The British Empire in Colour
Producers: Lucy Carter and Stewart Binns
BBC Television - 2002
Watch this breathtaking video to see India in colour:
DVD Review: The British Empire in Colour
By Lou Novacheck
The British Empire In Color was originally broadcast as a three-part BBC television miniseries covering roughly the past 200 years in British world history. It is essentially a vivid recapitulation of these years, showing the glories as well as the ignominies of British rule. It shows the nation’s successes and failures with equal candor.
Most, if not all, of the footage shown was drawn from recently discovered film, all in original color, quite rare in the early days of filmmaking. The series begins in detail during the reign of King Edward VII, in the early 1900s, covering the circumstances which drew England into World War One, then shows the festivities celebrating the end of the war, along with a parade in Paris.
As books and movies have noted, India was the “Jewel in the Crown” of the British Empire, and a good part of the series covered this area of the world in greater detail, emphasizing how 100,000 British ruled over 300 million Indians. It showed the lifestyle of the aristocracy, including the tiger hunts, the parties, and how the officers and civilians in the occupying forces, as well as visiting dignitaries, were catered to in their every whim, including being carried in howdahs on the shoulders of human bearers.
This documentary should inspire you Dean Robinson! : )
It has been telecast a number of times.
Sushil Talwar: I seem to have missed it every time! : )
This is priceless !
thanks for sharing
Awesome. Made me speechless.
Really so informative ...!
Superb it is.
the quotes make it lively and real ...mind churning!!
Thanks Neena for this post!
I find it strange that no one is outraged at the fact that 100,000 English-people ruled 300 million Indians, bled the country dry, shot tigers to near extinction and have not expressed any regrets nor paid reparation for their heinous acts. Something to think about?
Vinita Ullal : It's interesting how people judge 19th cen administrations by 21st cen standards and denigrate them! And I find these lofty standards are conveniently applied only to the British Empire. Not the Mughal Empire or any of those rapacious sultanates/maharajahs who "bled the country dry" for centuries.
Shrikanth Krishnamachary: The Mughals were Indian. They did not transport their stolen goods to far off lands. Big difference, all you Muslim haters.
Thank you! Fascinating
Vinita Ullal : I hate nobody. And one should check facts no matter how inconvenient they are. Even during the British Raj's heyday there was more investment coming into India than what was allegedly being "drained" out. Ofcourse the Raj was no paragon of virtue. But that's because you use modern liberal standards (standards which originated in Europe mind you) to judge that administration.
Re: " 100,000 British ruled over 300 million Indians " Not a very accurate statement. The British population of the Indian sub-continent only grew to exceed 100,000 at the beginning of the twentieth century - prior to the mid nineteenth century the number of ' Britishers ' in India was very small indeed. Circa 1910 , the vast majority of this ' 100,000 ' - about 60 % - were in the lower ranks of the British army (i.e. non permanent residents). Another 20,000 were members of the business community - the ' boxwallahs ' - based almost exclusively in the major cities, and who were concerned with commerce, not administration. The remainder - about 20,000 people - worked in a variety of different fields - education, civil engineering, forestry, medicine, the police, etc & so on. The ' Indian Civil Service ' - the elite cadre who could be said to actually govern the sub-continent - numbered about 1200 officers at its largest extent - and of this small band, which was almost exclusively British at the turn of the 19/20th centuries - about half would be Indian by 1947. It is a simple, if ' inconvenient ' truth, that British rule in India was supported, sustained and in point of fact, entirely dependent upon, the active participation of the tens of millions of Indians - the tax collectors, the clerical staff, the soldiers, the stone masons and carpenters - who worked within the framework provided by the colonial government.
