Why did the British view India as the "jewel in the crown"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Simply put, India was called Britain's "jewel in the crown" because it was the most valuable and profitable of Great Britain's empires. India was rich in both natural resources and labor potential, as well as strategically located, and Britain was eager to exploit this.

Beginning in the early seventeenth century,...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Simply put, India was called Britain's "jewel in the crown" because it was the most valuable and profitable of Great Britain's empires. India was rich in both natural resources and labor potential, as well as strategically located, and Britain was eager to exploit this.

Beginning in the early seventeenth century, the British East India Company began making commercial incursions into India. However, these remained relatively modest. After the British lost their North American colonies in the American Revolution, they refocused on India with a desire to make it their most profitable overseas colony. By the mid-nineteenth century, India was responsible for much of Great Britain's wealth.

India quickly proved to be a lucrative territory. Cotton, timber, tea, minerals, ivory, and actual jewels from India were brought to Great Britain in massive quantities. Opium grown in India was sold by the British in China, bringing further wealth to Britain. Because of its very large population, there was no shortage of workers and farmers in India to serve the needs of the British. Furthermore, India's geographic position between the West and East Asia helped make it a lucrative trading hub that helped bring goods such as silks and fine porcelain to Britain. All this wealth led to the term "jewel in the crown' to be applied to British India.

Furthermore, the literal jewels in the English crown come from India. Many of the gemstones and diamonds in these actual crowns came from mines in the subcontinent. While this is not the reason India earned this particular moniker, it helps to drive home the point of how the British took advantage of the wealth of India.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team