The New Policy
We have seen the East India Company establish its dominion in India and round off its possessions by the mid-nineteenth century. We have seen it organize its administration on what were largely traditional authoritarian lines. We have also noted that the main motive of all this activity was commercial. Security and tranquility for trade was the watchword. Even when the Company had to give up its trade monopoly and was deprived of its commercial functions altogether, the motive remained. It was, in fact, the strength of the commercial motive in Britain which thrust the Company aside in order that all might share in the profits of Indian enterprise. Thus far the merchant and the official were at one. Neither had any wish for innovation which might lead to dangerous thoughts in the Indian population and to Indian competition with British mercantile enterprises. Most members of both classes were content to regard the new Company as old Mughals writ large. There was, it is true, a liberal-minded group among the officials whose views were expressed by Sir John Malcolm's slogan, "Let us, therefore, proceed calmly on a course of gradual improvement," but it is likely that, if the services had been left to themselves, the improvements would have been gradual indeed.
But neither services nor merchants were left to themselves. Britain at this time was seething with new thoughts; it was the percolation of these among the more enlightened officials which was responsible for "improving" ideas. The clue to the change of policy in nineteenth-century India is to be found in the climate of intellectual opinion of the time. In the seventeenth century the civilization of India was regarded as alien and in many ways antipathetic to that of Europe; but it was not regarded as inferior. Descriptions of the great Mughals had in them respect and even something of awe. By 1800 all this had changed; Indian institutions were commonly considered to be effete, many customs odious, and Indian