The British colonial rule of India produced a new social group of bureaucrats and professionals like lawyers, teachers and doctors trained in Western medicine to heal the ailments and diseases.

This social group is commonly known as ‘Middle class” and ‘Elite’. By 1870, India witnessed the rise and growth of middle-class consciousness which is reflected in the aspirations of native associations started in Madras, Bengal and Bombay presidencies.

Sumit Sarkar remarks on the basis of evidence of J.R. Maclane, that by 1880, the total number of English-educated Indians rose to 50,000 and by 1907, and the number of English-educated Indian rose to 5, 05,000 and the circulation of English newspapers to 2, 76,000.

Southern India Including The Presidencies Of Bombay & Madras ...

Image Source:


We can agree with Sumit Sarkar that English education gave its beneficiaries a unique capacity to establish contacts on a country-wide scale and opportunity to mould and mobilize public opinion either against or in favour of government policies. Further, Western education created awareness of world currents and ideologies which helped them to formulate conscious theories of nationalism.

The ideology of the most of the English-educated elite was motivated by a desire of change rather than defending conservation or privi­leges of caste. The English-educated elite in many cases became the torch-bearers of modernity based on reason and social justice and made personal sacrifice to lead the Indian society on progressive lines of western outlook. Some of the English-educated elite emerged as intelligentsia and guided the destiny of Indian nation by their ideas and deeds.

The intelligentsia of 19th century stood for reform and revival as in the case of Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Dayananda Saraswati and Bal Gangadhar Tilak Some intellectuals impressed by the progressive ideas of the West, successfully convinced that the Indian society was in need of urgent social change and acted as catalysts in bringing out the desired change.

But at the same time some intellectuals resisted total modernization based on secular values. Thus, middle-class elite played a critical role in-shaping and moulding the destiny of Mother India by their critical understanding of western outlook based on reason, social justice and equality.