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Influences Of Spice Trade In British-India

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Published: Wed, 10 May 2017


Colonisation refers strictly to migration, for example, to settler colonies, trading posts, and plantations, while colonialism deals with this as well as the ruling of new territories’ existing peoples.

Spice Colonisation

There are many reasons to start a colonisation and spice trade is one of the most influential key reason since ancient times. Spice Colonisation occurs with the value of spices, spice route, timeline of spice trade, spice influences and impacts in pre-colonisation, during colonisation and post colonisation both the coloniser and colonised. Spice colonisation happened mostly in South East Asia areas and India during the Classical period to Middle Age and until the modern colonialism, by Greece, Roman Empire and the Vikings to Western European countries.

The history of spice is almost as old as human civilisation. It is a history of lands discovered, empires built and brought down, wars won and lost, treaties signed and flouted, flavours sought and offered, and the rise and fall of different religious practices and beliefs. Spices were among the most valuable items of trade in ancient and medieval times.

Many of these spices (think of pepper and cinnamon) have become so ubiquitous that it is difficult to reconcile the fact that until very recently they were rare and expensive commodities. Indeed, the history of commerce and trade is the history of spices and it is no exaggeration to say that America would not have been discovered were it not for the European desire to break the Arab traders’ monopoly on spices.  

The search for a cheaper way to obtain spices from the East led to the great Age of Exploration and the discovery of the New World. European explorers such as Ferdinand Magellan, Vasco da Gama, and Bartholomeu Dias began their long sea voyages to discover a sea route to the sources of spices. Christopher Columbus went westwards from Europe in 1492 to find a sea route to the lands of spices but found the Americas. In 1497 the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama discovered a sea route around the southern tip of Africa, eventually reaching Kozhikode on the southwest coast of India in 1498.

British in India Spice Colonisation

India is once the most influential country in spice trade and route. Before British colonised India in spice trade, the Arabians, Roman Empire, Portuguese and Dutch had been taking control of India for the same reason. The British Empire has formed a company called the British East India Company. The British East India Company was a joint-stock company that was originally formed to do business with the East Indies. But eventually, the company ended up doing business primarily with the Indian subcontinent and China. It is commonly said that in the history of the world there is no more wonderful story than that of the advent of the British Empire in India. East India Company was unique as it started its humble beginning as the mere trading company and later took over political interest and changed to the ruler of the entire country. In 1799, British Empire had gained its full vigor and was named the most powerful political and military force in India, after Tipu Sultan of Mysore was defeated.

Architectural Influences of British in India

The British Empire has brought many influences into India including cultural exchange, cuisine, technologies and most of all, architecture. Roughly from 1799, the British Empire had commenced the prolonged history of British architecture that was rule in India for the next 200 years. With this elevated status the Britons also gauged the need and responsibility to govern territories under their control and to be viewed as a powerful, civilized force by the Indians.

During the colonisation, the British brought with them their architecture style and symbolism as well as more technologically advanced building methods and materials that the Indians adapted to their own directly or modified to fit their own social and cultural constructs. While the British held deep admiration for the ancient Indian culture and its relics, including architecture, even to the point of maintaining much of its unique traditions and aesthetics, they both introduced new philosophies, symbolisms, technologies, materials, and building methods to the Indians. These new ideas and elements that the British brought to Indian architecture fundamentally changed not only the general appearance, but also the meaning, function, and how architecture was viewed by the Indians and British alike.

Before 1947, the understanding of Indian’s art and architecture was still linked to how they perceived their role within British imperialism. However, after India independent they wanted to illustrate that India had a living artistic tradition, although the natives were unaware of it, and they considered it to rescue it from oblivion. In their determined effort to rescue India’s artistic past, people started to develop their own standards for judging and categorizing Indian arts and crafts. Collecting art specimens and organizing them according to scientific principles was driven by the 19th century British pre-occupation with division and classification, exaggerated in the colonial context by the desire to fathom the diversity of Indian culture. More importantly the classification of arts and architectures were tied directly to economy. However, the British intervention was necessary to set India on a better future.


First was the language, many Indians were conversant with the English language, because the British colonialists intended to export their values and culture by teaching the Indian population their language. This has brought huge benefits for future development in India after its independence.

For the economy, most of companies during post-colonization era still engaged in outsourcing business which trading with European and America. Good English skill bring them better quality work and more work opportunities. Meanwhile, more businessmen and traders were attracted to India for investment because of the economical labour, good services and communication. Lot of benefits for native people who could speak better English in trading with each and other.


Secondly, the British annexed many princely states and formed laws and policies of their own. Slowly but rapidly the entire Indian subcontinent came under the British rule. Although this had met with dissatisfaction and resentment by most of Indians, it still made contribute to India’s future development.

Law in modern India largely based on English common law because of the long period of British colonial influence, and various legislations first introduced by the British are still in effect in modified forms today especially on improving women’s rights in India.

Urban Development

British ruled in India for almost 300 years, and in the year 1600 British came in India. Then they start to settle in India. Because of global spice trading, most of them firstly settled in the coastal city. During the settlement, British brought lots of their technologies and rules onto this land. Most of them are appeared in the port cities. One of most famous port city in India during post-colonial era was Bombay.

By middle 19th century, the British introduced the railways, telegraph and postal service in Bombay. This great instruments, the railways, postal services significantly affected the developmental course of modern India. These technologies increased quality of people’s community and social life. One of great railway station building in India that still can be found nowadays is called Victoria Terminus in Bombay. Prior to the railway age, Bombay had become an important port-city and administrative centre. With additional economic and population growth happen in Bombay after India’s independent, the demand of residential and industrial lands start to increase. This made Bombay’s site start to extend from the coast into centre India. The footprint of the city development is followed by the railways route.


Trade in India in the present day involves less nationalistic qualities than it did in the past. Spice growers now export their products through their own organizations or through exporting houses. Spices are now distributed by food manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. With the advances in technology and science, too, the spices are now able to flourish in other parts of the world with similar climates as India. There is no longer the problem of having to travel halfway across the world to obtain spices. The abundance of sources and the absence of influences from profit-hungry nations make for the affordable prices we see every day in grocery stores. However, the spice route played a significant role for India’s development.

Quite extraordinary in its incomparable neo-classical lordliness stood the Bombay Town Hall. The Greek Doric Order of its commanding temple-fronts undoubtedly turned eyes for its international outlook.

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