A History of British India

Course No. 8431
Professor Hayden J. Bellenoit, D.Phil.
U.S. Naval Academy
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Course No. 8431
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What Will You Learn?

  • Discover the transformative era of British India, and its world-changing legacy.
  • Examine the monumental empire of the Mughals, the Islamic rulers of India and how they governed through military skill, administrative brilliance, and religious tolerance.
  • Track the major changes in the economic relationship between Britain and India that contributed to the Great Uprising of 1857.
  • Explore strains in the colonial relationship exposed by the war that made India ripe for the emergence of Mohandas Gandhi.
  • Witness how Britain's wartime mobilization alienated the Indian National Congress and took a horrific toll on the Indian poor.

Course Overview

Shaped by its richly diverse cultural heritage and by immensely significant historical events, the Indian subcontinent holds a unique place in world civilization. Perhaps no era is more relevant to our understanding of how present-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh came to be than the nearly two centuries of British rule, beginning in 1757, during which India emerged as the most valuable colony of any empire in history. This was a period of seminal transformation and change—for the subcontinent, for Britain, and for the world.

In the 24 engrossing lectures of A History of British India, Professor Hayden J. Bellenoit of the U.S. Naval Academy, a highly respected expert on colonial India, leads you on a panoramic excursion into the history of British rule of the subcontinent and its repercussions. With a keen focus on the politics and economics of the period, Professor Bellenoit digs deeply into both the British and the Indian points of view, providing a wealth of information and insights that will be new to many in the West.

Professor Bellenoit shows the British conquest of India and its governance of the subcontinent to be one of the most compelling, dramatic, and colorful meetings of cultures in all of human history. Over the course of this extraordinary saga you’ll explore:

  • how the English East India Company, a commercial trading organization, established a foothold on the subcontinent and took the reins of governance in one of the most unusual political transformations the world has ever seen;
  • how the mighty Mughal Empire, builders of the Taj Mahal and longstanding Muslim rulers of large swaths of India, gradually unraveled in the face of British conquest;
  • how Britain greatly extended its rule across the subcontinent, built a massive economic machine in India, and ultimately exacted a heavy price from the Indian populace; and
  • how India finally achieved independence in 1947, through one of humanity’s most remarkable examples of resourceful and philosophically sophisticated leadership.

Professor Bellenoit brings into relief the motives of the British throughout their long stay in India, the moral hypocrisy of the Raj, and the sometimes devastating effects of Raj policy on British Indian subjects. A History of British India offers a revealing look at how the modern nations of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh emerged from the crucible of the Raj, and it examines the long-term effects of British rule on regional politics, religion, culture, economics, race relations, and more.

This account of the British encounter with India will enlighten your perspectives on European imperialism, world economic history, the specific features of British colonialism, and the rich and dynamic cultures of South Asia.

The astonishing narrative of A History of British India sheds new light on a region that is home to nearly a quarter of the planet’s total population, as well as two nuclear powers, the world’s largest democracy, and the second-, third-, and fourth- largest Muslim nations. Given how South Asia’s importance in the 21st century world is only increasing, this is a history we all need to know.

An Epic Story of Empire and Dissent

In the course of the lectures, you’ll study core topics that bring the story of British India alive in all its drama, complexity, and poignancy, such as

  • The British Conquest of India—Discover how the East India Company, having metamorphosed into a political entity in Bengal, expanded its territorial power through military actions and power-brokering; examine how the Company co-opted the Mughal revenue and administrative system and governed India for the first 100 years of British rule.
  • The Great Uprising: 1857—Witness the attempts of the British colonials and evangelical Christians to “reform” India along European lines; track the growing economic, political, and cultural resentments against the East India Company that culminated in the Great Uprising of 1857 and the resulting shift to direct rule of India by the British crown;
  • Economics under the Raj—Take a penetrating look at how the colonial economy functioned, and how British rule refashioned India’s role in the global economy into one serving Britain and its imperial interests; grasp how British economic policy benefited certain classes of Indians while causing great hardship and tragedy for others;
  • The Advent of Indian Nationalism—Observe how both Hindu and Muslim identity were affected by the Raj, and how both became linked with conflicting notions of Indian nationhood; study the remarkable story of how Indian nationalism emerged through the efforts of English-educated Indians, and how nationalist action increased through the late 19th century;
  • Gandhi, Jinnah, and the Struggle for Independence—Follow the quest for independence undertaken by the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League; explore the brilliance and sophistication of Gandhi’s political philosophy, which exposed moral faults in the Raj, the shrewd maneuvering of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and how they reorganized the nationalist cause into mass movements;
  • The Birth of Modern India—Relive the events of the Noncooperation, Civil Disobedience, and Quit India movements, the escalating calls for independence, and the simmering Hindu-Muslim violence that shaped the partition of British India into the nations of India and Pakistan.

