Lecture 27—India, the Islamic Heartlands, and Africa

Lecture 27—India, the Islamic Heartlands, and Africa:
The Challenge of Modernity (1800-1945)
The Indian Experience
British Dominance and Colonial Rule: By the early 19th century, Britain
dominated India and the surrounding waters. India became the crown of the
British Empire.
Building the Empire: The First Half of the Nineteenth Century: It took
generations for the British East India Company to slowly subjugate India,
a project which had not been planned from the start. Slowly, states were
brought under British 'protection', then direct rule. Many princely states
survived, self-governed but subject to higher British authority. They
ranged in size from a square mile to the 80,000 square miles of
Hyderabad. So British India was a patchwork of provinces, small
tributary states, and large tributaries. The BEIC squeezed its provinces
and tributaries to pay for its expensive wars. Peasants deserted the land in
response; by the 1830s, demand for Indian exports of Indigo, cotton, and
opium was slumping and land revenues falling. Company rule tended to
supress nomads and pastoralists in favor of settled commodity agriculture.
Logging lead to deforestation. And the Indians constantly but
unsuccessfully revolted.
The Sepoy Rebellion: This culminated in the Sepoy Mutiny / Indian
Uprising of 1857. The BEIC made heavy use of troops recruited in India,
the Sepoys, including Muslims and Hindus. These men typically came
from the warrior caste. Rumors spread that pork and beef grease was used
in the military's cartridges (which had to be bitten open to get the powder
out). This was unacceptable to the troops due to religious dietary
restrictions. Combined with economic problems, the admission of lowcaste members to the military, taxation complaints and anger over the
British annexation of the rich state of Aswadh, the men rose up. Delhi
was the center of the revolt, along with some other cities. However, the
British retained control of Bengal and Punjab and now recruited forces of
Sikhs, Gurkhas, and low-caste people and drowned the rebels in
manpower. By the fall it was crushed, but now the British East India
Company was dissolved and in 1858, Britain assumed rule over India, a
period known as the raj.
British-Indian Relations: The biggest impact of the British on India was
economic, integrating it into the global market and turning it into a
producer of raw materials on a large scale. The East India Company had
little interest in cultural imperialism; indeed, it tended to appreciate Indian
culture so long as it wasn't in the way of economic profit. Still, it had its
officers learn native languages and didn't spread Christianity. There was,
however, a permanent, sometimes paternalistic barrier between Indians
and the British; even when many upper-class Indians assimilated aspects
of British culture and education and came to hold high bureaucratic
positions, the British remained on top. The British saw themselves as
governing an inferior 'race' that couldn't govern itself. (Heritage, p. 804.)
Over time, some upper-class Indians assimilated aspects of British
culture—clothing, ideals of British liberalism, education, manners, etc.
The most famous of these was Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833), a Bengali
Hindu who rose to the top of the native-staffed levels of the BEIC and
called for reforms in line with the supposed ideals of Britain. Roy wanted
to meld the best of European, Christian and Hindu morality and piety
together. Despite men like him, the British continued to treat the natives
as barbarians in need of a firm paternalistic hand over them. The Indians
naturally resented this; by 1900, the Indian nationalist movement had
penetrated down to the peasant level of society.
From British Crown Raj to Independence
The Burden of Crown Rule: The Revolt of 1857 led to a stronger and
more British army (25% British, 75% Indian) which cost a third of India's
annual revenues to support. As the population grew, the strain on the poor
grew ever greater. Craft industries collapsed in the face of British
manufactures, but the land couldn't absorb the labor. The 1857 revolt also
led to distrust of Indians in the colonial administration. Despite the
opening of civil service positions to Indian, racism and distrust held
Indians down. The Marquis of Ripon (1880-4), during his tenure as
governor, did his best to appoint Indian judges and fight discrimination.
Indian Resistance: Indians began finding ways to resist British rule. In
1885, Indian modernists founded the Indian National Congress to reform
traditional Hindu and Moslem practices which didn't fit their vision of
modernity, such as wives throwing themselves on their husband's funeral
pyre, and to push the British to end illiberalism and discrimination in their
administration. The Muslim League developed in counterbalance to the
Hindu dominated INC. Divisions between regions, between the
modernizers and the average peasant or worker, and mistrust among
religions hampered cooperation.