Footnote : The previous post encouraged a little bit of further statistical research - viz : In 1800, the East India Company officially employed 21,000 British and other European nationals on the Indian sub-continent : 1000 civil servants & medical officers - and 20,000 (estimated) military personnel. The E.I.C. - which controlled and tightly regulated all British access to India at that time - also employed 15,000 sailors and mariners in one capacity or another - and 2000 management & administrative staff in Britain. I have no figure for the number of British nationals in India in a non-official capacity c.1800, but it is safe to assume that their number was tiny - numbering in the hundreds. By 1850, the European (i.e. British & non-British) population of the Indian subcontinent is estimated to have been somewhere in the immediate region of 6,000 people. This figure excludes military personnel. As transport and communications links improved from the mid 19th century onwards, and as patterns and the scale of international trade expanded - along with an increase (post-1857) in the number of British troops stationed in India - so the European population of India grew - but it always remained comparatively small. In 1911, for example, the British, non-military population of some of India's major cities was as follows : Calcutta - 12,080 : Bombay 10,131 : and Delhi - just 84 ! (before the transfer of the capital city). In the provinces c.1911 - away from urban areas, or transport hubs - it would have been very unusual to see a British or European face from one year to the next.
much has changed ...
Good information, Julian. Trust you're aware of Dadabhai Naoroji's work on the drain of wealth. Do note the "Home Charge" figures & what comprised the home-charge. Even the cost of the ships ferrying the India charge (mostly in bullion) to England, was adjusted against the imports from India. ( http://www.preservearticles.com/2012031627620/short-notes-on-the-drain-of-wealth-from-india-to-england.html )
Ratnesh Mathur - A lot of those mercantilist policies existed during the late 18th cen when only a part of India was under Company rule. Your link confirms that the Charter act as early as 1813 separated the commercial and governing functions of the company. Also when we talk of "British Raj" we specifically refer to the 90 year period from 1857 to 1947 when there was a lot more investment in India than drain of any kind. Infact the size of the British presence in India was miniscule. India to a great extent continued to be governed by Indians.
Also note the economic rape of India during the 1929 depression. To protect British interests even currency devaluation was not allowed. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Depression_in_India )
One interesting tidbit : Under Mughals, 5% of the total land was irrigated. By the end of the Raj a quarter of the land was under irrigation. Here's one more tidbit : Net annual land revenue raised by Mughal Empire (avg from 1655 to 1761) : 32 million pounds. Net land revenue raised by British govt over a much larger territory (avg from 1869-1879) : 18 million pounds!
Ofcourse this is no defence of the Raj. Its investment in education left a lot to be desired and its major human rights violations were too numerous to even document. Having said that the Raj was a product of its times. It was in some respects a necessary evil that helped usher in a form of national consciousness and a inspired a brilliantly idealistic freedom struggle founded on high ideals
That link of yours cites Angus Maddison's research. Mr Maddison himself has acknowledged that during the Mughal rule Indian per-capita income stagnated and infact declined significantly during late Mughal period (17th-18th centuries). The late 19th cen was the first time in over 500 years that Indian per-capita income started increasing reaching a high around 1914 but suffering again slightly during the depression years. Talking of the Raj's policies during the Great Depression, incompetent macro policies are not something unique to the Raj. Most govts around the world were bungling their macro poliies at the same time. Even the US govt did not devalue/loosen money supply enough to combat the deflation of the 30s! Hindsight is a wonderful thing! We've come a long way. Economists the world over have learnt a great deal since the 30s when macroeconomics was still a fledgling science
This is an inaccurate comparison. How did you convert the 994 different kinds of gold & silver currencies & coins of varying weights & fineness of the Mughal empire into 32 mn pounds ? Currency history of India before 1835 has always been a subject of debate. What book do you quote here ? Dadachanji , RC Dutt & Naoroji's work or some outdated propaganda ? Irfan Habib in recent years, is another reliable source of mughal economics.
That late-mughal period decline is obvious. You'll see a corresponding upswing in Iran ( Nadir Shah) & Afghanistan ( Ahmad Shah Abdali), in the same period. Bungling economics is a very different proposition from the home-charge. That was not economics. It was a loot, comparable to the raids of Nadir Shah & Abdali. Ship after ship of bullion exited out of India for years. Unlike the raids on the mughal treasury, this was more methodical looting.