A Transformative Encounter between West and East

Throughout this course, you’ll delve deeply into fascinating and illuminating cultural features of the British rule in India. Early in the course, you’ll trace the economic motives that brought the British and other Europeans to India—where, in the 18th century, one quarter of the world’s commerce passed through the subcontinent, and where a single Bengali family had holdings larger than the Bank of England.

You’ll learn about British Orientalism, the colonials’ studied effort to “know the country” in order to effectively govern it, and how their tendency to traditionalize and romanticize India had consequences for both policy and the well-being of Indians. And you’ll observe how, under the Muslim-ruled Mughal Empire, there was very little Hindu-Muslim religious conflict in 18th-century India, and how over time British policies distanced and polarized the two cultures.

Among other intriguing subtopics, Professor Bellenoit reveals how the emergence of Britain as a tea-drinking culture was directly linked to the economy of colonial India, as tea became a crucial commodity in the fiscal maneuvering of the East India Company. And he brings into focus the lavish lifestyles of India’s royals—one Nizam of Hyderabad maintained over 200 wives and concubines—and how the British cultivated ties with regional Indian princes as a means of undergirding the Raj’s power and authority.

Again and again, you’ll assess the fundamental contradiction that underlay both the English East India Company and the British Raj: the conflict between Britain’s economic interests and its obligations as the political sovereign of the Indian populace.

