Bangladesh – Did you know that the country of Bangladesh has a rich and complex history? For centuries, the area now known as Bangladesh was part of the historical region of Bengal. In 1947, Bengal was divided into the Pakistani provinces of East and West Bengal. Then, in 1971, East Bengal became the independent country of Bangladesh. Today, Bangladesh is a densely populated, Muslim-majority nation with a thriving economy. Read on to learn more about the history of this fascinating country.
The Early History of Bengal
The region now known as Bengal was first settled by humans circa 10,000 BCE. Over time, various tribes and kingdoms emerged in the area. By the 6th century BCE, the region was under the rule of the Persian Achaemenid Empire. Around 323 BCE, Alexander the Great conquered the Persian empire, and Bengal came under Greek rule. Following Alexander’s death in 323 BCE, his generals fought over who would control his vast empire. Eventually, Bengal came under the rule of the Mauryan dynasty, India’s first empire. The Mauryan dynasty ruled from 322-185 BCE and oversaw a period of economic and cultural growth in Bengal.
The Mughal Period
In 1526 CE, the Mughal emperor Babur invaded India and defeated Sultan Ibrahim Lodhi, the ruler of Delhi at the time. The Mughal dynasty went on to rule Bengal for nearly two centuries. Under the Mughal rule, Bengali art and architecture flourished. The Mughals also built roads and bridges throughout Bengal to facilitate trade and transportation. However, towards the end of Mughal rule, corruption and poverty were rampant in Bengal. In 1757 CE, Bengal was annexed by imperial Britain after the British defeated Nawab Siraj UD-Daulah in battle.
British Rule in Bengal
Imperial Britain ruled over Bengal for nearly two hundred years. During British rule, Bengali culture was largely suppressed. However, British rule also brought education and western technology to Bengal for the first time. In 1905 CE, British authorities partitioned Bengal into Hindu-majority West Bengal and Muslim-majority East Bengal (present-day Bangladesh). This decision led to widespread protests among Bengalis who wanted a united Bengali state.
Independence and War
In 1947 CE, imperial Britain granted independence to India and Pakistan (which included present-day Bangladesh). However, tensions between Hindus and Muslims quickly boiled over into violence. In 1971 CE, Bengali nationalists declared independence from Pakistan after a massive military crackdown on pro-independence protesters known as Operation Searchlight killed thousands of people and caused millions to flee their homes in fear for their lives. Bangladesh became an independent nation on December 16th, 1971 after a nine-month war against Pakistan that left hundreds of thousands dead.
Bangladesh is a country with a long and complex history dating back thousands of years. Today, it is a thriving Muslim-majority nation with a rapidly growing economy. If you’re interested in learning more about Bangladesh’s rich history, be sure to check out some of the resources listed below!