IN 1861 an eminent scholar, Sir Henry Maine, remarked that Europe was the only progressive continent, but he would have had to revise his view fifty years later. America, in particular the United States, was rapidly eclipsing Europe in the material arts which Europeans imagined to be the same thing as progress, and Asia was adopting European dress, firearms, machinery, newspapers, motor cars, and cinematographs. There was no apparent reason why Asiatics should not develop their material resources and make scientific and commercial discoveries, as Europeans had done. Their religion, law, and philosophy were also undergoing change.
With the advent of the steamship in the mid-nineteenth century contacts between Europeans and the East became frequent. The educated classes of India and China at first behaved, when confronted by the overwhelming force of the West, as they had done under similar circumstances in Roman times:
The East bow'd low before the blast In patient, deep disdain; She let the legions thunder past, And plunged in thought again. However, force and trade contacts broke down barriers. The Europeanisation of the East is still very superficial, but unless Europe herself collapses it will increase.
Between 1798 and 1856 the greater part of India was annexed by the East India Company in a series of half-forgotten wars. Its annexation of Oudh was one of the causes of the Indian Mutiny of 1857-59, when discontented princes stirred up a revolt among some of the Bengal sepoys or Indian troops. The Mutiny was confined to one district and one class, and the English were assisted by many civilian Indians and Sikh troops, but it was the fierce resolution, the amazing energy and courage of British generals and troops that held India. Among them John Lawrence and John Nicholson were pre-eminent. The East India Company's trade monopoly had gone in 1834 and the Mutiny caused the Company to be relieved of its governmental functions. Disraeli arranged in 1876 that Queen Victoria should become Empress of India.
There have always been frontier wars in the North-West -roughly one a year-but the military side of government in India has gradually been hidden by the political and economic. During the nineteenth century plague and famine still occurred regularly; it was the chief triumph of British rule to make both less common, the one by means of sanitation, the other by irrigation.
The Government of India remained until 1909 an enlightened despotism. The despot was the Viceroy and his Council (partly representative after 1892) under the Secretary of State and his Council in London. Under the Viceroy were the usual hierarchy of provincial governors and legal and financial officials. Officials of the lower grades were all Indians, but Indians seldom reached the higher grades, though eligible, partly because they rarely did well enough in the competitive examinations on which, after 1870, appointments were made, Local self-government by town councils began in the eighties.