An Unforgettable Historical Journey

Professor Bellenoit breathes life into the events of British rule, combining a talent for communicating the broader patterns of history with dramatic storytelling, in a detailed, gripping account of this world-changing epoch. Illustrative maps, graphics, portraits, photographs, and artwork greatly enrich the video version of the course. In the dynamic and revelatory lectures of A History of British India, you’ll relive a crucial era in international relations, one with deep and enduring implications for our contemporary world.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Introduction to India
    Delve into core aspects of Indian culture that provide a rich background for the story of British rule. Grasp the key precepts of Hinduism, and the notions of dharma, karma, and samsara. Study the caste system, the features of Indian families and marriages, and explore how society and religion shape politics in India. x
  • 2
    The Mughal Empire in 18th-Century India
    Examine the monumental empire of the Mughals, the Islamic rulers of India. Investigate how the Mughals governed through military skill, administrative brilliance, and religious tolerance. Look at the state of Indian society in the 18th century, and how changes in Mughal politics and economics laid the foundation for the British conquest of India. x
  • 3
    Indian and British Economic Interests
    Here, explore further how the Indian subcontinent drifted toward colonialism. Observe how the regionalization" of the Mughal Empire compromised the emperors' ability to govern. Take account of India's prominence within the broader global economy, and chart the rise of powerful banking families who played a critical role in the emergence of British rule." x
  • 4
    British Expansion in India (1757-1820)
    Witness how the English East India Company, a trading organization, expanded its early footing in Bengal. Study the Company's extraordinary transformation, through military conquests, from a merchant venture into a political entity. Finally, follow the Company's expansion into other regions, employing the Mughal revenue system to tax India's agrarian countryside. x
  • 5
    Knowing the Country: British Orientalism
    Learn how British scholars and administrators pursued knowledge of Indian culture, and how the early British colonials adapted to living within Indian society. Grasp the ways in which British romanticizing of India and misunderstanding of traditional customs had major consequences for colonial policy and the well-being of the Indian populace. x
  • 6
    Race, Gender, and Culture (1750-1850)
    The opening up of India gave rise to a discourse on race that became central to the colonial relationship. Study British racial paradigms in Company-ruled India, which emphasized differences between Indians and the British to justify" colonial rule. Also explore the British notion of masculinity and how it bolstered their self-perception as colonial masters." x
  • 7
    The Age of Reform (1830-1850)
    Contemporary currents of thought in England affected the ways in which India was governed. Learn how utilitarianism and Christian evangelicalism undergirded attempts by the British to educate and "reform" India. Track the major changes in the economic relationship between Britain and India that contributed to the Great Uprising of 1857. x
  • 8
    The Great Uprising (1857-1858)
    Study the accumulation of religious, economic, and political grievances against the East India Company that set the stage for the Great Uprising of 1857. Then witness the outbreak and bloody unfolding of the Uprising itself. Observe how the mutiny" changed British attitudes toward India, and the way Britain governed it under the Raj." x
  • 9
    Economics and Society under the Raj
    Examine the nature of the colonial economy, and trace economic decisions by the British that constrained the livelihoods of artisans and peasants. Assess the Raj's fiscal policy, which privileged British interests over public works. Observe how these policies affected the lives of millions who toiled to produce the wealth of the Raj. x
  • 10
    Caste and Tribal Identity under Colonialism
    As a social institution, caste changed markedly under British colonial rule. First, examine how the British encountered caste and tried to understand it. Then see how caste became significantly linked with the colonial tax revenue system. Take account of the ways in which caste distinctions became more prominent, codified, and pervasive under colonialism. x
  • 11
    The Nationalization of Hinduism (1870-1900)
    Discover how the broader traditions of Hinduism were affected by the colonial experience. Examine the theological assault on Hinduism by European Christian missionaries, and the responses of high-caste Hindus. Look at important Hindu reform movements, which sought to modernize Hinduism, and grasp how key currents of reformist thinking linked Hinduism with Indian nationhood. x
  • 12
    Indian Muslim Identity and Colonial Rule
