Posted on: 2 February 2013

1812: How Napoleon and Paul I were about to conquer India

When people speak about Napoleon Bonaparte they usually recall his military campaigns in Europe and do not pay attentions to the fact that the dream of all his life was the conquest of India.

His famous Egyptian campaign in 1798 was to become the first step towards the conquest of India. But after the catastrophe in Aboukir Bay when British admiral Nelson destroyed the French fleet and the failure of the Syrian campaign Napoleon returned to France where he took power. But even during his political struggle he continued to dream about the East.

In 1800, Napoleon signed a military and political alliance with the Russian Emperor Paul I, known as a hotheaded ruler. Napoleon managed to talk Paul I into the idea of a joint campaign against India. Bonaparte took active steps to make his dream come true. It was only the assassination of Paul I in March 1801 which ruined his Eastern plans. In this program we will tell you how it all happened and in particular how Russia made its first attempt to establish itself in Central Asia long before this region came under its influence.

Napoleon confessed that France had started the Egyptian campaign in order to conquer the British India. To establish itself in North Africa and the Middle East was the minor goal of that campaign. In fact France planned to turn the international basin of the Mediterranean Sea into the French Lake.

When Napoleon came to power and solved the main domestic affairs he focused on France's foreign policy. One of the first political tasks for France was to continue the French expansion in West Asia and to push the British fleet from the Mediterranean Sea. According to the official version, on returning from Egypt Napoleon left that country occupied by his troops and made Malta part of France. In Africa the French army was headed by of General Klebert.

He was in charge of 17,000 French soldiers and up to 5,000 Arabic and African mercenaries. On Malta the French garrison of 3,000 soldiers was led by General Vobois. These figures show that Napoleon was serious about the resumption of his expansion to the East. He was dreaming about the Eastern Empire of Alexander the Great and wanted to drive the Brits away from the Mediterranean Sea. But this task turned to be a hard nut to crack for Napoleon.

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Jean-Léon Gérôme, French, 1824–1904
Napoleon in Egypt, 1867–68
Oil on wood panel
© Princeton University Art Museum

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No he planed to kick the british out of India. - After that ???

good article and Napoleon tried again, the russian campaign, to reach India, and failed yet again.

This was not his only effort in this direction. In 1808, after Tilsit, French General Gardane was sent on a Mission to Persia to negotiate an invasion of India through Afghanistan.

I think he realized that wearing white pants was not going to go far in India. His laundrymen might've gone on strike!

Had Nepolian occupied India, would they have given us Universities, enacted written Law, setup High Courts, Medical Colleges - the invaders from north couldnot do it for 700 years- French could never replace English.

Bibhash Gupta: Yes indeed! Napoleon's contributions were many and he was a great visionary too. For example: The Napoleonic Code—or Code Napoléon (originally, the Code civil des français)—is the French civil code, established under Napoléon I in 1804. The code forbade privileges based on birth, allowed freedom of religion, and specified that government jobs should go to the most qualified.[1] It was drafted rapidly by a commission of four eminent jurists and entered into force on 21 March 1804.[1] The Code, with its stress on clearly written and accessible law, was a major step in replacing the previous patchwork of feudal laws. Historian Robert Holtman regards it as one of the few documents that have influenced the whole world.[1] The Napoleonic Code was not the first legal code to be established in a European country with a civil legal system; it was preceded by the Codex Maximilianeus bavaricus civilis (Bavaria, 1756), the Allgemeines Landrecht (Prussia, 1794), and the West Galician Code (Galicia, then part of Austria, 1797). It was, however, the first modern legal code to be adopted with a pan-European scope, and it strongly influenced the law of many of the countries formed during and after the Napoleonic Wars. Read more on the Wiki:

The french treated their African colonies horribly as did the Portuguese and the Spanish. A weak india has always been subjugated and the best of all subjugators have been the English.

It has become so fashionable to praise the British occupation of India. Its a wonder that they fleeced us for 200 years and left us with a pathological disregard for our own capabilities.