Ratnesh Mathur - I am not sure how you decide whether a particular source is reliable or "propagandist". My figures are obtained from the Govt of India's gazetteer which in turn sources them from a study of Mughal documents published during the 17th/18th centuries. Making comparisons is tough yes but not impossible. Even Mr. Madisson's research is heavily dependent on extrapolations of costs of living gleaned from multiple sources. With all due respect Dadabhai Naoroji was not a historian or a professional journalist. And Irfan Habib is notorious for his marxist leanings
Also it's not just about the decline in the late mughal period. As per Mr.Maddison's research, the Indian per-capita income was stagnant even during the heyday of Mughal rule from 1500 to 1700. Whereas during the 19th cen, there was a significant increase in per-capita income accompanying a significant drop in death rate and an uptick in population growth
Also Home charges is a very very broad term which includes any legitimate contribution by colonial India towards the maintenance of the administration/war expenses etc. This isn't looting. Looting is when govts/marauding tribes extract revenue for no rhyme or reason and use it to build extravagances/enjoy frivolities.
The sources which do Not take into account, the impact of home-charge, are propagandist or erroneous due to ignorance. Also, the conversion rate used is key. Unless you articulate what conversion rates of the 994 currencies, you're using to arrive at a homogenized mughal GDP, this is really like comparing apples & oranges. It took a determined British administration between 1835 to 1893, to standardize currency ( Rupee) across India. To ignore Col Smith's scheme& the Herschell committee's difficulties in achieving standardization, is foolish if you're trying to do this nature of mughal GDP vs british raj GDP comparisons. Madisson's model has an altogether different purpose & never did go into this level of detail. Its useful for inter-country comparisons of macroeconomic data. By ignoring the upswing in Iran & Afghanistan's GDP, you're opting to ignore its basic tenets. Dadabhai Naoroji's work exposed a big financial scam. It wasn't just the national movement which used the work. It lead to reforms leading upto the creation of the RBI ( central bank) in 1930s. Sad to see Indians working in financial services sector still remain oblivious to it. Criticize it on merit/demerit of what Naoroji presents with data. To be critical of Naoroji's educational/professional background is indeed being disrespectful.
The conversion rate used is roughly Rs 8-10 per pound sterling. For more details you may want to refer to the pioneering work - "Revenue resources of the Mughal Empire from AD 1593 to AD 1707" by Edward Thomas, FRS, as well as "Indian Empire" by William Wilson Hunter. Ofcourse this isn't going to be perfect. No figure that is older than a 100 years can be. The idea is to get a ballpark number to compare the two different taxation regimes separated by a couple of hundred years. Maddison's research is based on considerable attention to detail. His per-capita income figures are widely cited by economists. Clearly the standard of living during the Raj is better (albeit not massively better) than it was during any stage of the Mughal rule. I don't understand why it is so difficult to acknowledge this. Again the idea here is not to present the Raj as a model government. But to put things in proper perspective instead of subscribing to a rose-tinted view of Mughal dispensations
Also I was never critical of Mr.Naoroji's education or professional background at all! You asked me if the figures I cited on Mughal revenues comes from any of Naoroji's work. My answer is that he was not a professional historian (in fact not even an "amateur" historian of great repute). That's not being disrespectful.
Thats just plain stupid - how do you arrive from 994 currencies (of 2 standards - Gold & Silver, simultaneously) to Rs 8/10 before its converted to 1 pound sterling ? You're confusing tax revenue collection figures with GDP. Your point of english Raj period taxation system being less taxing than most (not all) of the mughal kings, is certainly valid. There is good deal of documentation on the jizya. Again, you're choosing to ignore contemporary research on the subject by folks like Irfan Habib. Its moronic to think of all recent research on the subject as rose-tinted mughal perspective. He is openly critical of jizya.
