This article explores the events from the history of 8th July. It also talks about two significant events as feature stories. They are Vasco da Gama’s voyage to find India in 1497 and the publication of the Montagu Chelmsford Report in 1918, which led to the reform of the Indian Constitution.
As I look into the history of 8th July I find that it was this day in the year 1680 when the first confirmed tornado hit Massachusetts and killed a man. It was also the day when NYC authorized 1st police uniforms in American colonies in the year 1693. Besides it is also the day when Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse gave his son the 1st smallpox vaccination in the US in 1800. Then the history of 8th July takes me to the year 1864 when the Shinsengumi sabotage the Choshu-han shishi occurred. It was a planned attack and is also known as Ikedaya Jiken. We then come to the year 1889 when The Wall Street Journal began publication on this day.
With this, I come to the section of the feature stories from the history of 8th July.
Vasco da Gama’s voyage to find India.
The year was 1497, the date was 8th of July and the history is it was this day when Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese explorer, embarked on a perilous journey that would forever change the course of history.
With a crew of 170 members, da Gama set sail from Europe, determined to reach the riches of India by navigating uncharted waters. This bold endeavor would establish a direct sea route between Europe and the Indian subcontinent, opening up a new era of exploration, trade, and colonization. Let us delve into the details of this monumental expedition and understand its significance in shaping the modern world.
During the 15th century, Europe was gripped by a fervent desire to find new trade routes to the lucrative markets of the East. At that time, the Venetians held a monopoly over the spice trade, which made spices highly expensive and limited their availability in European markets. This sparked an intense quest among European nations to discover a direct sea route to India, bypassing the arduous and dangerous land routes controlled by the Ottomans and the Venetians.
It is important to mention here that there are records of trade with Europe in ancient India. These records can be found in Buddhist Jataka, 2000 years old Tamil literature and Hero stones found in Goa dating between the 10th and 11th centuries also show sea-faring boats. India’s decline in maritime trade can be attributed to several factors. One significant reason was the prevailing tension between the Hindu and Buddhist communities. Buddhist sea traders had affiliations with Buddhism, while the Hindu traders supported the feudal landowners known as the Kshatriyas, who held control over the land, or ‘kshetra’. This tension between the landowning rich and the trading rich has been observed in various cultures throughout history.
Over time, a belief emerged that crossing the sea would result in a loss of social status or caste. As this idea gained popularity, people began to avoid sea travel, ultimately leading to a decline in Indian maritime activities. Consequently, their trading ventures became restricted to port areas. Some communities in Kerala and Gujarat, who persisted in their desire to travel, eventually embraced Islam and established marital ties with Arabs, All these factors resulted in converting Indians to a farming community with very less trade and ultimately resulted in huge resources which attracted invaders over time.
Coming back to Vasco da Gama. Well, he was a seasoned sailor and navigator so he was chosen by the Portuguese monarch, King Manuel I, to lead the expedition. Da Gama came from a family of explorers and had already gained considerable experience in maritime exploration along the African coast.
Setting sail from Lisbon, Portugal, da Gama’s fleet consisted of four ships: the São Gabriel, the São Rafael, the Berrio, and a small supply ship. The crew members, comprising sailors, soldiers, astronomers, and cartographers, were prepared for a grueling journey that would test their mettle and resilience.
Da Gama’s route took him south along the African coast, where he encountered treacherous winds, hostile tribes, and unpredictable weather conditions. It was an arduous journey that demanded unwavering determination and meticulous navigation skills. The fleet faced numerous challenges, including scurvy, food shortages, and a lack of fresh water.
After several months at sea, da Gama’s fleet reached the southernmost tip of Africa, a landmark they named the “Cape of Good Hope.” This discovery was a significant breakthrough, as it confirmed the feasibility of a sea route to India. It also revealed the vast potential of maritime exploration and trade beyond the known world.
Finally, on May 20, 1498, after an arduous journey spanning nearly a year, Vasco da Gama and his crew arrived at the port of Calicut (now Kozhikode), in present-day Kerala, India. Their arrival marked the first successful European voyage to India by sea, bypassing the Venetian-controlled land routes.
Vasco da Gama’s successful expedition to India had far-reaching consequences. It established Portugal as a major player in global trade, inaugurated the era of European colonialism in Asia, and initiated centuries of European dominance over Indian Ocean trade routes. The Portuguese established a network of trading posts and colonies along the Indian coast, extending their influence and control over the spice trade.
Furthermore, da Gama’s voyage inspired other explorers, such as Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, and James Cook, who embarked on their own epic journeys of discovery. The age of exploration and globalization had truly begun, with Vasco da Gama as one of its most prominent pioneers.
With this, I come to my second feature story from the history of 8th July.
The Montagu Chelmsford Report and the Reform of the Indian Constitution
On this day, July 8, 1918, the Montagu Chelmsford Report was published, marking a significant development in the history of the Indian Constitution. The report laid the foundation for future reforms and discussions that would shape the constitutional framework of British India.
The Montagu Chelmsford Report was the result of the joint efforts of Edwin Montagu, the Secretary of State for India, and Lord Chelmsford, the Viceroy of India. It was a comprehensive review of the existing Indian constitutional arrangements and aimed to address the growing demands for increased Indian participation in the governance of their own country.
The report recognized the need for greater Indian involvement in the decision-making process and recommended several measures to achieve this objective. One of the most significant recommendations was the introduction of the principle of responsible government at the provincial level. This meant that Indian ministers would be responsible to the legislative councils, which would include elected Indian representatives.
Additionally, the report proposed the expansion of legislative councils and the extension of their powers. It recommended that the majority of members in the central legislature should be elected, gradually increasing Indian representation over time. The report also emphasized the importance of safeguarding minority rights and ensuring fair representation for all communities in the legislative bodies.
Another notable aspect of the Montagu Chelmsford Report was its acknowledgment of the principle of separate electorates for religious minorities. This provision aimed to protect the interests of marginalized communities by ensuring their representation in the legislative councils.
The publication of the report initiated a series of discussions and debates both in India and Britain. It served as a catalyst for further constitutional reforms and set the stage for the eventual enactment of the Government of India Act 1919. This act, based on the recommendations of the Montagu Chelmsford Report, introduced several reforms, including the expansion of legislative councils, the introduction of diarchy in provincial governments, and the establishment of a central legislature with limited powers.
The Montagu Chelmsford Report was a significant milestone in the constitutional history of India. It reflected a growing recognition of the need for Indian involvement in the governance of their own country and paved the way for subsequent reforms that would shape the trajectory of India’s struggle for independence.
That’s all for today. Enjoy the weekend.
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A devoted foodie with keen interest in wild life, music, cinema and travel Somashis has evolved over time . Being an enthusiastic reader he has recently started making occasional contribution to write-ups.