I'm sorry but you don't seem to have your facts straight...on the contrary every problem we face even today...60+ years after Independence is still blamed squarely on the Brits by all and sundry...that's fashionable. What is not fashionable is when one gives them even an iota of credit - in fact that's called being courageous. If I can be excused...I think what Sanajaya Kanoria is trying to say is that India's colonisation by one of the Europeans was inevitable and we were lucky it was the British. No offence meant...this is only perspective and RBSI reiterates time and again history is to learn from.

Sanjaya - in what way were the British any better than other colonialists??? And where did you get the information from? In which language? English, I presume. To be subjugated by ANYONE, is to be a slave. And your comments indicate exactly that.

Napoleon was in some ways going to replicate Alexander. At least that was his original plan. Instead he got involved in a reactionary war with Russia. He was most interested in tying up with Tipu and defeating the British. Interestingly his arch nemesis learnt and earned his fighting prowess in India. It was in Mysore that the Duke of Wellington suffered his first military setback on a night patrol. He then made a promise to himself to never fight on a ground he hadn't reconnoitred before. His greatest victory (by his own account) was not against Napoleon but against the Marathas. Waterloo had been reconnoitred by him before and he had made up his mind that he would fight Napoleon here years before the fight. Thus, in this tale, India has always played a central part to the Napoleon/Arthur Wellesley story.

@Frank, @ Sanjaya, The British bled India dry. When they first came to trade, it was one of the richest countries in the world. When they left 200 years later, it was one of the poorest. Is that something to be grateful for?

Kulveer Singh, who fleeced us for 700 years, Mahmood of Gazni to Nadir Shah. Did they had written Law? or established Court of Law with learned Judges? establish educational school or Universities (not Taxila, Patliputra, Ujjain etc), Medical Schools and freedom to learn in local languages, Mason and construction workers did not get permit to work if not follower of particular religion they didnot charge Jazia tax,Thousands year old beautifu community prayer buildings were demolished or new ones like Gurudwaras not allowed to be built . I think English were better than invaders from north who fleeced us greater. They did not destroy our heritage, Better preserved our ancient documents and artifacts in Oxford, London etc to which we have access for research.

Why always blame British?We just sat and fought /plotted against each other.If it was not British,it would have been French or Dutch or Mughuls would have continued their on slaught.Just look at India of today .Is there anything common with a Manipuri or a person from Nagaland with a Tamilian?The challenge is where do we go from here?Only a social scientist would hazard a guess..

AS,Thank u for sharing..


Are we arguing about which group was better at enslaving us??? This is ridiculous!

Bibhash Gupta: Completely Agree with all your points. Vinita Ullal: British came to rule India, so it is obvious that they would have given their best to exploit India to utmost. But despite that reasoning, they have left behind certain great legacies which cannot be compared to any other contributions by other foreign rulers of India. It is because that Brit took up governing India, that we saw a reawakening among Indians, a factor that should been kept on, alas that hasn't been the case. I don't mean to glorify the British rule in India, but it was the negative factors of the British rule that brought out the best in us. British have taken a hell lot of wealth out of India, but can any amount of wealth give us the Institutions and Institutional structures they have left behind for us, the efforts they have provided to discover and preserve our national heritage? If you were to see modern day politicians or the condition of our heritage, do you think it is better than what the Brits did? I would say it is worse as our own people are looting us today, destroying our heritage with negligence. Brits followed the policy of divide and rule, what are our politicians doing? Is it anything better than what the Brits did? My point is that despite being a foreign ruler, the Brit did much good for us when our own people are destroying us. You may say " we are free today, we are our own ruler" bur are we really? It has become a country of rape and hooliganism, if there is any ray of light, it is soon engulfed in darkness soon. Rare Book Society of India: Napoleon may have been the son of the revolution but he soon defeated that idea when he declared himself the emperor. He may have announced this and that human right codes but would they have been applicable for the Indians? From the application of Le Droit de L'homme by the French, it was understood that these rights only applied to those who were French!One of the most important motive of Napoleon to conquer India was to cut it out from the British, his arch enemy. He had understood that much of British power came from its colonies and India was the greatest contributor. If we see the condition of much of the former French colonies, there isn't much of Legacy that one can really speak of!

By dreaming only he become popular.. see!!