I don't understand how you can use words like "stupid" without bothering to sift evidence. This is not the right forum for me to present the detailed methodology behind all the research done over the past 150 years. People spend lifetimes doing this kind of research. The conversion rate used isn't mine. I am no economic historian. I am just citing the results arrived at elsewhere. I've cited the sources for further perusal if you wish to glean them. I never confused tax revenue with GDP. I plainly stated that tax regime during British Raj's heyday in late 19th cen was lighter than what prevailed during most of mughal period. And in your comment you in fact acknowledge that!! So where's the argument.
Also no serious scholar disputes the fact that the average Indian circa 1914 was richer than the average Indian circa 1750. Again this is not an endorsement of the Raj. But plain statement of widely accepted history. Somehow I believe we live in an environment in this country where it's okay to lambast the Raj day in and out but not okay to reproach the Mughals lest one gets labeled "anti-Muslim"!
' @ ' Ratnesh : Re " Julian - Trust you're aware of Dadabhai Naoroji's work on the drain of wealth ? " Yes - I am familiar with the name ' Dadabhai Naoroji ', and of the nature, if not the letter, of his work. He is known and remembered in Britain (although certainly not that well known or that well remembered ) for having been the first man of ' Indian ' ethnic extraction to have been elected to the House of Commons for a British constituency - Naoroji represented Finsbury (North London), for the Liberal Party between 1892 and 1895. His various books and tracts - I'm afraid to say - are now considered, for all of their historical interest, to be partisan in the extreme within modern British academic circles. As for the ' drain of wealth ' theory itself - it remains precisely that - a theory - one that his its roots in Marxist interpretations of Imperial economic history. The ' drain of wealth ' model was first promoted by left-wing intellectuals in Europe at the turn of the 19 & 20th centuries - by men like Karl Kautsky and John Hobson - and was later picked up by the Indian ' nationalists ' (and other anti-colonial movements). ' Drain of Wealth ' continues to have its advocates and supporters today, of course - for the relationship between the coloniser and the colonised was certainly exploitative in several respects - but it is also questioned (if not dismissed entirely) by many contemporary economic historians as simplistic , as it fails to take into account the gargantuan sums of direct investment that flowed from Europe into the various colonial states c.1840 - 1940. Nor does it consider the impact of European capital - not only financial but human - the thousands of European entrepreneurs, technicians, industrialists and engineers who provided their skills and knowledge within the developing economies of the colonial era. Perhaps when discussing this subject - before we adopt the use of predictable, hackneyed terminology, such as ' the rape of the Indian economy ' or ' ships carrying away bullion year after year in a process of methodical looting ' ( ??) - we might stop for pause to consider that just " as there is more than one truth in history ", there is certainly " more than one truth in economics."
Very fine comment Julian. I couldn't phrase it better!
As ever beautiful english language, Julian. Good to see you enter the debate. No point of dispute about multiple points of view on drain theory & many points of truth in economics. I still see a problem in Shrikanth's logic of using an inter-country model of historic economic comparison for intra-country comparison. He also confuses figures of revenue collection through taxes, with GDP. Forget economic theories & just try to understand the accounting. The " India Charge" is the equivalent of a customer deciding the price of the product he is purchasing. This is cheating. Your line of argument in your first comment on this post i.e. the number of english/european workers vis-a-vis Indians, is meaningless unless you look at the "wages" of the english/european workers & see its co-relation ( ratio) with (1) the "India charge", (2) the total wage bill of the period & (3) the total tax revenue collected. Naoroji did this time-period analysis & exposed the crime through numbers. You can label him & his theory what you like but his number crunching helped to bring about transparency & financial reforms, leading to the creation of the central bank ( RBI) in 1930s. And yes, the payments against the self-serving "India charge" were done in bullion & shipped out of India.
