8 min read ⌚
What the British Did to India
Most Indian nowadays still feel like the truth about the British “occupation” is somewhat distorted.
They want to understand whether Indians could have done something to prevent it from happening and more!
Shashi provides a critical overview of the events which shaped India’s historical curve, and uses data in order to illustrate a point!
Let’s delve into it!
Who Should Read “Inglorious Empire”? And Why?
There’s rarely a person in the world who knows nothing of India’s history and richness.
Our main guy in India, Guilherme Petrin who resides in Bangalore, tells us a great deal about the astonishing aspects of Indian culture and history.
For precisely that reason, we feel duty-bound to urge every English-speaking Indian to run through this summary, and perhaps purchase the book in a language that fits them the most.
About Shashi Tharoor
Among Indians, Shashi Tharoor is described as the voice of reason. As an author, politician, and a diplomat he has reached a good vantage point from where he can oversee the political processes in India.
“Inglorious Empire PDF Summary”
The full-scale Loot of India
A passionate and young American philosopher Will Durant who first landed on the shores of India in 1930, discovered the economic calamities induced by the British East India Corporation. Supposedly, this trading company was to help Indians re-claim their national identity, but it was all just a vicious game.
Bribery, stealing, embezzlement, extortion, forced labor, murder, were the primary tools that brought to pass the need for reforms!
The British capitalized on the collapse of the Mughal Empire and imposed their interests in India.
A culturally, financially, and resourcefully rich country was put under the thumb of a strong military force. Before the “concealed” invasion took place, India was regarded as the world’s top superpower with 23% of the world GDP.
Many industries flourished as Indian goods were in high demand all over the world. Textile, pottery, making jewelry, cutting and shaping precious stones, clothing, to name a few.
The whole operation commenced under the rule of Queen Elizabeth I in the 17th century. It was disguised as a trading effort to maximize the trade in spices and silk. In order to protect their trading posts, the British increased their military presence in India and commenced the conquest.
In August 1765, Shah Alam II was forced to abdicate from his throne and hand over his authority to the Company. The provinces of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa fell under British rule, and India was practically commercialized.
In the meantime, a new phenomenon occurred also known as the deindustrialization of India. India’s most profitable industries slumped to their lowest level due to heavy taxation, high tariffs, and mostly corruption.
The destruction of the textile industry will be remembered as the first significant deindustrialization in the modern era.
This economic impasse imposed upon the Indian people was due to England’s unwillingness to pay for the goods transported to Europe. It was simply a loot!
Colonialists like Robert Clive, the last man standing of Battle of Plassey in 1757 returned home to England with spoils from the conquest making him one of the wealthiest persons in Europe at that time.
The extent of the embezzlement of resources can only be perceived through the lens of acquired wealth! To make matters worse, the East India Corporation also hatched a plan to destroy much of the ship-building industry.
As an illustration to this calamity – we deem fit to mention that 4000-5000 fleet was shrunk down to 1/10 of that number. It was truly an orchestrated disaster which gained high velocity in the mid-eighteenth century.
Shashi even mentions that the British East India Corporation employed only 2.5 million during their reign, leaving millions on the brink of extinction.
The problem with the British-based shipping businesses was the fee. In other words, they couldn’t compete with the low shipping fees offered by the Indian shipbuilding and transporting industry, so they urged the Parliament to shut it down.
This led to outright discrimination and enforcement of laws which undermined years of hard work. Moreover, the ban composed of corrupt imperialistic policies simply crashed the shipbuilding industry by 1850.
The same mindset was applied to the steel industry. India was considered a superpower in steel production possessing the capabilities to supply the rest of the world. “Wootz” the crucible-formed steel is the brainchild of India, to say the least.
The early forms of defiance
The first waves of independence occurred in various shapes and forms. Jamsetji Tata, one of India’s most renowned entrepreneurs, tried to create the first modern steel mill in India at the height of discriminatory policies.
He tried to circumvent the bureaucratic part, but was forced to petition the British for permission! The inept handling of this potential innovation increased hostility in the region.
The production finally commenced in 1912 under his son Dorabji.
As with most other things, the production was closely monitored, and the company was refused access to global markets. In other words, they were forced to utilize the surplus in order to prevent expansion.
Some of the critics like to believe that the unity of India was a conceived idea delivered from the hands of the British. We don’t know whether that is a form of justification for embezzling the region, but it sure isn’t true.
Why? – Because even Non-Indians like Arabs, Africans, and Asians referred to India as a unified country.
India was never perceived as just a part of the whole fallacy. The argument brought up here holds no ground whatsoever, because the history of the subcontinent has always been intertwined with the idea of oneness.
Not even Hindus are directly responsible for this, but the Indian people who hail from different regions.
When the British packed their bags and left in 1947; they laid the foundations of democratic Indian society. From the outset, India had some difficulties with the Muslim League, but they decided to deal with the issue using democratic means.
The rule of law became India’s strongest attributed since the day it declared independence.
But that’s a story for another day!
The historian Jon Wilson claimed that India’s political role and economic potential was partly weakened due to the multi-societal ruling where a stalemate between rulers of different provinces was a common threat.
In such a structure, it’s hard to make headway in any negotiations or deal-making process.
