Battles involving England - British expansion in India

Song about a soldier in the East India Company army

The East India Company was founded in 1600 to trade in the East indies. It ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinenet and China. It traded mainly in cotton, silk, indigo dye, saltpetre, tea, and opium. Its main European rival in India was France, but the Battle of Plassey in 1757 was a decisive British East India Company victory over the Nawab of Bengal and his French allies, establishing Company rule in India. It ruled large swathes of India and assumed administrative functions, to the exclusion, gradually, of its commercial pursuits.

Indian Mutiny 1857 (location)

The East India Company had its own army which had sepoys, natives of India emplyed as soldiers. In 1857, there was a mutiny of sepoys, and this spread to other mutinies and civilian rebellions. One of the causes of the mutiny was controversy over the ammunition for new Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle. To load the new rifle, the sepoys had to bite the cartridge open. It was believed that these were greased with lard (pork fat) which was regarded as unclean by Muslims, or tallow (beef fat), regarded as anathema to Hindus.

The unrest was wide-spread. It was put down ruthlesssly by the British. Bahadur Shah Zafar was the last Mughal emperor in India. The Mughal empire had shrunk so that Bahadur Shah Zafar was merely Emperor of Delhi. The sepoys had declared him to be Emperor of India. When the British had put down the rebellion, they tried Bahadur Shah Zafar and exiled him to Rangoon.

One of the consequences of the Indian Mutiny was that the British government nationalized the East India Company. The Company lost all its administrative powers and its Indian possessions, including its armed forces, were taken over by the Crown.

Bahadur Shah Zafar, Emperor of Delhi (1837-57), in captivity in Delhi awaiting trial before being exiled, 1858
Bahadur Shah Zafar, Emperor of Delhi (1837-57), in captivity in Delhi awaiting trial before being exiled, 1858



Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye

An Irish traditional anti-war and anti-recruiting song. It refers to the soldiers from Athy, County Kildare that fought in "Sulloon" (Ceylon - now Sri Lanka) for the East India Company.

While goin' the road to sweet Athy, hurroo, hurroo
While goin' the road to sweet Athy, hurroo, hurroo
While goin' the road to sweet Athy
A stick in me hand and a drop in me eye
A doleful damsel I heard cry,
Johnny I hardly knew ye.

Chorus:
With your drums and guns and drums and guns, hurroo, hurroo
With your drums and guns and drums and guns, hurroo, hurroo
With your drums and guns and drums and guns
The enemy nearly slew ye
Oh my darling dear, Ye look so queer
Johnny I hardly knew ye.

Where are your eyes that were so mild, hurroo, hurroo
Where are your eyes that were so mild, hurroo, hurroo
Where are your eyes that were so mild
When my heart you so beguiled
Why did ye run from me and the child
Oh Johnny, I hardly knew ye.

Where are your legs that used to run, hurroo, hurroo
Where are your legs that used to run, hurroo, hurroo
Where are your legs that used to run
When you went for to carry a gun
Indeed your dancing days are done
Oh Johnny, I hardly knew ye.

I'm happy for to see ye home, hurroo, hurroo
I'm happy for to see ye home, hurroo, hurroo
I'm happy for to see ye home
All from the island of Sulloon
So low in flesh, so high in bone
Oh Johnny I hardly knew ye.

Ye haven't an arm, ye haven't a leg, hurroo, hurroo
Ye haven't an arm, ye haven't a leg, hurroo, hurroo
Ye haven't an arm, ye haven't a leg
Ye're an armless, boneless, chickenless egg
Ye'll have to put with a bowl out to beg
Oh Johnny I hardly knew ye.

They're rolling out the guns again, hurroo, hurroo
They're rolling out the guns again, hurroo, hurroo
They're rolling out the guns again
But they never will take our sons again
No they never will take our sons again
Johnny I'm swearing to ye.

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