By opting to reject writers based on ideology & reading only those books & the sections of those books which serve to reiterate a preconceived notion, is similar to the way Hitler used his library. Today of course with internet access, everyone has access to a library bigger than Hitler's collection. ( http://www.economist.com/node/12333095 )
To be honest…I have found each of your arguments to be most interesting and compelling. So much so that I have agreed with each of your individual positions even though they are at times contrary to one other. But thats what learning is all about…not to be too certain of oneself! Thank you Ratnesh Mathur and Julian Craig - RBSI's formidable veterans...and our new participant Shrikanth Krishnamachary whose easy prose and persuasive logic made this discussion as one of our memorable ones in recent times.
Ratnesh : On a closing note, I just want to make clear that I made a remark on Indian per-capita GDP based on Maddison's numbers and I made a totally separate remark on Mughal vs British Tax regimes based on studies undertaken by historians in 1870s/80s. These were two different remarks. So I did not confuse GDP with revenue at all. I respect your strong views on "Home charges" though its magnitude and deleterious impact has to be weighed in balance against the foreign investment in the country. Thanks for the nice discussion anyway!
Also as a clarification, Maddison's model is not an inter country model. He essentially plots the per-capita income of most major countries from 0 AD to the current day independently! So there's no reason why we cannot use this time series to make comments on the relative standard of living in mughal era versus british era
Re: Angus Maddison ( 1926 - 2010 ) There seems to be a certain amount of confusion (above) concerning the nature of the late Professor Angus Maddisons' work - and the conclusions that can be drawn from it. His research and the statistical models that he created based upon it ( e.g. comparisons of living standards on the Indian subcontinent in 1500, 1600, 1700, 1800, 1900 as measured in per capita income - amongst much else ) are only projections - the ' extrapolations ' that Mr Krishnamachary refers to - but they are based on available resources, records and ' trends ' (especially demographic trends) that seem to conform to predictable patterns. Clearly, this research - the field is called ' quantative economic history ' - is abstract to some degree, as it utilises a certain amount of educated conjecture and is presented in the technical language of the modern world, so as to enforce its immediate relevance - but - it is surprising how much authentic, accurate economic data was found to be available -stretching far back into ancient mists. Maddison's conclusions, formulated over several decades, are now considered by contemporary scholars to be reliable, and not speculative. His essay ' The Economic and Social Impact of Colonial Rule in India ' may prove of particular interest to members of the R.B.S.I - see below : http://www.ggdc.net/maddison/oriindex.htm
Mr Mathur : Re: " You can label him & his theory what you like " We are all admirers of Mr Naoroji's - I'm quite sure - although there are, of course, degrees of admiration. Be that as it may, I thought that you might appreciate the following pencil drawings - by Sydney Prior Hall - that were sketched from inside the Houses of Parliament, when the ' Grand Old Man ' was the Member for Finsbury, and an active participant in debate :
' Debate on the Indian Council Cotton Duties ' (1895) - Mr Naoroji, at centre:
Thanks for the pictures, Julian. Again you bring the focus away from the accounting fraud to the personalities - Naoroji & Angus Maddison. If this subject interests you so much do note that economic thinktanks here in Delhi are well aware of Maddison & his work. He is known as one of the World Bank economists who created models to justify WB's AID policies for developing countries like India in the 70s & 80s. Its superficial research with lots of assumptions, largely based on demographics ( as you mentioned). Ignores significant events & does not do the hardwork of currency standardization in its historical data, as I've stated earlier. The damage done by Maddison & his World Bank ilk (including the current PM of India, Manmohan Singh & his Planning head, Montek Ahluwalia) is now out in the public domain. Recommend this new book for more - The World Bank in India - Undermining Sovereignty, Distorting Development ( http://www.sanctuaryasia.com/conservation/reviews/book-reviews/4447-the-world-bank-in-india-undermining-sovereignty-distorting-development-independent-peoples-tribunal-on-the-world-bank-in-india.html )
Ratnesh - I think we mustn't use terms like "accounting fraud" to describe studies we don't like or don't agree with. Disagree with Maddison if you want. You're free to pick flaws in his research (while being mindful of the research's reputation and acceptance in many quarters). But by using words like "fraud" we question the intent and character of the academic, which in my opinion is not the right thing to do.