The author also tells us a great deal about India’s involvement in conflicts raging throughout Europe.
A strong Indian sub-army organized in divisions and brigades were involved in the Mediterranean Coast, East Africa, Central Europe, and other places. Approximately 80k Indians died during First World War fighting under the symbol of the Crown and repelling German advance at Ypres.
Also, Indians were among the first victims of the horrors in the trenches – a disaster which led to many casualties.
India’s massive support for the British in these times of crisis should have been repaid as promised. In exchange for supplies, the British guaranteed greater freedom and self-governance.
Even Gandhi advocated for an increased military presence and support for the United Kingdom. However, the British didn’t keep the pledge made before the war, and India plunged into yet another institutional crisis.
The whole thing backfired against Indians, as Britain enacted the oppressive Rowlatt Act in 1919. The Act consisted of restricting freedom of speech, and governance. It was not the outcome the Indians were hoping for after shedding blood in the first major conflict.
The Act even conferred rights to the British authorities to persecute Indians on mere suspicion. The law was voted in the British parliament, and the Indian people reacted fiercely with thoughts of peaceful retribution.
The Jallianwala Bagh massacre of hundreds of unarmed civilians will echo throughout history as a human call for democracy.
Enraged with British betrayal, the Indian nationalists came to the thought that self-governance can never be achieved through peaceful and legal means. A fight was inevitable to fulfill this dream!
Apparently, some people believe that Britain should take the credit for introducing Free Press in India. But, there’s a wrinkle! – Not only that the Indians were deprived of sharing their views with their fellow citizens, but they were also arrested and brutally punished for criticizing the British authorities.
Fearful of potential opposition, and scrutinization, Lord Wellesley proposed and later enacted the Censorship of the Press Act, in 1799. Indian newspapers were allowed to publish their columns but under strict monitoring from the authorities.
Even though the Portuguese were the first who introduced the idea of a Free Press, Britain can take credit for the system they created. The Indians were obliged to cater to a privileged few whose interests were on a higher scale than those of an entire nation.
Case in point, we challenge the idea of “Free Press” because there’s nothing liberating in publishing columns dictated by your colonial rulers.
The Divide and Conquer principle
The British realized that the only way to ensure obedience and loyalty from their subjects was to continue to stir up hatred between Hindus and Muslims.
When the British laid eyes upon a united Indian rebellion (Hindus and Muslims fighting together) in 1857, they feared a full-scale escalation. They dread the idea of monarchy that could eclipse their authority in years to come.
It didn’t escalate enough to be labeled as a coup d’etat.
So, you might be wondering – what was Nehru or Gandhi’s role in this political revolution?
The great Indian reformer, socialist, spiritual leader, anti-colonial advocate, Mahatma Gandhi, utilized unique means to exhibit defiance against the rulers. He realized that the disdain for the Indian people had become unbearably violent and cruel – so he took action.
Gandhi feared that violence causes more violence to crop up, therefore it can never be the answer. His determination and uniqueness will later be emulated by anti-apartheid and freedom fighters alike such as Nelson Mandela.
It’s fair to impugn Britain’s motives for taking control over India and imposing their imperialistic ideals, but one must look at things critically.
On the selfish side, Britain looted the country and destroyed India’s thriving industries. On the positive side, they questioned the anarchist rule, and in the long run, they introduced law and order.
Key Lessons from “Inglorious Empire”
1. Learn history never to repeat it again
2. Difference in politics
3. Understand the political struggle
Learn history never to repeat it again
Sometimes, people forget about the dreadful aspects of history, and the so-called “glory” is often linked to some sort of oppression.
We need to conduct ourselves in a way that fits the 21st-century thought and take into consideration the twists of history.
Difference in politics
In this lesson, we’ll zoom in on the difference between French and British influence.
Generally speaking, Africans were encouraged to call themselves French; while Indians got the “second-class” citizenship – and were often treated in the same manner.
Understand the political struggle
Nowadays, we bear witness to ideology-contest that imposes subtle restrictions and influences public opinion.
If we get into that bubble, we might end up trapped and exploited without any previous warnings or cues!
Keep your eyes peeled for the flash!
Like this summary? We’d Like to invite you to download our free 12 min app, for more amazing summaries and audiobooks.
“Inglorious Empire Quotes”The continuing decline, the growing poverty and the meanness of spirit of much of Thatcherite Britain encourages many Britons to turn their eyes nostalgically to the lost hour of their precedence. Click To Tweet Angus Maddison – There can be no denial that there was a substantial outflow which lasted for 190 years. Click To Tweet Will Durant – Hypocrisy was added to brutality, while the robbery went on. Click To Tweet Nearly every kind of manufacture or product known to the civilized world—nearly every kind of creation of man’s brain and hand, existing anywhere, and prized either for its utility or beauty—had long been produced in India. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
Undoubtedly, the British rule has taken a toll on Indian society, which struggles to recover even to this day. Also, it would be ignorant to make imprudent remarks on the East India Corporation and show potential bias.
Therefore, we tried to not to get entangled in any sort of political knot and perceive the impasse from an impartial point of view.
That being said, India is now a self-governed and powerful economy on the rise!