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Modern History (Historical Event prior to revolt of 1857) by Shivlal Gupta

  • Category
  • Test Date
    23-01-2023 07:00 AM
  • Evaluated

Previously, the events immediately prior to the 1857 Revolt were rarely considered by UPSC. However, the pattern has significantly changed during the recent years.As per the recent trend, Event prior to 1857 like British conquest of India, British Economic policy etc are considered very important. Infact two question out of three in 2022 mains came from event prior to Revolt of 1857.

Topic covered: 

Decline of Mughal Empire

Rise of Regional states

Conquest and consolidation of British rule

Economic Policy of British


  • There will be 2 questions carrying 10 marks each. Write your answers in 150 words
  • Any page left blank in the answer-book must be crossed out clearly.
  • Evaluated Copy will be re-uploaded on the same thread after 2 days of uploading the copy.
  • Discussion of the question and one to one answer improvement session of evaluated copies will be conducted through Google Meet with concerned faculty. You will be informed via mail or SMS for the discussion.

Question #1.
British land revenue policy was the villain which not only destroyed Indian agriculture but also furthered the economic drain from India to England. Examine.

Question #2. Examine the policies of Lord Wellesley with special emphasis on the essential principles of the Subsidiary Alliance system. How did it contribute in making the British Company the supreme sovereign authority in India?

(Examiner will pay special attention to the candidate's grasp of his/her material, its relevance to the subject chosen, and to his/ her ability to think constructively and to present his/her ideas concisely, logically and effectively).

Model Answer

Question #1. British land revenue policy was the villain which not only destroyed Indian agriculture but also furthered the economic drain from India to England. Examine.


  •   Introduce with the land revenue policies of the British.
  •   Explain how it destroyed Indian agriculture.
  •   Explain how it furthered Economic drain.
  •   Conclude with the gist of your answer.


The state in India derived a large percentage of its income from land. States used to extract land revenue either directly or indirectly through intermediaries. With the decline of the Mughal empire, there were different rulers in different parts of India with more or less exorbitant claims. Yet in villages agronomy was self-sufficient. Instead of improving the state of agriculture, the British introduced land revenue policies which helped them extract maximum land revenue possible from peasants.

Different land revenue policies under British:

  • The Permanent settlement was introduced in Bengal and Bihar under which the state demand was fixed at 90% of the rental. The sum so fixed was unalterable forever. Ownership rights were given to zamindars which were hereditary and transferable.
  • Under the Ryotwari settlement introduced in Madras, cultivators were recognized as owner of land subject to payment of land revenue. This settlement was not permanent and revised periodically after 20 to 30 years when revenue demand was usually raised.
  • Under the Mahalwari system introduced in the Gangetic valley, the North –west Provinces, parts of Central Nadia and the Punjab, the revenue settlement was made village by village or estate by estate with village heads or heads of families who collectively represented village heads. Land revenue was periodically revised.

The consequences of above policies were disastrous for Indian agriculture in following ways-

  • Commercialisation of land- Under permanent settlement- revenue demands were exorbitant. Peasants who couldn’t pay were ousted out by zamindars in hope of getting higher rent from another tenant. Consequently, a large number of estates were advertised for sale at auction. This created a new form of private property in land in a way that the benefit of innovation did not go to cultivators.
  • Hindering capital investment- The high pitch of land assessment, drained the cultivators of its capital, hindered capital investment in Land and, in general, checked expenditure on agricultural improvements.
  • Stagnation in agricultural productivity- The zamindars had no incentive to invest in agriculture as they were entitled to a fixed amount of revenue, and land was saleable, mortgagable and alienable.
  • Peasants were forced to take credit from informal moneylenders but often failed to repay. This led to rural indebtedness.
  • Oppressive ways of collection under the Ryotwari system led to distress in villages. The cultivator had no right of appeal to any tribunal he had either to pay or quit. Many ryots abandoned their homes and fled into neighbouring native states. Large tracts of land were thrown out of cultivation.
  • Impoverishment of peasantry due to high demands of taxes- Agriculture was ruined Famine followed famine. Epidemics, malnutrition and starvation were commonplace. E.g. - Madras famine of 1877. A general resourcelessness and poverty was created.
  • The government’s demand on land was uncertain and fluctuating because of periodic revisions. This provided ample opportunity to revenue officers in exercising arbitrary powers. Thus the revenue administration system was marred by corruption unchecked by the judiciary.
  • The old Indian demand on the land was elastic. Under British revenue was collected rigidly and inflexibly. This furthered either distress sales or rural indebtedness so that a glut was caused in the market leading to artificial lowering of prices to peasant’s great disadvantage.

These very conditions created by land revenue policies furthered the economic drain from India to England. Economic drain refers to part of India’s wealth and resources exported to Britain for which India got no adequate economic or material return.

How land revenue policies furthered economic drain?

  •   A large part of revenues generated through land revenue policies was simply exported to Britain instead of investing in irrigation or improvement of agricultural techniques.
  •   In the absence of other industries a large part of exports to the British was to be met by cheap agricultural produce.
  •   The ryots were compelled to sell as large a portion of agricultural produce as possible to meet this demand by increasing revenue demands.
  •   The mechanism of land revenue forced the peasant to pay for the drain as well as provide the agricultural products.


Land revenue policy is, thus, the villain which played foul with Indian agriculture as well as helped British compel peasants to finance the economic drain also. Hence it is also said that the system worked as a sponge, absorbing good things from Ganges, and squeezing them down on Thames bank.


Question #2. Examine the policies of Lord Wellesley with special emphasis on the essential principles of the Subsidiary Alliance system. How did it contribute in making the British Company the supreme sovereign authority in India?