One major takeaway from Maddison's research was that the Industrial Revolution was indeed the key turning point (arguably the most important event) in world history. The whole world was almost uniformly poor prior to the Industrial Revolution. The Revolution originated in England and then spread across Western Europe, US and the rest of the world. Not all parts of the world benefited equally from this revolution. Which explains why the share of Europe in World GDP shot up between 1700 and 1900. But it doesnt follow that the third world was getting poorer. Ofcourse not. In fact even countries like India were getting richer during this period (esp post 1850). But the pace was very very slow compared to the pace of change in Europe. Just goes to show that ideas and revolutions originating in one part of the world cannot be easily planted elsewhere with equal effectiveness for multiple reasons (eg: culture, traditions, institutions, work habits etc). Be that as it may it is very hard to argue that India was poorer in 1947 as compared to 1747 in per-capita terms (I doubt if anybody does that - not even the marxist historians). I grant that it was not massively richer. But not poorer definitely. Also the institutional changes were massive during these 200 years which laid the groundwork for the massive acceleration in growth in the second half of 20th cen.
In fact the marxist historians funnily keep quoting Mr.Maddison himself to push their agenda - by repeatedly citing the decline in Indian share of World GDP from 22% to less than 5% between 17th and 20th cen. Yet they conveniently overlook that the same Maddison also clearly concluded that India got a bit richer during British Raj! Sp effectively what they are bemoaning is the Industrial Revolution - that signal event in world history which is the reason why we are chatting on this site today!
Where in Maddison's work does Accounting come in ? I refer to the "India Charge" again. These limited purpose economic models ( funded by World Bank) lack the depth required to understand the complex economic history of India. Without currency & exchange data crunching, they offer too macro (& sometimes inaccurate) a perspective to be useful today. Do look up - History of Indian Currency & Exchange by BE Dadachanji ( http://dspace.gipe.ac.in/jspui/handle/10973/7084 ) . May be we can then have an offline discussion on the subject.
Keep this discussion onlineâ€¦this is interesting!
Interesting yes but this intellectual masturbation on a rare books forum won't lead anywhere, if the mind is closed to new research in magazines like Yojana & EPW (mostly not available online), Indian writers/economists & the label of "marxism". Economic history of India is worth understanding only from the relevance of its lessons being used for running the Indian economy of today. Most of the lessons are not in economic models but in currency management & exchange rates ( more pertinent now, due to globalized financial flows). UK's economic interests are quite different from Indian economic interests today. By ignoring new work on the economic history of India by the trio of Amiya Bagchi, Bipinchadra & Ghosh, just because they get labeled as "Marxists" (Mostly by folks who are pro-World Bank economic policies ), one tends to miss out on almost the entire research done in India after 1947, on the subject. If the subject of Economic History of India interests people, they should forget labels & just read books by Amiya Bagchi. So what if Bagchi is influenced by Marx's writings ? At least he does serious number crunching & writes with the right interests of Indian economy.
You never know where it will lead toâ€¦and you will never know who is reading thisâ€¦thats the beauty of social media.