Indian IndependenceThere were three major components to the growing
independence movement:
1) Those in the INC who sought Indian self-governance, pushing
the British to change the system from within it. Mohandas K.
Gandhi (1869-1948) and his disciple Jawaharlal Nehru (18801964) emerged as leaders of this movement. Gandhi combined
the thought of India and Britain (he was a lawyer trained in a
British university and schools), teaching a philosophy of
peaceful ('passive') resistance.
2) Militant Hindu natoionalists, led by B. G. Tilak (1856-1929).
Tilak was anti-Moslem, Hindus-only, and stressed teaching
Indian languages in schools. (Ironically, B. G. Tilak hired later
Muslim League leader Muhammed Ali Jinnah to defend him
when he was thrown in jail for sedition in 1905.) They
declined in importance after 1914, but their ideas survive
3) Moslems, divided by regional and ideological interests, made
up the third group. They feared to lose out to the Hindu
nationalists. The Moslems were slower to nationalize, and
tried to work with the British longer.
Hindu-Muslim Friction on the Road to Independence: In the 20th
century, Moslem fears of persecution in an independent India moved the
Moslems to work towards a seperate Moslem state. Sir Muhammed Iqbal
(1873-1938) was a Moslem poet from Sialkot in what is now Pakistan but
was British India. He was a great poet of Urdu and Persian and a
visionary for the creation of a seperate Moslem state in post-colonial
India. He had a European education and law practice, but his real efforts
went to scholarship and poetry, gaining a knighthood for one work. He
called for a revival of Islamic civilization, especially in India, and was one
of the leaders of the Muslim League. His protege, Muhammad Ali
Jinnah (1876-1949) started out as a politician in the INC, helping it to
form a pact with the Muslim League in 1916. He later moved over to the
Muslim League and gradually came around to his mentor's opinion that
Muslims could only protect themselves in their own state. In 1947, he
became the first Governor-General of Pakistan.
The Islamic Experience
Islamic Responses to Declining Power and Independence: By the 18th century,
the great Moslem states were in decline military, economically, and politically.
The Middle East had lost its geographic advantage as a middle man and drew less
trade. European powers were pushing in to control their resources. Moslem
reformers had to try to understand and find ways to counteract the roots of
European power. Did European ideas and secularism have to be imported?
Technology? Did Islam need a moral and spiritual reform and of what nature? A
variety of 18th-19th century reform movements tried to modernize the middle east.
Some emphasized adaptation to European practices, such as Tanzimat in the
Ottoman Empire. Others, like the Wahabis, called for rejection of the West.
The Wahabis: The followers of Ibn Abd al-Wahab (1703-1792). They
attacked what they saw as religious abuses—visits to the tombs of dead
saints, their veneration, religious supersititions, etc. Only the Qu'ran and
the Hadith (traditions of the Prophet) would serve as religious authority.
Allied to an Arabian prince, Sa'ud, they united what is now the nation of
Saudi Arabia.
Nostalgia: Many similar groups were basically driven by nostalgia for the
past and the belief that faith would somehow overcome Europe's
advantages. They also called for an Islam shorn of centuries of
accumulated cruft—Sufi orders, medieval legal schools and their
authoritarianism, superstitions, etc. Such response still endures today.
Western Political Encroachment: From the late 1700s to 1945, Moslem states
increasingly faced outside dictation by Europeans and Americans. Western
governments forced special treatment of themselves in return for propping up
local rulers. Internal disunity made it easy for Europeans to take over.
Napoleon's 1798 invasion of Egypt illustrated the growing weakness of the
Ottomans and other Moslem states. It showed the political disunity of Islam and
the military superiority of the Europeans. In 1801-5 and 1815, the US attacked
the Barbary Pirates and ended the traditional payment of tribute to them. The
British now began following policies to keep Russia away from various approach
points to India, including a contest for control of the Ottoman territories.
The Western Impact:
Iran: The Qajar Shahs of Iran were a Turkoman dynasty. They did not
claim a connection to the Imams and the Shi'ite ulema declined in
connection to the government, but grew in influence due to a movement
which emphasized chosing one of the ulema as your mujtahid, your
spiritual guide. The ulema grew stronger and criticized state action. An
alliance of modernists and ulema forced the Shah to back down in 1891
from a 50 year grant of a tobacco monopoly to a British company in 1890.
