As we all know by now, the Empire had reached its most significant expansion once Aurangzeb died. Thereby, it was challenging for any ruler to control the whole empire while physically remaining at the capital. The first successors of Aurangzeb had experienced this difficulty while trying to manage the vast Empire. Bahadur Shah I, in particular, had to tackle the different ethnic rebellions taking place in different regions of India. Though the Marathas were the most problematic for him, his successors had to face the stubborn Rajputs. These formerly loyal clans took advantage of the inefficient Mughal administration and declared themselves virtually independent. In 1748, the Mughal Emperor Mohammed Shah sent troops after troops in order to deal with the sudden elevation of Rajput power but in vain. Indeed, Rajput warriors were proved to be more competitive against the large quantity of Mughal soldiers.
Witnessing the increasing number of independent kingdoms forming from the Mughal Sultanate, other states get encouraged to do the same. Newer economic capitals of the Empire were most likely to do so due to their ability of self-sufficiency. For example, the Viceroy of the Deccan Qamar-ud-Din Siddiqi founded the State of Hyderabad. This state was the capital of the most wanted region of the Deccan because of its exclusive resources of diamonds, pearls, and steel for possible world leading markets. Predicting the lapse of the later Mughal Empire, the leader of Hyderabad declared the state independent in the late 18th century. The Mughal Sultanate lost the Province of Bengal, their most significant financial capital, in a very similar manner and at the same. The difference was, however, the interference of the British.
‘…anarchy has arisen, and everyone proclaims himself a sovereign in his own place … the strong prevailing over the weak… In this age of delusion and deceit, His Majesty places no dependence on the service or professions of loyalty of anyone but the English chiefs.’
-Letter from Emperor Shah Alam to the East India Company
The global expansion of trade and conquests by European powers marked the beginning of colonialism. In the early 16th century, exotic spices such as cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and exquisite, refined fabrics like silk and cotton were in high demand in Europe. What other places than India would carry these luxuries? Indo-British trades had just started. In fact, the flourished Mughal Empire of the time of Jahangir was the British’s central economic market. Hence, merchants began their journey towards India through sea routes which lead them to the Bay of Bengal and eventually to the Mughal province of Bengal. A group of English merchants then founded the East India Company in 1599 (Bengal is located in eastern India) for gaining more opportunities in the international spice trade. Later on, though, other resources of the province (silk, muslin) spark their financial interests.
The third Mughal Emperor Jahangir was fascinated by foreigners and found them to be excellent economic and financial aids. The British were no different to him. They were warmly welcomed by Mughal officials for trade purposes, hence giving them the opportunity to create a large variety of products and a potential international market.
The East India Company would have witnessed, like many others, the decline of the Mughal Empire within the next century. They would have also seen the rise of the Maratha Empire. The changing monarchy meant that they had to protect their own economy before it too gets taken away. Thus, just like the way the Marathas defeated the Mughals, the British ended up defeating the Marathas. The East India Company had started taking over India. That would mark the initial trials of colonialism.