Re: " Intellectual masturbation " Personally, I have enjoyed reading Mr Krishnamachary's comments - which I found perceptive and balanced. It is impossible to understand ' colonial ' history, without understanding a certain amount of ' European ' history - and Mr K 's comments show a very good grasp of the wider historical (and historiographical) factors. On the other hand, I donâ€™t think that a book written in 1927 and published by the Gopal Krishna Gokhale institute (!!) can offer a great deal of neutral analysis or objective insight on the subject of colonial economics â€“ time and distance from current events is required to comprehend the long term effects of economic policy â€“ be they positive or negative. Nor for that matter, do I see how a book that seems to serve as a some sort of conspiratorial treatise on the inherent corruption of the World Bank is immediately relevant to the subject in hand ? ( Nb: on matters of venality and financial malpractice, I would politely suggest that those who live in Indian glass houses shouldnâ€™t throw stones !) Re: ' false accounting ' â€“ nobody is trying to dispute facts - but I find this charge to be so parochial - as if the Raj was run like a firm of accountants on the High Street, where the manager stayed up late into the night fiddling the books by candlelight, in the hope that the shareholders might not notice ! It is important to make the distinction between private enterprise (a legacy of the free-wheeling days of the E.I.C.) and central government expenditure (increasingly significant post-1858) in the colonial context. As has been stated a number of times above : foreign investment on the Indian sub-continent during the period c.1840 â€“ 1940 was ENORMOUS â€“ hundreds of millions of pounds (which you might think of , in modern terms, as being tens of billions of pounds) â€“ far in excess of any ' slippage ' . This is not to say that foreign investors did not extract any profits that they made in India - of course they did, and frequently on advantageous terms too - but profit extraction is the fundamental principle and modus operandi of capitalism. In the process of investing capital in India (and extracting ' Indian ' profits) European entrepreneurs created millions of jobs, established factories and industries, dug canals, laid railway tracks and all weather roads, built entire cities (and hill stations !), tamed and cultivated the landscape and introduced cutting-edge technologies and scientific methodology. It is the transformative, and generally constructive, effect of capitalism on the society in which it works â€“ on raising living standards - that explains the economic success of those nations who have followed this development path over the course of the last 100 â€“ 300 years, and the relative failure of those nations (such as the Republic of India) who have not. But, anyway - I grow tired of such ' masturbation ' - and besides, if Mr Mathur refuses to accept the findings of internationally respected modern scholars such as Prof. Maddison (as opposed to the views of Prof. Naoroji , who was not a trained economist, and was politically active more than one hundred years ago) â€“ then there seems little point in continuing the discussion â€“ especially when he seems quite adamant that any opinion other than his own is the product of " preconceived notions and selective reading ", or that those who disagree with the ridiculously out-dated and reductionist ' drain theory ' must have something in common with the outlook of Herr Hitler (see above) ! â€¦ Best Wishes etc & so on.
Wellâ€¦thats the beauty of diverse opinions based on each individual's journey in understanding. Each to his own opinion... and as always the truth lies somewhere in between.
Ratnesh sir : I respect your passion and moral indignation at historical injustices/bunglings. But when we are discussing BIG questions like the legacy of imperial rule, trends in per-capita incomes among other things, one has to set aside emotions and moral stances and do a macro analysis in the vein of a Maddison. Yes, if you dig very deep into details, you will find all sorts of noise in the data. But when we take the long view, one should ignore the noise and focus on the trends! Instead if one gets bogged down by every little historical episode and get worked up over the bunglings of Viceroy X or Gov General Y, the Raj will seem like an unmitigated disaster, which it wasn't. Take more recent Indian history as an example. Since 1990, we've seen all kinds of scams, human rights abuses, predatory govts and incompetent policies carried out in different parts of India. Yet the broad trend is what matters. The fact remains that India post 1990 has done FAR better in terms of realizing economic outcomes than the India of 1950-1990. That's what matters.
Heh. RBSI : Don't fret. I don't think anybody is reading this discussion besides you, me, Ratnesh and Julian! Evidenced by us liking each other's posts By the way, the most popular post in this whole thread is Vinita Ullal's (with 5 likes). Just goes to show there aren't too many takers for subtlety in this world of ours
Shrikanth Krishnamachary: Trueâ€¦but not entirely true. You would be surprised as to how many people really do follow these discussions. Of course the etiquette in social media has changed over the years. Compared to its early period...I have observed that most people prefer to just read a discussion and avoid 'liking' itâ€¦just as they avoid commenting or jumping into a discussion. This particular post especially has been one of the most popular ones in recent times. Just to give you an ideaâ€¦let me list out the analytics which I have access to: 354 have liked the post 107 have shared it 1056 have clicked on the Youtube link 266 have clicked on the Review link and 59,256 have seen this post!! Impressiveâ€¦isn't it?