    Indian Islam underwent profound shifts under colonial rule. Investigate how the British codifying of Islamic law changed Indian Muslims' communal identity. See how the advent of English language and education, and the Indian census, distanced Muslims from Hindus. Lastly, assess how the Deobandi reform movement reinvented Indian Islam to ensure its survival. x
  • 13
    The Late-19th-Century British Raj
    Study British racial attitudes toward Indians in the late 19th century and how these conceptions were manifested in the way India was governed. Learn about the officials who administrated the Raj, the Indian Civil Service, and the modernization of India. Grasp how all of these elements reflect the mindset of the British Raj. x
  • 14
    Princely States and Royalist Relationships
    India's princely states played a crucial role in maintaining British power. Examine the history of the princely kingdoms, and why they remained separate from British-controlled territory. Follow how the British cultivated ties of loyalty with Indian princes and exerted indirect rule." Explore the contradiction of a modernizing British Raj that supported feudal princes." x
  • 15
    Indian Nationalism and the Freedom Struggle
    Analyze how a new generation of English-educated Indians spearheaded Indian nationalism. Trace the emergence of the Indian National Congress, which initially represented moderate nationalists, and observe how repressive British policies sowed anticolonial sentiment. Witness the strengthening of nationalist fervor, as it erupted into political extremism and violence in the early 20th century. x
  • 16
    The Great War and Its Impact on India
    Examine the severe effects of the First World War on India's economy. Learn how both moderate and radical nationalists responded to the war to press for concessions and independence. Explore strains in the colonial relationship exposed by the war that made India ripe for the emergence of Mohandas Gandhi. x
  • 17
    Gandhi's Moral-Political Philosophy
    Investigate Gandhi's early life and how he became a nationalist leader. Study the elements of his political philosophy, the political tools of ahimsa (no harm) and satyagraha (force of truth), and the forces of modernity and British rule that Gandhi critiqued. Finally, examine the 1919 event that thrust him onto the national stage. x
  • 18
    The Noncooperation Movement
    Observe how Gandhi reorganized the Indian National Congress into a mass political machine, as witnessed in the Noncooperation Movement, where Indians boycotted the British on a national scale. Note how these actions and others exposed moral faults in the Raj, and track the Raj's counterstrategies that attempted to marginalize those nationalists seeking independence. x
  • 19
    Indian Muslim Politics between the Wars
    Indian Muslim identity began to change in important ways in the 20th century. Study the impact on Indian Muslims of the First World War, and the resulting Muslim Khalifat Movement, which opposed Britain's war aims against the Ottoman Caliphate. See how Hindu/Muslim religious-political rivalries gave birth to the idea of Pakistan. x
  • 20
    The Civil Disobedience Campaign
    Now examine the second round" of Indian nationalist action against the British Raj. Witness the effects on India of the global economic depression after 1929, which triggered the Civil Disobedience Campaign, a massive boycotting of British goods, services, and institutions. Assess the Raj's countertactic of extending constitutional concessions to stem nationalist agitation." x
  • 21
    Britain and Its Empire in the 1940s
    Witness how Britain's wartime mobilization alienated the Indian National Congress and took a horrific toll on the Indian poor. Study the resulting Quit India Movement, the largest uprising against the British since 1857, and the events of the war's aftermath that set the stage for the end of 200 years of colonial rule. x
  • 22
    The Raj on Its Knees (1945-1947)
    Investigate the increasing levels of dissent, mutiny, and agrarian suffering and unrest that followed World War II. Chart the astonishing rise of the Muslim League after 1940, its presence in the negotiations for independence, and the League's actions in key provinces that sparked terrible communal violence in the Raj's final days. x
  • 23
    A Split India: Negotiating Independence
    Examine the factors in Britain's decision to quit" India. Take account of the final negotiations between the National Congress, the Muslim League, and the British, noting the contrasting visions of an independent India held by the Congress and the League. Grasp how Hindu-Muslim violence affected the ultimate partition of India and Pakistan." x
  • 24
    Reflections on Postcolonial India
    Learn about the harrowing events following Partition, which saw widespread killings and the largest displacement of human populations in history. Assess what the events of 1947 meant for the Indian National Congress, Pakistanis, and the British. Finally, reflect on the lasting legacy of the British Raj and its rule of India. x

