Westernization

British rule produced radical and lasting changes in Indian society and culture. It was unlike any previous period in Indian history as the British brought with them new technology, institutions, knowledge, beliefs and values. The new technology, and the revolution in communications which this brought about, enabled the British to integrate the country as never before in its history. During the nineteenth century the British slowly laid the foundations of a modern state by surveying land, settling the revenue, creating a modern bureaucracy, army and police, instituting law courts, codifying the law, developing communications—railways, post and telegraph, roads and canals—establishing schools and colleges, and so on. The British also brought with them the printing press,and the profound and many-sided changes this brought about in Indian life and thought deserve a volume in itself. One obvious result was that books and journals, along with schools, made possible the transmission of modern as well as traditional knowledge to large numbers of Indians—knowledge which could no longer be the privilege of a few, hereditary groups—while the newspapers made people in different parts of the far-flung country realize they had common bonds, and that events happening in the world outside influenced their lives for good or ill, which eventually resulted in setting up of the removal of barriers.

It is necessary to distinguish conceptually between Westernization and two other processes usually concomitant with it—industrialization and urbanization. On the one hand, there were cities in the preindustrial world, though they differed significantly from the cities of the Industrial Revolution in the West. For one thing, they needed large rural populations for their support, so that ancient and medieval countries remained dominantly agricultural in spite of a few great cities. Again, while the Industrial Revolution resulted in an increase in the rate of urbanization and “highly urbanized areas are generally highly industrialized areas, urbanization is not a simple function of industrialization.”

Finally, while the most Westernized groups are generally found in the big cities, a caution must be uttered against equating Westernization with urbanization. Even in a country such as India, it is possible to come across groups inhabiting rural areas which are more Westernized in their style of life than many urban groups. The former are to be found in areas where plantation or commercial crops are grown, or which have a tradition of supplying recruits to the Indian army.

Westernization results not only in the introduction of new institutions (for example, newspapers, elections, Christian missions) but also in fundamental changes in the old institutions. Thus while India had schools long before the arrival of the British, they were different from British-introduced schools in that they had been restricted to upper-caste children, and transmitted mostly traditional knowledge—to mention only two of the most important differences. Other institutions such as the army, civil service and law courts were also similarly affected. As a result all this included in this as a major aspect for the westernization which took place.

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