British Colonial Rule in India

World History (17th-19th century) 
Name/School: Carol M. Conti, Blackstone-Millville Regional High School
Grade Level: 10
Topic: British colonial rule in India
Lesson: What impact did British colonial rule have on India?

Using documents from the Garrison Family Papers (the anti-imperialism scrapbook of William Lloyd Garrison, Jr.) at Smith College, students will analyze the impact of British colonial rule in India and predict the outcome of India’s nationalist movement.

Time: one class period (45 minutes)


  • Article on British rule in India with guiding questions (Article found in the Anti-Imperialism Scrapbook of William Lloyd Garrison, Jr., Garrison Family Papers,  Box 287, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, MA)
  • Atlases
  • Blank world maps


  • Concepts (Big idea/central theme) – How did British colonial rule affect India?
  • Content (What students should know) Students will be able to analyze primary source documents to determine what impact British colonial rule had on India and to predict the development of India’s independence movement.
  • Skills (What students should be able to do) – Students will be able to read a primary source document, extract relevant information, and use that information to make predictions regarding developments in history.


  • As part of the unit on imperialism, students will have analyzed the factors that motivated European nations to colonize lands around the world.
  • Opening activity (eliciting prior knowledge): Have the students list three reasons why the British would be interested in controlling India. Compile list of suggestions on the board.
  • Place students in groups of three-four students. Each group should read the news article and complete the first five guiding questions.
  • Review questions with students. Refer back to opening question responses. Have students compare their predictions to the information in the article.
  • Students should return to groups and develop a response to the last guiding question (Pretend you are living in India and you agree with the author’s statements. Develop a plan of action to achieve your goals.) Groups should write their plans on large pieces of paper and post them around the room. 


  • Short term - For homework, students should read and make list of what the people of India did do in attempts to end British colonial rule. Those lists will be compared to the lists each group developed in class.
  • Long term – As part of the unit on imperialism, students develop a “post-imperialism” project in which they research the current status of nations that were once under European imperial control. Students are asked to evaluate the impact imperialism has had on the contemporary problems many of these nations face. 

Extension Possibilities/Interdisciplinary Connections:
Analysis of the non-violence movement promoted by Mohandas K. Gandhi (readings from his autobiography)
Evaluation of scenes from movie Gandhi (1982) – Does the movie accurately portray the conditions in India?

Tips and Reflections from Author
This lesson is part of a much larger unit examining the impact of Imperialism. This primary source document is replacing a textbook reading.

History/Social Science Curriculum Frameworks Learning Standards:

WHII.12 – Identify major developments in Indian history in the 19th and early 20th century
A. The economic and political relationship between India and Britain