@Avijeet, why not give credit to India and its people for doing whatever good they have? If the British left any lasting legacies, it was not because they were philanthropists, but because they used those very same institutions themselves, to rob us blind. . India had a golden age under the Mughals , who incidentally were Muslim. Art, literature, culture all thrived under them. Is it wrong to think this would have not continued without the British? Couldn't change have happened organically without all the brutality and enslavement of colonization? It's a very slavish mentality (fostered by the British) that makes us think that they were responsible for any good that is presently in India. We need to get rid of that slavish mentality and to stop being like well-trained dogs! Every country goes through periods of turmoil for long periods after becoming independent. Read the violent history of the United States. With all its problems and extreme poverty, India is a shining beacon of democracy and has been a stellar example of tolerance and openness for thousands of years.

We have to thank the Rajputs and Marathis for keeping the Mughals on its toes. Their resistance, prevented an Islamic India. The positive impact of caste system is the Kshatriya class ( warriors ) breed men with strong determination and character, made them to think, that they are born to fight. The British were more just compare to the Mughals.

@Sankarshan, The negative impact of the caste system is the brutality inflicted for millennia, on millions and millions of helpless individuals through no fault of their own. I guess to you, that is preferable to an Islamic state!

Vinita, the English were much fairer to their subject peoples than the other European powers were. A glaring example is the treatment of the Inca, Mayan, Aztec and other civilisations by the spaniards in South America. They wiped them out. On the other hand our ancient glories were rediscovered by the English after they'd been forgotten by us. It doesn't matter where and in which language I got my facts from - you may verify them independently.

Vinita, world history by and large if one were to examine even in a cursory manner is replete with periods of great violence and upheavals and of course periods of quiet where there is a nurturing of the finer aspects of human life. How these periods were inter-spaced and where in the world they were occurring is beyond me as I am not even a scholar of history. Some of the issues we are talking about here predate us a good thousands of years esp the caste system in our country and apart from that there numerous other social issues that are as old and glare at us even today e.g. women's rights. Personally I agree that there was a harsh side too to the British period in India but lets also appreciate how they managed to form us into one country...govern us and in the bargain give to us on a plate our sense of nationalism. It is clear in this forum that a lot of people recognise that the Brits set up one very solid vibrant infrastructure to achieve their aims and that is what was passed on to us when they left. You travel across India and will see even in the smallest of towns a well kept cantonment...tehsil/land and revenue office...courthouse...police station...train station. They were diligent in their record keeping and today historians have at their disposal limitless archived material on every aspect of their rule and many of us are also lucky to have access to the thousands of titles...some written by wonderful men and women who had the courage to travel the expanse of this country. Whats more they had the freedom even then to be critical and objective about British rule in India. Colonisation as I said earlier was inevitable not whether it was good or bad...that is another debate but what I did say was that we were lucky that we got the British in that game of chance.

Sanjaya, Frank, the British were not known for their benevolence anywhere. That is a myth that they fostered and we unfortunately believed. There was nothing lucky about getting them as our conquerors - my blood curdles to see this in print. Jallianwala Bagh and the mass killings after the 1857 revolt are only 2 examples. They were incredibly cruel. In the US, the colonies where the British ruled, have barely any Native Tribes left because the British annihilated them. In one infamous incident they forced thousands of tribesmen to walk hundreds of miles in the winter with blankets from smallpox victims. Needless to say, barely any survived. The Spanish were much kinder to the Native Tribes under their control who are still very much in evidence today. Agreed that the British are excellent at record keeping and governance and credit should be given where it is due. But to say that colonization was inevitable and that we should be grateful to the British for ruling us, borders completely on the ridiculous.

Also, the British did NOT form us into one country. That is another myth propagated by them. India was one country from the time of Ashoka. Every country has had shifting borders since their formation and India is no exception. So was it worth it to be robbed blind and to be left with a huge inferiority complex as I see so clearly manifested here, for those institutions that were left behind by the British? IMHO, a resounding 'no!'

Sacrebleu ! .... How is it that a thread designed - ostensibly at least - to prompt a discussion concerning the Napoleonic connections with the Indian sub-continent can so quickly descend into a predictably ill-informed, anti-British diatribe ? Of a type that ' Old boney ' himself might have been proud ... Incroyable !

Oops this much history. I didn't know. Thanks, that i didn't had this in 10th class.......

