Impact of First World War on India

Impact of First World War on India

The reference

In the past, the news of the Impact of First World War on India remained in the headlines in all the national and international newspapers and magazines of the world. Indeed, the main reason for these headlines was the completion of the hundred years (on 11 November) of the end of the First World War. On this occasion, leaders of about 70 countries of the world gathered in a ceremony held in Paris, including Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu from India. However, neither all the countries of the world were involved in this war nor the interest of all the countries was vested in this war, but still this war directly or indirectly affected all the countries of the world including India.

First World War and its causes

Impact of First World War on India
First World War

The First World War was fought between the Allied / United Nations and the Central Powers.

While France, Russia and Britain were the main members of the Allied Powers (the United States also fought on behalf of the Allies since 1917.), The main members of the Central Powers were Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria.

Not a single incident was responsible for the First World War, but this war can be considered as the result of various events and causes occurring in the years up to 1914. The reasons responsible for the First World War can be classified into long term and immediate causes.

Long term reason

Long-term causes include various events occurring in the years up to 1914 – the development of a strong sense of nationalism, militarism and armaments, imperialism and economic rivalry, secret and diplomatic treaties, the spirit of imperialism, lack of newspapers and magazines, of international institutions. Lack of social imbalance etc. can be included.

Immediate reason

For a long time, signs of unrest and disorder were already present in the whole of Europe, the immediate situation only added fuel to the fire.

In fact, on 28 June 1914, Arch Duke Francis Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria, was assassinated in Bosnia (the capital city of Sarajevo) and Serbia was charged with the murder. The already bitter relationship between the two gave Austria the opportunity to take revenge on Serbia.

Given the situation, Austria forced Serbia to accept some demands (ten-point demand letter), but Serbia rejected the unreasonable demands of this charter. As a result, Austria invaded Serbia on 28 July 1914. Various countries joined this war and eventually the war took worldwide form.

Importance of First World War for India

Since Britain was also involved in this war and Britain was ruled by India in those days, therefore our soldiers had to join this war.

In addition, at that time there was a period of dominance of Indian nationalism, these nationalists believed that as a result of Britain’s contribution to the war, the British would be lenient towards the Indian residents and would get more constitutional rights.

The soldiers returned after this war boosted public morale.

Indeed, India had supported Britain in this world war as promised to achieve democracy but soon after the war the British passed the Rowlatt Act. As a result, a sense of dissatisfaction aroused among the British rule in Indians, it led to the rise of national consciousness and soon the Non-cooperation movement started.

After this war, with the formation of the USSR, communism spread in India (formation of CPI) and as a result socialist influence was seen on the freedom struggle.

Due to involvement in World War I

Indian soldiers saw it as their duty to honor their clan or caste by fighting bravely on the battlefield.

The monthly salary of an Indian infantryman was just 11 rupees at that time, but the extra income earned from participating in the war was a good option for the peasant family, so the receipt of money can be considered as an objective to join the war.

It is often mentioned in various letters that Indian soldiers took part in this war, inspired by a sense of personal duty towards Emperor George V.

Significantly, the Indian national movement and the socio-economic development of the country is not separate from each other but it is co-related. The First World War served to connect India with global events and its various effects. Its various effects are as follows –

Political influence

The withdrawal of Punjabi troops into India after the end of the war also stimulated political activities against colonial rule in the province which later took the form of widespread protests. It is noteworthy that after the war, a large section of soldiers became active in Punjab to spread nationalism in a big way.

Nationalism and mass civil disobedience emerged in India when the 1919 Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms failed to meet the expectations of ‘home rule’.

The resentment generated by the forced recruitment of soldiers for the war set the backdrop for the promotion of nationalism.

Social Impact  of First World War on India

Despite all the negative effects of the war, between 1911 and 1921, there was a significant increase in the literacy rate among the enlisted military communities. In those days, soldiers learned to read and write for their foreign campaigns, because of the importance of the notion of usefulness of men in the battlefield.

The respect of particular communities participating in the war increased in society.

In addition, a large number of non-combatants were also recruited from India – such as nurses, doctors, etc. Therefore, during this war, the work area of ​​women also expanded and they also gained social importance.

However, Indian society was denied essential services in situations where such services / skills (nurses, doctors) were already scarce.

Economic impact

The demand for Indian goods in Britain increased rapidly as the war on production capabilities in Britain was adversely affected.

Although the war caused a disruption in the shipping lanes, it meant that Indian industries had to suffer inconvenience due to the lack of inputs previously imported from Britain and Germany. Hence supply constraints were present along with additional demand.

Another consequence of the war came in the form of inflation. Industrial prices almost doubled in the six years after 1914 and the rise in rising prices benefited Indian industries.

Agricultural prices rose at a slower rate than industrial prices. The trend of declining global commodity prices continued over the next few decades, and especially during the Great Depression.

Food inflation also increased drastically due to an increase in demand for food supplies, especially grain. Export of cash crops like jute also suffered heavy losses due to loss of European market.

It is noteworthy that in the meantime there was a shortage of workers engaged in jute production in India due to increase in the demands of the soldiers and the production of jute mills of Bengal was also damaged for which compensation was paid resulting in increased income inequality.

At the same time, the decline in British products in domestic manufacturing sectors like cotton also benefited which dominated the pre-war market.

British investment in Britain was resumed, creating opportunities for Indian capital.


Overall, even though many countries lost millions of manpower during the First World War, its effects on India can be said to be positive in many ways because the conditions of Indian soldiers joining this war The non-fulfillment of the British rule led Indians to become disillusioned with it, and growing discontent led to nationalism, eventually leading to a consciousness of independence. Apart from this, massive changes were also seen at the level of social, political and economy. In a nutshell it can be said that during the war the economy promoted capitalism in India in many ways.


Source: Live Mint

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