Colonial History of India
The East India Company: The original corporate raiders By William Dalrymple, The Guardian UK March 4, 2015
For a century, the East India Company conquered, subjugated and plundered India and vast tracts of south Asia.
It tried to destroy the culture and heritage of India. The lessons of its brutal reign have never been more relevant
The Mughal emperor Shah Alam hands a scroll to Robert Clive, the governor of Bengal, which transferred tax collecting rights in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa to the East India Company. Illustration: Benjamin West (1738–1820)/British Library
The painting shows a scene from August 1765, when the young Mughal emperor Shah Alam, exiled from Delhi and defeated by East India Company troops, was forced into what we would now call an act of involuntary privatisation. The scroll is an order to dismiss his own Mughal revenue officials in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, and replace them with a set of English traders appointed by Robert Clive – the new governor of Bengal – and the directors of the EIC, who the document describes as “the high and mighty, the noblest of exalted nobles, the chief of illustrious warriors, our faithful servants and sincere well-wishers, worthy of our royal favours, the English Company”. The collecting of Mughal taxes was henceforth subcontracted to a powerful multinational corporation – whose revenue-collecting operations were protected by its own private army.
It was at this moment that the East India Company (EIC) ceased to be a conventional corporation, trading and silks and spices, and became something much more unusual. Within a few years, 250 company clerks backed by the military force of 20,000 locally recruited Indian soldiers had become the effective rulers of Bengal. An international corporation was transforming itself into an aggressive colonial power.
Using its rapidly growing security force – its army had grown to 260,000 men by 1803 – it swiftly subdued and seized an entire subcontinent. Astonishingly, this took less than half a century. The first serious territorial conquests began in Bengal in 1756; 47 years later, the company’s reach extended as far north as the Mughal capital of Delhi, and almost all of India south of that city was by then effectively ruled from a boardroom in the City of London. Read full article here
Dr Shashi Tharoor tells the Oxford Union why Britain owes reparations for colonising India in viral speech
The video of his impassioned speech went Viral not only in India and the UK, but all over the world.
An Indian politician has called for Britain to pay reparations to India and other former colonies for its decades of imperial rule, in a speech at the Oxford Union. Dr Shashi Tharoor, a former Indian government minister and Member of Parliament, made the case in a debate entitled 'This house believes Britain owes reparations to her former colonies', which was put on by the world-famous debating society, the Oxford Union. The main thrust of Dr Tharoor's speech was about the economic toll that British rule took on India. He said: "India's share of the world economy when Britain arrived on it shores was 23 per cent. By the time the British left it was down to below four per cent. Why? Simply because India had been governed for the benefit of Britain. Britain's rise for 200 years was financed by its depredations in India."
"In fact, Britain's industrial revolution was actually premised upon the de-industrialisation of India."
Dr Tharoor, and the rest of the speakers at the debate, were not arguing about a specific amount that should be handed over in monetary reparations, but instead asking whether there is a debt, and whether Britain does owe reparations or not.
Concluding his speech, he said: "As far as I'm concerned, the ability to acknowledge a wrong that has been done, to simply say sorry, will go a far, far, far longer way than some percentage of GDP in the form of aid."
"What it required is accepting the principle that reparations are owed. Personally, I'd be quite happy if it was one pound a year for the next two hundred years, after the last two hundred years of Britain in India."
His impassioned and articulate speech, which was received well at the Oxford Union, has struck a chord amongst Indians. The 15-minute video of his speech has been shared thousands of times, and is already the fifth most popular video on the Union's YouTube channel despite only being a week old.
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India - Shashi Tharoor
In the eighteenth century, India's share of the world economy was as large as Europe's. By 1947, it had decreased six-fold. In Inglorious Empire, Shashi Tharoor tells the real story of the British in India, from the arrival of the East India Company in 1757 to the end of the Raj, and reveals how Britain's rise was built upon its depredations in India. India was Britain's biggest cash cow, and Indians literally paid for their own oppression. Britain's Industrial Revolution was founded on India's deindustrialisation, and the destruction of its textile industry. Under the British, millions died from starvation--including 4 million in 1943 alone, after national hero Churchill diverted Bengal's food stocks to the war effort. Beyond conquest and deception, the Empire blew rebels from cannons, massacred unarmed protesters and entrenched institutionalised racism. British imperialism justified itself as enlightened despotism for the benefit of the governed. Tharoor takes on and demolishes the arguments for the Empire, demonstrating how every supposed imperial 'gift', from the railways to the rule of law, was designed in Britain's interests alone. This incisive reassessment of colonialism exposes to devastating effect the inglorious reality of Britain's stained Indian legacy
Shashi Tharoor answers: Where would India be Today if the British did not Step into India?
An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India by Shashi Tharoor
In 1930, the American historian and philosopher Will Durant wrote that Britain’s ‘conscious and deliberate bleeding of India… [was the] greatest crime in all history’. He was not the only one to denounce the rapacity and cruelty of British rule, and his assessment was not exaggerated. Almost thirty-five million Indians died because of acts of commission and omission by the British—in famines, epidemics, communal riots and wholesale slaughter like the reprisal killings after the 1857 War of Independence and the Amritsar massacre of 1919.
Besides the deaths of Indians, British rule impoverished India in a manner that beggars belief. When the East India Company took control of the country, in the chaos that ensued after the collapse of the Mughal empire, India’s share of world GDP was 23 per cent. When the British left it was just above 3 per cent.
The British empire in India began with the East India Company, incorporated in 1600, by royal charter of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I, to trade in silk, spices and other profitable Indian commodities. Within a century and a half, the Company had become a power to reckon with in India. In 1757, under the command of Robert Clive, Company forces defeated the ruling Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula of Bengal at Plassey, through a combination of superior artillery and even more superior chicanery. A few years later, the young and weakened Mughal emperor, Shah Alam II, was browbeaten into issuing an edict that replaced his own revenue officials with the Company’s representatives. Over the next several decades, the East India Company, backed by the British government, extended its control over most of India, ruling with a combination of extortion, double-dealing, and outright corruption backed by violence and superior force. This state of affairs continued until 1857, when large numbers of the Company’s Indian soldiers spearheaded the first major rebellion against colonial rule. After the rebels were defeated, the British Crown took over power and ruled the country ostensibly more benignly until 1947, when India won independence.
In this explosive book, bestselling author Shashi Tharoor reveals with acuity, impeccable research, and trademark wit, just how disastrous British rule was for India. Besides examining the many ways in which the colonizers exploited India, ranging from the drain of national resources to Britain, the destruction of the Indian textile, steel-making and shipping industries, and the negative transformation of agriculture, he demolishes the arguments of Western and Indian apologists for Empire on the supposed benefits of British rule, including democracy and political freedom, the rule of law, and the railways.
The few unarguable benefits—the English language, tea, and cricket—were never actually intended for the benefit of the colonized but introduced to serve the interests of the colonizers. Brilliantly narrated and passionately argued, An Era of Darkness will serve to correct many misconceptions about one of the most contested periods of Indian history.