  •   The question focuses on policies launched by Lord Wellesley and their impact on making British the claimant power in India
  •   The perspective of the question is evolutionary and tone is positive
  • Introduction (briefly tell who was lord Wellesley and authority associated with him, policies launched by him with his intent in mind)
  • Body ( describe about the subsidiary alliance policy with its key terms and how it helped British to get the sovereign control over India)
  • Conclusion by summing up the gist of the answer.


Lord Wellesley was a governor of Madras and became 4th governor-general of Bengal (1797–1805), and helped in expansion of the British Empire in India through his various policies.

The policies of Lord Wellesley:

  • He founded Fort William College, a training centre intended for those who would be involved in governing India. In connection with this college, he established the governor-general's office, to which civilians who had shown talent at the college were transferred, in order that they might learn something of the highest statesmanship in the immediate service of their chief.
  • He endeavoured to remove some of the restrictions on the trade between Europe and Asia.
  • The result of the wars waged by Lord Wellesley in India and of the treaties which followed them was that French influence in India was reduced to Pondicherry, and helped east India Company to increase it’s in the capturing more power in India.
  • Subsidiary Alliance
  • Terms of subsidiary alliance:
    • The Indian state was prohibited to keep any external relations, unless approved by the British.
    • The state had to refrain from waging any war without the permission of British.
    • The ruler of the state had to maintain an army commanded by British officers, to maintain public peace. In fact, the ruler had to grant territory and to pay the salary requirement for this army from its own exchequer (this rule was applicable to larger states).
    • The smaller states had to pay tribute in cash to the East India Company
    • The state had to accept an English resident to stay at its court, who would monitor the administrative activities and the maintenance of the army.
    • The state was not allowed to hire any other European workers without prior permission of the Britishers.
    • In return British promised that they will interfere in the internal matters of the state.

The policies of Lord Wellesley contributed in making the British Company the supreme sovereign authority in India:

    • The British acquired valuable territories as subsidiary payment.
    • The Indian rulers maintained large armies for the British from their own exchequer.
    • The British indirectly controlled the defence and foreign affairs of the protected ally which gave them strategic advantage over their adversaries and this ultimately weakened the Indian states.
    • If Indian states were unable to keep up with the terms then the British could also overthrow the Indian ruler and annex their territories.
    • Other European powers had little access to the courts of the Indian rulers and could not influence them.
  • Disadvantages for the Indian rulers:
    • Indian rulers lost their independence and were completely controlled by the British.
    • Indian states became poor as the payment of the subsidies drained their resources. When the administration collapsed, the British annexed the states. (Example: Awadh)
    • The high cost of maintaining the British army, and the constant demands of the residents, drained the treasury.
    • With British patronage and protection, the Indian rulers lost interest in the welfare of their own people, who suffered great misery and oppression.


So, by the late 18th century, the power of the Maratha Empire had weakened and the Indian subcontinent was left with a great number of states, most of them small and weak. Many rulers accepted the offer of protection by Wellesley, as it gave them security against attack by their neighbours. This contributed in making the British the supreme sovereign authority in India.

Procedure of Answer Writing:

To participate in the answer writing program, Register yourself for the test. Copies will be evaluated only for the registered students. Registration will be closed after the scheduled date.

Answer Writing, Copy Evaluation, and Marks Improvement Cycle:

Step 1 (Theme, Details & Its Topics):

  1. Every round of Answer writing initiative will be around a theme related to the Subject/Topic.
  2. Please read the theme and its description, and try to cover the topics given within the theme before writing the answer along with the sources.

Step 2 (Approach Video):

  1. Watch the approach video on the theme for greater clarity to cover it holistically. Approach video will be uploaded 3 days before the schedule date of test.

Step 3 (Answer Writing):

  1. Questions will be uploaded on the portal on the scheduled date at 7:00 AM.
  2. You have to write your answers on an A4 size sheet leaving margins on both sides based on the UPSC pattern.
  3. Mention your name, email id, location, and phone number on the 1st page in the top right corner and the page number on each page.
  4. After writing the answers, Click pictures of each page of your answer sheet, merge them all in a single PDF and upload them in the upload section of the same question.
  5. Kindly submit your written answers before 7:00 PM. Only the first 100 copies will be considered for evaluation. No request for late submission or evaluation will be entertained once the 100 mark is reached.

Note: Answer sheets without the proper guidelines given above will not be accepted for evaluation.

Step 4 (Copy Evaluation): Copies will be evaluated in the next 2 days of the test date. After evaluation, copies will be uploaded into your account. During the copy evaluation period, doubt clearing and discussion about the theme or topic of the test with respective mentors of the test will be done in the telegram group

Step 5 (Mentorship): Evaluated copies will be sent to you via mail and also uploaded into your account on the website. After that a mentorship session for the marks improvement with respective faculty will be conducted in the telegram group, so that students can get a wider perspective of the topics. Here you can discuss your evaluated copies also with the faculty. Top 5 copies of every test will be shared in the group for reference.

Note: Aspirants who have not written the test can also participate in the mentorship session.

For Updates and Mentorship of the session, you will be notified through SMS or Telegram Group.

For Notification And Update About the Program Join Telegram Group at: https://t.me/gsscoreopendailyanswerwriting

Note: You have to write your answers on an A4 size sheet leaving margins on both sides based on UPSC pattern. Mention Your Name on 1st page and Page Number on each page. After writing the answer, Click pictures of each page of your answer sheet, merge them all in a single PDF and upload in the Your Answer Copy section of the same question.

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