Re: " Impressive ... isn't it ?" I have always assumed that the idea was to ' like ' a particular ' post ' if you agreed with the what ' poster ' ( or should that be the postee ?) was ' saying ' (or typing ) ... ? Facebook should provide an option to ' dislike ' any particular post - this might provide a more accurate reflection of the otherwise ' silent majority's ' true position ... ha ha [ Noises off : laughter ] .... I don't believe by the way - RBSI - that these little discussion threads are followed avidly by upwards of 59,000 people - they bounce around between the immediate participants and perhaps a handful of moderately interested ' bystanders '. These ' bystanders ' should express themselves from time to time if they have something that they wish to say. Personally - I have always enjoyed participating in the RBSI debates over recent years (when they arise on subjects on which I take an interest, that is) because : (a) I often learn something from the other, usually well informed, members that I did not know previously - I even learn something from the ' nationalistic ' bigots, and there are a few (b) I find them useful in helping to formulate and roughly sketch out ideas that I adapt and use in other spheres. Entering into these little ' debates ' ( they are frequently not ' debates ' at all, but games of contradictory Ping-Pong ) with the specific intention of persuading anybody to come around to any other particular point of view would be an exercise in futility, surely ? Especially in India - where, I'm afraid to say, most historical perceptions seem to have been based upon, or formed as the result of 70-odd years of highly effective, politically motivated indoctrination - patriotic narrative construction - and not as a result of detached or independent analysis - a situation that is changing only slowly. It is , of course, a great shame that this ' indoctrination ' was born of anti-colonial sentiment and hostility ( and which today manifests itself in certain circles as a broader type of anti- "Westernisim " ) . For however understandable the origins - however justified the indignation - this anti-colonial sentiment was directly responsible for the stagnation of the Indian economy for more than 50 years â€“ half a century of protectionism and introspective socialism â€“ as Indiaâ€™s leaders in the 1940s-70s rejected free-market models of development - in favour of the heavy hand of state intervention - in contradiction to all of the available evidence. This was one - perhaps THE most significant - very detrimental hang-over from the days of the Raj... You see this attitude still today in Indian newspaper headlines, which we can now all read anywhere in the world on a daily basis via the internet - " American Super Market Seeks Investment Opportunity in India : Is this the Return of the East India Company ??! " - and so on ... Fortunately, it looks as if India is slowly turning a corner and reaching an understanding that we now live on a global and not a localised planet - which in some respects at least - is a return to the economic position before 1947. I bid you a good weekend, Gentlemen.
Well said Mr.Craig. I, for one, don't think the indignation felt by Mr Mathur among others is totally unjustified (given its historical roots). The nationalists of the Gandhian era had to make up stories to rally the masses around a common cause. And many of these stories were intellectually flawed. But it had its pros and cons. On one hand, it did result in a lot of racial rancour that exists to this day and popularized a lot of wrong-headed and harmful economic ideas. But on the other hand, it also helped generate a form of national consciousness and a sense of oneness that was badly needed in an extremely heterogenous country like India that had been in a state of intellectual torpor for over a thousand years. It is interesting that most of our "nationalist" leaders of the early 20th cen had been to England for their education where they confronted Occidental values. These very values of the Enlightenment were used by the nationalists against imperial rule. In other words, British values helped defeat the British Raj! That's the irony of it. Anyway, all that is in the past now. The Gandhian movement (however irrational it was in its intellectual assumptions) was a necessary corrective that British India needed and political independence that was won in 1947 was a necessary and generally good thing. However we're well past that era now and the time is ripe for a calmer and more detached reflection on the history of the past 500 years. And a calmer reflection with a long view of history does suggest that the Raj was not such a bad thing as it is made out to be. It was a product of its times and in many ways a contributor to the spiritual and material awakening of India
Wow, I missed this thread entirely.
Yes...I too missed it. Would have added a few of my perspectives for sure.
Glad you guys found it interesting. Always nice to have debates on these issues because it is very very rare to see people debating such things. Generally what you see is collective raj-bashing by all and sundry with little/no nuance.