Colonialism and Urban Change during British Rule- History Guide for Class 8

Colonialism and Urban Change- History Guide for Class 8

Information about Colonialism and Urban Change


Colonialism and Urban Change during British Rule


Class 8


Class 8 History

Topics Covered

  • Urbanisation of Calcutta
  • Delhi Municipal Committee
  • Police in Delhi

The excavation of Indus Valley Civilisation proved that ancient India had well-planned towns and cities. During the Medieval Period also, the regional kingdoms and the invaders contributed to the development of already existing towns and cities, though in some areas, new towns and cities also developed. The Mughal architectural splendors showcased beautiful buildings as well as new towns.

Unfortunately, de-urbanisation was a significant development during the British rule in India. Many ancient towns and cities were destroyed or abondoned. The main focus of urban development came to be centred on the three port towns—Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. These places later became the Presidency towns.

Many towns, that had been popular earlier for some specialised goods, lost their glory with the decline in demand for their products. The old trading centres and ports were replaced by new trade centres. De-urbanisation during the nineteenth century destroyed the important cities of Surat, Masulipatnam and Srirangapattnam. Moreover, the rapid expansion of British power in India ended the power of regional kingdoms, which were earlier great centres of administration. Once they lost their glory, many people migrated to other cities.

Urbanisation started gradually in 1881. The process was very slow during the next 50 years. Only a few new centres of administration emerged.

Urbanisation of Calcutta

By early nineteenth century, Calcutta, the capital of the British, came to be divided into two parts—
  1. the British part was known as the White Town.
  2. the Indian part was known as the Black Town.
The Indian part was inhabited by the poor. It had congested streets and shanties, whereas the British part had sprawling bunglows and with wide open spaces. The speedy industrial growth from 1850s in Calcutta, especially, in the field of textile and jute, attracted British investments. They started building infrastructure facilities like railways, roads and telegraph lines. Henceforth, the population and employment opportunities of Calcutta increased tremendously.

As the size and population of the new urban areas expanded, a need for 'Urban Local Bodies' arose, Hence, in the nineteenth century, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation was established. But increasing political discontent all over India forced the British to relocate their capital to New Delhi in 1911 as it was more centrally located for administrative convenience.


Delhi has a long history. It is believed that the town was known as 'Indraprastha' during the times of epic Mahabharata. The earliest architectural remains, found in the city of Delhi, date back to the Mauryan Period. Subsequently, the city saw the rise and fall of many empires like the Guptas, the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughals and many others.

In 1805, the British took over lands, revenue and city administration of Delhi. They started acquiring more and more land for troops, camps, churches, hospitals, residences, clubs, etc. The cantonment occupied about one-third of the area of the Walled City. In 1824, the era of urban planning began in Delhi when a Town Duties Committee was set-up by the Britishers for the development of the Cantonment, Khyber Pass, the Civil Lines and the Ridge area. In 1863, Delhi Municipal Committee was formed. Its main achievements were shifting of the vegetable market outside the walled city, constructing railway lines, railway stations and road links.

Delhi Durbar of 1877 (for Queen Victoria) saw a lot of improvement like schemes for drainage, water supply, irrigation, road construction and development of residential areas in Delhi. The canal in Chandni Chowk was filled up and trees were cut to cater to increasing traffic, especially, the trams. The most modernised developments of this time were piped water and sewerage of the walled city. Earlier, the drinking water was supplied to the old city from All Mardan Canal.

The British shifted their capital from Calcutta to Delhi in 1911. The Delhi Durbar (for King George V) changed the look of the city. Civil Lines area (now Delhi University and Old Secretariat) was set-up. 
The construction of the new capital was a massive task and hence, the construction and management could not be left to a local authority. Therefore, the Imperial Delhi Committee was formed in 1913. Later, the Chief Commissioner of Delhi created the Raisina Municipal Committee.

Raisina Hill was selected for building the new capital—New Delhi. It became the residence of the Viceroy and the new administrative centre. The English town planners, especially, Edwin Lutyens, prepared the architectural design for the palace of the Viceroy, called the Viceroy's House (now Rashtrapati Bhawan), Circular Pillar Palace (Parliament House), Kingsway (Rajpath) and War Memorial (India Gate) along with many green spaces, parks and gardens.

The New Delhi Municipal Committee (NDMC) was set-up to look after all the civic amenities like water supply, electricity, buildings, roads, sewers, medical and public health of the capital. It provided an underground sewer system in the whole area. All big, open nalias were covered as they were the breeding grounds of mosquitoes.

In 1937, the Delhi Improvement Trust was established. It undertook many schemes like town expansion, slum clearance and slum improvement scheme for the progress of Delhi. After independence, the Government of India set-up Delhi Development Authority in 1955, which was empowered to prepare a master plan and zonal plans for housing, commercial centres, parks, playgrounds, etc., to develop and manage lands in Delhi.
  • Master Plan for Delhi provides a basic policy frame for guiding Delhi's development. 

Police in Delhi

An efficient administration required proper maintenance of law and order. In 1857, the British laid down the foundation of a systematic police system under Indian Police Act. Lord Cornwallis organised the police into a regular force. A Superintendent of Police looked after each district with the assistance of a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP). Each district was divided into thanas under darogas. Villages and towns were looked after by chowkidars and kotwals.

In 1912, Delhi'sfirst Chief Commissioner was appointed and handed over the duties and responsibilities of Inspector General of Police. In 1946, Delhi Police was restructured with the appointment of Inspector General, Deputy Inspector General and Superintendents.
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