The thorny question of the legacy of the British Empire upon the social, political and economic climate of India always excites such polarized debates. And, contrary to some claims, I find that many urban Indians exposed to Western ideas of thought nurse a warm nostalgia for the Raj and for it's residue in the forms political institutions, educational systems and scientific temper. While such a disposition is highly subjective, depending on who is doing the analysis and for whom, it is my opinion that a comparable knowledge and appreciation of analogous native systems isn't mature enough for us to evenly compare such, at times orthogonal, approaches to arrive at more just views. That being said, I would like to apply some color what Ms. Vinita Ullal seeks to aver. 1. There are several reasons why it was the British, among many vying Continental powers, that finally settled to preside over Indian affairs. The parliamentary system in Britain was favorable to throwing up capable leaders more readily than in France, ruled by an absolute monarch advised by favorites. The financial machinery in Britain, imported from the Dutch through the years following the Glorious Revolution, allowed the country to support large-scale projects like wars with lesser strain on the treasury by the system of public debt run through a stock exchange. Britain had superior naval prowess that could dominate the sea lanes to India. Their other colonies were much closer to the India than those of the French, allowing the former to procure reinforcements more readily. There was little government interference in the British East India Company that in it's French counterpart, which made economic management of the latter inefficient and it's solvency always suspect. It cannot be dismissed that British rule was preferable to any other. France, for example, was open to more radical and reformative processes. Thomas Paine, the famous Englishman who argued for the rights of man against monarchy and subversive political institutions, had to escape to France from charges tantamount to treason. Mary Wollstonecraft also looked up to France for their kinder treatment of women. In the mid-nineteenth century, Chartism, the British working-class movement in favor of political equality and social justice, failed to move a - supposedly reformed - parliament of 300MPs even after 8 million people had signed it's petitions. The military were kept ready to put down any rioting. Even the Irish Famine of 1845, which reduced the population of that country by 25% while the aristocracy continued their regal ways, was explained away by the Home Secretary as an act of God. If fellow Christians, with an alternative form of faith, could attract such treatment, what could Indian's expect? The Corn Laws, introduced to keep the price of cereal artificially high to protect the landed gentry against the import of cheap foreign food, lingered on for 30 years. There were strident calls for it's repeal, but only from industrialists who complained of the high wages they needed to pay the workers to purchase such expensive corn. It took a large scale catastrophe like the Famine to have it repealed. 2. The early reforms attributed to the liberal views of the British which, it was thought, were fired by reason and not by social prejudice, also came about because they were "cost-free political initiatives". Sati was legally abolished only after assurances that there would be no unrest, which could cost them dear to put down. Educational reforms, which kicked into power two decades after their outlines were first discussed, were introduced to fill in the lower ranks of the civil services. There was no filial intercourse to any appreciable degree between the two races at that time, least of all in Macaulay, to justify their introduction purely for upliftment. 3. There was no representative political system in India, and the natives had no say in the way they were governed. The idea of political liberty applied only to the Mother Country, while Indian rule continued to be despotic mostly because it was cheap and efficient. This was explained away by stating that such a rule was so complex and onerous that only the English gentility could grasp and execute it. The natives were seen only as a lot sunk in wretched superstition and poverty. The sociological analysis that later threw a revealing light on such a society came only a century later, an understanding of which the typical urban Indian lacks still (and, it is in this sense of absorbing philosophical learning into sociology that India has remained one country for millennia, against shifting political fortunes). Significant portions of the tops ranks of the ICS were thrown open to the Indians only in the early years of the twentieth century, when the choice of a civil career in India was getting to be less popular in Britain. 4. The railways in India received attention only after their economic potential in Britain had b

@Shashi Kolar, that was an incredibly informative piece. Thank you. I agree with everything except the last paragraph. I do not believe we need to be grateful to the British for anything. Scientific thought and discourse existed in India well before Britain existed, to wit, Ayurveda, the concept of zero, astronomy etc.

Thank you Shashi Kolar! ...a brilliant, well articulated and a balanced essay!

Julian, why do you call it ill-informed? And it's not a diatribe - views on both sides have been expressed. However one of the greatest historical mysteries for me is the question of why did the English leave. Perhaps you can pour some light ...

