they could rely upon the native princes to quarrel with one another, partly because they could rely upon their troops to run away. Of the value of European discipline and leadership the British had no doubt. While Bonaparte was in Egypt, they were certain that no Turkish army could bar his way to India.(3) They were equally certain that if reinforced by one or two Englishmen the Turks' behaviour would be transformed.(4) For the same reason the British were anxious to prevent individual Frenchmen from travelling overland to India.(5) Even if Sindhia, who employed them, should not choose at first to fight the British, he would be able to overpower the other native states. The Governor-General, the Marquess Wellesley claimed that these Frenchmen were Jacobins,(6) but it was not their opinions but their presence that was dangerous. The security of British India depended upon their singular military system. If the native states who relied principally on irregular cavalry, should ever have put into the field an equal number of regular infantry, trained and commanded by Europeans, the British Indian Army would have lost its distinction. In the late eighteenth century everyone admitted that British India depended upon this army: they disagreed about what could be expected of it and how it should be organized…"
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