Ironically, this victory simply made Iran more dependent on Western
financiers, due to it having to borrow 500,000 pounds to pay the company
off. Western ideas of science, education, and law began to influence the
Iranian middle class. A mixture of religious and secular nationalism was
growing, which sometimes allied to check the absolutism of the Shahs.
Islamic Responses to Foreign Encroachment: 3 usual kinds: 1) Efforts at
westernization by secularists, 2) efforts to join the best of the West and Islam, and
3) fundamentalist calls for return to a purified Islam.
Emulation of the West: Muhammad Ali, pasha of Egypt from 1805 to
1849, was an example of Emulation. Muhammad Ali modernized the
army, introduced mechanized industry, rejuvenated agriculture and
introduced Western style education. Selim III (1762-1808), Mahmud II
(1808-1830), and the Tanizmat period (1839-1880) in the Ottoman Empire
were involved in efforts to appropriate Western ideas to strengthen the
empire. The army was modernized, the Jannisaries were purged, taxes
were reformed, and western educational ideas were introduced. The goal
was a modernized centralized government, not liberalization. These
reforms failed to save the empire, but they did lead to a Turkish
nationalism that would bring reforms after the fall of the Empire in World
War I. Musftafa Kemal (1881-1936), also known as 'Ataturk', led the
Turkish reforms, the 'Young Turks', who pushed for change in the early
20th century and ultimately reformed the state after 1918. Ataturk had six
principles: secularism, reformism, republicanism, nationalism, statism,
and populism. The caliphate and many forms of Arabic custom and usage
were abolished, a new civic law was introduced, the military was updated,
and even changes in clothing ensued. Turkey emerged as a secularized
democracy, able to hold its own in the larger world.
Integration of Western and Islamic Ideas: Jamal al-Din al-Afghani
(1839-1897) emphasized pan-Islamism, calling for the unity of the
Moslem world in the face of the challenge of the west. Muhammed
Abduh (1845-1905) was his egyptian disciple. He believed the Qu'ran
could be successfully combined with the openness of Science. As Grand
Mufti, he introduced some western-style reforms to Islamic education in
Egypt. Sir Muhammed Iqbal (1873-1938) was a Moslem poet from
Sialkot in what is now Pakistan but was British India. He argued for a
"modernist revival of Muslim faith focused on purifying and uplifting the
individual self above enslavement either to reason or to traditionalist
conformity." (Heritage, p. 814.) He was also a practicing lawyer with a
western style education and a British knight.
Women and Reform in the Middle East: Female protestors often
played a role in strengthening men's demands or stiffening the backs of
men in resisting foreign powers but also in demanding new reforms, such
as the Egyptian women who discarded their veils in the aftermath of the
Versailles Peace Conference in 1919 or the Iranian women who protested
to support their husbands and brothers in resisting the removal of a
reforming administrator in 1911. Journals emerged in this period which
pushed for the involvement of Moslem women in politics and the public
sphere. In 1923, Egyptian women formed the Egyptian Feminist Union.
In 1929, Palestinian women created a Woman's Congress of Palestine in
response to the Wailing Wall riots.
Purification of Islam: Two major approaches—revivalist movements
like the Wahabis, and conservative Islamic movements. Traditionalists
drew upon the long tradition of Islamic law and government to boost
Islamic norms threatened by modernity. Over time, though, Moslems
have tended to support change agendas such as those offered by
revivalists, even if they want a strongly Islamic future.
Nationalism: Western actions helped to spawn secular and religious
nationalist movements in Islamic lands. The division of Islamic lands into
new units by Western colonizers posed serious problems of group identity.