Vinita, a friend in the u s believes Ayurweda is pure bunkum. Do you have any material to prove that it's not?

The British left due to local nationalistic pressures from within and those of imperial ambitions of Continental powers from without, the latter leading directly to WWII. Hitler dreamt of making Russia the India of Germany. The commercial successes of British imperialism were eaten away by war expenses. The Americans offered to help in return for the liquidation of the British Empire, ostensibly to set up an economic empire of her own. However, in the end, it was the Russian successes that won the war rather than the "alliance of English-speaking peoples" as Churchuill had boasted.

But it was after the war that the English left, and that too in a hurry. If the English were not in India for the benefit of the Indians, why did they depart? India was surely not an economic burden and so many Indian soldiers including a few of our own Maharajas bearing allegiance to the crown had fought on their side in the war, and the war had been won. Winnie the Pooh didn't want india to be lost (his famous dismemberment speech) and I'm sure his view was shared by many an empire-builder in his country. What did England gain by leaving india? Who forced them to plan to evacuate?

Sanjaya, I don't have actual material to prove that Ayurveda is authentic (this is besides personal experience) but I could research it. However, what your friend thinks about Ayurveda isn't important - you know what they say about opinions!!! Ignorance and boas cannot be helped.


I haven't had time to read this in detail, but there was a posting by Rare Book Society of India on Jan. 26, regarding Dean Robinson's archives. Maybe that will shed some light on the British decision to hurry with Partition (apparently it was planned for 1948) resulting in the death of millions of people (another example of British cruelty). I think Shashi has also summed up the reasons pretty succinctly.

Vinita, her opinion isn't important per se, but I'd still like some proof if I can find some on the efficacy of Ayurweda.

Vinita, you can't hold the English responsible for partition and the violence that followed - to find who's responsible one needs look no further than Ghandy and Jinna. You heard the story of the two cats fighting over a "roti ...."

Sanjaya, if you would like a blow-by-blow account of the dynamics between India and Churchill and how India gained independence despite the latter's imperial sympathies, read Arthur Herman's "Gandhi & Churchill". The torturous train of events that lead to independence need to be studied to grasp the reasons for British withdrawal. The Indian Home Rule League demanded efforts to self-government for Indian services rendered towards WWI. The Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms at the end of the war made provisions for eventual self-rule. But, the Rowlatt Acts introduced to clamp down on an Indian revolution caused a sense of betrayal, which was further fed by the Jallianwala Bagh massacre that woke up Nehru to British high-handedness. The ICS was almost half-Indian and began to demand greater roles in self government. The calls of self-rule also sharpened communal differences that the British had no power to control, leading to large scale riots. The unrest further gained momentum when India's participation in WWII was decided upon without consulting them. The Cripps Mission in 1942, which failed to set a timetable for self-rule in return for co-operation in the war effort, lead to the Quit India movement. When the war was won, Britain elected a socialist government at the expense of Churchill, which could not justify an imperial holding while taking steps to make their own county a welfare state. To be sure, not many of the Princely States wanted severance from the Empire, but they had no political authority to enforce this wish. In the end, neither the people of Britain nor the Indians wanted an Empire anymore.

Sanjaya, I can and will hold the British responsible for the horrors of Partition. They fomented trouble between the Hindu and Muslim leadership of the Congress party and hastened Partition without making adequate preparations for the safety and security of those crossing the borders. Will try to find evidence for this as well as proof for the scientific efficacy of Ayurveda.

Shashi, you are a treasure trove of information! Thank you for all your input - very impressive!

Shashi you are indeed most knowledgeable. But that still doesn't make sense - why should the British give up an empire that they could have continued with - it certainly wasn't a drain on their finances.

Thanks vinita. I'd like to add - if the Indians can't govern themselves why should any foreign power not exploit the situation? Has this not been exactly what happened for the last fourteen hundred years? The foreign adventurers certainly can't be blamed for our own weakness.

