Indian society is viewed as a society which still holds tradition dear. It has many peculiar features like — caste, kinship and village which are unparalleled elsewhere. Its unique social structure has attracted many interests from India and outside and as a result, it has been studied from different perspectives.
Colonial prospective develop in India in phases. British imperialism was more pragmatic than that of other colonial powers. Colonial rulers started to pursue social understanding of society to rule the country better in areas of law and order, revenue collection etc. During early period 1850s, understanding of Indian society was generated primarily by British administrators and not scholars. They developed an orthodox view of India society, having broad features like- self-sufficient and closed village economies, caste based social structure, primitive tribal communities. Now, understanding of Indian society supplemented by establishment of western education and tremendous expansion of administrative framework in India. During this period a few educated Indians also help in understanding of Indian society. The main changes which the British made in Indian society were at the top. They replaced the wasteful warlord aristocracy by a bureaucratic-military establishment, carefully designed by utilitarian technocrats, which was very efficient in maintaining law and order.
Although, Their impact on the cultural and social life of India was, however, gradual.
One of the most significant things the British did to Westernize India was to introduce a modified version of English education. The Company had given some financial support to existing colleges. Sir William Jones, had translated a great mass of Sanskrit literature. The imposition of English in the education system was a blessing in disguise. Indians from diverse regions speaking different languages could now communicate with each other through the medium of English. English thus united the educated Indians and brought about a feeling of oneness among them. A spirit of nationalism gradually emerged.
Impact in the area of transport and communication:-
Up to the middle of the 19th century, the means of transport in India were backward. Goods were transported by road mainly by bullock-carts, mules and camels. Riverine transport by boats was also prevalent. The British rule introduced the railways, the press, and the western system of education, clubs and associations all of which shook the prevalent socio-economic order.
Rise of the New Middle Class:-
A major impact of the British rule in India was the beginning of a new middle class. With the rise of the British commercial interests, new opportunities opened to a small section of the Indian people. They often acted as the agents and intermediaries of the British traders and thus made huge fortunes. The English educated people naturally got the necessary patronage from their colonial rulers. Thus, a new professional and service-holding middle class was also created by the British, apart from those with landed interests.
Social and Cultural Policy:-
When British came to India, they brought new ideas such as liberty, equality, freedom and human rights from the Renaissance, the Reformation Movement and the various revolutions that took place in Europe. They wanted India to be a part of the modern, progressive world of science. But the British government was cautious in undertaking rapid modernization of India. They feared a reaction among the people if too much interference took place with their religious beliefs and social customs.
British Administration and Judicial System:-
The Indians found it difficult to adjust to the new system of administration introduced by the British. The British also introduced a new system of law and justice in India. A hierarchy of civil and criminal courts was established. The laws were codified and attempts were also made to separate the judiciary from the executive.
We should also understand that our present life is shaped to a great extent by our immediate past. In this immediate past, the British control over a large part of the country becomes an important determining factor. Some of the cultural and legal changes that took place as a result of British rule continue to affect our life even today. The rails, the club life, the imperial buildings like the Rashtrapati Bhavan and the Parliament are reminiscent of the British rule in India. Many food items like bread, tea and cake that we consume today are a direct result of our interaction with Europeans during the colonial prospective.