Lecture Titles

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What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Download 24 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
Instant Audio Includes:
  • Download 24 audio lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 240-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 240-page printed course guidebook
  • Illustrations and photographs
  • Questions to consider
  • Suggested reading

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Your professor

Hayden J. Bellenoit

About Your Professor

Hayden J. Bellenoit, D.Phil.
U.S. Naval Academy
Hayden J. Bellenoit is an Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy. After graduating summa cum laude in History and Economics from Wheaton College, he attended Oxford University, where he completed his master of studies in Historical Research and his doctor of philosophy in Modern History, focusing on late colonial India. While studying at Oxford, Dr. Bellenoit spent a year in India conducting research in...
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Reviews

A History of British India is rated 3.6 out of 5 by 51.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from very well done This course covers the entire period of British India in a chronological order. The instructor is engaging and very detailed in his lectures. I enjoyed the course very much.
Date published: 2019-11-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The truth is ugly but needs to be told An important and timely course! For too many of us who have grown up in the “West”, learning history meant seeing things (the world, ourselves, others) from the way that the ruling class wants us to see them. This has meant that not only have we been conditioned to admire “Great Men” of “Western Civilization” but also to be blind to the violence of capitalism and the many ways in which colonialism, imperialism and capitalism has harmed humanity. Some of the negative reviews and objections that the good professor is “biased” seem to come from those who didn’t know and still don’t want to believe What The West Has Done, and What The West Is Doing. The ugly truth of what imperialism is psychologically difficult to reconcile. For example, since the USA is an empire, what are ordinary people obligated to do to defend the basic rights of people living in the places plundered and broken by American Empire? It’s a tough question. We can’t simply displace/misdirect our anger toward the messenger (here , the good professor) but instead direct it collectively toward the policymakers, beneficiaries, and propagandists responsible for this violence and exploitation.
Date published: 2019-10-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A very worthwhile course I give this course high points across the board. Most of the other positive reviews address its various strengths (and there are many of these), so I will confine myself to two further items I’ve not seen elsewhere. 1. Professor Bellenoit is a forceful and engaging speaker, but he does rely on a handful of quirky rhetorical devices. He starts a lot of his examples or discussions either with “Think about it” or “What do you think...?”—and often wraps up an idea with “That’s right!” or “You got it!” This is a minor issue, but in some lessons these fall fast and heavy, perhaps a dozen or more times across a 30-minute lecture. (And a funny thing: occasionally he says “Wow!”—at which point my 1-year-old, who is in the car etc. while we listen to these lessons, returns enthusiastically, “Wow! Wow! Wow!”) 2. I always read negative reviews, and a recurring theme for the 1- or 2-star reviews of this course—and mind you, there are not many of these—is typically to harp on Professor Bellenoit’s alleged antagonism and hostility to anything the British ever did in India. Before proceeding further, and to put things in perspective, I should point out that (1) I am a university professor specializing in Britain and the British Empire and (2) so far as most of my colleagues and the wider “informed” world goes, my take on the British Empire veers to the apologetic—i.e. I am more often “for” Britain and the colonial legacy than “against” it. Those two items on the table, I must say there is nothing off-putting or politically correct or imbalanced in Professor Bellenoit’s presentation. If the British handled something badly or immorally, he says it; if they didn’t, he doesn’t—and he doesn’t insinuate a nefarious British hand always in the background, as some of the (again, very few) negative reviews insinuate he does. This is an interesting, important, and very worthwhile course.
Date published: 2019-05-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic This lecture series is fantastically done. It should be understood the title is "A History of British India" not "The..." There are many other histories that could be told about the same time period. This is a broad mainstream introduction to the intellectual history of British India, though it is presented at an upper level. Two negatives. 1. He places Gandhi on a pedestal and downplays the role of more aggressive freedom fighters. The perception of Gandhi and other freedom fighters is very different among Indians today. 2. There was no discussion of the opium trade. 3. There was no discussion of Portuguese colonists in Goa. Like I said, this is "A" history not "The" history of British India. This is an overview of the intellectual and economic history of British India and offers an organized and comprehensive introduction to the subject.
Date published: 2019-04-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting and important story, told brilliantly I'm quite well-versed in history and knew a lot of the pieces, but found Prof Bellenoit's course on British India deeply informative and beautifully delivered. I hope he does more courses for the TC. Starting with India and the Mughals, he tells the amazing story of how the British, first via the East India Company and later under the Raj, were able to take control of and dominate the subcontinent. The details about economics, taxation, culture, and politics are fascinating, and add up to a very fast-moving and compelling story. He ends with the partition of 1947 and a final wrap up / reflection on India today. This course is excellent standalone or with the longer TC history of India, history of the British Empire, and Victorian England courses. This course is a fine addition to the TC curriculum.
Date published: 2019-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from PROF. BELLENOIT IS A TREASURE! In my scholastic background, I've attended four universities, plus Marine Corps Schools and the U.S. Naval School of Aviation. I've been fortunate, therefore, to have studied under some truly-outstanding teachers -- and Hayden Bellenoit ranks among the best. He had me transfixed, seated in front of my television set until 2:30 am last night ...and I look forward to doing it again tonight. The content of his lectures, his mastery of the subject, and the accompanying graphics make the course a thrilling learning-experience; in short, I find myself envious of Prof. Bellenoit's students at the Naval Academy, who are exposed to that kind of brilliance on a daily basis.
Date published: 2019-01-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Scholarly and insightful This is easily the best great courses i have ever heard. I have a pretty good knowledgyof Indian history but i was very impressed with this course. Deep scholarship is combined with remarkable insight. I enjoyed his delivery style. At times a little repetitive and sometime stating the oncious, but enough to detract from the main course. Recommend it highly
Date published: 2018-12-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Mixed review and (sorry) a pet peeve. I bought this course thinking it wold serve as a nice supplement and "second voice" to the fine History of India (Course No. 8350) I have listened to previously. Obviously this course is taking 24 lecturers to cover the period that that course covers in about 8 lectures so it should be more in-depth. I can only recommend the course if this is a subject matter that you really have interest in, and I am probably a pretty soft grader. I would rate this offering in the bottom 1/4 of courses I have listened to from the Teaching company. I would recommend the longer History of India course to anyone to almost anyone with a general interest. I lean Liberal, I don't buy into any "white man's burden" spiel, but don't like being preached to by a professor even if I agree with the basic tenet and really don't like been patronized. 1) Do NOT tell me in the first lecture that you are going to give a balanced view of history and then spend 24 lectures telling me the British were racist, paternalistic, and parasitic. Better to just state that view up front and go on with the facts. 2) Don't hand-wave passed the facts that don't fit your view, that is also insulting, to blow off the issues of sati, the treatment of Dalits, the pre-British clashes of Islam and Hindus and basically blaming of all evils that have ever occurred in South Asia on the British is worthy of questioning. 3) This is going to sound like a childish pet-peeve, but I really hope someone will give this feedback to Professor Bellenoit: Please, please greatly reduce or even remove the use of the "rhetorical question" from your speaking style. When you say "What do you think... and 2 seconds later answer your own question with a "of course So/Not" you are not asking your listener for any real thought, you are using a cheap rhetorical trick of the salesman or propagandist. The occasion use of that device is fine, but when it is use 5-10 times in EVERY 30 minute lecture it goes right passed "annoying" and into the territory of "insulting" This is only the 3rd (out of dozens) Teaching Company course in which I think the politics of the instructor has diminished my enjoyment and my perceived value of the course: For reference I thought Cobb's Native Peoples of North America (Course No. 8131) suffered from a similar case of "politically correct" ranting, and Fear's Churchill course (Course No. 807) had too much hero worship and not enough analysis of Churchill's questionable policies (including his pro-imperialism beliefs.)
Date published: 2018-10-28
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