>> why should the British give up an empire that they could have continued with Because they could not. INA triggered the final detachment of India soldiers with British. Another 1857 was around the corner, its first shots were already fired. The British did not have the werewithal for another 1857, post WW II

Sanjaya, of course the Indians can govern themselves. They are doing it right now, despite incredible disadvantages. To take 1 billion people into the 21st century, democratically, is no small feat. To have regular elections where a large percentage of the population votes is amazing. Where the rule of law is upheld; these are all things to be proud of. Are there problems? Of course. But when one takes into account the incredible diversity of India (which in my humble opinion is more than any other country in the world) and its crushing poverty, it is exceptional. As for saying that foreign adventurers can't be held responsible for preying on a weak nation, that is absolutely wrong. What happened to recognition of state sovereignty and to being civilized (something the British like to claim)? It's not okay to follow the rule of the jungle. That's why we have the UN and even then we have unjustified wars.

>> The foreign adventurers certainly can't be blamed for our own weakness. Who is blaming them for our weaknesses, they are being blamed for THEIR inhumanity, greed, duplicity, rapine loot etc. >> if the Indians can't govern themselves why should any foreign power not exploit the situation That presupposes military victory and defeats have to do with governance. Bad assumption. In a military standpoint, a savage horde always has a advantage over a settled power. The settled power has to continually shake of savage hordes as part of its continued existence. Perhaps Indian is the only country to do so. Even if the costs have sometimes been high.

Sanjaya, the explanation for British withdrawal cannot rest on her domestic economic concerns. They can be satisfactorily done so through pressures of local nationalistic movements and pressures of international trade (US insistence of the dismembering of the Empire in return for help in the war effort). Until 1914, British balance of payments, especially with respect to US and European credit, were in the green on account of her colonial possessions. The two world wars necessitated heavy borrowing. India alone accounted for around Rs. 1500 crores towards the end of WWII. Piecemeal repayment was promised after independence, which clearly need not have been done had India chosen to remain a colony. So, it was not in her economic interests to cede power. Infact, there were moves to reduce or even cancel this debt (called "Sterling Balance") during negotiations after independence (1947-49). Here is Churchill during one such argument: "[The Chancellor of the Exchequer would] agree that at the close of the war we were said to owe India approximately 1,200 million sterling as a result of defending her from invasion and conquest by Japan. It had always been kept open, as I think he will agree, that we should have the right to put in a counter claim for the immense services which we rendered in saving those 400 million people from being ravaged, pillaged and slaughtered as they would otherwise, to a large extent, have been. In what has been concluded now have we kept open until 1951 the full freedom of reviewing this question..." By the way, India did remain a part of the Commonwealth, which linked her economically with Britain and other colonies. As far as scientific basis for Ayurveda is concerned, you can pick up books referenced in any good encyclopaedic work on Hinduism. One good source is "Hindu World" by Benjamin Walker. You can begin with "Hindu Medicine" by Heinrich Zimmer.

Satyakam, what you say about military superiority being the most common arbiter in cross-cultural engagements is true. I'm reminded of this saddening passage from ''Guns, Germs, and Steel" by Jared Diamond: "On the Chatham Islands, 500 miles east of New Zealand, centuries of independence came to a brutal end for the Moriori people in December 1835. On November 19 of that year, a ship carrying 500 Maori armed with guns, clubs, and axes arrived, followed on December 5 by a shipload of 400 more Maori. Groups of Maori began to walk through Moriori settlements, announcing that the Moriori were now their slaves, and killing those who objected. An organized resistance by the Moriori could still have defeated the Maori, who were outnumbered two to one. However, the Moriori had a tradition of resolving disputes peacefully. They decided in a council meeting not to fight back but to offer peace, friendship, and a division of resources. Before the Moriori could deliver that offer, the Maori attacked en masse. Over the course of the next few days, they killed hundreds of Moriori, cooked and ate many of the bodies, and enslaved all the others, killing most of them too over the next few years as it suited their whim."

Shashi, a perfect example of how the most savage and beastly win.... It's the history of colonization, unfortunately.

Ms Ullal - " Democracy ", " regular elections ", " rule of law ", " state sovereignty", and the " United Nations " are all Western conceptions ... Even the " Republic " of India, itself - the nation of which you are (quite rightly) so proud has developed largely as a result of its exposure to the " foreign invader "... or what we might describe, if we decided to adopt a more ' civil ' and historically accurate tone, as ' outside influence '. Likewise, the development of ' Indian nationalism' would not have been possible - certainly not in the form that it has assumed today - without the geographic, economic and social cohesion that colonial rule unintentionally brought along with it....