States such as Nigeria, Lebanon, Congo, or Iraq were created not on old
lines but to meet the administrative needs of Europe. Forging nations
inside these state borders has not always been very effective and often
The African Experience: 1800-1945
New States and Power Centers:
Southern Africa: In Southern Africa, there was a combination of
massive depopulation of many Bantu groups combined with the rise of
militaristic Bantu states. This was known as the 'mfecane' or 'Crushing'
era. Warfare and chaos ensued. Shaka Zulu (1818-1828) ruled a Ngunispeaking Bantu nation, the Zulus, who he led on a reign of terror in
southeastern Africa, conquering and depopulating 15,000 square miles and
sending refugees in all directions. Many new states were formed as a
result, usually multi-tribal and multi-lingual. However, they were
shortlived as the Boers were moving north, overrunning and destroying
many of them. The Great Trek brought 6,000 Boers into northeastern
South Africa between 1835-41. The Orange Free State and the South
African Republic displaced yet more Africans.
East and Central Africa: In eastern Africa new states were arising in the
early to mid-19th century, based around trade.
West Africa: New products, like gum arabic and palm oil, took the place
of exporting slaves as the British gradually shut down the slave trade.
New Kingdoms such as the Ashanti and Dahomey, arose during a period
of moslem Jihad.
Islamic Reform Movements: In 1800, Islam already had a long history in
Africa. But many people were only nominally muslim and many peasants
remained pagan or semi-pagan. In the 19th century, there was a wave of jihadoriented revivalist movements. The most important was lead by Usman Dan
Fodio (1754-1817), a Hausa from the central Sahel. Shortly after 1804, he
gathered an army of Hausa and conquered most of modern Nigeria. He left
behind an Islamic sultanate ruled by his sons. Islam now spread into the
countryside. Other movements helped to spread Islam to the countryside and call
for a revival of Islamic good government. Perhaps most famous was the
Sudanese movement led by Muhammad Ahmed (1845-1885), who claimed the
title of 'Mahdi', a Shi'ite religious figure, the last Imam who would return to lead
the faithful in the last days of the world. He led a revolt against the AngloEgyptian rule of the northern Sudan. It took until 1899 for the British to bring
down his successor; he famously defeated British general Charles George Gordon
at Khartoum in 1885, destroying the British army.
Increasing European Involvement: Before 1850, Europeans had only come to control
the temperate zones of Africa and the coasts. The gradual elimination of the slave trade
was followed by increased exploration and missionary work, followed by traders and
Exploration: A group of explorers mapped out nineteenth century Africa,
finding its rivers and lakes and mountains and jungles and savannahs. It was a
mixture of heroism, greed, violence, self-promotion and excitement.
Christian Missions: By 1900, 10,000 Christian missionaries were hard at work
in Africa. They competed with each other and Moslems for souls, fought the
slave trade, and came to know the peoples of Africa better than the explorers.
They spread European culture to Africa and despite being paternalist and
sometimes racist, spread knowledge of Africa back to Europe. The missionaries
tended to be idealists, trying to help the natives. About half died of disease.
African churches would later help to lead the fight against Imperialism.
The Colonial "Scramble for Africa": Before 1850, only in Algeria and South
Africa were there significant European vs. African conflicts. Between 1880 and
1914, virtually of Africa fell into European hands. Growing European population
and an industrial economy hungry for raw materials and new markets pushed this
expansion. European competition set off a rush for conquest. Rising European
technical expertise enabled Europeans to get past the cataracts which had blocked
naval exploration. Steamboats and rail allowed easy access to the interior.
Britain and France were the first to move; the British ended up controlling much
of the Continent and France most of the rest. The British tried to avoid colonial
involvement and favored indirect rule; they were slightly better rulers than the
direct rule of the French. Belgium and Germany were late to move into Africa.
Italy, to its embarrassment, was defeated in Ethiopia in 1895, but came back to
conquer in 1935. European colonial rule was often brutal, especially in the
Belgian Congo.
African Resistance to Colonialism: The Rise of Nationalism: Direct armed
resistance was ultimately futile, but Africans did their best to stave off and resist
European conquest. After World War I, national movements began to rise, not
always coherent with the borders established by Europeans. However, the
experience of common exploitation, the spread of common European languages,
and the rise of an assimilated native elite educated to absorb Western liberalism
and nationalism all helped to create new nationalisms. They and their
descendents would lead post-WWII nationalist movements. The severest
criticisms of Imperialism appealed to Western ideals themselves. They sought to
eject the Europeans while retaining the best of Western modernization.