The Impact of the British (4) The Growth of Nationalism
A MONGST the most important results of British rule in India were the emergence of an Indian nationality and the growth of a spirit of nationalism so strong that it led inevitably to independence. Before the modern period, that sense of separateness and solidarity which is the only criterion of nationality did not exist, nor were there present all the elements from which it might have been built. Diversities of race and language had encouraged the existence of large numbers of separate and hostile states; religion, since the Muslim invasions, had been a dividing factor and the cultural unity formerly provided by Hinduism had been destroyed; social traditions were enshrined in the caste system, which was a strong stabilising element but was nevertheless too narrow to lead to the growth of nationality; while that 'identity of political antecedents', which Mill regarded as the most important basis of nationality, was wholly lacking.
In the nineteenth century two new factors began to weld the people of India together. The first was the relentless pressure of a uniform system of law and administration which, by imposing on the Bengali, the Madrassi and the Punjabi a uniform code of behaviour in certain important matters, gave them in the process a common substratum of thought. This process was made easier by the vast network of roads and railways, by which the towns of India were linked under the rule of the Crown.
The second important factor was the decision, in 1835, to provide English rather than vernacular education. From that time onwards, the best brains of India drank deeply at the well- springs of British liberal thought. They learned from Edmund Burke and John Stuart Mill the meaning of liberty; they shared the sympathy of England with the struggles of Mazzini