>> On democracy et al. No they are not, what exists now is at best a borrowed version of concepts which the West learnt from India The more enlightened french give credit for the source of these thoughts. Even a few from the British Isles, and some English do that. As a aside -- I Wonder why British call themselves British though. The native British tribes were all but extinguished. What stand in England and elsewhere is the Anglo-Saxon tribes. Why call it Britian?

Re: " Why call it Britain? " It is a very long time ago that I studied ancient British history. This subject was routinely taught at primary school level in the U.K. until perhaps twenty years ago - but, sadly, this is no longer the case ... but, anyway, I digress . If memory serves ' Britain ' is a corruption of 'Breton' -that being the dominant ethnicity of the ' British Isles' in neolithic times. Far from being extinguished - the ' Celts ' are derived from the 'Bretons' and Celtic traditions are still much in evidence in Wales, Scotland and Ireland... During the period of Roman colonisation, beginning in the First century, the British Isles came to be known as ' Britannia' - this name, subsequently being shortened to ' Britain', has remained in use. (Great Britain - as in greater - was originally, only a geographic term)... The process of consolidating ' Britain' as a single national entity did not begin, of course, until the Norman conquest (' 1066 and all that') and was not completed for another seven hundred years, with the formation of the 'United Kingdom' - Prior to that, certainly during Anglo-saxon times, the British Isles was a patchwork of small autonomous micro-states - Wessex, Mercia, Northumberland etc & c (much like the Indian sub-continent during the eighteenth century)... ... You had better check all of the above with the aid of a reliable Encyclopedia as the bulk of the detail escapes my memory.

Re: " democracy et al. is at best a borrowed version of concepts which the West learnt from India "... Herr Sudershan - as ever - your whimsical assertions fail to convince ...

Julian Craig, I'm well aware that the concept of 'republic' and 'democracy' are from the Greek. About the 'rule of law,' it existed in Ashoka's time and probably even before. No one is decrying Western institutions and concepts - there is good and bad stuff everywhere. What I do object to is the whitewashing of all the brutality visited on others while empire building. As for the UB, it's unfortunate that it has to exist, but it was the result of the incredible death and destruction of WWI and WWII, all fought, with the exception of Japan, by Western powers. As I said before, the myth of the British being responsible for uniting us into one country, was just that - a myth.


Re: "As I said before, the myth of the British being responsible for uniting us into one country, was just that - a myth." Sigh... no, it is not a 'myth' - but - I quite understand why it is important for you to believe otherwise. The repudiation of established historical fact, to placate and satisfy modern political sensibilities, has become a key element within the ' mythology ' and within the framework of the patriotic national narrative that modern India has created for itself post-1947. Re: " ...the result of the incredible death and destruction of WWI and WWII, all fought, with the exception of Japan, by Western powers." That is quite an ' exception ' to make, wouldn't you say ? Still, I take your point. Both conflicts were instigated at Western behest - and both were human tragedies of immeasurable proportions, the consequences of which we still must contend with today. However, in terms of those who did the actual fighting - you should not blithely overlook the participation of one million Indian servicemen during the First war - and the two and a half million Indian volunteers who fought in the Second. Their contribution and sacrifice is still honoured in Britain - even while it remains largely obscured and uncommemorated in India.

Greece was hardly a democracy, barely a republic. Republic and Democracy in far more mature forms have been in India even prior to first experiments in Greece with the same. I would not be surprised if the tribes on Greece picked these concepts from India through trade.

Julian Craig, please read up your ancient history. India was known as a country for millennia - from the time of Ashoka for sure. His empire stretched from Afghanistan to Burma. As I mentioned earlier, every country has had shifting borders but the fact remains that India was known to be a country a long long time ago. As for the Indian soldiers who fought in WWII, one will never know how much of their efforts were really voluntary, considering that they were living under an oppressive regime. BTW, my sentiments and sensibilities are not important. The truth is!

I'm from NorthEast Spain.Joined with you today through an hindu friend, and I don't stop learning history..and matters. Find it very interesting!!