An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India by Shashi Tharoor

By Shashi Tharoor

In 1930, the yankee historian and thinker Will Durant wrote that Britain s wakeful and planned bleeding of India... [was the] maximum crime in all heritage . He used to be no longer the one one to denounce the rapacity and cruelty of British rule, and his overview used to be now not exaggerated. virtually thirty-five million Indians died as a result of acts of fee and omission by way of the British in famines, epidemics, communal riots and wholesale slaughter just like the reprisal killings after the 1857 struggle of Independence and the Amritsar bloodbath of 1919. in addition to the deaths of Indians, British rule impoverished India in a fashion that beggars trust. while the East India corporation took regulate of the rustic, within the chaos that ensued after the cave in of the Mughal empire, India s proportion of global GDP used to be 23 in line with cent. while the British left it used to be simply above three consistent with cent. The British empire in India begun with the East India corporation, included in 1600, through royal constitution of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I, to exchange in silk, spices and different ecocnomic Indian commodities. inside of a century and a part, the corporate had develop into an influence to reckon with in India. In 1757, below the command of Robert Clive, corporation forces defeated the ruling Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula of Bengal at Plassey, via a mixture of improved artillery or even extra enhanced chicanery. many years later, the younger and weakened Mughal emperor, Shah Alam II, was once browbeaten into issuing an edict that changed his personal profit officers with the corporate s representatives. Over the subsequent numerous a long time, the East India corporation, subsidized by means of the British executive, prolonged its keep watch over over such a lot of India, ruling with a mixture of extortion, double-dealing, and outright corruption subsidized through violence and more suitable strength. This situation persisted till 1857, whilst huge numbers of the corporate s Indian infantrymen spearheaded the 1st significant uprising opposed to colonial rule. After the rebels have been defeated, the British Crown took over energy and governed the rustic ostensibly extra benignly until eventually 1947, while India received independence. during this explosive e-book, bestselling writer Shashi Tharoor unearths with acuity, impeccable learn, and trademark wit, simply how disastrous British rule was once for India. in addition to interpreting the numerous ways that the colonizers exploited India, starting from the drain of nationwide assets to Britain, the destruction of the Indian cloth, steel-making and delivery industries, and the unfavorable transformation of agriculture, he demolishes the arguments of Western and Indian apologists for Empire at the meant advantages of British rule, together with democracy and political freedom, the rule of thumb of legislation, and the railways. The few unarguable merits the English language, tea, and cricket have been by no means really meant for the good thing about the colonized yet brought to serve the pursuits of the colonizers. Brilliantly narrated and passionately argued, An period of Darkness will serve to right many misconceptions approximately probably the most contested sessions of Indian historical past.

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This book is also not about British colonialism as a whole, but simply about India’s experience of it. This is partially because discussing the entire history of British colonialism, as the speakers at the Oxford Union did, would have made for a huge and unwieldy book, but also because I simply don’t know enough about it, whereas Indian history is a field I have delved into since my student days. * There is a third respect in which this book differs from my speech. At Oxford I was arguing one side of a debate; there was little room for nuance or acknowledgement of counter-arguments.

Indeed, the best form of atonement by the British might be, as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has suggested, to start teaching unromanticized colonial history in British schools. The British public is woefully ignorant of the realities of the British empire, and what it meant to its subject peoples. ’ If British schoolchildren can learn how those dreams of the English turned out to be nightmares for their subject peoples, true atonement—of the purely moral kind, involving a serious consideration of historical responsibility rather than mere admission of guilt—might be achieved.

In the eight years after he took over as the Company’s Governor General in 1847, Lord Dalhousie annexed a quarter of a million square miles of territory from Indian rulers. Till an open revolt occurred against them in 1857, leading to the takeover of British domains by the Crown in the following year, the East India Company presided over the destinies of more than 200 million people, determining their economic, social and political life, reshaping society and education, introducing railways and financing the inauguration of the Industrial Revolution in Britain.

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